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Making a False Back for an Aquarium

i Jochen Sands/Photodisc/Getty Images

The sight of the colorful fish swimming about in an aquarium is soothing as well as entertaining. But then you add a bit of coral here, a live plant there and soon you're having a ball decorating your fish's home. There's only so much you can put inside the aquarium without crowding the fish out, but you can make a false back that will enhance the look of the tank without diminishing the space inside.

Attach a Mural

A simple and inexpensive false back for an aquarium can be made using pictures of whatever catches your eye. Anything from cities to landscapes or aquascapes from under the ocean will work. All you have to do is tape them to the back of the tank facing in. Although they don't have to be mounted on a board, at least attaching them to a piece of poster board will make them last longer; laminating them first will help even more. Find pictures in magazines, online or if you're artistically inclined, you can draw or paint your own.

Sculpt a Background

If you fancy a realistic coral look for your aquarium, you can make it yourself with foam products from hardware or craft stores. Spray-on versions are the easiest to use; you just randomly spray the product onto a board, such as a thin piece of plywood. Apply as many layers as you want to get the three-dimensional look you desire. Other foam products come in two parts that have to be mixed together. You have to work quickly with these because they start expanding and setting up, but since the look you're going for is disordered and natural, that usually isn't a problem. Even though the rigid foam products start setting up fast, they take two hours to cure fully at room temperature.

Versatile Cork Board

Cork board is a versatile option for making a false back for an aquarium. It looks rugged and natural when you attach it unadorned to the back of your fish tank, but you can embellish it, too. Decorative stickers, plastic gemstones, pictures or anything that catches your eye can be stuck or tacked to the board. What really makes cork board flexible as an aquarium back is that you can easily change out whatever decorations you use, making a new background as frequently as you want.

Give Them Something to Reflect On

Use a mirror for a false back on your aquarium. The reflection will give the illusion of a much larger tank with many more fish. A variation is to mist the mirror's surface with a spritz of spray paint before installing it behind your aquarium, taking care not to entirely blot out the reflective surface. Use any color that accents the room, or just go with your favorite for a mysterious and murky effect.