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View Full Version : Styrofoam background, advice needed



crackatinny
05-30-2008, 11:00 AM
I am putting together a new tank, and wanted to go for a styrofoam background, hiding heating, filters tubes etc, I have melted the styrofoam with a heat gun to get the basic shape I am after, now for some colour, this is where I am stuck, what is safe?
Should I go for a slurry mix of concrete with perhaps some type of natural pigment mixed in?, would this hold up submerged all the time?.
Or should I go for a resin based paint, would this be safe?

ILuvMyGoldBarb
05-30-2008, 11:13 AM
As I understand it, if you don't use the right kind of concrete or the right kind of paint on top of the concrete, it can leech lime back into your water and make it harder. However I do know that people do use that concrete mix to do what you are proposing and then somehow seal it very well.

sailor
05-30-2008, 12:24 PM
Hey Crack here are some links to a few DIY backgrounds

http://www.cichlid-forum.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=156511

http://www.cichlid-forum.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=105621

http://www.cichlid-forum.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=152775

Lady Hobbs
05-30-2008, 01:59 PM
Quikcrete concrete with concrete dye added it to the last couple of coats. (Or what's called Hobby cement.) A darker batch for between the rock cracks. Crack, you're going to have to let each coat dry 2 days and even spraying it with water several times a day to make it dry slower. (Spraying preferred not required.) Not in the sun or wind because drying will crack the cement. You know how cement is when dyed too quickly. 1st coat goes on thin with a brush and other coats go on thick and you can use your hands for that goo. Shape the cement as you want but use GLOVES!

Make sure cement is not on the two sides that will later be siliconed together if you are doing this as a two piece unit. Also, if you are going to put one big piece of styrofoam on the back and glue your pieces to that, that large piece needs to be shorter than the length of your tank so you can dab cement on the sides. Otherwise, from outside the tank you'll see the edges of the styrofoam. A couple inches shy on both sides should let you get your fat, chunky fingers in there to dab cement in that opening?

When you think it's finally done, add a LOT of water softening salt and water to cure the cement. Like half a bag of the stuff. Some use only water but the salt is supposed to help harden it. It will take you a lot of curing and a lot of water changes before your pH goes back down. Like daily for a couple weeks with adding salt only the first 3 or 4 days.

I just threw my styrofoam out a couple weeks ago. I had my pieces all cut a year ago and knew I'd never get around to it. Too long of a process for me and always in too big of a hurry to use the tank.

What also looks neat is slate siliconed to the back of the tank. That one only takes a few days but makes the tank heavy, obviously.

Use lots and lots and lots of silicone to hold your styrofoam down. It's going to want to pop up when you start to fill the tank and will have plenty of pressure on it to do so.

I spent 1 month reading about these cement backgrounds and you might push me in that direction again.

Drumachine09
05-30-2008, 03:17 PM
Cool, how big is the tank going to be?




If you have to cut large peices, rig up a hot wire. Just get a long peice of copper wire, and run a small bit of current through it to heat it up, and it cuts like a charm.

Lady Hobbs
05-30-2008, 04:34 PM
LOL I flicked my Bic. Had blisters on every finger! Finally tried my hair dryer and that would OK but would turn off once it over heated.

fins_n_fur
05-30-2008, 05:32 PM
LOL I flicked my Bic. Had blisters on every finger! Finally tried my hair dryer and that wouldn't OK but would turn off once it over heated.
LMAO - A smoker's tool, the lighter LOL I shouldn't laugh, but it just struck me as hilarious.

Lady Hobbs
05-30-2008, 06:26 PM
Made smoking for a week rather painful! LOL

fins_n_fur
05-30-2008, 06:32 PM
Made smoking for a week rather painful! LOL
Just buy a blowtorch for any DIY fishy projects, and you'll always have a "spare" lighter to hand (no pun intended)...I hate lighter and ash blisters :hmm3grin2orange:

1Brotherbill
05-30-2008, 08:09 PM
Don't use Resin Paint it will melt the styrofoam. I found a site that said you can use fiber glass resin on your styrofoam. Don't use it it will eat it up like a starving man.

crackatinny
05-31-2008, 01:10 AM
Thanks for the replies, a stack of rocks or slate siliconed was my next option, seems it would be easier, and more natural

Lady Hobbs
05-31-2008, 01:21 AM
Don't use Resin Paint it will melt the styrofoam. I found a site that said you can use fiber glass resin on your styrofoam. Don't use it it will eat it up like a starving man.

It will melt it a bit and give it odd shapes which you want anyway but it doesn't continue. I wouldn't use it due to the price. It's not cheap.

Crack, the slate does look good. You can put it on top of other pieces to give it a jagged look like rock would look in nature. And be done with it in a few days versus weeks.

krisco
05-31-2008, 03:33 AM
I did this background not too long ago. You need to be sure to use ge silicon II as your silicone. The quickcrete concrete mix with the concrete dye is the way to go with this. Just always remember that it will dry slightly less dark than what the mix looks like when you mix it. Also, you need to get some playsand when you get the quickcrete to mix in the concrete.

The first coat is one part playsand to 3 parts cement. You may add a drop or two of dishwashing soap to make the mixture creamy. The soap will dissipate when you cure it with the salt water. You will brush this coat on, as the mixture should be rather thin. Let this dry for a day or two.

The second coat you will want to make 1 part playsand and 2 parts quickcrete. To this, you will want to add some of the concrete dye. This is trial and error for how much dye you need, so if it is not dark enough you can adjust it on the third coat. Remember, this coat will need to be thick, and you will aplly it with gloved hands. This is the main coat you will use to form the rocks on the styrofoam. Take your time with this. Do not make the layer much more than 1/4 inch thick. When done, take your washed out brush from step one, dip it in water, and brush the wet concrete in one direction to give it a smooth look. Make sure to sling excess water out before brushing. Let this dry. Spray with a water mist as mentioned earlier while drying. Wait 2 days.

The third coat has the same mixture as coat 2, and will be thick as well. USing gloved hand, use this coat to fill in any spots missed on coat two. Make sure to brush this as well with the water brush. Let this dry with the spray method.

Step four is to silicone in the pieces into your tank. Get plenty of silicone on the backs, sides, bottom, and use plenty to silicone the pieces to each other. Spread the silicone out even to assure no air gaps. Let this dry.

After this drys, it will take a layer of the quickrete mix to cover the seals and edges where you siliconed. Same mixture as the previous two. Let this dry

Next, use drylok latex masonry waterproofer made by UGI to seal the background. It can be found at lowes, with the paints. I used the concrete dye to tint this waterproofer, as it comes white. This you want to be sure to get the color you want. Brush it one, then be prepared to do at least one more coat.

Once done, that is it.

Notes:

Remember, as you add concrete, the styrofoam background becomes longer or wider or taller. If you cut the pieces exact to fit, then you may have problems after you add the concrete. I also did the top of mine, and i almost ended up with too tall a background.

If you are hiding your filters and heaters, be sure to coat the insides with at least one layer of concrete, and the waterproofer. Otherwise, the styrofoam will be touching the water.

If you hide the heater in a chamber, be sure there is a good flow of water in and out of the chamber, or the heat will build up in there, and the aquarium will be cold.

Here was mine about a month later.

Doak6021
06-03-2008, 11:13 AM
Quikrete 10 or 20 Lb. Hydraulic Water-Stop Cement. Find at lowes for around $10.

This is what I was told on another thread and I did as told. I also covered the cement with an epoxy resin and while that was drying I sprinkled grey play sand on the epoxy(epoxy is too shiny). As you prob know the epoxy is supposed to seal it. I will say that 3 coats of cement and then the epoxy was a lot of work. Make sure you spray the cement when it is drying to avoid cracking and to ensure a more firm piece.

Also, it was told to me that if I just had the cement that some fish would pick and suck at it until they reached the styrofoam. Don't believe it but wanted to be sure.

The big thing is letting it soak. I got lucky b/c I couldn't decide what fish I wanted in it and I am also going through a fishless cycle. It has probably been 3 weeks of soaking with a lot of water changes(overkill).

Right now I have 2 cockatoo cichlids being shipped to me, my local pet store is calling when the get their GBRs in, and I am going to get a couple angels. I will post picks when all the fish are in the tank. Should be thursday or friday. Sounds like your background is gonna be some hard work but it is worth it. Just wait until I post mine so you can see what you are working towards. It looks awesome and it was my first time doing this.

calix10
06-24-2008, 01:19 PM
I do one with pvc glue mix with sand (u can use little rocks, smash rocks, beach sand, pool silica sand) once pvc its dry its innert.
It Look Like This
http://i221.photobucket.com/albums/dd143/Macito_album/Imagen082.jpg
http://i221.photobucket.com/albums/dd143/Macito_album/Imagen083.jpg

Also i did one whit vinilic paint and then i sealed whit transparente acrylic (in spray) i put that one on my tank an got no problems with it.

http://i257.photobucket.com/albums/hh221/calixacuario1/DSC00035.jpg
http://i257.photobucket.com/albums/hh221/calixacuario1/DSC00058.jpg

Dave-id
07-15-2008, 03:24 AM
You need to be sure to use ge silicon II as your silicone.
Caution!
Everything I've read has said to only use the GE silicone I
The silicone II is supposed to have fungicides in it or something that can be hazardous.

I've used the siliconeI and have had no problems, but I have not personally used the siliconeII, so don't actually have any first hand experiences to report.

cocoa_pleco
07-15-2008, 03:26 AM
old thread

Dave-id
07-15-2008, 03:33 AM
On a slightly related note:

I found a site that said you can use fiber glass resin on your styrofoam. Don't use it it will eat it up like a starving man.

Yes, most resins sold as "fiberglass resin" are polyester based, which will completely destroy foam.
Epoxy resins will not eat foam. However, I also wanted to share an experience I had with some epoxy.

(By the way, I keep a lot of shrimp, which tend to be verys sensitive to weird chemicals in the water column.)

I had used epoxy to seal a fitting which was to be used as part of a filtration system. I used graduated mixing cups to accurately measure out the epoxy, and let everything cure (in open air) for almost two months before I introduced it to the tank. I immediately had around a dozen deaths!:confused:
I have also heard lots of people say that epoxy is supposed to be completely safe.. so again.. your mileage may vary. I just wanted to remind people that there are definite risks involved any time you add something to your tank that was not manufactured by a company specializing in aquarium stuff.

Dave-id
07-15-2008, 03:35 AM
Oops! Sorry Cocoa, I hadn't been here in a while, and was just catching up :P

cocoa_pleco
07-15-2008, 03:42 AM
lol, its alright

rainbowfish
08-08-2008, 12:52 AM
Has anyone made a background out of a framework oversprayed with sprayfoam? That is gonna be my next attempt. Obviously I'm going to rinse it for an extensive period of time. I don't have a can to look at to see what chemicals to beware of.

ILuvMyGoldBarb
08-08-2008, 01:08 AM
You can't use Great Stuff spray foam in water, it falls apart when submersed.

Lady Hobbs
08-08-2008, 02:07 AM
Caution!
Everything I've read has said to only use the GE silicone I
The silicone II is supposed to have fungicides in it or something that can be hazardous.

I've used the siliconeI and have had no problems, but I have not personally used the siliconeII, so don't actually have any first hand experiences to report.

Just the opposite of what I read on the DIY sites for backgrounds. You do not want the stuff for bathrooms. I'm sure I used the silicone 2 but whatever I used, it was not for bathrooms.

Here's what I used. http://www.geadvancedmaterials.com/geam/gesa/Residential/en/Products/ProductDetail/gesiliconeiiwindowanddoor.html

Lady Hobbs
08-08-2008, 02:09 AM
Has anyone made a background out of a framework oversprayed with sprayfoam? That is gonna be my next attempt. Obviously I'm going to rinse it for an extensive period of time. I don't have a can to look at to see what chemicals to beware of.

The Great Stuff is used in a lot of the backgrounds. It does have to cure for a couple days and then be covered up in either concrete or krylon paint, tho. Not that anyone would want that ugly yellow! :18:

http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/diy_aquarium_background.php

rainbowfish
08-10-2008, 02:38 AM
Cool, I'll take a crack at it soon, I won't pin all my hopes on it though in case in crumbles underwater... and definitely pain it with Krylon as mentioned...

ILuvMyGoldBarb
08-10-2008, 02:54 AM
The Great Stuff is used in a lot of the backgrounds. It does have to cure for a couple days and then be covered up in either concrete or krylon paint, tho.

That's the key to using it right there. Unsealed it doesn't do well submersed at all.

rainbowfish
08-19-2008, 02:00 PM
I'm guessing what i need to do is get some of that screen door material that is plastic and not metal. (I have some of the metal stuff) Would the metal stuf be safe if I foamed the back side too? It seems like if it was sealed all the way around and cemented on both sides it would be ok and not leech...

TorqueWorks
08-19-2008, 09:05 PM
I do not recommend using anything like that in the tank. Anything like that will leech into the water over time. Have you ever felt a Styrofoam cup or plate after sitting out for a while? It feels a little oily. It will do the same in your tank. The stuff is an oil based product. Keep in mind the water temp will be between 74 - 80 degrees constantly.

Just my 2 cents.

gm72
08-19-2008, 09:11 PM
I think it was going to be covered in either cement or krylon paint after moulding, thereby minimizing the risk of leaching.

rainbowfish
08-20-2008, 04:26 PM
Yes, it's going to be the mesh as the framework, since its easy to form, layed over rocks or bowls to give shape, sprayed with the foam on both sides, and surrounded front and back with cement, possibly drill holes when the cement is dry, or cut holes in the mesh first i guess, then possibly glue random lava rock to the face to taste... the key is to surround the mesh and foam both with a thick layer of cement to prevent (minimize) leaching... of course soak it to cure it...

gm72
08-20-2008, 11:26 PM
Sounds like an awesome project and one that I absolutely DEMAND have pictures posted! :19: