One of the joys of owning a marine aquarium is building it, putting in all the support equipment. Then there’s designing the shape of the reef or general rockwork if fish only, which applies to both inert and live rock types. There’s one job though that is simple but will make such a difference to the finished and stocked aquarium, be this reef or fish only.
That simple job is colouring the back glass. When the aquarium is stocked the back glass is what the inhabitants will be viewed against and so it needs to have the correct impact.
The back is easily coloured, the simplest method is to apply paint directly to the glass on the outside. This is more easily accomplished before the tank is placed in position. Care should be taken to apply the paint evenly so that light patches which will be noticeable are not created. For this reason two coats could be appropriate. The paint to use is the oil based type which will resist any salt water that gets to it. This type of paint can be obtained in matt which (in my opinion) is the best finish to use. There isn’t a reason why non-oil based paint cannot be used, though it will probably not be as durable.
An easier way of colouring the back glass is to leave the glass itself alone and use a thin back panel. This can be of plywood, hardboard etc. This can be fitted after the aquarium is in place. The panel should be painted on all sides to resist warping and any seawater drips. Again, attention should be given to having an even overall colour so that the eye is not drawn to irregularities. When the paint is thoroughly dry the panel can be fixed to the back glass with several lumps of silicone sealer on each side out of view. The panel will need support until it the silicone has cured. Alternatively, perhaps some simple clips can be devised.
Some aquarists obtain a pre-prepared water proof paper roll which has a marine scene printed on it. This is placed against the back glass ensuring there aren’t any wrinkles or other blemishes. These will definitely detract from the marine scene.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the background in the last paragraph. This is because as time passes the back glass will become covered with various types of different coloured algae. Some aquarists will attempt to keep this glass completely clean and this is fair enough, but it will slowly become more difficult – the back glass is usually quite awkward to get to and corals grow.
My favourite back glass decoration (and one side glass in my case) is algae growth. This isn’t the long stringy green stuff or dark coloured thin ‘skin’ which are both a nuisance, but the encrusting algae which appears and can be of various attractive colours. All mixed together it is very attractive. Desirable algae will develop in any aquarium which is reasonably cared for.
What about the period when the algae is developing, when it appears in small patches? The plain coloured background is fine for this period, allowing the algae to develop yet maintaining attractiveness. It doesn’t look like an eye attracting blotch – maybe it’s psychological but the overall appearance doesn’t seem to be diminished. Maybe the knowledge in the aquarist’s mind that it is a ‘good thing’ does the trick.
So what is the best colour? I believe the best colour is mid blue – it gives some impression of front to back depth and space. That’s me of course. I have seen back glass coloured green which wasn’t bad, and black which I definitely didn’t like. However the aquarist who had the black back glass did like it and that is the whole point.
The aquarium belongs to the aquarist. He or she decides.