How to Make 3D Fish Tank Scenery

Updated February 21, 2017

When setting up an aquarium, some people like adding backgrounds and items in the tank. Some backgrounds for aquariums are prints of photographs that are covered in a heavy laminated material. Adding a three-dimensional image to the tank makes it look more like a realistic view under the ocean. Creating three-dimensional scenery for a fish tank is a simple process, and anyone is capable of completing this project. This design is easily painted directly on the tank, and the design peels off easily when you want to change the design.

Put a layer of newspaper on a flat surface and put the empty fish tank on top of the newspaper. Turn the empty fish tank around so the back side is facing you.

Cut a piece of paper the size of your back wall of the aquarium. Draw three rough, imperfect, half-circle shapes on the bottom half of the paper. Tape the paper on the inside of the aquarium.

Squirt a small dab of green and black paint onto the plate. Put a drop or two of water on each dab of paint, and stir it until the paint is smooth. Dab the stencil brush into the brown and black paint. Dab spots of the paint all over each half-circle shape that you see through the glass. Leave a small amount of space between each dot. Let it dry thoroughly overnight. This looks like the openings in coral when you finish painting the half-circle shaped area.

Add a dab of red, orange and yellow to the styrofoam plate. Put a dot of white beside each colour. Add a little bit of water to each colour, and mix the colour and the dot of white until the paint is smooth. The white paint makes the red, orange and yellow less transparent. Pick up the fan brush and tap each of the three colours you added to the plate. Paint in the rough half circle shapes you see through the glass. Let the paint dry overnight.

Mix a little bit of green paint with a dot of red for the seaweed. The red paint dulls the green, making it look more natural in the ocean. Pick up the fan brush and dab a little bit of paint on the brush. Put the brush at the bottom of the tank behind one of the rough half circles, and paint a wavy line going up from the bottom. Add several more wavy lines, making some of them curve or sway back and forth. Let the paint dry overnight.

Put blue, green and white paint on the plate and add a few drop of water to each colour. Stir each paint colour until it's smooth, and slide the fan brush through the blue, green and white paint on the plate. Dab paint across the whole back of the fish tank. Let the paint dabs overlap. Don't worry about making even layers of paint. If it is uneven, it makes it look like water moving in the background. Let the paint dry thoroughly overnight.

Paint two layers of white paint across the back of the aquarium. Let the paint dry thoroughly. Remove the paper from inside the aquarium. Put the aquarium where you want it.

Add a level bed of glass pebbles inside the fish tank bottom. Glass reflects light and gives more depth to the aquarium. Add fake plants across the bottom at the back of the aquarium, and anchor them with some of the glass pebbles. Add other decorations to the tank such as sunken ships or coral. Fill the tank with water according to fish type's requirements.


Do not use any paint inside the fish tank. Paint in water peels off.

Things You'll Need

  • Newspaper
  • Paper
  • Tape
  • Styrofoam plate
  • Stencil brush
  • Fan paintbrush
  • Green, brown, black, red, orange, yellow, white and green acrylic paint
  • Coloured glass pebbles
  • Artificial aquatic plants
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