Advice on painting an aquarium

devsi

I'm getting ready to rip apart my 180L to start again - all fish will be removed and temporarily housed in another tank, while I get the plants the way I want them etc etc.

Currently, the back and one side has a background which is better than nothing, but it does sometimes get the odd drop of water on it, which looks horrible, and it's a pain to run the magnet cleaner over....

I really like the look of painted (black) aquariums, and would be looking to do the back/one side as I have my background now, but have zero idea where to start.

As with everything new, there's a TON of information online about it, but I don't know who's a reliable source, which method is best etc etc.

Does anybody have any pointers please?
 

PeterFishKeepin

Well cleaning black paint of a tank after if you want to change the setup can be a pain so...

i would recommend getting some black poster board sheets and tape them to the the back of the tank, or spray paint some cardboard black and tape, you could use a sheet of foam too.. black paint works although I've never used it... I've used black poster board and have never had any issues, if water goes on it, it normally drips down and then off or the paper absorbs it so I strongly recommend it!
 

Huckleberry77

I spray paint the back sides of all my tanks black and I highly recommend it. Just clean the glass thoroughly and mask off all other areas you don‘t want painted with tape and paper or plastic. Then do multiple thin coats of black krylon or rustoleum spray paint. Wait a few minutes between coats. Painting outside on a warm day works much faster than in a basement. I have found you need many many coats. Look carefully from both sides (shining a light may help) to ensure you don’t end up with thin areas. Then remove the masking and let the paint cure for at least 24 hours. I typically use semigloss paint. I think it’s all going to have a gloss look to it because it goes through the glass. I think flat might scratch more but I don’t have experience with painting tanks with flat paint.
P.S. I also spray paint the backs and bottoms of my quarantine/hospital tanks black. It helps calm the fish to have a solid colored bottom and also helps to examine quarantined fish against a dark background.
 

86 ssinit

Like said once painted you can’t remove it. I bought 2 125s acrylics with black backgrounds and grew to hate them. Any of the standard background sold at the pet stores are better. So much easier to change it out.
But if your determined to paint get one of the rubber based removable paints that peal off.
 

devsi

Thanks all for the feedback! A lot of what I read online was along the lines of "Painting is great and, if you bore of it, it's easy to remove". Sounds like that's not the case, so I'll probably give it a miss, at least for now.

I'll just stick with the background I have :)
 

BlockHead1981

Ive painted several tanks. I use spray paint and it works great. I've used the expensive stuff and the cheap stuff, both work the same. Just prep the tank with tape and cover the top as well, assume that anything not covered will get paint on it. Give it 3 or 4 coats letting it dry every time before you start a new coat. Easy to remove with a razor blade as well. I tried regular paint once and it came out horrible lol. Right now I am using black out film on my 20 long and it works great, holds up to water a lot tougher than regular backing.
 

Huckleberry77

I have never wanted to remove the black paint from my tank. However, I watched an aquascape in video where the person took a razor blade scraper and removed the paint from the back of a small aquarium in just a minute or two. It did not look hard at all.
I have used those backgrounds that you purchase at the store and I have used that Sea clear oily adhesive stuff to try to make it stick. I have also used other kinds of backgrounds. I have never been happy with any of them. There are always air bubbles or water stains or crusty salty residue that gets back there. I never liked the way it looks and that’s why I now paint my backgrounds.
 

LizStreithorst

Like said once painted you can’t remove it. I bought 2 125s acrylics with black backgrounds and grew to hate them. Any of the standard background sold at the pet stores are better. So much easier to change it out.
But if your determined to paint get one of the rubber based removable paints that peal off.
IME this is incorrect. I've painted the backs of all of the aquariums in my fish room. I've changed the colors of some of the tanks many times. The hardest paint to get off is the paint you put on with a brush even if it is latex. The easiest is the Krylon spray paint. YOu just take the tank outside, run water it it with a hose to soften it and the paint comes right off with a razor blade. Once the back is dry you can spray on a different color. Easy peasy.
 

SparkyJones

I still would just buy a black background for ease of removal if you want to change it up later. it's a real pain to get all the paint off an aquarium later. I would not paint it, just a hassle to change it later on.
 

86 ssinit

Liz I hear ya :). Got to admit I’ve never painted a tank. The rubber paint I was mentioning comes in an spray can. But again I never used it just read it was recommended for its ease of removing.
 

FishDin

Not sure why people can't remove the paint from their tanks, but it find it to be easy. I just use a razor blade and it comes off easily.

I have used paint as well as poster paper or similar. If I'm not sure about what I want for a background I use paper to test it out first, but then I usually paint it. I use latex paint.

If I changed backgrounds routinely I would not paint, but I've never changed a background once the tank has been set up, so painting works fine for me.

Not a fan of the store bought backgrounds, at least not any I've seen. There may be good ones though.
 

SparkyJones

Not sure why people can't remove the paint from their tanks, but it find it to be easy. I just use a razor blade and it comes off easily.

I have used paint as well as poster paper or similar. If I'm not sure about what I want for a background I use paper to test it out first, but then I usually paint it. I use latex paint.

If I changed backgrounds routinely I would not paint, but I've never changed a background once the tank has been set up, so painting works fine for me.

Not a fan of the store bought backgrounds, at least not any I've seen. There may be good ones though.
I have a double sided one that's black on one side and blue on the other, I been using it as long as I've had the tank. I switch from black to blue depending on how much black fish I have (really hard to pick them out with a black background when they go to the back)
 

ruud

I use ordinary semi-transparent windowscreens. Water spray it, stick it on, move into position, use a plastic card to get bubbles out. 1 minute of work. If you are bored with it (impossible), you can easily remove it and re-use it.

Behind the windowscreen I sometimes place an aquarium mat (normally used to place a tank on) that I cut into a shape to e.g. darken the corners. An extreme example of this is my blackwater tank - see below.

Maximum flexibility. Cheap too.


IMG_20220220_164048413.jpg
 

FishDin

Usually my tanks are against a wall so access to the back for changing backgrounds is not an option unless I'm breaking the tank down for a new set-up.

ruud, love the photo! Can you explain what you mean by "windowscreen"? It means something different here. Are you referring to the plastic film that it used to tint / darken windows?
 

ruud

Usually my tanks are against a wall so access to the back for changing backgrounds is not an option unless I'm breaking the tank down for a new set-up.

ruud, love the photo! Can you explain what you mean by "windowscreen"? It means something different here. Are you referring to the plastic film that it used to tint / darken windows?

Yes, that's right. A plastic film that is typically used to prevent "outsiders" from looking into a room, while light can still enter the room. They come in various degrees of transparencies / tints.

Even if you place a tank close to a wall, I'd always use these films. I find looking at a room wall / wallpaper inside a tank to be very odd.

Below my latest scape. Again, with the plastic film in the back. It creates depth and at the same time avoids having to look at the wall of the room. Painting it black, white or blue would give it something less natural....as if there really is a wall behind the river rocks.

Optionally, one can experiment with light behind the tank.

hillstream.jpg
 

FishDin

I do always use a background when a tank is against a wall. My point was that once the tank is set up it's not possible to change the background because there is no access to the back of the tank.

I like the effect you are getting with the background. In fact I have been wondering how to achieve it on my next tank I'm planning. It will be a 60 breeder for my existing tanganyikans, that are in 55 ATM. The 55 is over 20 years old and I never liked the dimensions. I'm going to renovate the room the 55 is in so I have to move it. When I put the room back together I'll upgrade to the new 60. If you look at underwater photos of Lake Tanganyika there is always a nice diffused light-blue "background". That's what I would like to replicate.
 

ruud

In the expensive world of aquascaping there are suppliers that offer gradient backlights to serve such purposes. On YouTube there are plenty of DYI examples consisting of a LED strip and styrofoam.

That said, the best results are still obtained with addition of a plastic film to strongly diffuse the light and create the gradient.
 

FishDin

Thanks! I'm more of a DIY guy. Can't wait to try it. First I need to gut my office / fishroom down to the studs and refinish it. The tank is my carrot to get me motivated to do the renovation work
 

BlockHead1981

Yes, that's right. A plastic film that is typically used to prevent "outsiders" from looking into a room, while light can still enter the room. They come in various degrees of transparencies / tints.

Even if you place a tank close to a wall, I'd always use these films. I find looking at a room wall / wallpaper inside a tank to be very odd.

Below my latest scape. Again, with the plastic film in the back. It creates depth and at the same time avoids having to look at the wall of the room. Painting it black, white or blue would give it something less natural....as if there really is a wall behind the river rocks.

Optionally, one can experiment with light behind the tank.
View attachment 858754
How well does this work for hiding cables and equipment? I like this look, but I've always gone with black because it makes the fish pop and hides cables and equipment.
 

ruud

By using an aquarium mat that you cut in a shape and place behind the plastic film. Like the blackwater tank pictured above. This would work 100%.

But it is not the reason I used the mat, because I never place technology in the back of a tank. Always on the sides. Like the hillstream tank pictured above. No mat is used. Only the plastic film.

The reason for the mat is always for sake of the scape. For the blackwater, I wanted to create dark shades in the corner and a sort of a small passage towards the back in the center.

In the scape below, its the other way around. I cut an aquarium mat in half a cirkel and placed it behind the wooden/planted scape (on the outside of the tank of course, behind the plastic film), to darken the back of the scape. You cannot see it, but if I would remove it, you would see light penetrating through the scape.


island.jpg

Regarding fish popping out. I understand, but just not something I favor. I prefer fish to blend in a scape. I prefer observing scapes where fish are not always visible; they appear behind a branch then disappear again. Somehow, I find observing this very tranquil.

Like the scape above; it has a number of Dario tigris fish going in and out of the scape, like little hummingbirds.
 

LizStreithorst

I very much like the idea of the window film. It comes in various patterns that would make a BB tank, like most of mine are more interesting.
 

BlockHead1981

I very much like the idea of the window film. It comes in various patterns that would make a BB tank, like most of mine are more interesting.
i used blackout window film on my last build and it works great. better than regular film, it has a bit of a roughness to it on the side that doesnt stick more durable and water rolls off it. Cheap too
By using an aquarium mat that you cut in a shape and place behind the plastic film. Like the blackwater tank pictured above. This would work 100%.

But it is not the reason I used the mat, because I never place technology in the back of a tank. Always on the sides. Like the hillstream tank pictured above. No mat is used. Only the plastic film.

The reason for the mat is always for sake of the scape. For the blackwater, I wanted to create dark shades in the corner and a sort of a small passage towards the back in the center.

In the scape below, its the other way around. I cut an aquarium mat in half a cirkel and placed it behind the wooden/planted scape (on the outside of the tank of course, behind the plastic film), to darken the back of the scape. You cannot see it, but if I would remove it, you would see light penetrating through the scape.

View attachment 858774

Regarding fish popping out. I understand, but just not something I favor. I prefer fish to blend in a scape. I prefer observing scapes where fish are not always visible; they appear behind a branch then disappear again. Somehow, I find observing this very tranquil.

Like the scape above; it has a number of Dario tigris fish going in and out of the scape, like little hummingbirds.
I must admit I do prefer this look, it seems more relaxing and natural. I may swap out my background soon and try something like this. Any links on where to buy it? Thanks
 

RedGallant

I crumple tin foil and spray paint it brown or black for my tanks, I just tape it on the back, I think it looks nice, sort of like rocks.
 

KeeperOFnano

Like said once painted you can’t remove it. I bought 2 125s acrylics with black backgrounds and grew to hate them. Any of the standard background sold at the pet stores are better. So much easier to change it out.
But if your determined to paint get one of the rubber based removable paints that peal off.

You learn something new every day, using rubber based paint. Thanks!
 

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