Does anyone do DIY 3d backgrounds? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-10-2015, 06:25 PM Thread Starter
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Does anyone do DIY 3d backgrounds?

I recently tried my hands at a fit 3d background and am just wondering if anybody here has experimented? I'm mostly concerned with sealant for the cement so no chemicals are leached into the water column. Anyways I'll post a pic of the one I made for a 5.5 gallon Betta tank that I'm going to sparsely plant. I'm also building a cool enclosed tabletop stand for this tank.

My two year old loves it!
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-10-2015, 07:15 PM
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I've dabbled in it












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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-10-2015, 07:16 PM Thread Starter
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Cool looking, what did you use to seal the cement? If you don't mind sharing the info.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-10-2015, 07:21 PM
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I used mortar, since it supposedly sticks better than plain ol' concrete, which did seem to be true.

I actually didn't put a sealant on it. I think the sealants look less natural than raw concrete.

I let the background sit for a month, and after that it sat submerged for another month with weekly 100% water changes before I added any fish or plants.

I did have one pleco that died shortly after moving him, and I think it might have been related to the concrete? Not sure, but I have 3 Plecos in the tank now with no issues. I didn't notice issues with any of the other fish. I did change the water a lot for the first month after adding fish, at least 75% change at least weekly, mostly to get out the driftwood tannins, but it also probably helped disperse any toxins from the concrete.

Most people do use sealants. Its probably a safer bet, especially if you don't have a month or so to let the concrete cure.

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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-10-2015, 09:02 PM
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I didn't trust the sealants of any kind.
I let the mortar cure in an extra bathtub in the house.
Still curing right now, about 3 weeks.
I occasionally drain and use HCL and vinegar spray to aid in curing.
Go light on these it can weaken the mortar.

Friend used a sealant spray-on clear krylon fusion I believe.
Cured for 5 days and placed in tank, everything died.
I can learn at others expense, and I'm patient.


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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-10-2015, 09:13 PM Thread Starter
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I actually used a waterproof epoxy resin to seal this one in many coats. I haven't put water in the tank yet so I have no clue about any chemicals leaching. We will see.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-12-2015, 12:09 AM
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I also didn't seal mine. I also let it sit for at least a month. With 100% water changes often. Only had two plecos at the time and they showed no signs of discomfort. The cement did raise the pH.

I let it soak without any fish until it took longer than a week to see a rise in the pH. I figured at that point I could stay ahead of the pH rising with weekly water changes.


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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-12-2015, 01:03 PM
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I tested the idea with a 29g using wall patch concrete that is basically mortar with a bit more cementitious material. I applied two coats of thing concrete, then tinted 3 different buckets of concrete and mixed-matched for the final coat. Salt cured for 3 weeks, flushed and set up the tank. I didn't have a problem.

I did my 75g in a similar way but dry cured for 2 weeks and epoxy-spray coated with a concrete sealant. Salt flush for 2 weeks and set up the tank. Again, no loss of fish. BTW, I need an updated photo since the vegetation has filled in nicely.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-12-2015, 01:50 PM
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The 3d background is a REALLY cool idea. Too bad Im a terrible artist! Seriously, I couldnt draw a stick figure. Lol. Does anyone sell these 3d backgrounds?

EDIT: Nevermind, lol. Of course they do. I found em.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-12-2015, 10:31 PM
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I am still soaking pieces in the tub.
Strange thing happened to my incoming water.
3 weeks ago I tested incoming pH at 7.2-7.4
I began soaking the mortar pieces and water changes.
Yesterday I filled the tub after a water change immediate 8.8pH
Tested incoming @ 8.8 maybe winter related????
Makes it hard to test the mortar pieces.


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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2015, 03:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blickquickly View Post
The 3d background is a REALLY cool idea. Too bad Im a terrible artist! Seriously, I couldnt draw a stick figure. Lol. Does anyone sell these 3d backgrounds?

EDIT: Nevermind, lol. Of course they do. I found em.
My 1st attempt in the 29g always looked carved to me. I knew all the "wrong" spots on it and it drew my attention in. The 2nd background I made for the 75g was completely random. I took 3/4" thick foam insulation and cut 4" wide across the short side of the sheet (the 4' side). I made a "hot-wire" cutting tool with a 90w soldering gun and a piece of coat hanger. I then sawed the 4" strips in half and then stacked and silicone them together to make the layers of my background. Cover with concrete and tint / paint to suite.
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-14-2015, 02:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhysicsDude55 View Post
I used mortar, since it supposedly sticks better than plain ol' concrete, which did seem to be true.

I actually didn't put a sealant on it. I think the sealants look less natural than raw concrete.

I let the background sit for a month, and after that it sat submerged for another month with weekly 100% water changes before I added any fish or plants.

I did have one pleco that died shortly after moving him, and I think it might have been related to the concrete? Not sure, but I have 3 Plecos in the tank now with no issues. I didn't notice issues with any of the other fish. I did change the water a lot for the first month after adding fish, at least 75% change at least weekly, mostly to get out the driftwood tannins, but it also probably helped disperse any toxins from the concrete.

Most people do use sealants. Its probably a safer bet, especially if you don't have a month or so to let the concrete cure.



Wow, I was looking at your pics at photobucket, that is an amazing set up with the trunks within the background! Where did you get them trunks? I think I'll definitely try me some of that mortar!

But if one doesn't use a sealant, what would you suggest be used as a core frame? Styrofoam? Steel chicken wire? You know, so it doesn't end up weighing a lot.

Last edited by mef1975; 01-14-2015 at 02:40 AM. Reason: .
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-14-2015, 02:37 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mef1975 View Post
Wow, I was looking at your pics at photobucket, that is an amazing set up with the trunks within the background! I think I'll definitely try me some of that mortar!

But if one doesn't use a sealant, what would you suggest be used as a core frame? Styrofoam? Steel chicken wire? You know, so it doesn't end up weighing a lot.
Polystyrene foam for the core, mortar/cement on top of that.

I'm actually in the process of building another one for the 20 in my kids room.
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-14-2015, 10:34 PM
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blickquickly> I don't think you need a lot of artistic talent to do a background like this. It can certainly help, especially if you are trying to give it a very specific look, but if you just want something that resembles rocks or whatever, that's fairly easy to do.

I like going with styrofoam covered in a sand/epoxy mixture. You can just put a sheet on the back, and stick random blocks on it for chunkyness, maybe scratch it up with a wire-brush to rough up the edges, and then add the epoxy/sand mix. It's a bit more work, but you could also try a layered pattern like Bratmanxj did, so that it resembles natural bedding planes.

You can also incorporate a bit of driftwood, or some corkbark - it helps gives something to focus on, and that way the background is just that, a background.

As to the original question, I'm fond of epoxy for almost everything DIY, but I also don't use cement/mortar... It does make it look glossy when it's dry, but I don't think there is a noticeable difference when it's underwater. When I'm doing a paludarium, I'll usually sprinkle sand over the epoxy, it helps reduce the glossy look.
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-15-2015, 03:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mef1975 View Post
Wow, I was looking at your pics at photobucket, that is an amazing set up with the trunks within the background! Where did you get them trunks? I think I'll definitely try me some of that mortar!

But if one doesn't use a sealant, what would you suggest be used as a core frame? Styrofoam? Steel chicken wire? You know, so it doesn't end up weighing a lot.
Thanks.

I used pink insulating foam, the kind that you can buy at Lowes. I had a whole bunch of it, one of my friends had a bunch of scraps from something theater related (building sets or costumes or something).

I got the wood from a lake in Kansas. It was during a drought, so the water level was low, and the pieces are basically previously submerged bases/stumps from medium sized trees. I brought a sawzall and measuring tape and cut off some good pieces. The middle 2 pieces of wood in my background are actually the same stump. I cut it in half down the middle and placed the flat part against the background to make it look like stump/roots coming out from a river bed. I siliconed the wood to the background to make sure it would sink and to make the entire background 1 big piece. I figured out this may not have been a great idea when I had to get a big pleco out of the tank. I couldn't move any of the wood, so it was really hard to get him out of hiding spots so I could net him.

The background weighing a lot is not a negative. I had issues getting the big pieces to sink, although that's mostly because I was working with acrylic. Silicone holds a lot better to glass.

Think of it this way, a basic 2 foot X 2 foot foam background that's an average of 4 inches or so thick will displace almost 100 lbs of water, which means that the silicone holding it to the tank has to hold almost 100 lbs.

I like the concrete/mortor because of the texture. Epoxy has a lot of advantages too, and adding sand or gravel to the mixture can make the texture to be almost whatever you want.

Overall, making that background was REALLY time consuming, but it wasn't that hard. Just come up with a pretty good idea of what basic design you want, and then carving it isn't that hard. The concrete or epoxy will create the texture, the foam only needs to make the basic shape. I'm an engineer, not a very artistic person. I was surprised how easy it was to make the foam look like rock. For the rounded parts I used a dremel, which was messy, but did make nice river-rock looking formations.

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