DIY Aquarium Background Ideas

From minimalist colors to intense imagery, your aquarium background can be practical as well as pretty.
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Whether your fish habitat is a tiny 5-gallon tank or a giant saltwater reef aquarium, a backgrounds can turn a mediocre-looking fish tank into a decorative and aesthetic piece. Aquarium backgrounds, which fit inside or out of the tank, may serve to comfort the fish with a static viewscape. Backgrounds attached to the back of the tank eliminate algae-inducing natural light from that side of the aquarium and help to keep the tank clean.


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A classic underwater-theme aquarium background simulates your tank inhabitants' natural environment, and provides a sense of depth to the aquarium. Rather than purchase a serial background, customize with a photo of your own. Select a classic background image you like and print it on water-resistant photo paper, sturdy card stock or printable cling-film. Attach your background to the back of the tank. The classic theme is an underwater scene with plants, rocks and sand, if not even a figure in primitive deep-sea diving gear. Feel free to place live or synthetic plants in your tank to enhance the illusion of space a natural-habitat background fosters.


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You won't need fancy glasses to appreciate a three-dimensional aquarium background; such a background, made of waterproof and fish-safe materials like Styrofoam, goes inside the tank, along the rear. Typically built to resemble live rock, shale, reef rock or granite, the 3-D background can be any shape or design you choose. Cut rocklike forms from Styrofoam and paint them with concrete acrylic; you'll need several coats for weight and texture. Glue the background with a silicone sealant and press the three-dimensional background firmly into place against the back tank surface. Be sure to include plenty of variety and hiding nooks for your fish when crafting a 3-D aquarium background.


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A mirror background provides stimulation for your fish, but it can be a bad background to use when you keep aggressive species such as bettas or schooling species such as loaches. Mirror backgrounds are simple enough to create: prop a large stand-alone mirror behind the tank or attach a tinted mirrored cling, such as you'll find at auto parts stores, to the outer side of the back of the tank. Keep an eye on the behavior of your fish when choosing a mirror background. If they seem stressed, remove the mirror or provide a neutral background for one area of the tank. While some fish, like bettas or gouramis, could use the exercise of challenging what appears to be another male, overstimulation from the mirrored background could prove detrimental.


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Fish in outer space, fish in a cartoon world and fish living a small suburban neighborhood are all a little silly, yet they make great conversation pieces. Create a town with "grass," white picket fences, houses and tiny people, choosing elements of this above-ground world from a model train store. Then watch as your fish interact with the inhabitants. You could create a diorama of a scene from your favorite prime time cartoon show: print iconic background scenes to affix to the back of your tank, and stage character figurines inside the tank. The possibilities are endless; just be certain that anything you add to the inside of the tank is fish-friendly and will not disintegrate over time.

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