How to apply an aquarium background

The right background can bring a fish tank to life, complementing the plants, stones and species of fish that you have chosen for your underwater world. Aquarium backgrounds usually have a scene printed on both sides of plasticised paper, giving the aquarium owner quite a few choices. Cut and sold by the foot, most aquarium backgrounds are supplied by manufacturers to the pet or fish shop by the roll. So many colours, textures and themes are available that sometimes choosing an aquarium background is harder than applying it.

Start with an empty aquarium. Clean the interior and exterior glass of the aquarium with warm water and a squirt of dish soap on a sponge. Rinse the glass with clear water and dry thoroughly with a paper towel.

Fit the aquarium background. Place a piece of transparent tape at the top of the background paper. Hold the background up against the outside of the aquarium, preferred side facing in. Move the background from side to side, up and down until you have positioned it how you want.

Press the tape up against the aquarium to hold the background in position. Use a razor knife to cut the aquarium background to the correct size. Cut off both sides first and then the top and bottom, pressing the knife gently against the glass as you cut. Discard the leftover pieces.

Step back and take a look at the aquarium background. If the aquarium background looks crooked or requires additional cutting, now is the time to do it. If all is well, it is time to secure the aquarium background.

Tape the aquarium background in place with transparent tape. Normally, just taping the top and bottom of the aquarium background to the tank should suffice. If you do not have transparent tape, some double-sided tape should accomplish the same thing.


Use a felt-tip marker and a ruler to map out a cutting area, if you find cutting the aquarium background difficult as it hangs on the back of the tank. Remove the aquarium background from the tank and lay it on a hard surface. Make the required cuts with a pair of sharp scissors and replace the background against the aquarium glass.


Do not use harsh chemicals to clean the aquarium. These chemicals can transfer to the water when you fill the tank, harming the fish.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Transparent tape
  • Razor knife
  • Double-sided tape
  • Felt-tip marker
  • Ruler
  • Sharp scissors
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About the Author

Jonae Fredericks started writing in 2007. She also has a background as a licensed cosmetologist and certified skin-care specialist. Jonae Fredericks is a certified paraeducator, presently working in the public education system.