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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Here's my situation. I'm a senior in college (one semester left!) and have a 55g African Cichlid tank and a 10g planted community. The 55g is quite tricky to move back to my apartment at school (6 hours drive) but it's doable. What makes it extra tricky is I aquascape my tank with sandstone tiles. They are heavy and I don't want to keep them in my tank during the trip because I don't want them to break the glass. I normally have to put all of the sandstone pieces into a plastic container which takes up valuable space in my Ford Explorer.

To solve this dilema I'd like to build a DIY foam and concrete background and aquascape. The plan is to get at least one 8'x4' sheet of insulating foam from my local hardware store and cut that down to size to make a rock background. Cut out "rock pieces" from the remaining part of the sheet to bring the background into the 3rd Dimension. I'd cover the background in concrete and then silicone it to the back wall (and perhaps use some burried rocks to keep it against the glass and not floating.

NOTE: the background (and aquascape) will need to be in at least three pieces because my tank has a center brace.

The tricky part will really be the aquascape. I want to build up a realistic looking scape, ideally reminiscent of Lake Malawi but upon more thought that may be tricky to do. The aquascape must accomplish a few goals

1) Cover up/hide the aquarium equipment including the filter intake/outflow, heaters, and powerheads
2) Provide ample hiding places and cover for fish of all sizes and have open spaces for swimming
3) Not restrict the light to the tank (the light is mounted 5+" above the tank so this may not be much of an issue)
4) Look awesome (because it's going to be a permanent aquascape)

The aquascape will be built off and blend with the backround. I plan on using the foam sheets from the local hardware store and foam inserts that come in some packaging. Those should be able to give me random pieces that can be cut down and form rocks.

An interesting thought I had was caves and hiding places can be built and supported with PVC (white) or Electrical conduit (dark gray) tubing. That may provide a safe and easier way to provide caves and hiding places.

Does anybody have any experience with building a background/aquascape and have any suggestions on how to build this. I head back to school most likely on the 20th of January and want to have it soaking in a tub outside a couple of days before then to finish off the pH spike.

Other thoughts I have had is creating individual rocks out of concrete and foam and using super glue/guerilla glue/fragging glue to permanently stitch them together. Using real rocks would make the setup too heavy to move IMO

Thanks. Here's a shot of the tank for your reference.



Here's my progress on the background/aquascape.

I figured out where each piece of equipment will be. I then decided how I wanted the water to flow through the tank and made sure the equipment (heaters, powerheads, filter parts) were in locations that would allow for their proper performance.

I cut the 2'x8' foam to fit the tank. We will use two sheets the dimensions of the tank, one as a "spine" and a second for decorating rocks.
I marked out where the equipment will be and how I wanted the decorating background rocks to be appear.

I had to cut my background into three sections in order to fit it into the tank. My tank is a standard 55 gallon setup which has the center brace.



I cut out the rocks and locations for the equipment and shaped the rocks by trimming the edges with a knife and sanding to blend. I marked each rock with a number to keep the spot. I marked each location and rock with a number.




Let's let the glue dry overnight. :)



I'm now working on building the aquascape up and completing the equipment chambers. I hope to be concreting this weekend.



After the glue dried


Sideish view of arch


Now it's time for GreatStuff Expanding Foam for blending and gap filling

 

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I've done a couple paludariums using styrofoam to form the structure, and then coated it with an epoxy/sand mix. Same thing would easily work for just a backdrop.

The folks over on dendroboards have done some great backdrops with the greatstuff expanding foam.

right now I'm messing with a block of pumice I got from a landscape supply place, but I don't think it would work well for an entire background, I'm thinking of just using a couple pieces.
 

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If you want a looong read (lol) the link below my signature to the twin 29g tanks is all about my first DIY background build. I read all I could off the cichlid forums because it's common for them to make DIY set-ups. Some use concrete, some use Drylock, which is what I did. No long curing/tank flushing time like concrete, and no weight. Drylock is very, very light. I'll go find the DIY sticky on the cichlid site & paste it soon.

In my next tank I'm going to make good sized faux rocks as well, with large planting pockets built in so I can lift and move plants - rooted plants as well as java ferns, bolbitis and anubias and such - easily from place to place, or to another tank.

Here's the link, lots of info here;

http://www.cichlid-forum.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=30
 

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i have made a few styrofoam BG myself. Here is the one i made for my 75g. The total cost was probably around $50 if i remember correctly. I used ONLY a steak knive to the carving. It took me a considerable amount of time to complete it.

If you have any questions feel free to pm me.

 

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That's an outstanding carving job - any pics of it in the tank? I get a little algae growing on mine and it only adds to the realism. I bet this one looks stellar (I was going to say it rocks, but it sounded so dumb! lol)
 

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That's an outstanding carving job - any pics of it in the tank? I get a little algae growing on mine and it only adds to the realism. I bet this one looks stellar (I was going to say it rocks, but it sounded so dumb! lol)
thx DWhunter i appreciate that. Actually i do not have it anymore:icon_sad:

i took the rim off the 75g because the rim was cracked. I left it off, build the BG. Installed that BG and bought a new rim and the tank cracked while i was installing it. I frantically looked for a replacement 75 on GL and at my LFS, BUT there wasnt any on CL and the LFS wanted my first born for a new one.

So i bough my 125g with a stand for less than the price of a new 75.

So i sold that BG:icon_sad:

BUT i do plan to build another someday
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the replies. @Chad that looks amazing!

I'm currently covered in foam from cutting everything. I like how this is turning out except I wish I had cut the back board slightly different than I had. I did one side curvey and then found out that cutting it with straight lines is much easier...but I also don't think it will look as good. We will see how the seam looks when it gets concreted.
 

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thx DWhunter i appreciate that. Actually i do not have it anymore:icon_sad:

i took the rim off the 75g because the rim was cracked. I left it off, build the BG. Installed that BG and bought a new rim and the tank cracked while i was installing it. I frantically looked for a replacement 75 on GL and at my LFS, BUT there wasnt any on CL and the LFS wanted my first born for a new one.

So i bough my 125g with a stand for less than the price of a new 75.

So i sold that BG:icon_sad:

BUT i do plan to build another someday
I would have had a heart attack!
 

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Thanks for the replies. @Chad that looks amazing!

I'm currently covered in foam from cutting everything. I like how this is turning out except I wish I had cut the back board slightly different than I had. I did one side curvey and then found out that cutting it with straight lines is much easier...but I also don't think it will look as good. We will see how the seam looks when it gets concreted.
It may be too late, but if you took pics while the project is in progress, it would be very interesting, and would help others learn how to make one step by step...
 

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Thanks for the replies. @Chad that looks amazing!

I'm currently covered in foam from cutting everything. I like how this is turning out except I wish I had cut the back board slightly different than I had. I did one side curvey and then found out that cutting it with straight lines is much easier...but I also don't think it will look as good. We will see how the seam looks when it gets concreted.

thats the GREAT thing about the foam.

you can add another layer to the back, and completely redo the carving.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
When I glued on the base rock pieces I overlapped some of them onto the gaps to break up the seam and especially take out the corner cracks on the straight cut section. I think this will look much better.


I also have a soldering gun. Will that work well to blend and smooth out some pieces without destroying my soldering gun?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
That's very nice.

I'm trying to decide how I want to aquascape this. I can try and take it in two directions.

1) Fallen rocks look - A few large stones surrounded with smaller ones. This is the more natural look but also provides less hiding places and caves.

2) Caves and arches. I'd use the styrofoam to build an arch or two with multiple rocks fallen down to create many ins and outs through the structure.
Similar to the look on this tank but less adobe looking: http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/diy_background.php

Edit. I just had some inspiration. I think I know what I want to do...now let's see if i can actually do it
 

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IWANNAGOFAST, that's really great. Did you make any of the loose rocks too? I ask because the triangular one behind the orange fish and striped fish matches the background color perfectly. very good color, too! On my next ones I'm going to do much darker rocks - in the 29s I was matching light cream color real rocks I especially liked, but the fish looked washed out in front of the background - that was something I hadn't considered.

AquaStudent - I was going to suggest you combine the fallen rock/caves and arches, but now you have me curious! You'll have to spill the beans on your idea, y'know :wink:
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Well I was going to try to build some arches between the extruded part holding my powerhead/filter intake and the chambers holding one of my heaters (all on the left side) with a similar set of arches on the right side connecting the filter output chamber and a chamber in the lower right (potential holder of the large powerhead). And then some larger fallen rocks to build it out in the center. So sorta combining both of them. It's hard to describe.

I see you're from Christiansburg. I was at Va Tech the summer of 2011 for some research in the physics department. It was great. I have applied to tech for grad school.
 

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lol - you lost me...but here's a pic of a constructed arch that I found...



I hope you get into Tech for grad school! If you do, let me know, I can tell you where the fish stores are :thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Woah that's intense. I wasn't quite thinking of that though lol.

I posted pictures (will move them to the first post of the thread...not of page 2)

It's actually coming along much nicer than I expected. My plan for the arch was to build it from the outcropping where the powerhead is down to the lower base where heater is.
 
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