DIY Planted Background Wall
Have you been wanting to change up your aquarium background to something unique? Maybe it’s time for a planted wall. A wall of plants is an excellent way to provide extra shade and cover for your tank, while also giving it a unique look.
When most people think of planted walls in aquariums, they think of moss walls. For those of you who have made successful moss walls for your aquariums, can you share your secrets? We haven’t had huge success with moss-only walls. We have found that the moss at the top tends to grow faster than the rest. It creates more shade, so it shades out the moss on the bottom. The bottom begins to die. Although moss is a beautiful plant, it can be difficult to attach to anything.
What can we do to make it better?
Plant Types and Background Materials
One, we are going to start with other plants than moss. It is important to select plants that can tolerate low lighting, love solid surfaces and thrive on them. Anubias and Java Ferns are excellent choices, as is Hygrophila pinnatifida and other similar varieties. The petite version of Anubias are ideal because they stay small. Both Java Fern and Anubias take a while to grow.
A suitable background material is the second thing that we need. While a spongy filter type of material can be used, it’s not sturdy enough to stretch the entire side wall of a larger tank. It is only recommended for smaller quantities.
So, what is a better background material that is so highly recommended? We love Matala Mat. This filter pad material can be bought at any koi supplier like Drs. Foster and Smith. You can also buy it on Amazon. You can choose from a variety of colors like green, black, and blue. The green is best for aquarium backgrounds, and you want a thickness of around 1.5″. This sturdy plastic material is woven into a mesh. It will not bend or fold over like a spongy product. You want one that has a smaller mesh without as many large holes. To cut it to the size of your background, you use a serrated blade. A thick sheet measures around 39.5″x24″ in size.
Our background requires a third supply: plain, green yarn. We’re not crazy. Yarn is better than fishing line, because fishing line can hurt your fingers and cut into the plants. Yarn can be used easily and is inexpensive. Buy one that is 100% acrylic for aquariums. That way, it won’t break down in aquariums. Avoid wool and cotton as these will rot. It was green to match the mat. However, you can have any color.
Fourth, you should purchase large plastic needles with large eyes that can thread acrylic yarn through. These needles are easy to fit through Matala Mat mesh so you can’sew’ your plants to it.
Placing Your Plants on the Mat
How you place your plants on the background mat is important, because you don’t want the ones on top to shade the lower ones. We prefer using Anubias nana petite because the leaves are small and it won’t grow very large. It can take quite a while to grow. It can take up to a year to cover the entire mat. Java Fern is less expensive than Anubias petite, but it does get leafier and grows faster. Anything that roots and creates an aquatic ‘ground cover’ will work.
Once you have all your plants removed from their pots, remove the root wool and expose the roots. The roots won’t be very long. Use scissors to trim roots to about a half inch in length. They will eventually grow into the mat by doing this.
Take your yarn and roll it out about one-foot in length. Then, cut a section. The yarn should be threaded through your needle eye with a long tail. By the way if you click on these video captures it will take you to that step in the video.
Pick a spot in middle of Matala Mat. Then thread the needle through the middle of the Matala Mat and pull the yarn through to its back. Turn the needle around on the back and pull the yarn through the middle. Sew the needle up to the front once more. Now you have two longer yarn lengths on each side of the gap of one inch.
Within that inch space, it’s time to attach the Anubias plant. Place the plant in the desired direction. Carefully wrap the yarn around it and tie with a simple knot. Double knot the yarn to ensure it stays down. The yarn should be cut to a length of about one-half inch.
So, that’s it! This process can be repeated to attach additional plants or’sew’ them together.
Make sure you attach your plants in the right direction. The ones on the sides might grow down diagonally, while other ones will grow up diagonally. Spend some time thinking about the orientation.
To have a stunning living Matala Mat background wall, you don’t need to plant many plants. A large Matala Mat background would look great with seven bunches each of Anubias or Java Fern.