Best Aquarium Backgrounds 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

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Aquarium

Imagine you’re in a fight with somebody who follows everything you do exactly. No delay, no hesitation — just perfect mirroring of every move you make. Wouldn’t you start to freak out a little?

What sounds to us like a cheesy kung fu movie is a real-life terror for a fish stuck in an unlined tank. Every time a fish sees its own reflection, it thinks it’s facing down a scarily talented rival. Constantly seeing their reflections stresses fish out and ruins their quality of life.

The solution is to get a good background for your aquarium. This not only helps your aquarium look better from the other side of the room, but also keeps your fish relaxed and happy. Then there’s the added benefit of being able to hide unsightly tubes and hoses.

Buying an aquarium background is a no-brainer, but finding the right one can be a challenge. There are a lot of flimsy, fake products online, trying to trick you into wasting your money. Don’t fret, though: our reviews of the five best aquarium backgrounds currently on the market will steer you right.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall Sporn Static Cling Coral Aquarium Background Sporn Static Cling Coral Aquarium Background
  • Applies without adhesive
  • Easy to set up
  • Relaxes fish
  • Best Value GloFish Aquarium Background GloFish Aquarium Background
  • Two backgrounds for the price of one
  • Looks great in blue light
  • Easy to cut down
  • Premium Choice GloFish Color Changing Background GloFish Color Changing Background
  • Easy to double on larger tanks
  • Beautiful cycling light show
  • Comforts fish
  • Vepotek Aquarium Background Vepotek Aquarium Background
  • Three enticing pictures
  • Oversized backgrounds are simple to cut down
  • Smaller backgrounds can be tessellated
  • Marina Precut Backgrounds Marina Precut Backgrounds
  • Many options for images and sizes
  • Pretty, naturalistic backgrounds
  • Solid colors available
  • The 5 Best Aquarium Backgrounds – Reviews 2020

    1. Sporn Static Cling Coral Aquarium Background – Best Overall

    Sporn Static Cling Coral Aquarium Background

    The Sporn Static Cling Coral Aquarium Background is an excellent choice for any fish lover trying to achieve a more natural look for their aquarium. At 18 inches tall by 36 wide, it’s large enough to cover three sides of most home aquariums, while also being cheap enough that you can buy two when one doesn’t cut it.

    Our favorite thing about this aquarium background is that it’s easy to apply without adhesive. With a little patience, we got it to roll on straight and wrinkle-free. The picture is nothing special, but it looks enough like real coral that it matches almost any decoration you’ve got already. There’s also a three-dimensional depth to it that we really like.

    Another big advantage is the way this background hides your tank’s wires and machinery. Perhaps most important of all, though, is the way it relaxes your fish. With pet products, nothing matters more than the pet’s approval.

    We only noticed one downside: it only comes in one size. It’s nice that cutting this background is easy, and layering it is affordable, but it does put a few more obstacles between buying the product and decorating your tank.

    Pros
    • Applies without adhesive
    • Easy to set up
    • Relaxes fish
    • Gives your aquarium a third dimension
    • Affordable
    Cons
    • Only comes in one size

    2. GloFish Aquarium Background – Best Value

    GloFish Aquarium Background

    Few aquarium backgrounds are all that expensive. However, if you’re looking for the absolute best aquarium background for the money, this backdrop from GloFish is the answer to your prayers. At 12 by 18 inches, it’s smaller than our #1 pick, but you get two backgrounds for the price of one.

    The images on both sides are beautiful and natural. One depicts drifting jellyfish, the other a gently waving sea anemone (the product page also shows a spelunking scene, but that doesn’t appear to be available). Both pictures are especially striking when exposed to blue light, which you should be cycling on and off in the aquarium if your fish are nocturnal.

    It’s a perfect fit for 10-gallon aquariums. Sadly, GloFish is not great for larger tanks, though the background can be stretched a little bit using black posterboard. It’s also easy to trim down for tanks smaller than 10 gallons.

    This background isn’t self-adhesive. You’ll need to use tape to attach it to your tank. Also, despite how well its blue glow simulates moonlight, don’t expect it to glow in the dark — you need a light source to make it work.

    Pros
    • Two backgrounds for the price of one
    • Looks great in blue light
    • Easy to cut down
    • Cheap
    Cons
    • Fairly small
    • Not self-adhesive

    3. GloFish Color Changing Background – Premium Choice

    GloFish Color Changing Background

    For fish lovers with larger aquariums, and/or who are willing to spend a bit more, GloFish’s color-changing background is a nautical mile ahead of the competition. This background, suitable for aquariums up to 25 gallons, is pretty enough all on its own, but when combined with a cycling light, it transforms your whole tank.

    The resulting light show is pleasing for both you and your fish. They’ll get a day-night cycle as they’d have in nature, and you’ll get an enticing fluorescent display that sometimes reveals hidden pictures in the background. As always, fewer opportunities to see their own reflections will also be a big help for your aquatic pets’ stress levels.

    Another nice touch with this background is that it’s easy to double up. A second sheet, though it gets expensive, gives you enough backdrop to cover a 55-gallon tank. In all tank sizes, the color change is subtle — don’t expect your tank to become a disco ball.

    This background isn’t for owners looking to achieve a naturalistic tank aesthetic: the coral, seahorses, and rock arches are a bit too stylized for that. It also won’t do much at all without additional light products.

    Pros
    • Large
    • Easy to double on larger tanks
    • Beautiful cycling light show with hidden objects
    • Comforts fish
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Art style isn’t naturalistic
    • Does little without a cycling light

    4. Vepotek Aquarium Background

    Vepotek Aquarium Background

    Vepotek’s double-sided aquarium background is an awesome choice for anybody looking to enhance their tank decorations. You can buy it with one of two pictures, one showing colorful plants and coral, the other depicting the rocky base of a reef. Both options can be reversed to reveal an open-water scene with light shining into the deep sea.

    The backgrounds come rolled-up poster style and arrived without any damage when we ordered them. All three images look great when illuminated by tank lights. If one is too small for your aquarium, they’re easy to tesselate for a continuous picture.

    You’ve also got the option of bundling your purchase with some of Vepotek’s “Vibrant Sea” adhesive, which is designed to stick the background to the tank quickly and easily while also enhancing its color palette. It comes with an applicator squeegee.

    While Vibrant Sea definitely works to make your colors more vivid, it’s also oily and messy, and you can’t install this background without it — it doesn’t cling on its own. If you don’t want the hassle, tape also works. If you do choose Vibrant Sea, apply it sparingly, and make sure to lay down some newspaper.

    Pros
    • Three enticing pictures
    • Oversized backgrounds are simple to cut down
    • Smaller backgrounds can be tessellated
    • Vibrant Sea adhesive enhances coloration
    Cons
    • Can’t be installed without adhesive
    • Included adhesive is slippery and messy

    5. Marina Precut Backgrounds

    Marina Precut Backgrounds

    Marina precut aquarium backgrounds are an exceptionally budget-friendly choice for those who want to spruce up their aquariums. You can choose between five different designs, all double-sided, and none cost more than $15.

    The backgrounds run the gamut from freshwater riverbeds to rocky coral reefs, to some non-aquatic but peaceful rock designs, to one option that’s just solid colors on both sides. You can match your fish to their natural habitat, or create an uncomplicated backdrop for other lights and decorations.

    Available sizes vary depending on which picture you go with, but most come in at least two of three options: 12 by 24, 18 by 36, or 24 by 48 inches. As always, they can be cut down to fit aquariums with irregular sizes. We recommend getting the larger one if you’re not sure since it’s easier to cut down than to add.

    As much as we like the selection, there are a few flaws in these backgrounds. They don’t cling on, instead requiring aquarium adhesive, and they’re far too easy to crease. As with #4, aquarium adhesive is messy and hard to use, made all the harder by how one mistake can noticeably mar these pictures.

    Pros
    • Many options for images and sizes
    • Affordable
    • Pretty, naturalistic backgrounds
    • Solid colors available
    Cons
    • Need adhesive to attach
    • Very easy to crease
    • One crease can ruin the image’s dimension

    Buyer’s Guide

    As an aquarium owner, you’ve got to perform a balancing act. Your fish tank needs to serve as both a pleasing piece of furniture and as a forever home for a lot of anxious aquatic pets. How do you make sure your aquarium ties the room together while helping your fish lead their best lives?

    In this buyer’s guide, we’ll start by teaching you how to shop for an aquarium background, then share a checklist of everything else you need to build a livable, fish-friendly aquarium.

    How to Buy an Aquarium Background

    As products, they aren’t too complicated. Just follow these steps, and your fish will be happy every time.

    • Measure your tank. This almost goes without saying. First, decide how many walls of your tank you want to cover. Then, use a tape measure to find out the total length of the base you’ll be wallpapering, along with the height of your tank. This will let you know what size of aquarium background you need. It also helps to know how many gallons your tank holds since some sellers list their background sizes that way.
    • Decide on a look. Your aquarium’s background should fit with the aesthetic set up by its other plants and props. Some backdrops are realistic, made from real photos of ocean scenes, while others show more stylized and cartoony flora and fauna. Some backgrounds show empty ocean, or even blank, solid colors. If your aquarium contains nocturnal fish, and you’ll be using an oscillating blue light (see below), try getting a background that’s designed to look good in those conditions, like our #2 pick from GloFish.
    • Pick a product. Once you know the size and look you want, the next step is to search the aquarium backgrounds being sold online. Make sure to read the reviews extensively, both positive and critical. The average price range for an aquarium background is about $8 to $20. Be very careful about going outside this range in either direction. We advise getting a background that ships rolled up in a poster tube. Check the reviews to find out how easy it is to damage the background by creasing or tearing it. You don’t want one that’s too fragile. If you find one you really like, but it’s the wrong size, get one that’s too big rather than too small. You can almost always add two aquarium backgrounds next to each other, but it’s easier to cut one down.
    • Figure out how to adhere it. Some aquarium backgrounds, like our #1 pick from Sporn, adhere naturally to your fish tank like clingy plastic wrap. Others require tape, or in some cases, specialized adhesive. Requiring a glue like Vibrant Sea isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but it does add a little more homework since it’s often sold separately from the background. Be sure you aren’t buying something you won’t be able to attach.

    What Else You Need In An Aquarium

    So you’ve got a background, and your fish aren’t getting in any unnerving fights with themselves anymore. However, fish need more than water and a picture to be happy with their habitat. Make sure you’ve got all of these important features before you buy any live fish for your new tank.

    There are two main kinds of aquarium: freshwater and saltwater. Freshwater aquariums hold fish from lakes and rivers, while saltwater aquariums are for oceangoing fish. Each one requires different considerations, though some requirements overlap.

    African Cichlid Fish Tank
    Image: Wikimedia Commons

    For All Aquariums
    • A fancy word for the layer of gravel on the bottom of an aquarium. Substrate keeps the bottom of your tank from reflecting, makes it look more natural, and provides a place for living aquatic plants to grow if you want them to. It’s also a great place to develop the helpful bacteria you need in your tank to process all the fish poop.
    • Most fish you’ll want in your tank are used to swimming in well-lit areas. They’re also used to a day-night cycle, so get a light that cycles between bright and dim throughout the day. LED lights last the longest, but CFLs look about as natural.
    • Air pump. Fish don’t breathe water — there has to be oxygen in the water for them to filter out. Adding an air pump not only oxygenates the water in your tank, but it also keeps it moving around, which promotes a uniform temperature.
    • Filters should remove debris, harmful chemicals, and biological toxins from the water. Check your filter regularly, and change it out according to the manufacturer’s instruction manual.
    • Heater and thermometer. The water in your tank won’t always be the same temperature as the room around it. When you buy a fish, especially a tropical, memorize its preferred temperature range, then check the thermometer every day to make sure it’s comfortable. Don’t keep fish in the same tank that requires drastically different temperatures.
    • pH test strips. Aquarium pH tends to drop (become more acidic) over time. Most freshwater fish prefer a neutral pH of 7.0, while saltwater fish like it a bit more basic, near 8.0. To maintain that balance, change the water regularly, although if you find it’s still trending low, you can tip the scales with a solution of water and baking soda.

    For Freshwater Aquarium
    • Water conditioner. Freshwater fish need a healthy population of bacteria to break down the harmful ammonia in their poop. Water conditioners promote the growth of helpful bacteria that prevent a poisonous ammonia buildup.

    For Saltwater Aquarium
    • Protein skimmer. Protein skimmers are another way to reduce waste compounds in an aquarium. They don’t work very well in freshwater, but in saltwater, they can keep your tank clean while helpful bacteria grow naturally.
    • Use commercial marine salt from a pet supply store. Do not use table salt.

    Conclusion

    For these reviews, we tested each background on a real aquarium, noting how good they looked, how well they blended with other decorations, how easy they were to apply, and how long they lasted. The Sporn Static Cling backgrounds won every category. These aquarium backgrounds are big, hassle-free, cheap, and will skyrocket your fish tank’s aesthetic value.

    If you’re looking to save money, GloFish’s reversible background is a great two-for-one deal. The naturalistic art on these backdrops will make your fish feel right at home, and look amazing when exposed to a cycling blue light.

    We set out to help you sort the wheat from the chaff while shopping for an aquarium background. We hope you’ve gained some confidence in your search. If you bought any of these backgrounds and want to share your experiences, feel free to let us know in the comments — and if this article helped you, don’t forget to share it with your fish-loving friends.

    For more on Aquariums, check out these posts:

    Best Aquarium Wave Maker

    Best Aquarium Plants to Reduce Nitrates

    Best Aquarium Stands


    Featured Image: Needpx