The way you decorate your tank makes a big difference in its appearance. Not only do you need to think about the decor you use inside your tank, you should also consider the tank background.
The decoration scheme you utilize in your freshwater tank plays a role in determining how well your fish adapt to the tank environment. The closer your tank matches the conditions in the natural environment of your fish, the more likely they are to thrive. The way you decorate your freshwater tank also makes a big difference in its overall aesthetics. In addition to traditional fish tank decorations like driftwood, rock caves and live plants, you should also consider what type of aquarium background you want to use. Using a background for your tank will hide tangled cords and equipment from view while also enhancing the aesthetics of your tank. Read more to learn about the various options for freshwater tank backgrounds.
Types of Backgrounds
Perhaps the most commonly used type of background for freshwater aquariums is the laminated photo background. These backgrounds can be purchased pre-sized to fit certain aquariums or they may be purchased on a roll and cut to size. Laminated photo backgrounds typically depict underwater scenes involving live plants, rocks and more. These backgrounds are designed to give your tank a more natural appearance for aesthetic purposes, but they will have no effect on your fish. This type of background may be one- or two-sided so you can switch off between the two if you like. The benefit of this type of background is that it can easily be applied to the back of the tank with a few pieces of adhesive tape. It will be clearly visible through the glass walls of your tank while hiding equipment and cords hanging off the back of the tank from view.
As an alternative to laminated photo backgrounds, you can also use wrapping paper or any other kind of paper to create your own background. If you aren’t concerned with achieving a natural décor scheme in your tank, feel free to use colorful wrapping paper or scrapbooking paper to create a homemade background. The benefit of this type of background is that it is very inexpensive and you can easily replace it if you want to. If you don’t care about adding to the aesthetics of your tank and just want to cover the back, another option is to simply paint the back wall of the tank black. Some species of fish become agitated or stressed upon seeing their own reflections so it is not a good idea to leave the back wall of your tank uncovered. If you choose this option, be sure to paint the glass on the outside of the tank to prevent toxins from being leeched into the water.
Making Homemade Backgrounds
If you truly want to achieve a natural décor scheme in your aquarium, you may want to consider constructing a 3D background. This type of background adds dimension to your tank in addition to providing a background that benefits your fish while also improving the aesthetics of your tank. 3D backgrounds will also enhance the biological filtration in your tank by providing places for beneficial bacteria to grow. Beneficial bacteria are those responsible for breaking down wastes in the tank and converting the ammonia that results from this process into less harmful substances.
To start making your own 3D background, you will need an assortment of foam cutouts as well as aquarium-safe silicone, sandpaper and quick-dry cement. You will first need to cut a sheet of 1-inch foam to the dimensions of the back wall of your tank. Next, construct different layers in a shelf-like arrangement on top of the sheet using foam pieces and shapes of varying size and thickness. Be creative with your arrangement, making sure to position thinner pieces near the top and thicker pieces at the bottom. Attach the pieces using aquarium-safe silicone and be sure to fill all gaps with silicone as well.
After you’ve constructed the frame for your 3D background you will need to let the silicone set for about 24 hours. After the silicone has set, take a piece of fine-grit sandpaper and scuff the surface of the background – this will make it easier for the cement to stick to the foam. Follow the instructions for the cement and mix it until it has a soup-like consistency. Use an old paint brush to apply a thin layer of cement onto the foam background and let it dry for 24 hours. Once the first layer is dry, mix up a slightly thicker batch of cement and spread it on by hand. Start by filling in cracks and crevices, then mold the cement around the foam shapes. Don’t be concerned with keeping the cement smooth and even – it will look more natural if it is inconsistent. When finished, let the concrete sit for a few days and spritz it with fresh water once or twice a day to strengthen it.
Additional Decoration Tips
After you’ve chosen a background for your freshwater tank, you then need to think about the rest of the decorations you are going to use. To create a cohesive décor scheme in your tank, make sure that your other decorations match the tone of your background. For example, if you use a realistic photo background to create a natural décor theme, you may want to exclude novelty décor items from your tank. If, on the other hand, you use a colorful background to give your tank a fun appearance, novelty décor items might be a good addition. Certain novelty items like sunken pirate ships and treasure chests can be at home even in a realistic-themed aquarium, but you need to use them wisely to ensure that they don’t detract from the overall appearance of the tank.
For many aquarium hobbyists, the goal is to create a natural-looking aquarium environment. Begin by selecting an aquarium background that will support this theme – your two best options are a realistic photo background or a 3-D background. After selecting your background, choose realistic-looking decorations. Rather than using large colored stones as your aquarium substrate, choose some type of gravel or sand to line the bottom of your tank. Accent your décor with large rocks or pieces of driftwood – you can even build formations using these items to give your tank some depth and intrigue. Don’t forget to incorporate live aquarium plants into your realistic décor scheme. Use a variety of different plants in different sizes, placing the larger plants toward the back and sides of the tank with the smaller plants up front. Live plants will drive home your realistic décor scheme and they will provide a number of significant benefits for the fish in your tank as well.
If you want to achieve an authentic-looking freshwater tank, you should be prepared to put in a little extra effort. As is true of all hobbies, what you put in to setting up and maintaining your freshwater tank is directly correlated to what you get out of it. The more dedicated you are to creating a healthy tank environment, the more your fish will thrive. Keep this in mind when it seems like maintenance of your tank is too much for you to handle.