The most significant constraint on your design will be imposed by the tank. The front glass is the window into the microcosm you create within. This effect is greatly enhanced with a built-in tank, which is often surrounded by molding or trim work that gives the impression of a framed picture. If the tank is free-standing, develop your design by thinking only about the view from the front, as if it were a picture. Consider also how this picture will be framed by the support furniture. The cabinet or stand should not be a distraction. Stick with simple lines and colors that blend with the surroundings.
Remember that even the most naturally designed aquarium requires a life-support system. You must sacrifice some portion of the available space to accommodate equipment. For a natural look, you want that equipment to be as inconspicuous as possible. Therefore, give some thought to the arrangement of the equipment while the aquarium is in the planning stage. I suggest creating a scale drawing using graph paper to help visualize how the tank will look with equipment in place.
One lesson I have gained in years of aquarium keeping is to avoid trying to do too much within a single tank. Strip down your design to its essentials. It is always surprising how an aquarium that appears quite large when empty becomes confining when you begin to add decorations.
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