How to Make Natural Stone Fish Tank Backgrounds

Written by maeri claire
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How to Make Natural Stone Fish Tank Backgrounds
Aquarium with natural stone background (Puffer Fish image by Freelance from

Natural stone fish tank backgrounds add a three-dimensional look and feel to your fish tank. They also provide places for fish to explore and breed. Before you begin, take the time to plan out the positioning of the rocks. Think about the look and feel that you would like to display throughout your fish tank. Natural stones come in many shapes, sizes, textures and colours. You can mix and match the stones to achieve a desired look.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Stones
  • Hydrochloric acid solution (from an aquarium nitrate test kit)
  • Hard brush
  • Bucket
  • Warm water
  • Aquarium

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  1. 1

    Choose stone that will not harm the health of your fish. The stone should not affect the pH of the water inside the tank. It should also not release any harmful minerals into the tank water. Stones that meet these requirements include volcanic rock, slate and granite.

    How to Make Natural Stone Fish Tank Backgrounds
    Pieces of slate on top of each other (old slate wall image by Benjamin Jefferson from
  2. 2

    Inspect each stone and remove any that you find with sharp edges or rust spots. The sharp edges can harm the fish, and the rust is a sign of a mineral change in the rock.

    How to Make Natural Stone Fish Tank Backgrounds
    Evidence of rust on a stone (rust image by PeteG from
  3. 3

    Wash and dry each stone. Take the bottle of hydrochloric acid solution from an aquarium nitrate test kit and put a few drops of the hydrochloric acid on each stone. If, within a minute or two, you begin to see foam, fizz or bubble, discard the stone. Stones that foam, fizz or bubble will release calcium carbonate into your aquarium water.

    How to Make Natural Stone Fish Tank Backgrounds
    Foam on rock (foam on the beach image by elyChy from
  4. 4

    Scrub each stone with hot water and a hard brush and place them in a bucket of warm water for one day. Do not use bleach on the stones as it is hard to completely remove. If a stone begins to crumble or flake during this cleaning process, do not use it.

    How to Make Natural Stone Fish Tank Backgrounds
    Hard bristle brushes (Brush image by Yuriy Rozanov from
  5. 5

    Place the larger stones on the bottom back wall of the fish tank to act as a support.

    How to Make Natural Stone Fish Tank Backgrounds
    Large stones (large boulders image by Yali Shi from
  6. 6

    Continue stacking the stones upwards along the back wall creating small "caves" as you go. Check each stone to ensure that it is well seated and will not fall out of place. You can fill in any unwanted holes and create more stability with smaller rocks or gravel.

    How to Make Natural Stone Fish Tank Backgrounds
    Stones with "caves" between them (Stack of Stones image by Gary Chorpenning from
  7. 7

    Stop stacking the rocks once you reach your desired height. You can now add the filtration system and substrate to your tank.

Tips and warnings

  • The stones will need to be removed and cleaned on a monthly basis.
  • These instructions apply to both fresh water and salt water tanks.
  • A harmful change in water chemistry can mean stress, illness and even death for the fish. Even if a fish store employee claims that a stone is safe, it should still be thoroughly inspected, cleansed and tested.

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