Resins or Workable Fiberglass for Sculpting in Aquariums? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-04-2011, 12:30 AM Thread Starter
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Resins or Workable Fiberglass for Sculpting in Aquariums?

Hey there. I am motivated to make some DIY background materials for my 30 gallon Half Moon Tetra Tank. it has a flat back and I painted the outside of it black. There are some really cool ready to buy fiberglass backgrounds to insert inside the tanks. But they are so expensive. Especially the modular individual rock formations I want to use to create a really nice effect.

Here area couple by Aquaterra. They have a flat back and you silicone glue the flat portion to the back of the tank. The cool thing about it is that you leave space in between them. So if you paint the back of your tank black it gives the illusion of cracks that seem down so far and deep that it fades into black. Basically it does not look like glass. You leave about one inch or so between the cracks.

They also do this on the bottom of tanks that eliminated the need for substrate. However I cannot find a photo to show you all how cool this looked. I am not going to do plants so I am fine with this. The image I saw was such a cool simple and modern clean look.

I was wondering if any of you can recommend fiber glass resins that I can work with over Styrofoam that will allow me to sand in certain areas to help me get very sharp angles and be able to create slate like rock formations. I want to be able to dapple the fiberglass while I work with it and then sand it smooth in certain areas to create a very unique texture that looks very natural.

I will create the pieces to my liking and then use several nontoxic paints to color them and then I want to use an epoxy to seal it. Once cured I want to glue it on the back of the tank using aquarium safe silicone.

Here is a photo of the look I want to create:

The picture above is not exactly the look I am going for but these are the rocks. I want mine to almost look like a solid stonewall. However, there will be gaps in between the rocks and since my tank's back will be in black it will look like they are shadowed and deeper than they appear to be.

Here is another:

This one has several pieces glued together and if you notice that blue tube opening
is an intake to hide a filter.

So my questions are:

What names of brands of fiberglass can you guys recommend so that I can start googling and order? I assume that, regardless of what paint I use that after I epoxy seal it than the paint job should be safe?

Hope to get some input from you all.


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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-04-2011, 11:40 PM
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Some people have used epoxy resins to get really good results. I don't have any particular brand to push. No fiberglass is needed for these.

Much more popular, and much cheaper, is using cementacous materials over foam. I personally like using floor patch. This is cement-based, usually polymer modified, and it is formulated to cure well to a feather edge, so you can paint it on fairly thin and it cures well. You will get a little shrinkage and cracking, less if you do an extended cure, but it is not bad and can add to the effect, sometimes. You should neutralize it before putting it in the tank, but that's easy.
I usually put the first layer on undiluted, tint the second layer and/or 3rd layer. You can do some sculpting for details on the 2nd and 3rd layers. Then wash with acrylic paint, sand, do so highlighting, and you are set.
This does work better with open cell foam than closed cell foam, but people use both.

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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-05-2011, 11:31 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, tzen. What is open cell foam and closed cell foam? What brand of floor patch should I look for? Can I find this at Home Depot, it would help if I could get a brand name so I know what to look for and perhaps google and study on my own.

Do you have any photos of what you have created? I would like to see.

Thank you for your post, tzen.

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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-09-2011, 12:35 AM
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I've read some DIY guides on plywood aquariums/paludariums over at the dart frog board, and they use the sort of resin you repair boat hulls with. It isn't terribly cheap, but should be extremely durable, and water tight. In theory, you could use almost anything to build up the background, then coat with epoxy resin.
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