DIY Planted Background Wall
Have you been wanting to change up your aquarium background to something unique? It might be time to create a plant 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? However, we haven’t had much success with moss-only wall constructions. In the past, we found that the moss on the top grows faster. The moss on top creates more shade and shades the bottom. The moss at the bottom begins to fade. It’s a beautiful and useful plant but it’s difficult to attach it to anything.
So, how can we make a better version ourselves?
The Types of Plants and the Background Materials
One, we are going to start with other plants than moss. You want to choose plants that do well in low lighting and that both love to attach to a solid surface and thrive being on that surface. Anubias as well as Java Ferns, Hygrophila Pinnatifida, Hygrophila pinnatifida are all great choices. Because they are small, the petite Anubias are great. Java Fern and Anubias both take time to grow.
The second thing we want to use is a suitable background material. A spongy filter-type material is an option, but it’s not strong enough to stretch all the side walls of larger tanks. It is only recommended for smaller quantities.
So, what is a better background material that is so highly recommended? We love Matala Mat. This is a filter pad material that It can be purchased at a koi pond supplier, like Drs. Foster and Smith. You can also buy it on Amazon. You can get it in different colors such as blue, black or green. 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 won’t bend or fold over like a spongy material. It should have a smaller mesh and not as many holes. You can use a serrated knife to cut it to size for your background. A thick sheet comes in at around 39.5″ x 24″ in size.
For our background, we need plain, uncolored 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. It is not recommended to use wool or cotton as they will rot. It was chosen to match the mat’s green color, but you can choose any other color.
You should also purchase large plastic needles to thread the acrylic yarn. These needles can be used to’sew’ your plants with Matala Mat mesh.
Placing Your Plants on the Mat
The placement of your plants on the background is crucial. You don’t want them to shade the ones below. We prefer using Anubias nana petite because the leaves are small and it won’t grow very large. However, it takes a long time for the plant to mature. It might take up to a year and a half to fully cover the mat. Although Java Fern is more expensive than Anubias petites, it grows quicker and becomes leafier. Anything that roots and creates an aquatic ‘ground cover’ will work.
Take all your plants out of their pots. Clean off any root wool. The roots won’t be very long. Use scissors to trim roots to about a half inch in length. That way, they will grow into the mat as they get longer.
So, unroll your yarn out to about one foot in length, and cut off a piece. Thread the yarn through your needle eye, with a nice 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. Pull the yarn through the back of the needle by threading the needle through the middle. Move the needle to the back about one inch and then sew it to the front. On either side, you will now have two longer lengths yarn.
You can attach the Anubias plants within this inch space. Orientate it in the direction that you want it to grow. Wrap the yarn around it carefully and tie a simple knot. You can also double knot it to keep it in place. The yarn should be cut to a length of about one-half inch.
So, that’s it! You can repeat this process to attach more plants and ‘sew’ them on.
Direction of Growth
Make sure you attach your plants in the right direction. Some plants will grow diagonally while others will grow diagonally. Think about your orientation.
To have a stunning living Matala Mat background wall, you don’t need to plant many plants. Seven bunches of Anubias and several bunches of Java Fern would be ideal for a nice large Matala Mat background!