best aquarium backgrounds - coral reef

Best Aquarium Backgrounds in 2022: Buyer’s Guide

Having a fish tank in your home provides tranquility and beauty to your living space. A well-decorated tank can add to the appeal of any room, but aquarists sometimes lack the time or know-how to make a tank look spectacular. Thankfully, aquarium backgrounds are easy to install and instantly make your tank look appealing and full. This guide will help you find the best aquarium backgrounds available.

Our favorite option is the Karen Low 23-Inch Aquarium Background Coral and Freshwater Plants Jungle Decorations.

With countless options available, it’s challenging to choose the ideal background for your tank. The reviews and buyer’s guide below should help you get the one that will suit you and your home best.

Best Aquarium Backgrounds:

What are the Best Aquarium Backgrounds?

Our top aquarium background pick is the Karen Low 23-Inch Aquarium Background Coral and Freshwater Plants Jungle Decorations. This background is 23 inches in height to fit most aquariums and features gorgeous, natural-looking visuals. This aquarium background is two-sided, with one side having freshwater plants and the other side showing colorful coral.

Are Aquarium Backgrounds Good for Fish?

It is common for fish to become anxious and agitated once they see their reflection in the tank. An aquarium background provides a natural look for your fish, which will likely make them feel more comfortable and at peace. It will also prevent them from seeing their own reflections, so backgrounds can reduce fish stress, ultimately making them healthier. You can find appropriate backgrounds for freshwater tanks, betta tanks, guppy tanks, saltwater tanks, blackwater tanks, shrimp tanks, breeder tanks, and more. There is a ton of variety on the market for you to choose from.

Do Aquarium Backgrounds Confuse Fish?

Natural backgrounds will not confuse fish. However, not every aquarium background will be suitable for your tank. Backgrounds with unnatural colors or patterns can confuse fish and increase stress levels. If you notice your aquatic companion getting stressed or sick after adding your background, you might need to swap it out for a more natural-looking one.

How to Choose the Best Aquarium Background

When looking for the right aquatic background for your fish, there are a few things you need to consider to ensure you get the right one for your tank and home.

Fish Needs

Regardless of how lavish or expensive your aquarium background is, it can have a profound impact on the health of your fish. Your number one consideration should be the health of your tank inhabitants; the design and aesthetic appeal can follow later.

As mentioned, some patterns or colors may confuse your fish. Therefore, it is best to consider designs and colors that would occur in nature. Additionally, it is best to consider a background that is easy to install and lasts long. Having to change your background frequently can cause stress for the fish.

Aquarium Size

The size of your aquarium is an important consideration when choosing a background. 

If you have a small tank, the main goal is often to make it appear larger. Dark backgrounds can reduce the visual size of a tank, which will make it seem closed-in and monotonous. Instead, use a bright color that will provide a more dramatic effect. Fortunately, larger tanks have fewer color constraints; even a dark background will look fine if the decoration is appropriate.

aquarium with black aquarium background

You’ll also need to make sure that the background is large enough to cover the rear of your tank. You might need to purchase multiple backgrounds to ensure adequate coverage.

If you have a coffee table fish tank, we recommend avoiding an aquarium background for aesthetic and viewing reasons.

Aquarium Placement

An aquarium background is ideal if you plan to place your aquarium against a wall. You can add background on the side leaning against the wall to give it an aesthetic appeal. However, if you want to place your tank in the middle of the room, it is advisable to use plants and substrate to add natural beauty to the tank rather than a background. This will ensure that the tank remains visible from all sides.

Your Style and Preferences

Of course, your personal preference matters as well, as you and your family will be the ones to benefit most from the addition of a background. Keeping in mind that a natural appearance is better, you can opt for a tropical view, a deep ocean appearance, a jungle look, and many other options.

Types of Aquarium Backgrounds

There are three main types of aquarium background you can choose for your tank. They include 3D backgrounds, painted-on backgrounds, and vinyl or cling backgrounds.

Painted-On Backgrounds

Painted backgrounds are exactly what they sound like: a background painted on the rear of the aquarium. 

This is typically a solid background — usually blue or black — and may be used with almost any style or size aquarium.

Prefabricated backgrounds may not be the best option since they may not fit oddly-shaped or uniquely-sized aquariums. This is why paint is sometimes an ideal option.

If you opt for a painted background, make sure you use a paint that’s designed to stick to glass or acrylic, depending on the material your tank is made of. Keep in mind that once you’ve decided on a style, you won’t be able to modify it without some time and effort.

Cling or Vinyl Backgrounds

Aquarium backgrounds made from cling vinyl are constructed from durable plastic film that clings to your glass tank without adhesives. Digitally printed high-resolution photos make the background stand out more than simple painted backgrounds. The best part about this background is that it can easily be removed and reinstalled.

How to Install Cling or Vinyl Backgrounds

Before adding vinyl, make sure your aquarium’s exterior is clean. Nothing is more frustrating than finishing a task to discover dust or material stuck between the tank wall and the background.

Using a soapy spray will help the vinyl not stick immediately. This way, you can make adjustments until you find the right fit. It also helps in the removal of any air bubbles.

Once you’ve secured the cling in place, the water will evaporate, leaving it securely set in place.

If you find air bubbles inside the cling or vinyl, you can use a credit card or something similar scraper to remove them. This guarantees that the vinyl adheres perfectly to the aquarium’s surface with no imperfections.

3D Backgrounds

3D backgrounds are relatively popular to use in freshwater tanks, with the most popular choices being multicolored stone or wood models. 3D backgrounds are simple to find, and the components used in the composition are non-toxic and light. Additionally, they don’t pollute the water.

The visual effect is incredibly attractive and lifelike. The drawback of 3D tanks is that they are not easy to clean, and they are the most expensive option. They also cling to the interior of the tank, which detracts from tank space.

How to Install a 3D background

The installation is quite straightforward. First, you need to bond the 3D background to the tank’s inside using silicone and a special adhesive. This is done before filling the tank with water.

The benefit of 3D backgrounds is that you can model and cut the background sections to a suitable fit for your tank. You can also use the background feature to camouflage or hide internal filters or wires, further improving the visual appeal of your tank.

How to Set up Your Aquarium Background

Most fish owners like creating and changing the backdrops of their tanks over time. As mentioned, there are two primary approaches when setting up a background for your fish tank: the backdrop can be attached to the tank’s exterior, or it can be placed on the inside, depending on the type you choose.

Whatever method you use, make sure you measure your tank before purchasin. Also, ensure the material you choose is durable and does not become unsightly over time.

The following are general steps to take when setting up a background for your aquarium.

Step 1: Pick a Theme

The first step in creating an aquarium background is to choose a theme based on your preference and style.

Remember that anything you choose will likely be what you see any time you look at the tank, so choose something that appeals to you and your family. You can also match your background to your existing tank decorations for the best results.

Step 2: Gather Your Materials

Measure the size of your tank to determine how much material you’ll need for your background. Then, obtain your supplies when you’ve decided on your background type, theme, and where you’ll place your background.

Since you can always store extra material, it is best to purchase more than you think you need.

Ensure any material you use on the interior is safe and non-toxic and that it won’t deteriorate after being submerged for a long time. If you’re going to attach the background to the exterior of the tank, be sure it won’t rip away from the aquarium’s surface if there’s moisture. Paper backgrounds are cheap, but they often deteriorate quickly.

Step 3a: Installing a Background on the Exterior

If you’re going to install your background at the aquarium’s exterior, you need to cut the material an inch or two larger on each side than you need. If the material comes in a roll, you can cut it as you affix it. You can always trim any surplus material, and it’s better to use extra to avoid unsightly bare spots.

Ensure you clean the outside glass to eliminate any stains or marks that obstruct your external material before you begin.

To prevent bubbles, begin placing the outside backdrop material on the glass in one corner and gently push it on toward the other corner.

Smooth the paper with a tiny straight-edge item like a drywall finishing tool, putty knife, or credit card.

If you’re using contact paper specifically designed for this purpose, don’t remove the entire backing at once. To avoid mistakenly sticking part of the material to the glass and having to rip it off, peel the backing off as you begin applying the material.

If you’re manually taping material to the glass, start in one corner and push the material into position, adding the tape as you go. If you’re going to paint or sketch your backdrop on the glass, be sure it’s clean and dry before you begin.

When painting, you can use a stencil as a guide to avoiding making any errors.

Step 3b: Installing a Background on the Interior

After emptying and cleaning your tank, begin adding your objects to the back of the tank after you level gravel or stone on the bottom. Use aquarium-safe silicone to affix the background objects, and let everything dry according to the silicone product instructions.

Start filling your tank gently and stopping one-third of the way through to check if the thipiecesngs stay securely in place.

Confirm again that the objects are don’t come detached after filling the tank halfway. Then, proceed to fill the tank three-quarters full while checking the results. If everything is still in place, you can proceed to fill the tank to the top.

Best Aquarium Backgrounds

We’ve assembled a list of the best aquarium backgrounds below. These reviews should help you find the best ones for your needs.

1. Karen Low – 23 Inch Aquarium Background Coral And Freshwater Plants Jungle Decorations

This 2-sided backdrop is made of plastic and displays colorful coral on one side and freshwater plants on the other. You can choose which suits you best and change it in the future. The background material comes in various sizes you can choose from based on your aquarium volume and size.

The packaging includes clear double-sided tape for affixing the material.

2. Mangrove with Sunlight/Aquarium Background Fish Tank Background (Various Sizes) 

This background is water, tear, and scratch-resistant and will add beauty and intrigue to any tank. The image is high-definition and appears real when viewed through the tank water.

The material is made of thick vinyl, which is highly durable and can be affixed from the outside using tape.

3. SPORN Aquarium Background, Static Cling, Tropical

Featuring well-detailed HD images and vibrant colors, the SPORN Aquarium Backdrop installs easily in your aquarium and does not damage your tank when removed.

The background material is adjustable and can fit varying sizes of fish tanks by cutting it into sections.

4. Universal Rocks 48 Inch by 20 Inch Ledge Flexible Aquarium-Background

This 3D background provides a natural feel for your fish to reduce stress and health issues, and it will add the natural beauty of stone to your room. The backdrop installs easily and is made from a thin, lightweight, and flexible material. The background overhangs a bit inside your tank, so your fish can use it as a small hiding spot for added comfort.

5. Trim to Fit Aquarium Background – Sea Blue and Night Deep Sea

The Trim to Fit Aquarium Background is 2-sided, so you can choose which background you want in your tank. One side shows a dark deep sea landscape while the other displays a blue sea. The material is also elastic enough to cover your tank’s sides and restore to its original form with no damage when you remove it.

6. Silver Medley Rock/HD Stone Aquarium Background 

This background is scratch and tear-resistant and gives a realistic look to your aquarium. In addition, the Silver Medley Rock/HD Stone Aquarium Background tapes are highly durable and will keep your background in place for quite some time.

7. Dark Silver Flat Rock/HD Stone Aquarium Background 

The Dark Silver Flat Rock/HD Stone Aquarium Background is ideal for fish owners to create a realistic and natural environment in the tank. It’s scratch- and tear-resistant, similar to other aquarium backgrounds, and it affixes easily for a quick and painless set up.

8. SPORN Aquarium Background, Static Cling, Ocean Floor

The SPORN Static Cling Coral Aquarium Background is an ideal option for anybody looking to give their aquarium a more natural and tropical appearance. The background is big enough to go around three sides of aquariums that are 18 inches tall by 36 inches wide.

The fact that this aquarium background can be applied without the need for glue is one of its best features. It’s also very affordable.

Best Aquarium Backgrounds: DIY Options

Many aquarists enjoy creating custom backgrounds and decor for their tanks. Below are some DIY options for adding beauty to your aquarium with a background.

Best Aquarium Backgrounds: 3D Aquarium Background Build

Building a 3D background is, surprisingly, a relatively straightforward process. You can make your aquarium background using cement overlay, color, silicon, 1-inch-thick foam board, a hot glue gun, and a few other materials.

With all materials in place, you should start by following the below steps:

  • Layer pieces of cement overlay on the foam board
  • Test to make sure it fits the aquarium
  • Paint the cement overlay once dried
  • Do a final test fit
  • Affix your background with silicon and let dry before filling your tank

Best Aquarium Backgrounds: Affordable DIY Background

If you’re looking for a more affordable way to add beauty to your tank, you can find an image you like and print it on a large vinyl sheet or even paper at an office supply store. You’ll have to make sure the image is high-definition so that it won’t appear grainy once it’s blown up, and you’ll likely have to trim the background to get a proper fit after it’s printed.

Whether you print the background on paper or vinyl, you can use double-sided tape to affix it to your tank. This is a simple and easy way to customize the appearance of your tank, and it’s super affordable as well!

Conclusion: Best Aquarium Backgrounds

Aquarium backgrounds add natural beauty to your tank and can make your room decor more impressive. What’s more, natural-looking backgrounds make your fish feel safer and more at home, reducing stress levels and the likelihood that they will get sick. Choosing the best background for your purposes involves some careful planning, but once installed, your background will breathe new life into your tank.

Our top pick for an aquarium background is the Karen Low – 23 Inch Aquarium Background Coral And Freshwater Plants Jungle Decorations. It’s a breeze to install and has two sides for different themes.

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