aquarium background - serve any purpose?
How important/not important is the background for an aquarium? I have always used a natural looking scenic background on my aquariums, partially for looks but also to block out outside light as I have always felt this encourages algae growth. But now I have a new aquarium I have heavily planted with low light plants. I do not have very strong lighting on it and now I am wondering if I should remove the background and allow a bit of natural filtered light in.
I've read that the background does serve the fish as it mimics a sort of river bank, and lends them security. I've seen many tanks that don't have backrounds, though. I don't think I'd want natural light to filter into the tank. Aside from possibly warming the water, you might find that your algae might enjoy it more than your plants!
I know it serves a large aesthetic purpose. Fish look better against a dark background (and substrate), and it hides a lot of cords and black equipment like the heater and filter intake. All of my tanks have a black background for just that reason. Tanks just look better with a background especially if the backdrop is a white wall or something like that. Bright colors like white can cause their colors to wash.
From an aesthetic perspective, I do not like tanks without a background. This is best if it is dark, whether a subdued picture/design or just plain black construction paper. Anything too obvious, such as bright colours, metallic, glossy photos, etc. will distract the viewer from the fish and plants. Both fish and plants will look better with a background that you don't really notice when looking at the tank. The background also hides the external filter tubes and the cords from heater, light and filter.
As for light, unless the tank is in front of a bright window, this light is unlikely to be sufficient for plants, but it will be enough for algae. If it is bright enough for the plants, they will grow toward it, which can ruin the front view as I found out with an experimental 10g using window light.
On the fish, there is a lot of evidence that they can be stressed by tanks open on all sides and particularly if there is movement on all sides. This varies from tank to tank and fish species to fish species, but I have certainly found a difference with fish response in tanks after installing a plain black background. The fish do seem more "relaxed," though I would find it hard to explain this in words. It's one of those things you just notice, or don't notice.:-) It is true that fish can usually adapt to movement, and again this depends a bit upon the fish species. Wild caught fish that have come from a densely-shaded forest stream are going to be anxious in a sparse tank; what they need is missing, and instinct tells them they are in danger because of it.
I agree with Byron and the others on this, a darker background is a good idea. The only time I have used a photo background is when I mimicked the background with what was in the tank.
Agree - a tank just doesn't look as good or natural without a background of some kind. I lean towards the picture background rather than say a solid black (e.g. poster board or paint).
I actually paint the back of my tanks black. Sounds crazy but it looks great, cheap and easy to do if you are sitting up new. I personally wouldn't want sunlight getting in, as mentioned it will lead to algae on the glass. What type of light and plants do you have?
I have java ferns, cryptos and wisteria. I started out with just the Marineland hood LED light that came with the aquarium kit. I didn't think is was enough light for plants so I replaced the hood with a glass top and using a single fluorescent light, then realized I could remove the LED light from the old hood so I have that on the glass top also. It adds a nice shimmering more white light and has the moonlight setting I turn on when I turn the brighter ones off. I think this lighting will be sufficient for the plants.
I agree the background looks better than an open aquarium and am glad to know the general opinion is that it is good for the fish too.
I have always thought too much natural light causes algae growth. The aquarium is in an east window but I keep the blinds closed, esp. in the morning.
I appreciate all the responses to my original post.
I second the suggestion to paint the back black. I have two identical tanks with the only difference being I was able to paint the back of one but not the other. I have to use construction paper on the other. The one with the painted back looks 100x better. I will be painting the background on every tank I set up in the future.
You can go to the hobby area of Wal-Mart and buy those little bottles of acrylic hobby paint and a little sponge roller. Works great and if you ever want to remove it, get a razor blade and its off in less than 5 min. I highly recommend using paint as a background.
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