So for those of you who asked for it, here it is - again...
Never being able to leave good enough alone, I decided the tank needed a change from the first rebuild. I wanted to add a level of realism to it that I felt was missing. I wanted something that looked a little more natural and increase the level of water in the tank. So I hit the web and did a little homework. I found tons of great sites but the site that really started it all was Chuck's Paludarium. It seemed pretty simple and I already had most of the stuff laying around the house from other projects and with the tutorial on Chuck's site as well as others (check the bottom for more links) I knew I could tackle this.
The concept was pretty simple. Create a realistic background for an aquarium using polystyrene sheets and marine epoxy. The wall would serve two purposes. 1) be aesthetically pleasing to look at and 2) hide all the stuff that detracts from an aquarium's appearance (pumps, filters, heater, etc.). Here's a list off all the stuff you'll need if you plan on doing this:
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Step I: Gluing & Carving Polystyrene
Things I'd do differently
1. I wouldn't make an island structure out of foam. Trust me on this, it doesn't really work.
2. I'd make my cave structures on the land portion a little bigger and make the stream deeper.
Step II: Plexiglass & Great Stuff Foam
Things I'd do differently:
1. I'd definitely make the filter box taller for more water capacity. Probably something like 6x3x12.
2. Rather than use machine screws to help hold the land in place, I'd just use dowel rods. I'd push them all the way in, remove them, take off about an inch of the dowel rod, inject epoxy into the hole, then push the dowel rods back in. It would be a much more secure attachment.
3. I'd dowel rod the spacers on as well using the method mentioned in 2. They kept coming unglued in some places.
4. Once the Great Stuff Foam was cured, I'd take the Surform Shaver and make sure the bottom was flush and even with the background polystyrene.
Step III: Cement, Paint, & Epoxy
Things I'd do differently
1. With all the expanding foam and the curing cement, I found that polystyrene will warp ever so slightly. It made my seam line hard to hide. I would go with a plywood next time.
2. I'd use a more flexible hose for the pump and filter box. It would just be easier to work with than the stuff sold at Lowe's as "Aqaurium Hose".
Step IV: Installation
That's all there is to it!! From there I installed. I used plenty of silicone but I made sure none of the silicone made contact with the tank silicone so I could remove it later if I wanted without having to patch my tank's silicone. I did do something most will probably disagree with me on though. Once the epoxy was applied, it was shiny. I mean like rolled-of-the-car-lot shiny. I shopped around and found a clear acrylic sealer matt finish and sprayed on a light coat. I was pretty sure once it completely cured it would be non-toxic but I wasn't sure. Turns out it's perfectly fine. It took the glossy shine right off. I used Duct Tape to hold it all in place until the silicone set completely. Then I filled it with water and watched my island (siliconed to the bottom pane of glass) tear at the middle and float up. I was mortified, angry, and too tired to fight it anymore. I turned on the pump to find that my stream was more like a ditch and the water was just cascading down. So I drained the whole thing with the pump, chipped away at the epoxy and concrete ditch, and made it deeper (all from inside the tank since it was all siliconed). Then I patched it all up again with cement, painted it, and resealed it with epoxy. Fun huh? It was worth it though because the water actually follows the stream now while a little cascades down the side. The filter box worked out great too. In chamber one I filled with filter sponge, in chamber two with ceramic rings made by fluval, and in the third one I put activated carbine. I ran the filter for a full day before I put in my fish and animals. I had to adjust the flow rate of the pump down a little to keep it from overflowing the filter box, but it worked out fine. The three pieces of wood were siliconed down.
Things I'd do differently
1. I think next time I'm not going to use the Marine Epoxy. With each coat I applied I watched my shading disappear from the rocky surface.
2. I'd use tinting pigments in the cement for shading on the rocks and use a "rubber stamping" method to create the texture (see below links).
3. Next time I'm going to have a largish spare tank to house my fish and critters in. They were kept in a large tote the few weeks of construction and my crab sniped a few fish that came into his tree lair.
Overall, I'm satisfied with how it came out. The fish like their new home and they have a lot more room then they ever did before. Cleaning it has become a breeze and my filter box is very accessible. I did have to construct a frog guard out of Plexiglass to keep the toads, newt and crab from getting behind the background.I just took the scrap pieces from the filter box, made 3x12in pieces, glued them together to make one long piece, and siliconed it to the background leaning forward like a barbed wire fence does. Again, duct tape to hold it in place until the silicone set.
I've already got plans for next year and I got a bunch of other tanks to experiment with until then. It really was pretty easy to do once I got off my ass and did it. If you got questions, just shoot me an email and I'll be happy to answer any questions.
Now to give credit where credit is due. All these links guided, informed, or inspired in some form or another. These guys rock for there contributions.
|Now to give credit where credit is due. All these links guided, informed, or inspired in some form or another. These guys rock for there contributions.|
|Chuck's Paludarium||A truly inspiring tank setup. My primary source of inspiration. A very informative site as well.|
|Paul Barber's Background||Another great source of information. No marine Epoxy just pigmented cement and it's aquarium safe!!|
|Catfishheaven.net||A very detailed day by day account of construction. Another cement background with no marine Epoxy. Next time...|
|Kyle Porter's Background||A simplistic, but nice looking background. Easy on the wallet for a nice looking background.|
|3-D background||No author listed on this one. Very informative but no pictures.|
|Brad's Cave Grotto||I like the idea behind this one. Creates lots of caves and is very simple. Again, easy on the wallet.|
|Reptile Rooms||A lizard link, yes, but a quick method of getting a rocky background that could easily be improved upon.|
|PU Background||I'm not really wild about this technique, but here it is. I personally don't like the rock look but that's just me.|
|Concrete Stamping||Not a aquarium link, but I think this is how a lot of "professional" background makers get there great results from.|
|Geodesic Foam Scenery||While not a aquarium link, this technque could be used for a background I think. It's my next project to try.|
|Rock Texture Pads||Again, not a aquarium site but this could be used to make very realistic rock backgrounds just as the previous link.|
|Aquarium Background||Don't want to look at another DIY background and would rather just whip out your wallet and buy one?|
|Back to Nature||Another online store that sells great looking backgrounds. Notice the same techinque of "stamping" the texture.|