Having a fish tank background can make a big difference to the overall look of your tank, as well as having a few practical uses.
A fish tank background is a good idea as it adds both colour and depth to your tank. It can also help to reduce stress in nervous fish who can be afraid of their own reflection in the glass.
Do Fish Tanks Need a Background?
The good thing about having a fish tank background is, if installed the correct way, has absolutely no harmful effects to your fish in any way.
In fact, having a fish tank background can help prevent stress in your fish.
There have been scientific studies conducted in the past, most notably, What do Fish Make of Mirror Images? This study, conducted by Julie K. Desjardins and Russell D. Fernald found that some male fish, when seeing their reflection in the glass, have perceived this to be another fish, and a threat to them.
Depending on the time of day, and the light conditions both inside and outside of your tank, there may only be a a slight reflection visible in the glass. The reflections can get a lot clearer if the room is dark but your tank lights are bright.
Having a background on at least the back of your tank, will help stop any reflection showing.
If you have a particular theme for your tank, a background can help set it off even more.
A background will add more colour, and more importantly, a greater depth to your tank.
Some hobbyists like to cover the back of their aquarium with a plain colour which has been chosen specifically to enhance the colours of their fish. A good example of this is to have a plain black background if your fish are brightly coloured, as this will help to make the colours pop-especially if your lighting is on point as well.
It is not a good idea to have a dark background if your fish are darkly coloured and you have poor lighting as you will barely be able to see them.
Having a fish tank background is also a great way to keep wires from your tank equipment out of sight. There is nothing worse than seeing all sorts of electrical cords behind your tank when you are trying to enjoy your fish.
I have also seen some examples of ‘out of context’ backgrounds for aquariums. One that springs to mind is a sandy desert image. I think that would start messing with my brain after a while though!
Things to Consider When Choosing a Fish Tank Background.
The main factor to decide on will be what type of background. I will go into the different types of backgrounds you can get later in this article.
Location of your Fish Tank.
How many sides do you want to be covered? To help make this decision, you need to consider where your tank is and where you sit when viewing it.
For example, here is my tank.
As you can see in the photograph, I have an armchair to one side of the tank, and a tall unit on the other side.
In front of the tank, which you can’t see in the image is a table and chairs.
We can therefore view our tank from the front and from one side, so I want to put a background on the back, and to the side that has the tall unit next to it.
Do You Want a Plain Background or an Image?
If you look closely at the image, you can see that I have a multi coloured background already in place. It’s one of the underwater image posters that you just stick to the back of the tank. This photo was taken before I added any fish, while I was still cycling the tank.
It is lovely and makes the tank look great, however, when I was researching what fish I wanted to put in my tank, I realised that I would be better with a plain black background so that the fish stood out more clearly.
I am glad I made this decision before adding any fish as all I needed to do was peel the background off and add a plain black one on instead.
I used JUWEL POSTER FIX when I added the original background, so all I had to do was press the new background on as it was still tacky, and use a credit card to smooth out any air bubbles.
If deciding on a plain background, consider what colour fish you will be adding to your tank. As I said earlier, you don’t want to have a background colour similar to the colours of your fish as they will just blend in rather than stand out.
Different Types of Fish Tank Backgrounds.
- Laminated Photo.
- Painted onto the Tank.
- 3D Effect Poster.
- Actual 3D Backgrounds.
1 – Laminated Background.
The laminated backgrounds are the most popular. They can be bought online where you can choose from different sizes, or you can buy them off the roll at your local pet shop or aquarium. It is common for these to be double sided. This comes in handy for people like myself who can’t make decisions! It helps to hold them up to the back of your tank and see which you like best before sticking it on and making your final decision.
You need to know the measurement of your tank and also how many sides you want to cover to ensure you get enough. It is always best to get a little bit extra and cut it to size rather than not getting enough and having to patch it together.
This type of background is not self adhesive so you need to have something to stick it on with.
Some people use plain tape but it can sometimes start to come away.
I used JUWEL POSTER FIX which is an adhesive and is very simple to use.
The background goes on the OUTSIDE of your tank, and is obviously easier to do on an empty tank. If starting an aquarium from scratch, this is the first thing you should do.
This is the background I originally bought for my tank. It was very good quality and it was bigger than I needed so I could easily cut it to the right size.
This is the second background I bought when I decided I wanted a plain background. I decided on the black to make the colours of my fish stand out more.
2 – Paint a Background Directly on to your Tank.
This is more or less a permanent option so be sure this is what you want before you do it.
Painting the back of your aquarium, if done properly and with the correct paint, will give you a nice solid colour with no air bubbles, which will sometimes show on the laminated backgrounds.
It is a good option if your tank is an unusual shape which would prove difficult to stick a background on.
You have to be certain about which colour you want as there is no easy way to change it once it is done.
It is the outside of the tank that you paint so there is no danger of harming your fish. You will obviously want to the paint the tank when it is empty though.
Make sure you use the correct type of paint for whatever material your tank is made out of (eg, glass or acrylic), and make sure you spend the time to completely and securely cover any part of the tank that you don’t want to get paint on to.
Spray paint is a good option for getting the paint on evenly. You will most likely need a few coats. Make sure each coat is dry before adding another.
3 – Paper Background.
This is similar to using a laminated poster but is an even cheaper option.
You can use coloured paper or card, cut it to the correct size, and then stick it to the back of your tank using clear tape.
If using paper, it would need to be thick paper. If you use the type of paper you would normally write on, it is going to look quite transparent against the back of your tank, especially when your tank lights are on.
You could also you use wallpaper if you wanted to. This would give you pattern options and a bit of depth if you used a textured type of wallpaper.
Using tape to secure it to the tank will then give you the opportunity to change it as and when you decide to. If you remove it carefully when doing so, you can then use it as a template for the next background you choose.
4 – 3D Effect Poster.
These are very similar to the laminated background I mentioned earlier but the poster has more of a 3D effect.
This will help to give extra depth to your tank, as well as create a theme if that is something you want.
As you can see from this image, with good lighting in your tank, a 3D effect background poster can look very striking.
They are slightly more expensive than a normal laminated poster, but only by a pound or so.
A friend of mine has this as a background for his tank and it looks really effective. The dark background helps the colours of his fish stand out.
5 – Actual 3D Background.
This is the only type of background that goes inside your tank, rather than on the outside.
They tend to be made from foam or polystyrene and can be cut into the size and shape that you want.
In most instances, if cut to exactly the right measurement, you don’t need to glue it to the tank. If by any chance you do, you must ensure that the glue you use is aquarium friendly.
This type of background gives depth and also texture to your tank.
They are more expensive than the other options but many hobbyists say it is well worth the extra cost.
They do need to be cleaned as part of your regular maintenance.
This 3D Background is made from foam. It can be easily cut to size and then inserted into your tank.