Thanks, Bruce! Oh yeah, longtime hobbyist and user. I'm always in the middle of some sort of new build or project, you know how it is.
Here's the steps, from beginning to the plants going in:
First stage was research and gathering all the materials.
I used egg crate for the false bottom on the land area.
I also siliconed in egg crate on the sides to reinforce the foam background. The egg crate structure in the bottom right corner is a false wall to hide the filter intake tubes.
Checking to see if the land section of egg crate fits.
Bump: I didn't glue in egg crate on all three sides because the completely enclosed tanks make me feel claustrophobic, so I tried for an organic trailing edge about halfway between front and back of the tank, using a heat gun to melt and re-shape the egg crate.
With the false bottom in place (temporarily).
Testing out various pieces of wood.
Getting net pots in place, to be covered in foam so that there are planters imbedded in the background.
Bump: In order to cover the egg crate in the water section of the tank, the land section false bottom came back out, and the Great Stuff foaming commenced.
The many build threads I'd read had me convinced Great Stuff foam was the messiest, hardest-to-control substance ever and would end up everywhere. In my experience that was not the case, fortunately! Especially since I didn't really bother with gloves or drop cloths to protect the floor or other normally-prudent investments....
The net pots were covered in foam to provide planters up in the wall. I've since poked holes through the bottom of them to allow for drainage. Also, you can see the rolled-up tube of plastic sheeting inside the filter intake false wall...since Great Stuff foam doesn't stick to it, I used it to prevent the intake area from being filled with foam.
Then the cork bark pieces were placed and squished into the Great Stuff foam while still quite wet.
Finally, the land section was going to be heavy enough to require extra support but I didn't want it to be highy visible, so I cut some PVC pipe, set it upright in a cylinder of plastic sheeting, and filled the whole thing up with foam.
Bump: The tank had to be rotated as each side was foamed, but before the sides could be done, the false bottom had to slip back in place. A dremel with sandpiper grinding bit proved very handy in cutting out the groove so it could fit in place, and also left a lip of foam around all the lower sections to provide extra support for the land section.
The glaring flash in this pic is annoying, but allows one to see the differing textures in the foam. The matte grey areas are where it's been dremmeled or carved down, the shiny areas are the original dried foam surface. Eventually all areas were shaved down. I probably should've worn a face make while doing this....
Then it was time to brush Gorilla Glue onto the foam background and pat peat down into it...and this step was just as messy as predicted on other build threads. The peat/glue mix will probably be gone from my fingernails by April, since no gloves. Notice a trend here?
Also, zip-tying the branch into the false bottom made for much tighter maneuvering than was necessary...should've waited to add that after the background was done.