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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Picked this 75 gallon at the dollar a gallon sale. Then I had a brainfart. I wanted a DIY background but wanted it to project into the tank (not just stick out from the back glass 5-6 inches like most do). The seams in most DIY are well hidden but i wanted to make sure I would only have one seam. So I got lucky. Floating boat docks have massive pieces of stryofoam under them. Good ole craigslist came through and someone was selling 8' x 4' x 3' ft pieces from a demolished one . I bought two. Thats not a typo... eight foot pieces.
So I whipped out my trusty dremel and carved, and carved... got yelled at by the wife and carved some more. Styrofoam is messy.
Then I got some pigment, some drylock and some vodka. I had two other half completed backgrounds I simply chunked in the dumpster. They weren't going a direction I liked. So the following pictures are my third, and completed attempt.
What remains is to silicon seal them to the glass. Repair and paint the one seam clearly visible in the pics ( the center divider prevents you from putting a whole piece in) and pic the plants. Thats where you guys come in.




Now everywhere you see the glass bottom. Im going to put MGOPM, or whatever its called. A thin layer on eco complete and capped with good ole kitty litter. Bonus: got permission to grab a bucket full of local river gravel, therefore should match the foam background well. Ill put it on top of the kitty litter.
The driftwood is where I need help. Its located on the golden ration line, But just left of the driftwood I need something to fill in that gap between the wood and the background. I think the wood could use some plants, but need input on what would look best.
That blue glove is located on the other golden ratio line. So my question is do you think this tank needs a second focal point or not. If so, im wide open to suggestions
Now the only plants i know for certain are going in are ludwigia on the far left and marsilea minuta in front of the driftwood. Im open to all other planting advice.

Next up, angle shot:






The angle shot shows the flow of the tank generally being back right corner to front left corner.

The top shot: this styrofoam was in the middle of a field. It had some natural weathering. Mother nature knows best, so I kept all the divets and holes intact.



98% of all those holes (all of them, not just the big ones) are natural. As you can see i have a powerhead tucked inside one of them. The water line will be high enough to half way fill those holes, so i need some circulation up there. Im gonna plant something ( suggestions?) in those holes to be a fry refuge. Its high up in the tank but wont get direct light. If needed I can move my 36" T5HO over to help grow out whatever I plant.

SIDE SHOT:





Obviously I got some cleaning to do (styrofoam dust everwhere), but before I went any further I wanted input from you fine folks. Here are the rest of the specs:

Sun Sun 304b 525 gph canister filter
2 aqueon 150 watt heaters
DIY CO2 (citric acid/baking soda) on DIY reactor ( yes im insane, but saving up for pressurized, so dont be too judgy)
48" Finnex planted plus (can add 2 bulb [39 watt each] 36" T5ho if needed)
2 power heads

SO there you have it. Its still early enough I can change stuff, id like to know what you think. Perhaps the driftwood is a mistake? Remove the entire foam thingy on the right? Whatever your suggestion, i am all ears.
 

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I think the structure on the left looks great. Not really sure about the one on the right. It seems a little oppressive? The Driftwood looks a little bit out of place but maybe would look better once you have gravel in there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you imzadi. The original plan was to put alarge cypress stump where the driftwood is now located. However, i dont think i have the paint skills to do a realistic diy stryfoam cypress. Im hoping the plants around the driftwood will make it appear more natural. But im willing to try other pieces out.
I have mixed feelings about the piece on the right. It will work, but when you have a large piece of styrofoam and a dremel, you can make anything. Thats the problem, too many choices... i had paralysis by analysis and had to move forward.
 

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Don't know about the driftwood , at least that piece . Maybe instead of the wood , what about some taller plants near the back of the tank to fill the rear of the void between the 2 foam pieces , something like vallisinera , or possibly an amazon sword , if there's room . Nice score on the foam plus kudos for having the presence of mind to realize the possibility of making something from them .
Should look great once it's filled ,planted and aged a while.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks old guy. Thats two votes against the driftwood. I shall replace it with something else. I still have massive pieces of styrofoam left over. Just enough drylock to do an additional piece. I like your idea on the swords. But some kind of hardscape needs to be back there, if feels imcomplete leaving all that glass on the back wide open
 

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Nothing wrong with a piece of driftwood , just not that piece , it gets lost . There's guys on this forum who have done foam tree stumps and driftwood using a technique similar to what you've used . Try a search on 'foam driftwood'
for what's been done before . Maybe it'll work for you .
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
thanks old dude. I have scoured the entire net for examples and seen many diy cypress.

Im already making another piece of foam hardscape, kind of an extension of the left side. I removed the piece on the right side. I should have a rough carving done by tommorow, and ill post pics for feedback.

Anyone have other ideas? now is the time while i have my sawzall, dremel and foam blocks out. I dont have alot of drylock left, so i gotta make this next draft count.
 

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Can you move the piece on the right to the back right corner and see what it looks like? I have a feeling it might look better if you had the entire back of the tank looking like a rock wall, either that or just take the piece on the right out. As it is, the scape seems like two different tanks almost.
 

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I like the cave like structure on the left hand side of the picture, the column like structure on the right side does not work in my opinion. I would add some of the rock work you made in the front of the cave to the right side and plant heavily.
 

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I like the job you did on both structures. They look interesting and natural, not an easy combination. I agree that the one on the right is too forward and in your face. The fix might be as easy as lopping off the rear 4-6" or so parallel to the tank back and pushing it against the back wall. The top of it seems to be blocking the spray bar, which is a separate issue. Also, where are you going to put the intakes?

The overhangs which give the cave-like feel will block light; the only place to grow higher light plants will be where you show the driftwood. I kind of like the sword idea, mainly because a big healthy sword is an awesome thing. Not sure how it will look with the cave feeling though...

Not sure how or if driftwood fits this composition. I kind of see this as a small niche with cave and I envision an uncluttered look to keep things from getting too dark.

Just a few thoughts...
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hey tom.
The right side piece has been pulled out and am now 3/4 through with a different rock formation for the right side. It starts where the left side stops and slowly angles down, like a slope but with rocky outcrops.
The intakes is buried behind the back left corner. There is a large hole in the structure to allow water to the intake, its difficult to see because i painted the hole black.
I am aware im blocking alot of light with the over hang. I was willing to sacrifice plants for interesting hard scape. Truth be told my growing abilities are amatuer, hoping to get better with this 75 gallon.
In my new design nothing will block the spray bar. And i did try doing what you said and slide the right piece to the back glass ( after shaving down the backside). It still didnt look right so i scrapped it. My phone is on the fritz so i cant post pics now. But in a few hours i will snap a few of the new design ( still a rough draft)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Here is the rough draft of the new layout








That piece floating is midair is a little misaligned, but im seriously considering keeping it in midair. The idea is there is structure behind this little slice of river, and that piece hints at it. Looks unnatural? Probably, but the right side looks incomplete without something up there. If anyone has an alternative, im all ears. Also, there is a tiny pillar under the piece on the front right side, thats just so it stays upright, ill take it out after the glue goes on
 

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You are making a cave, underground lake concept.

No driftwood.
Plants only at the mouth of the cave, and not too lush even there. Overhanging plants (house plants) from outside hanging over the opening in the roof of the cave.

Stock with Blind Cave Tetras.
 

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I like the progression of the background, subscribing. Good luck with the rest of the build. I'm looking forward to following this to completion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Diana. You and I are on the same page. Ive been poking around for plants i set on the edges and let their roots hang in. Been looking through tons of paludarium threads. Ive also been looking up terrestrial mosses to attach to my faux rocks. Land mosses are difficult to keep indoors due to low humidity. So i have a choice. Moss only and use my glass tops or house plants with no glass tops. Im leaning bouse plant.
Thanks Bur and KNM. Tommorow i do some more tweaking on that right side. Monday is paint day. Tuesday will hopefully be substrate day
I also have an interesting piece i will get pics of soon. Its a fossillized snail i found deep in a cliff side. I was climbing out and the rock ledge gave way revealing the fossill. It was 80% encased in stone so i dremeled around it. Crazy looking snail.. probably million years old or better. Thinking about how to safely get it in mu take. Probably expoxy. Dunno
 

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Very interesting! I like what you've done with the styrofoam. I completely agree that the standard foam background that sticks out about 4" from the back looks too uniform, its my biggest regret on my DIY background that I didn't make it more dynamic.

That cave thing looks really cool. How are you planning on lighting the tank?

Looks good, can't wait to see what it looks like when its done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
Update:

wanted something midground to break line of sight to the back. This is mainly for the fish in case they get territorial.




The new midground also reinforces the idea the "river" has cut channels in the bedrock. This significantly reduces available planting area. which is what i want, in this kind of scape I just cant see a ton of plants.





Final side shot shows better how the channels will flow. The piece in the right front ( the one that wraps around the front to side corner) has to be there. Its where Im going to hide my powerhead. The flow should shoot straight down those channels.




As usual im open to suggestions. At this point i have a real problem. The focal point is is an asterik in black magic marker on the back glass. 9" in from the right side and 6" high. Its just above the ledge. I have NO IDEA what im going to put there. none.


Edit: Physics dude. I have a 48" finnex planted plus. Im gonna slap it dead center of the top. Which puts it just in front of those top rock ledges. It has 120 degree lenses so i can still get decent light in the nooks and crannies. I may add my 2 bulb T5HO if I see the plants suffering. Which is another thing, the only thing I know I want so far is Marsilea minuta. Perhaps some Vals in that back right corner. Other than that, I got nothing on plants. Im extremely concerned about mixing plants of different leaf textures and structure. Ie.. no feather dusters with swords.. doesnt look right
 
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