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  1. #1

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    Default DIY 3D Aquarium Background Questions


    0 Not allowed!
    Hey everyone,

    So, as some of you may know, I recently acquired a 55 gallon tank. I am wanting to eventually put my discus in it and I would really love to do a 3D background with driftwood coming out of it, simulating an Amazon Riverbank with tree roots coming down into the water. I feel like it would make the tank look amazing, and create an excellent environment for my discus. So with that being said, I have been researching a lot online about materials and how to go about creating the background. I'm thinking I want to use a sheet of styrofoam as a base and then use expanding foam to create textures, and then that way I could place large river style stones into the foam when it's wet along with the driftwood to create a strong foothold. The only issues I am having is: what sheets of foam are safe and work the best? Blue or pink insulation style or plain white? What type of expanding foam is safe? What is the best type of covering to put on the foam? Smear silicone and cover with sand or some type of concrete covering? Is it necessary to seal it? If so, what is good to use to seal it? If anyone has experience with this type of thing, any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks all! :)
    50g Jag tank - 37g discus tank - 30g discus breeding tank - 26g BF Angel tank - 20H guppy breeding tank - 20L turtle tank - 17g planted community tank - 55 gallon discus tank build in progress! (see link)

    http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/aqua...d.php?t=120260

  2. #2

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    Default


    1 Not allowed!
    This member did a really neat one. You should read through her journal, but here is her project: http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/aqua...66#post1277266
    Learn from yesterday
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  3. #3

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    Default


    1 Not allowed!
    Thanks for the link :) I like that style of background for cichlids, but I am going for more of a riverbank style. Got some ideas on how to color a concrete mix from that though
    50g Jag tank - 37g discus tank - 30g discus breeding tank - 26g BF Angel tank - 20H guppy breeding tank - 20L turtle tank - 17g planted community tank - 55 gallon discus tank build in progress! (see link)

    http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/aqua...d.php?t=120260

  4. #4

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    Default


    2 Not allowed!
    Hello, I just got done with a background and I will tell you it was so much fun to do!

    So, as some of you may know, I recently acquired a 55 gallon tank. I am wanting to eventually put my discus in it and I would really love to do a 3D background with driftwood coming out of it, simulating an Amazon Riverbank with tree roots coming down into the water. I feel like it would make the tank look amazing, and create an excellent environment for my discus. So with that being said, I have been researching a lot online about materials and how to go about creating the background. I'm thinking I want to use a sheet of styrofoam as a base and then use expanding foam to create textures, and then that way I could place large river style stones into the foam when it's wet along with the driftwood to create a strong foothold.

    The only issues I am having is: what sheets of foam are safe and work the best? Blue or pink insulation style or plain white? What type of expanding foam is safe?
    Home depot/Lowes/Menards all sell sheets of extruded Styrofoam, they are safe and the easiest/cleanest to work with. Some may come with a plastic protection/film just pull it off. You can buy this in varying thicknesses. I bought a 1” board 8’ by 4’ (yes feet) and cut a rectangle to the interior size of my tank minus ” top and sides. Then I sliced some of the remaining board up using a hot craft knife I got off of Amazon and filed them (using a metal wood file my Dad had lying around) into “rock ledges” and glued it using 100% food safe non-toxic, nothing else added silicone to a sheet of Styrofoam I cut to fit the tank. You can get a thicker piece of Styrofoam insulation and actually “carve” out rocks or shape caves and ledges from it.
    What is the best type of covering to put on the foam? Smear silicone and cover with sand or some type of concrete covering?
    I used a product called Drylok, it is a masonry sealer and is entirely inert in water after a 7 day cure time. I like it because it goes on like a thick paint, and is waterproof and inert after the 7 days dry time. I put 3 solid coats on and then painted the last coat. You can buy it in white, grey and I think black- I got light grey, it was the cheapest. You can use concrete pigment or regular non toxic acrylic paint (like in a craft store).


    Others have used quick-crete, but that leaches product into the water for weeks, and raises pH until you finish the curing time in the water to remove all of the lime in the concrete. It doesn’t have to be sealed, but is heavier than the Drylok.

    You can easily rough up the Styrofoam and glue on rocks and driftwood with silicone or even the water activated gorilla glue (also needs 7 day cure time to be inert in water). I did not want to attach mine permanently to the back of the tank so I used silicone to anchor several heavy slate tiles and a rock to the base of my 3 sections.

    Is it necessary to seal it? If so, what is good to use to seal it? If anyone has experience with this type of thing, any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks all! :)
    With Drylok you do not have to seal it at all.


    2014-09-28 17.02.39.jpg
    My Styrofoam "ledges glued onto the foam rectangular backing.
    2014-10-01 19.55.25.jpg
    The three sections fit together, I went back for a fitting in my tank before I started to paint and had to file some Styrofoam down as it was a little tight in some areas.
    2014-10-02 20.47.42.jpg
    First coat of the grey Drylok, I added 2 more coats of solid Drylok-for the next layer I colored it darker using a charcoal concrete pigment just so I would know what spots I didn't cover, the 3rd coat I went even darker.
    2014-10-11 16.23.53.jpg
    I added some tinted Drylok in different colors as a base paint, see the really dark grey is my final solid coat of drylok, I gave each coat 24 hours dry time till I put on a next one.
    IMAG0879.jpg
    The final product.

  5. #5

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    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    By the time I was done with it I had upgraded to a 75 gallon tank, no worries as it was really the same profile-just one inch higher
    75 Gallon (12).jpg

    I have to say that I would have (in hindsight) just glued it to the tank with silicone instead of trying for the magnets. If you are going to use the Drylok give it the 7 days after the last coat of paint. Took me about 1 month and half of weekends and after work to get it done and cured. In the summer when the cars aren't in the garage I am going to make another one for the 75 gallon, similar to this one but one that will be permanently attached. I am going to be moving in a year, well at least getting the house on the market so I will have a chance to get the new one in and cured for 2 days, I can't wait!!! I also have half of the Styrofoam sheet left, and it is just giving me all sorts of ideas!

    Oh and in doing my research (and research and research!) I found many complaining about the lack of texture in the Drylock, I was fine with it because I left the Styrofoam rough-I filed it rough with the course file I had, and it also had a grainy texture to it. If you want you can add some sand to the Drylock and then paint it on to give it a "rockier" look-but I wanted a slate wall ledge look, so I kept it as is.
    75 Gallon (29).jpg
    75 Gallon (34).jpg

    Let me know if you have any other questions, I am excited for you!
    Last edited by Boundava; 12-12-2014 at 03:09 PM.

  6. #6

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    0 Not allowed!
    Your background looks awesome!! Thank you very much for all of the information, I greatly appreciate it. I am hoping to begin my background in a couple weeks (after all my christmas expenses are out of the way lol), and I definitely plan on documenting how it turns out. I am thinking I might just have to turn it into my first tank journal :)
    50g Jag tank - 37g discus tank - 30g discus breeding tank - 26g BF Angel tank - 20H guppy breeding tank - 20L turtle tank - 17g planted community tank - 55 gallon discus tank build in progress! (see link)

    http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/aqua...d.php?t=120260

  7. #7

    Join Date
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    thank you for the moss - Hockey nut   For being a good sport ;-) - steeler58   No Message - BluewaterBoof   You deserve a medal for all of your hard work! - Silbar   Hang in there, you will get it all done! - RiversGirl   

    Default


    1 Not allowed!
    Glad to help, my biggest frustration was going to all of these "fish" forums and asking other people how they built their background and how this or that product worked and getting no answer, or vague responses like they had some trade secrets they didn't want to share. I called and spent almost half a year trying to come up with the best game plan and product to get this done. Actually doing it was less work and a lot more fun than all of the research.

    I noticed you are in OH, hope you have a heated space to do this that is well ventilated because the silicone and Drylok are high VOC-smelly stuff to work with. I wore a mask with the silicone-it has such a strong vinegar smell that it burns your nose and throat, and the Drylok wasn't as bad-but you definitely want ventilation for that and warm temperatures to get it to dry.

    Can't wait to see your journal...best of luck to you!

  8. #8

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    0 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by Boundava View Post
    I noticed you are in OH, hope you have a heated space to do this that is well ventilated because the silicone and Drylok are high VOC-smelly stuff to work with. I wore a mask with the silicone-it has such a strong vinegar smell that it burns your nose and throat, and the Drylok wasn't as bad-but you definitely want ventilation for that and warm temperatures to get it to dry.
    I do have a few places to retreat to when I begin construction. When I was in high school I did a project on custom aquarium caves and I used silicone then, so I am very familiar with the smell lol. Definitely not something I want in my apartment. But I did have another question for you if you don't mind. As far as the drylok goes, is that an absolute must in your opinion, or do you think if I were to just use an expanding, fish-safe pond foam, I could skip that? I am having a tough time finding it in my area and cannot find anything else comparable or fish-safe.
    50g Jag tank - 37g discus tank - 30g discus breeding tank - 26g BF Angel tank - 20H guppy breeding tank - 20L turtle tank - 17g planted community tank - 55 gallon discus tank build in progress! (see link)

    http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/aqua...d.php?t=120260

  9. #9

    Join Date
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    thank you for the moss - Hockey nut   For being a good sport ;-) - steeler58   No Message - BluewaterBoof   You deserve a medal for all of your hard work! - Silbar   Hang in there, you will get it all done! - RiversGirl   

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    0 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by cluce20 View Post
    I do have a few places to retreat to when I begin construction. When I was in high school I did a project on custom aquarium caves and I used silicone then, so I am very familiar with the smell lol. Definitely not something I want in my apartment. But I did have another question for you if you don't mind. As far as the drylok goes, is that an absolute must in your opinion, or do you think if I were to just use an expanding, fish-safe pond foam, I could skip that? I am having a tough time finding it in my area and cannot find anything else comparable or fish-safe.
    You could, but how are you going to finish it? Just paint with acrylic? My only concern is that some fish may peck at the foam, and the expandable foam is mostly air after it expands- so if it would be damaged or packed at by a curious fish it may lead to problems. Any type of product that is a latex based masonry sealer will work just like Drylok. If you have the time to let the background sit and leach out the lime/calcium in a tank or other body of water (some put it in a bathtub-but I would imagine a very clean and detergent free tub) for a couple/few weeks until it stopped raising the pH then you can just go ahead and use a concrete to finish it.

  10. #10

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    0 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by Boundava View Post
    You could, but how are you going to finish it? Just paint with acrylic? My only concern is that some fish may peck at the foam, and the expandable foam is mostly air after it expands- so if it would be damaged or packed at by a curious fish it may lead to problems. Any type of product that is a latex based masonry sealer will work just like Drylok. If you have the time to let the background sit and leach out the lime/calcium in a tank or other body of water (some put it in a bathtub-but I would imagine a very clean and detergent free tub) for a couple/few weeks until it stopped raising the pH then you can just go ahead and use a concrete to finish it.
    So you are saying that ANY latex based masonry sealer (without mold/mildew inhibitors of course) will work? Because my plan was to just use the expanding pond foam on a sheet of the pink insulation foam and then cover the expanding foam while it is still fresh with a natural colored sand to get the desired texture/color. I figured since the pond foam is guaranteed fish safe, then I would not have issues with sealing the foam, and the sand would provide a sort of buffer layer between the foam and potential fish-pecking. I have seen examples of backgrounds in saltwater tanks made out of just pond expanding foam and nothing else without any reported instances of negative impacts on fish, so I feel pretty comfortable with not sealing it. As far as concrete goes, I have completely ruled out the concrete method because I do not want to deal with the pH issues, especially when the tank is going to be home to discus. Don't feel like risking it. I have also recently seen that there are some paints (krylon fusion textured spray paint and water-based acrylic paints to be precise) that are deemed as fish-safe, but not actually proven to be so. I have been thinking about just using one of those over top of the expanding foam, but again, not sure if I want to risk it. But if any ol' latex based masonry sealer will work, then I will probably go that route. Just trying to take the path of least resistance here in terms of money lol.
    50g Jag tank - 37g discus tank - 30g discus breeding tank - 26g BF Angel tank - 20H guppy breeding tank - 20L turtle tank - 17g planted community tank - 55 gallon discus tank build in progress! (see link)

    http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/aqua...d.php?t=120260

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