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I'm setting up a new 50g fresh in a dutch/nature-like aquascape (with manzanita and seiyru hardscape, flourite black sand). I have a black background for starts because that's "the thing you are supposed to do". Black does look good, probably better than any other solid color in most freshwater situations but it does create a cold dark void effect in some tanks. I notice the rimless aquascapers (I'm using clear-for-life acrylic tank so that isn't me) often use white or clear (no background) backgrounds. I can't use clear as I need something to hide canister hose and power cables.

When you search for aquarium backgrounds you are inundated with 100,000's of varieties and vendors of "traditional" aquarium backgrounds, I mean backgrounds of pirate ships, snow capped mountains, scuba divers, solid colors of all shades, etc... There are so many it's impossible to sift through.

Are there any vendors/manufacturers that specialize in backgrounds that are synergistic with an aquascaped tank? I'm thinking a background that is subtle, with a purpose to blend natural elements in the underwater setting you are creating, that creates depth and/or mood, in a manner that is more complex than a solid color yet does not stand out nor look fake.

I feel like it might be better to go DIY and try to be artsy although I'd much rather buy.
 

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What are your thoughts on a "frosted" look on the back part of the tank? I know there's some sort of film that you can apply to the outer part of a tank that creates a "frosted glass" effect, which makes the tank relatively clear, but potentially distorts out the life support equipment...

I guess it also depends on how you can search for aquarium backgrounds. There are some cool 3d aquarium backgrounds, which assist in showing depth, but can restrict what you're going for to an extent. You could also try for something like a moss wall, which acts as a background, but has plants in it....what are your goals? I assume all the "oceany" backgrounds are out, but do you want something that reflects an image of a planted riverbed or something?
 

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I sure haven't seen many (if any) that were realistic *to me*, but I suppose that's subjective. I generally paint mine or use frosted window cling. Hides the wires and accentuates the scape without detracting with obviously fake scenery. A lot really comes down to taste and preference though. I probably sell as much neon colored aquarium gravel as natural and as many fake Buddhas and skulls as driftwood, so what I like is clearly not what everybody does!
 

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Yes, most commercial tank backgrounds have theme, good for fish only tank but distractive for aquascape. Most aquascape tanks have either no background or solid light Color background to reflect light back to plants. Some even use light to shine through the back to simulate sun ray. I have seen double sided commercial backgrounds with theme on one side, and solid color on the other, typically blue or black. There are also rock theme backgrounds that approach solid color and are more natural for plants. Avoid black and dark color that absorb light.
 

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I'm setting up a new 50g fresh in a dutch/nature-like aquascape (with manzanita and seiyru hardscape, flourite black sand). I have a black background for starts because that's "the thing you are supposed to do". Black does look good, probably better than any other solid color in most freshwater situations but it does create a cold dark void effect in some tanks. I notice the rimless aquascapers (I'm using clear-for-life acrylic tank so that isn't me) often use white or clear (no background) backgrounds. I can't use clear as I need something to hide canister hose and power cables.

When you search for aquarium backgrounds you are inundated with 100,000's of varieties and vendors of "traditional" aquarium backgrounds, I mean backgrounds of pirate ships, snow capped mountains, scuba divers, solid colors of all shades, etc... There are so many it's impossible to sift through.

Are there any vendors/manufacturers that specialize in backgrounds that are synergistic with an aquascaped tank? I'm thinking a background that is subtle, with a purpose to blend natural elements in the underwater setting you are creating, that creates depth and/or mood, in a manner that is more complex than a solid color yet does not stand out nor look fake.

I feel like it might be better to go DIY and try to be artsy although I'd much rather buy.
How about finding a photo that you like, having it enlarged and cropped to the size you need, and then treating the paper with a water resistant coating?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
What are your thoughts on a "frosted" look on the back part of the tank? I know there's some sort of film that you can apply to the outer part of a tank that creates a "frosted glass" effect, which makes the tank relatively clear, but potentially distorts out the life support equipment...
The frosted thing is something I have not considered, that is an interesting idea.

I guess it also depends on how you can search for aquarium backgrounds. There are some cool 3d aquarium backgrounds, which assist in showing depth, but can restrict what you're going for to an extent. You could also try for something like a moss wall, which acts as a background, but has plants in it....what are your goals? I assume all the "oceany" backgrounds are out, but do you want something that reflects an image of a planted riverbed or something?
In my minds eye it's hard to see anything with an actual image, whether drawn, painted, or computer generated, to fit the bill, even it if it is a picture of "underwater river grass" or something relevant. I'm not sure something like that could ever look real enough that it would not distract. Perhaps if it had images of the same plants as in the tank, and displayed in a manner that creates an illusion of a seamless continuum off into the distance. That would be some sort of custom or DIY project.

For an off-the-shelf product, i'm thinking something subtle like a gentle gradient of a single color, that get's darker with depth, to create the illusion of depth without stealing any focus from the tank. Maybe more sophistication would be to add some slight hint of a god ray through the water as if from a point source to further add to the illusion of natural light (e.g. sun/moon). Or maybe something subtle that creates an illusion of water movement. Many possibilities.

Bump:
If you really want to get fancy you can us a lighted background. Not sure if it's sold in your tank size.

https://aquaforestaquarium.com/products/ada-light-screen

If I have a whitish wall beyond my tank I usually go without a background. Black looks good depending on setup to me.
That is one cool product! The larger one would fit I think. At $430 its about as much as the acrylic tank it would go on, rather pricey. Going to check some youtubes on it though. I think its outside my price range but an interesting find none-the-less.
 

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What looks real depends on where you've had your head under the water! Oceans edge or river and stream are a couple of items which change the answer as well as where the river might have been. A look around a river in Minnesota may get you lots of brown while Georgia may get you red but where I'm most used to is the middle of the country where limestone if the dominant rock, so a full back wall fashioned to look like a limestone bluff looks "natural" to me! Lots of cichlid keepers do DIY on back walls to form them from Cement and then color it to look like what they feel is "natural" as nature has lots of options.
I go with black because when underwater, it often does fade into dark in the distance and changes frequently so black suits as well as I can begin to create and it is far more simple than getting too involved in art that is not my thing.
So what is natural to you?
 

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I've been looking for something similar - a gradient of color or subtle mottling - and the best solution seems to be a fabric backdrop. A solid batik fabric in a darker shade of brown or green might look good, or even just different tonal shades of black. Quilting shops have a wide variety of these.
 

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On my tanks I have one black (painted), one frosted (plastic) and one clear. I've toyed with several ideas on making a rock wall out of slate or dragon stone, but my aquariums are relatively narrow and I ultimately didn't want to give up the space. I once tried taping up a print from a photo I took, but that particular photo quality was made worse by blowing it up big enough to use as a background. It looked hideous.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
What looks real depends on where you've had your head under the water! Oceans edge or river and stream are a couple of items which change the answer as well as where the river might have been. A look around a river in Minnesota may get you lots of brown while Georgia may get you red but where I'm most used to is the middle of the country where limestone if the dominant rock, so a full back wall fashioned to look like a limestone bluff looks "natural" to me! Lots of cichlid keepers do DIY on back walls to form them from Cement and then color it to look like what they feel is "natural" as nature has lots of options.
I go with black because when underwater, it often does fade into dark in the distance and changes frequently so black suits as well as I can begin to create and it is far more simple than getting too involved in art that is not my thing.
So what is natural to you?
These are great points and I was tracking along similar yesterday looking at some of the 3D backgrounds. They are pricey, half as much as an LED background, but if found in the right habitat and matching your stone, wood, sand, or whatever could tie, it looks very authentic and interesting. I don't care about winning aquascape contests just want an attractive and natural looking aquascape.

Bump:


Here is one of the gradient films for my Lightground LED background for my 120p that I am setting up.
I am also getting the White/blue film.


https://www.thelightground.com/about-1
This is awesome thank you! The led route is very interesting albeit expensive. Technically I can afford it but is well outside what I planned to spend. Thank you for some more food for thought. It will be interesting to see this product take hold and price to come down. I have to think an "active background" at the right price, could be quite a seller.

Bump:
Hi @ahem,

Possibly something like one of these?
I found some of these yesterday surfing around. They are much more immersive than I would have thought! They look impressive in some of the pictures. The key is to get one that matches substrate and features.
 

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Hi @ahem,

Possibly something like one of these?
This is the type background that I had in mind but then when I look at these pictures they all have some things which do not look the way I would like. Better and closer than many backgrounds but still lacking?
For what I expect underwater, this is way too clean! This group appears to be all fish only tanks and lean to cichlids but the sub is not "natural" to my mind as it is so clean and there is nothing growing! The clean white makes the fish colors show but how often do we see live fish without plants of some sort and certainly there is a fair amount of mess involved when we have fish.
So this is what first moved me to try some plants as a way to make the scene seem more "complete" but that does often come with compromise as we do not get plants growing in a super clean, sterile environment like these.
So now, it also fits my attitude as a whole to ignore some of what others call defects!
I do not keep super clean, shiny tanks but have evolved to actually like some of the things we often spend so much time fighting, like debris on the bottom and algae on the background and rocks. It's what I see when I dive or go to the creek, so I expect it when I have fish and plants!
Just a different view and certainly depends on where we spend our time around the water.
 

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I have HOB boxes and many cables behind my tanks so I must use background to hide them. I use a rock theme background for my 125g, and a plant theme background for my 75g which blends in with real plants.

I personally like the rock theme better because it is simple and show off the silhouette of the plants better. The plant theme background is too busy, but seem to blend in with the equipment better. What do you think?
 

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This is the type background that I had in mind but then when I look at these pictures they all have some things which do not look the way I would like. Better and closer than many backgrounds but still lacking?
For what I expect underwater, this is way too clean! This group appears to be all fish only tanks and lean to cichlids but the sub is not "natural" to my mind as it is so clean and there is nothing growing! The clean white makes the fish colors show but how often do we see live fish without plants of some sort and certainly there is a fair amount of mess involved when we have fish.
So this is what first moved me to try some plants as a way to make the scene seem more "complete" but that does often come with compromise as we do not get plants growing in a super clean, sterile environment like these.
So now, it also fits my attitude as a whole to ignore some of what others call defects!
I do not keep super clean, shiny tanks but have evolved to actually like some of the things we often spend so much time fighting, like debris on the bottom and algae on the background and rocks. It's what I see when I dive or go to the creek, so I expect it when I have fish and plants!
Just a different view and certainly depends on where we spend our time around the water.
Hi PlantedRich,

I don't necessarily disagree. I do believe the one on the left to be the more 'natural' of the three and if I attached some moss or java ferns to it I think it would look more natural. I do believe them to be an improvement over the Crystal Craze we used to put on tank backs in the 60's and 70's or some of the printed plastic sheets of plants and fish that can still be found in pet shops today. -Roy
 

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That's what makes the world go around and what makes the planted tank hobby a good one as we can each have our own specific tank and do it the way we each see it looks best. I might guess those photos are done to show off the background and it does that very nicely but us planted folks tend to want to stick some plants in the way, which doesn't help show the backdrops.
And what we like or not is something that is almost always going to evolve as we grow and change. At a point 10-15 years back when I was a fish only guy, those would have certainly been great but now I see it differently.
And I also admit that I'm certainly not in the mainstream with what I expect from my tanks as I now find just setting and watching to be more fun than the challenge of keeping a great set of tanks.
A cup of coffee or a good water change and I often go for the coffee!
 
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