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Aquaterra 3D Backgrounds Installation

Canyon Rock and other 3D backgrounds

This guide will show you how to install AquaTerra's 3D aquarium backgrounds. In this case we will install a 48x23 Canyon Rock, but the other 3D backgrounds can be installed the same way.

For this installation, a standard 90 gallon 48"x18"x24" tank and an AquaTerra Canyon Rock 48"x23" were used.

The filtration system for this setup consists of both an external canister filter and a built in behind-the-background filter. You only need one or the other but I will show you how to install both.

Pleas note that these are suggestions on how to install a background but there are of course other ways of doing it as well.

To view larger samples of the pictures below, just click on them. You also have the option of browsing through all the pictures including instructions using the next and previous arrow once the enlarged version opens up.

 

Here is the tank. It's easier to install the background if the tank is on the floor.
Here is the tank. It's easier to install the background if the tank is on the floor.
 
To install the background in a tank with top braces you will either have to cut the background into modules, and then glue it back together once in the tank, or remove the top frame. In this case the top frame is removed. This is an easy operation and the first thing you need to do is cut the silicone with a hobby knife. Slide the blade between the glass and the frame, both on the outside and inside of the tank.
To install the background in a tank with top braces you will either have to cut the background into modules, and then glue it back together once in the tank, or remove the top frame. In this case the top frame is removed. This is usually an easy operation but in some cases the top frame can be really stuck, and you may have to cut the background into 2 or more pieces instead. The first thing you need to do is cut the silicone with a hobby knife. Slide the blade between the glass and the frame, both on the outside and inside of the tank.
 
Now gently pull the frame until the silicone lets go. Do this in sections all around the tank. If there is too much resistance, use the hobby knife once again.
Now gently pull the frame until the silicone lets go. Do this in sections all around the tank. If there is too much resistance, use the hobby knife once again.
 
Start with lifting the frame in one corner and then carefully lift the frame off.
Start with lifting the frame in one corner and then carefully lift the frame off.
 
Use a razor blade to scrape the old silicone off.
Use a razor blade to scrape the old silicone off.
 
The background is being trimmed lengthwise. Cut the background approximately 1/4 inch shorter than the inner length of the tank. This is important or you will not be able to fill the gaps with silicone to secure the background.
The background is being trimmed lengthwise. Cut the background approximately 1/4 inch shorter than the inner length of the tank. This is important or you will not be able to fill the gaps with silicone to secure the background.
 
You can use a small surform plane to level out any rough edges along the cut.
You can use a small surform plane to level out any rough edges along the cut.
 
Here the background has been put in the tank and the top frame placed loosely on top. Using a felt pen lines are being drawn to mark out where to cut for the middle brace and the sides of the frame.
Here the background has been put in the tank and the top frame placed loosely on top. Using a felt pen lines are being drawn to mark out where to cut for the middle brace and the sides of the frame.
 
A dremel tool is very useful but you can also use a saw blade or a hobby knife.
A dremel tool is very useful but you can also use a saw blade or a hobby knife.
 
Trim the bottom corners of the background so the siliconed edges of the tank does not interfere with the background sitting flat on the bottom of the tank.
Trim the bottom corners of the background so the siliconed edges of the tank does not interfere with the background sitting flat on the bottom of the tank.
 
Some final adjustments are being made.
Some final adjustments are being made.
 
The background is too tall and needs to be adjusted on the height as well.
The background is too tall and needs to be adjusted on the height as well.
 
The top of the background is being trimmed nice and smooth.
The top of the background is being trimmed nice and smooth.
 
Here the background has been placed in the tank and once again the top frame loosely on top to make sure everything fits.
Here the background has been placed in the tank and once again the top frame loosely on top to make sure everything fits.
 
The overflow has been cut out.
The overflow has been cut out.
 
A grill has been cut to fit.
A grill has been cut to fit.
 
Apply plenty of aquarium safe silicone on both sides of the grill. Silicone does not bond well with plastic and this way you do not have to worry about the grill coming off.
Apply plenty of aquarium safe silicone on both sides of the grill. Silicone does not bond well with plastic and this way you do not have to worry about the grill coming off.
 
The bottom intake has been cut. Make sure not to place the intake too low, or sand will enter, and not too high or it will be difficult to hide.
The bottom intake has been cut. Make sure not to place the intake too low, or sand will enter, and not too high or it will be difficult to hide.
 
A grill has been cut.
A grill has been cut.
 
Here you can see both grills glued onto the background.
Here you can see both grills glued onto the background.
 
Smear aquarium safe black silicone on the exposed edges in front of the grill.
Smear aquarium safe black silicone on the exposed edges in front of the grill.
 
Pour fine matching sand onto the silicone.
Pour fine matching sand onto the silicone.
 
Once the silicone has cured, cut a piece of a sponge mat to fit in front or the grill. This will function as a pre filter and also prevent small fish and fry to get sucked in behind the background.
Once the silicone has cured, cut a piece of a sponge mat to fit in front or the grill. This will function as a pre filter and also prevent small fish and fry to get sucked in behind the background.
 
Drill holes for the PVC outtakes, in this case three holes are required. If you are only going to use a canister filter, and not the internal filter, you only need one hole at the opposite end from the intakes. If you are using the internal filtration system with a pump only, then make as many holes as you want.
Drill holes for the PVC outtakes, in this case three holes are required.

If you are only going to use a canister filter, and not the internal filter, you only need one hole at the opposite end from the intakes.

If you are using the internal filtration system with a pump only, then make as many holes as you want.

 
Test to make sure the outtake fits nice and snug.
Test to make sure the outtake fits nice and snug.
 
This is how it will look like from the front.
This is how it will look like from the front.
 
Smear aquarium safe black silicone inside the holes. Once cured this allows for great friction and the PVC fittings will stay in place, and you can remove them without too much effort if required.
Smear aquarium safe black silicone inside the holes. Once cured this allows for great friction and the PVC fittings will stay in place, and you can remove them without too much effort if required.
 
Clean the inside of the tank thoroughly and then place the background in the tank. Using a felt pen follow the edges along the bottom of the background drawing a line on the bottom glass of the tank. Note: If you are going to install a pump behind the background, make sure to leave enough room that you can reach down and remove it for maintenance. You need to be able to do this with the top frame on.
Clean the inside of the tank thoroughly and then place the background in the tank. Using a felt pen follow the edges along the bottom of the background drawing a line on the bottom glass of the tank.

Note: If you are going to install a pump behind the background, make sure to leave enough room that you can reach down and remove it for maintenance. You need to be able to do this with the top frame on.

 
Remove the background and apply silicone just behind the line that you just drew.
Remove the background and apply silicone just behind the line that you just drew.
 
Lower the background into place.
Lower the background into place.
 
After letting the silicone on the bottom cure for a couple of hours, fill the gap between the background and the side glass with silicone. You may want to brace the background so that it does not move while doing this.
After letting the silicone on the bottom cure for a couple of hours, fill the gap between the background and the side glass with silicone. You may want to brace the background so that it does not move while doing this.
 
Smoothen out the silicone and be careful not to get any smear on the side glass, if you do then wait until dry before attempting to remove it, then toss matching fine sand onto the seam. Allow the silicone to cure properly according to the manufacturers instructions.
Smoothen out the silicone and be careful not to get any smear on the side glass, if you do then wait until dry before attempting to remove it, then toss matching fine sand onto the seam.

Allow the silicone to cure properly according to the manufacturers instructions.

 
The power source for the built in filter is a Rio 6HF with a capacity of 350 gallons per hour, but you can use any pump you want.
The power source for the built in filter is a Rio 6HF with a capacity of 350 gallons per hour, but you can use any pump you want.
 
Here is a description on how the filter system will work.
Here is a description on how the filter system will work.
 
Two strips of filter media sheets has been cut and placed between the background and the back glass. They have been wedged in and does not need to be glued.
Two strips of filter media sheets has been cut and placed between the background and the back glass. They have been wedged in and does not need to be glued.
 
Placing a piece of a sponge mat underneath the pump eliminates any annoying vibrations.
Placing a piece of a sponge mat underneath the pump eliminates any annoying vibrations.
 
In between the filter media sheets I am using small sponge cylinders. Because the Canyon Rock is fairly slim, there will not be enough room to remove the sponges for cleaning. One easy solution is to thread the sponges on a fishing line. This way you can easily pull them out anytime you want. You can of course use any filter media you want. One alternative is to fill the entire back with strips of media sheets.
In between the filter media sheets I am using small sponge cylinders. Because the Canyon Rock is fairly slim, there will not be enough room to remove the sponges for cleaning. One easy solution is to thread the sponges on a fishing line. This way you can easily pull them out anytime you want. You can of course use any filter media you want. One alternative is to fill the entire back with strips of media sheets.
 
This is how it looks with the sponges filled up in the back. A total of 4 gallons were used. You can now glue the top frame back on.
This is how it looks with the sponges filled up in the back. A total of 4 gallons were used. You can now glue the top frame back on.
 
Here is the final result with the tank filled with water, some mixed sand with pebbles and natural rocks. The natural rocks already had some algae growth on them and the background will look even more natural once the algae spreads.
Here is the final result with the tank filled with water, some mixed sand with pebbles and natural rocks. The natural rocks already had some algae growth on them and the background will look even more natural once the algae spreads.