55 Gallon Fish Tank Background (Size, Types, 3D & DIY Plans)

55 gallon fish tank background

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A 55 gallons aquarium takes on an appealing charm if it’s covered with an aquarium background, no matter what you choose.

It serves as a backdrop, highlighting your fish and live plants while providing a more natural-looking environment.

Many aquarium background options are available, such as basic black vinyl backgrounds, beautiful store-bought background scenes, and even handmade rocky 3D backgrounds.

Below you’ll find tips on what to look for when buying a 55 gallon fish tank background, as well as some cool DIY background ideas.

55 Gallon Fish Tank Background Size

You may already know that a standard rectangular 55 gallons fish tank measures 48″ (L) x 13″ (W) x 21″ (H), so you’ll need a background that is 48″ (L) x 21″ (H).

The actual dimension of the background you’ll need will depend on what type of background you choose.

For example, a 3D background will need to be smaller than the tank to fit inside, while an adhesive background scene will need to be the same size as the tank or slightly larger.

If you are looking for a background with side panel(s), carefully measure your aquarium’s width to ensure it will fit.

55 Gallon Fish Tank Background actual Size
Photo: Aquadecor

A Word on Types

There are three main types of commercial aquarium backgrounds: laminated plastic background, static cling, and adhesive-backed films. The installation of the latter two is almost the same, but many factors will make a world of difference.

Laminated Plastic Backgrounds

Laminated Plastic Backgrounds installtion

This is the staple background of large fish tanks on the market. The vibrant and colorful backdrops are printed in high definition and are protected with a glossy, UV-resistant laminate.

Being made with high-quality waterproof, anti-wrinkle PVC, and they should last for years without much maintenance.

Be prepared with transparent tape or removable adhesive to attach the background on the aquarium because they don’t have a “cling” side. I’d recommend using double sided transparent tape on edge to have a seamless look.

Many products are double-sided, so you can easily glue and change them at any time.

Because of the protective layers, some disadvantages of laminated plastic background include that it is thicker, not as flexible, and expensive.

– Reusable
– Easier to handle and install
– Last for years
– Easier to clean and remove
– Waterproof, durable, UV-resistant
– Tends to fall off
– Expensive
– Double-sided
– Thicker

Static Cling

Static Cling backgrounds installtion
Photo: SPORN

Contrary to what you might think, static cling backgrounds don’t actually cling to the aquarium with static electricity. Instead, they have a highly plasticized smooth vinyl. If this vinyl is pressed into the surface with enough force, it will create cohesive forces similar to those of a flat suction cup.

This means that the background is easy to apply and remove and doesn’t leave any residue.

– Reusable
– Easier to handle and install
– Lower price
– Easier to clean and remove
– Tends to fall off over time
– May be more difficult to cut
– Shorter shelf life
– Hard to find for large tanks

Adhesive-backed Films

Adhesive-backed films are a type of polyester film that uses strong adhesive at its backing. Virtually they are large stickers.

To apply an adhesive-backed film, peel off the paper backing and stick the sticky side of the film to the back of the aquarium. 

Installation can be tricky for a 55-gallon fish tank. It’s best to have someone help you with this.

Use these tips to get beautiful results.

  • After removing the backing paper, spray water on both the glass and the adhesive side. By doing this, it will help to reduce wrinkles and bubbles during the installation. This will also let you move the sticker around if it doesn’t sit where you want it the first time.
  • Start at the top center of the aquarium and work your way down. Use a squeegee or your credit card to smooth out any bubbles. Ensure the film is tight against all edges, especially the top and bottom. If there are any gaps, air bubbles will form and ruin the background.

The adhesive-backed film is the best option if you’re looking for longevity and have confidence in the skill of your installer. In addition, the price point is usually lower than static cling.

– Last for years
– Long shelf life
– Easier to cut
– Sticks to more surfaces
– Expensive
– More difficult to install and remove
– Nonreusable
– Easily damaged before installation
– Hard to find for large tanks

Commercial Background for a 55 gallons Aquarium

Most store-bought aquarium backgrounds are made for 10 and 20 gallons tanks, so it can be tricky to find static cling vinyl and adhesive-backed film that fits a 55-gallon tank.

Here are a few of our favorites:

ELEBOX Fish Tank Background

ELEBOX New 20" x 48" Fish Tank Background Paper...
  • 🐟【High Quality 】Double-sided fish tank background is made from thickened PVC, it is waterproof,...
  • 🐟【Vivid Visual Impact】Create an relaxing environment, contributing to the overall health and...
  • 🐟【Vibrant Colors & HD Images】This high-definition wallpaper backdrop picture can hide hoses,...
  • 🐟【Easy to Install and Remove】Fish tank background paper can be easily removed and leaves no marks...
  • 🐟【Fits Most Aquarium】Several sizes of background posters for choosing. This aquarium wallpaper...

The ELEBOX fish tank background is made of high-quality PVC, which is thick, waterproof, and anti-wrinkle. The background is also UV resistant and comes in a glossy finish.

Double-sided allows you to change the background if you want to. This background is vivid and bright, but the print resolution is not the best. 

There are two sizing options available. The large option is big enough for a standard 75-gallon fish tank (48″ x 18″ x 21″).

The only downside is that it’s a bit pricey. But considering the quality, it’s definitely worth the investment.

BannersNStands Rocky Fish Tank Background

Looking for a rocky background to decorate your 55-gallon African Cichlid tank? This background from BannersNStands is a great option.

The background is made of high-quality PVC and is printed in high definition. What I like about this background is that it’s realistic and would go with any Malawi and Tanganyika tank setup.

BannersNStands Mangrove Fish Tank Background

Same company, different background. This is the background for those looking for a mangrove background to create a perfect Amazonian setup.

The dark underwater scene is designed to mimic the Rio Negro tributary. It’s perfect for South American cichlids and other tropical fish. Well, some live plants would also complete the look.

Just like the Rocky background, this backdrop is also made of high-quality PVC and printed in high definition. And it comes in various sizes, and the large size is big enough for a standard 125 gallons fish tank.

55 Gallon Fish Tank 3D Background

There’s no doubt that these 3D aquarium backgrounds are the greatest hit in aquascaping these days, but they may not be the perfect solution for a 55-gallon fish tank because of its limited depth (13″).

75 gallons fish tank is ALWAYS my top recommendation because it has a large footprint that allows you to get creative with the aquascaping.

If you intend to create a stunning visual effect, then go for it. Below you can find many ideas to get you thinking about building a 3D background in your freshwater aquarium.


Growing in popularity, 3D aquarium backgrounds are made by several companies in various sizes and styles. 

Aquadecor A Slim Models

Aquadecor A Slim Models

The first option is from Aquadecor, and it’s their Slim series Rocky background. They are a great choice for narrow tanks because their width doesn’t exceed 3.2″ (8 cm) in the widest parts.

These backgrounds are made of high-density polystyrene and need to be silicone onto the back of the aquarium.

Elaborately carved cracks and plenty of hiding places make them perfect for Malawi and Tanganyika fish tanks. Unfortunately, these custom 3D aquarium backgrounds can be pricey.

Official site: Aquadecor

Modern Aquarium 3D Aquarium Backgrounds

Modern Aquarium offers a number of high-quality 3D aquarium backgrounds to choose from. They showcase some of the unique hardscape elements and add a natural and aesthetically pleasing look to your freshwater fish tank, but they have a narrower range.

Official site: Modern Aquarium

Free DIY 3D Aquarium Backgrounds Plans

DIY 3D Aquarium Background

If you’re even a little bit handy with tools, you can make your own 3D aquarium background with styrofoam, cement, and other materials you probably already have at home. 

Here’s a selection of free plans and tutorials to help you get started:  7 DIY Aquarium Background Ideas (3D Foam & Black)

More Easy DIY Ideas You Can Tackle

As I said, a 3D background will use the depth of your 55-gallon fish tank, so you won’t be able to use it to its full potential. Also, it will be more challenging to maintain and keep clean.

If you’re looking for a background that’s easy to set up and take care of, here are some other background ideas that are much easier (and cheaper) to DIY:

Paint It in Black!

It is believed that the simple, effective, and low-cost method to having a great background is to paint it in black. Blue and white are alternatives, but black is the best background color for a freshwater aquarium. 

This will give your fish tank a clean and elegant look. All you need is a can of black paint, painter’s tape, newspaper, and a few hours of time on your hands.

Take a look at Joey’s video tutorial on how to paint an aquarium background. He does a great job of explaining the process and giving helpful tips.

The Wood Paneling

Not of fan of black? Hate clear glass and fake backgrounds? You could go for a more natural look and use wood paneling instead.

It seems aquarium backgrounds are becoming a bit samey, but this one is different enough to spruce up your fish tank. It will also be a great addition if you have a nature-themed aquarium.

The best part is that it won’t cost you a fortune – you can find wood paneling at your local hardware store for relatively cheap.

Wrapping Up

That’s it for this aquarium background guide! I hope you found it helpful and that you now have a better understanding of the different background options available to you.

I usually paint my aquariums’ background in black because it’s easy and inexpensive to do. 

But if you want something that looks a little more unique, I would recommend going with one of the DIY options, especially the last one! You’ll be happy you did.

What background are you using in your fish tank? Don’t forget to share a photo in the comments below!

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Ivan Yeoh
Ivan Yeoh

I’ve been working with fish for the past 12 years, and I can honestly say that it has never been a dull day. In my time, I’ve worked at the largest fish farm in Singapore – so you could say I know a thing or two about keeping things running smoothly in watery environments.

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