DIY Planted Background Wall

DIY Planted Background Wall

Have you been wanting to change up your aquarium background to something unique? Perhaps it’s time to try 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. In the past, we found that the moss on the top grows faster. Because it creates shade, it shades out the bottom moss. The moss at the bottom begins to fade. Moss is a wonderful plant, but it’s hard to attach it to something.

What can we do to make it better?

Background Materials and Plant Types

One, we are going to start with other plants than moss. Plants that thrive in low light conditions and love solid surfaces are best. Excellent plant choices include Anubias, Java Ferns, Hygrophila pinnatifida, and similar types. The petite version of Anubias are ideal because they stay small. Java Fern and Anubias both take time to grow.

We want to use a background material that is suitable for the environment. A spongy filter-type material is an option, but it’s not strong enough to stretch all the side walls of larger tanks. It’s not ideal for small quantities.

What is the best background material that can be recommended for your project? 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 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 tough plastic material is woven into mesh. It will not bend or fold over like a spongy product. A smaller mesh is better than one with too many holes. To cut it to the size of your background, you use a serrated blade. The size of a thick sheet is approximately 39.5″ x 24,”.

Our background requires a third supply: plain, green yarn. Yes, we’re not crazy! Yarn is better than fishing line, because fishing line can hurt your fingers and cut into the plants. Yarn is easy to work with and 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. We picked green because it matched the mat, but you can have any color you like.

The fourth thing to purchase are large plastic needles that have large eyes to thread the acrylic yarn through. These needles can be used to’sew’ your plants with Matala Mat mesh.

Placing Your Plants on the Mat

It is important to place your plants on the background mat in a way that doesn’t shade the ones below. 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. Anubias petite is cheaper than Java Fern, but Java Fern grows more quickly and gets 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. It is not necessary to have very long roots. Use scissors to trim roots to about a half inch in length. That way, they will grow into the mat as they get longer.

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. Click on these video captures to take you to the step.

Pick a place in the middle 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. It is important to position it in the right direction for it to grow. Tie the yarn tightly around it. Cinch it down so it will stay, and double knot. Trim the yarn about half an inch from the ends.

So, that’s it! You can repeat this process to attach more plants and ‘sew’ them on.

Growth Direction

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. Think about your orientation.

You don’t need many plants to eventually have a beautiful living Matala Mat background wall. Seven bunches of Anubias and several bunches of Java Fern would be ideal for a nice large Matala Mat background!