Aquarium Backgrounds

for the week of 10/1/98

Aquarium backgrounds have several aesthetic and practical purposes. They add to the overall attractiveness of an aquarium by adding depth, and by hiding the jumble of filters, tubing and power cords that are usually dangling on the tank’s back. They provide some comfort to the fish, who now have at least one direction from which they can’t be attacked. And in bright rooms, they reduce the amount of algae-stimulating sunlight entering the aquarium.

The best time to attach a background is before the aquarium is set up and filled, when you have easy access to the back. In fact, smaller aquariums can be laid on their faces for even simpler attachment.

Selecting a background is a matter of personal preference; the fish don’t care if it’s flat black or a picture of an alien landscape. Do remember, though, that, with the exception of a couple of special vinyl backgrounds that adhere with water, backgrounds will appear much darker and duller behind a tank full of water than they do on the store’s shelf, due to refractive properties of the aquarium glass. Most commercial backgrounds are made of coated paper or plastic sheets that are attached to the outside of the aquarium. One could also use other plastic-coated papers, foil, or even just a couple of coats of paint – provided they are also applied on the outside.

Installing the background. First, make sure the tank’s back is very clean and dry. Then, attempt to slip the top edge of the background up underneath the top trim piece of the aquarium – just enough to make sure any water spillage will drip down the outside of the background, rather than between the background and glass. Square the background to the tank’s back, then tape the top edge in place with any sort of water-resistant tape. Again, taping the whole length of the edge will keep water out. Next, trim the edges of the background, if necessary, to the size of the tank’s back. Finally, tape all three remaining edges in place, preferably for their entire length.

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