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Do you need a background for your fish tank?

Although a background for your aquarium is entirely optional, there are a few benefits.

This guide at Aquarium Blueprints will list out these positives as well as help you select the best type.

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Visual benefits of a fish tank background

Many fish keepers use a background for their fish tanks to make them more aesthetically pleasing. A backdrop will help hide the any tubing and cables you have hanging on the back of the aquarium. If you are worry about algae, then having a background will prevent excess light from getting through the backside of your tank as well.

Not to mention that dark backdrops will also assist in bringing out the colors of your fish as your pets will darken their pigmentation to match their surroundings. Furthermore, darker backgrounds are able to hide algae better on your glass or acrylic panels.

Some backgrounds will also give the illusion of added depth to your tank, making it look deeper than it actually is.

Aquarium backdrop benefits for your fish

Adding a background to your aquarium does have a few small benefits for your fish. Some species can easily be spooked by their reflection. They can also be scared by shadows. By having a dark background, you can limit the reflections and shadows, making your fish feel more comfortable.

Interval vs. external backgrounds

If you want a background, you can either get an internal one of an external one.

An internal background is usually made to look like a rock wall. It is commonly used for cichlid tanks. Some fish keepers will also make moss walls via live plants to use as a background.

The main benefit of using an internal background is that it will also provide surface area for your beneficial bacterial to grow. Moss walls will also keep your water clean as the live plants will consume the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate from your water.

The biggest drawback for internal backgrounds is that it will take up space on the backside of your fish tank. They are also usually hard to insert and remove, especially if you try to add them into an existing aquarium with live fish. If you value the space inside your tank, then you may be better off getting an external background.

The main pro of external backgrounds is that they don’t take up any space in your fish tank. Depending on how you applied them, they should also be easier to remove in most cases when compared to internal backgrounds.

Black vs. dark blue backdrops

If you are looking a minimalist approach when it comes to picking a background, the two most common colors are black and dark blue. Both will bring out the colors on your fish although a black background will be more effective.

A black backdrop will also do a better job at hiding any algae you have on your back panel. A dark blue will give your tank a deep blue sea look although the algae are more visible.

Since most tanks will have algae, we recommend getting a black background. With that said, the decision is ultimately up to you. If the paint in your house is already dark, then you might want to have a bare background to see how your tank looks before deciding whether or not you actually need to cover the back of aquarium.

Painting a background for your fish tank

Another option is that you can paint the background. You can do so in two ways: spray paint or roller painting.

For spray paint, we recommend using the Performix Plasti Dip Black Multi-Purpose Rubber Coating Aerosol. For roller painting, you should use an acrylic paint such as the Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint. Both of these can be removed easily from the background if you change your mind later on. When applying the coating or paint, make sure none of the substances get into the aquarium. You have to be especially careful with spray paint as the coating is airborne. You can purchase the two options from Amazon with the following links:

If you are planning to use the spray paint method, we recommend watching a how-to video from Aquarium Co-Op below:

If you are planning to use the roller painting method, we suggest watching a tutorial video from the King of DIY below:

Lighting your fish tank that has a dark background

Adding a dark background will block out any light source from the back end. As a result, you aquarium will appear darker. So, if you don’t already have a dedicated lighting fixture, now should be the best time to get one if you want to properly show off the color of your fish, plants and/or other aquatic life in your fish tank. To find out more about aquarium lighting, you can check out this guide.


An aquarium background has several benefits such as keeping your fish calm and making your tank more visually appealing.

We recommend getting a external backdrop instead of an internal one as the former is easier to apply and manage.

We also suggest getting a black background as it will help your fish color up while also hiding any unsightly algae from the back panel at the same time.

Last but not least, if you decide to paint the background, we advocate using a roller with acrylic paint.