Aquarium Backgrounds- Do It Yourself

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Blue Painted Aquarium
Painted Aquarium Background

An aquarium background may not be for everyone, the preference is up to each hobbyist.  Some questions to ask yourself is what do you like, what will accent your fish and/or plants, will the background hide hoses or filters better?  Aquarium backgrounds can be as simple as taping colored sheets of thick paper on the back of your aquarium to an elaborate setup that is carved out of styrofoam and hard-scaping applied to make it look natural.  The style you want will help you determine where to start your planning.


  • Paper Backing
  • Adhesive
  • Painted
  • 3D Aquarium Background (Interior)

Some people like the look with no background at all, this is a nice option if your aquarium is in a wall where you see through to the next room.  Maybe the aquarium is there to block out part of that room and you need to have that background to act as a wall this is when you will want to have a background.


($1 per Aquarium)

Aquarium Paper Background
Black Paper Background

Using paper for your background will be the simplest method that works but has its pros and cons.  If you are looking for a change to the look of your aquarium and are not worried about cost or the ability to change it after a few months. Then skip down to adhesive, painted, or even better to the hand crafted inside the tank structure options.

It does not have to be a colored sheet of paper if you have some artistic ability or just want a crazy design for your back ground you can draw your own.


  • An easy method to create a nice look for your aquarium
  • Can change the look by pulling off old paper and attach new
  • Reduced cost
  • Works with glass or acrylic aquariums
  • Blocks cords and equipment behind aquarium


  • Paper can wrinkle
  • If it gets wet, you will need to change it
  • Can see tape on sides
  • Does not cover hoses or plumbing from filters or air stones on the inside

Installing this option is as simple as cutting the sheet of which ever design fits your aquarium and taping it to the outside of the aquarium.  Next, we will cover adhesive if you’re willing to spend a little extra these adhere to the glass or acrylic with no tape.  When using the adhesive type, you have to be careful of bubbles that will make it less appealing.


($20-32 depending on size of the aquarium)

Adhesive Aquarium Background Blue
Adhesive Background

Moving up to a more professional looking background using a laminate or adhesive background.  As designed, this do-it-yourself background is simple to do.  If you follow the directions and take your time, you will have an amazing background to admire.


  • More professional look than a piece of paper taped to the back of your aquarium
  • Still easy to install, just ensure proper cleaning
  • Does not take a lot of time to install


  • Bubbles can remain after install if not installed correctly
  • May contain wrinkles if not properly installed, requiring removal and purchase of more product

Following the instructions is key to ensuring a professional-looking background.  Keeping the surface free of contaminates is paramount.  These instructions are from the product description for Blue Life USA Water Color Aquarium Background (affiliate link) product description.  For use on outside of the aquarium.

  1. Prepare a solution by adding 4 drops of normal liquid dish soap (containing no lotions, oils, waxes or enzymes) to the provided spray bottle.
  2. Measure the area you wish to apply the background to and cut the background to that measurement. Make sure the work surface, aquarium and surrounding area have been cleaned to avoid contaminating the background. Even if the aquarium appears clean, it should be cleaned with the spray soap-water solution.
    *Do not allow background backing to get wet!
  3. Spray soap-water solution to wet the aquarium surface you are applying the background to. Make sure your work surface and surrounding area are clean and free of contaminates. On a flat surface (like a table or countertop) place the background color side down (keeping the backing parallel to the work surface). Wet the entire adhesive side using the soap-water solution. Carefully place the background (adhesive side) to the aquarium surface you are applying to. Lightly squeegee horizontally, working from the center outwards to the left and then to the right. Applying more pressure, continue working the rest of air and solution out from between the aquarium and the background. Allow 90 minutes for the adhesive to set before moving or touching the applied background. 


($5 per Aquarium)

Paint Used for Aquariums
Ocean Blue Paint

This has to be my favorite method to create an amazing-looking aquarium back drop.  Out of my 15 aquariums 14 of them are painted with a light blue paint.  I like this as it accentuates the water brightening the blue of the water.  In a dark room with LED lighting overhead it looks amazing, especially if you have a rack of aquariums. 

In this example, I explain painting three sides of the aquarium.  Painting three sides is not needed but with my setup I wanted something to block off the view of fish from the adjacent tank seeing other fish and becoming aggressive towards the glass possible injuring itself.  Painting of three sides will keep more light within the tank, making your fish look amazing.  Blue was my color of choice but you can go with any color you like.  Artistic? then you can make an amazing painted background.


  • Foremost, it looks amazing!!
  • Anyone can do it. 
  • Professional look on the cheap
  • Blocks all cords or equipment behind aquarium


  • Can be a mess to install
  • Takes more time than other methods, 2 coats recommended
  • If proper application is not completed correctly streaks can be created

Getting the look, you want just takes some patience and following these simple instructions.

  1. Clean the glass surface thoroughly, I used mineral spirits.  Ensure it has dried
  2. If paint on frame is not desired tape it off
  3. Lather roller with paint and roll onto side of aquarium you want to paint, apply even coat an entire surface
  4. When doing around frame make sure roller gets into the corner between frame and glass
  5. Allow paint to dry 4 hours or more before applying seconded coat, if the first coat has not dried long enough applying fresh paint may pull up and smear the first coat

**when painting near surface that will not have paint do not let the roller slip around the corner getting paint on the viewing glass.

***ensure roller has liberal amount of paint on it

3D Aquarium Background (Interior)

($30-?? Depending on Aquarium Size or Design)

An amazing look for any aquarium that will add that natural look we are all striving for.  All the options above can be done fairly quickly and for multiply tanks at a time.  For the 3-dimensional look, patience and time is a virtue needed to have the amazing look.  Will admit I have never created a DIY 3D background for any of my aquariums, but have done a fair amount of research and Zach’s blog on “How to Make a 3D Fish Aquarium Background” insert web link to site is the easiest method to follow that I have found. 

Writing about something I have not completed myself; I feel my experiences of doing such DIY projects gives me a better knowledge and insights into the pitfalls to explain the pros and cons of said project.  Included this part because I think it is beneficial for everyone to know the options when creating an amazing aquarium. 


  • Hands down the best look for an aquarium
  • Adds a different layer fish species may thrive with
  • Did I say this already It Looks Amazing!!


  • The most expensive option out there
  • Some artist skills needed to make it look natural
  • Need to ensure all materials used are aquarium safe
  • Not an option for already functioning aquarium
  • Time consuming


Whether you have a new or old aquarium that you are looking for a fresh look for, these background options will change your aquarium look.  If you have an unlimited budget, a new aquarium, or ability to drain an old aquarium, the 3D background is a sure-fire choice.  Have a fish room you want to class up for a professional look or a show tank you want an amazing look for then the painted aquarium is the look you will want to use.  If you just want a background that blocks out all your cords and equipment, then and adhesive or paper background will suffice. 

If you have any comments or questions, please leave them in the comments section.  I am always available to answer questions in the comments section, on social media, or email me at  Please like and share.

Keep it Fresh!!

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