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more backgrounds

Paul Krombholz wrote:

<< In museum dioramas they paint the background so as to appear to be a
 continuation of the display.  That might be worth trying with some aquarium
 designs.  Of course, as the plants grew the background might get out of
 date.  It might be interesting to try, anyway. >>

You know, it just might. I've been wondering what this could look like myself 
for quite a while now. 

This is the challenge we face when placing something permanent or static in a 
dynamic environment such as a planted aquarium. Trying to anticipate or 
predict, what will change, how fast, how much, in what way and then to plan 
for all this is part of the fun, I guess. With not much else to go on 
precedent wise -- taking note of how similar situations in other environments 
have been handled is worth a look.

This painting technique for backgrounds has been applied to good effect at 
that old civil war battle display in Atlanta (Cyclorama?) and at a few zoos 
I've been to (Bronx?) and even at the Tennessee Aquarium if I remember 
correctly. Sometime this works and sometimes not but it hinges largely on how 
realistic the painting is. It's either extremely well done or the background 
is better off merely suggested in most cases.

If well executed, this trick would certainly add depth to an aquarium, but as 
you pointed out, only to the extent one could even see the wall at all 
through the plants. I believe that having at least one area or slot in a tank 
that is open all the way through to the rear wall is one of the "rules" for 
Dutch aquaria. I've read that this "look through" combined with "streets" 
adds tremendously to the illusion of depth. I do know that many of Amano's 
tanks are open; either slightly off center, (valley) or at the sides 

I just use solid black backing myself because it's simple and seems to set 
off the plants and fish to good effect; but Amano's tanks with those solid, 
midrange blue backgrounds seem to work also. They certainly look good in the 
pictures anyway - with a hair dryer rippling the water's surface into the 
likeness of high, cirrus clouds. I should think one of the problems with 
using lighter colors would be that spot algae, dirt, etc., might become much 
more obvious on the rear wall. Rear wall glass is always hard to keep clean 
in a large tank with a hood anyway and the gradual accumulation of algae 
could eventually spoil the effect completely.

I've considered the idea of using a spray gun to shade blue backgrounds from 
black at the edges toward a lighter, but still quite dark center, or perhaps 
just the opposite; a black center fading to lighter edges. This could add 
depth as well.

Then there's the old trick of adding on to the back wall a dimly lit, window 
box type affair containing driftwood, rocks and even various terrestrial 
plants within. This is probably a very problematic approach with dust and 
algae ruining the effect at every opportunity. Reject.

I also remember that the old "Advanced Aquarium" book I referred to when 
discussing "self-leveling siphons" awhile back described a "Monaco" style 
tank where the background was a concave, plastic, dome-like structure of the 
appropriate color with a weak light source positioned behind the center area. 
IOW, a giant, contact lens in reverse with a night light. This supposedly 
creates a fairly realistic imitation of distance and open ocean. 

Something like this might be worth trying in a plant tank if we could just 
locate fairly priced, easy to bend, easy to color, easy to work with plastic 
or some other translucent material of the correct size. Of all the background 
ideas other than black, this one sounded like it held the most promise.

Just some food for thought...

Bob Olesen
West Palm Beach, FL