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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby freshwaterhobby » Sun Jul 29, 2018 2:13 am

Super creative and really cool looking!!
I didn't know all those materials were safe for aquariums...but I assume they are since you have put so much heart and soul (and time) into it :)
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Chasmodes » Sun Jul 29, 2018 9:20 am

freshwaterhobby wrote:Super creative and really cool looking!!
I didn't know all those materials were safe for aquariums...but I assume they are since you have put so much heart and soul (and time) into it :)


Thank you freshwaterhobby! Yes, they're safe. I did a ton of research before moving forward with this on this and other forums. Basically, once dried, all of the materials used are inert. Drylok is a waterproofing sealant and is also inert. The only thing that you have to be careful with when buying Drylok is to make sure that you get the regular Drylok paint, and not the Drylok Extreme, because it does have chemicals to prevent and kill mold, which could be harmful to your fish.
-Kevin Wilson
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby freshwaterhobby » Sun Jul 29, 2018 5:35 pm

Thanks for the tip! Can't wait to see your finished product :D
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Chasmodes » Sun Jul 29, 2018 9:30 pm

You're welcome. Me too :)
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Chasmodes » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:06 am

I painted the last lighter layer of this paint mix. I'm really happy with it so far. It is still a monotone color, although it no longer is the charcoal color of the cement dye, the yellow gives it a greenish gray tint. So for the next layer or two, I plan to add a little brown and maybe green. I don't think that I'll cover the entire wall though, just a dab here and there. I may even focus on a few of the shale layers to add to differentiate some strata, as you might see in nature:
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I really like how using Drylok rather than a layer of dried cement allows you to bring out the detail that you carve. That is a good thing unless you carve a mistake! In this case, the faux fossils that I pressed into the foam show up well. I'm happy that i started with the darkest color first and then added the highlighting, because it really makes the cracks and faux fossils pop.
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I used springs that I had laying around the house to imitate crinoid stem fossils by bending them and pressing them into the foam. I also pressed in small sea shells to imitate brachiopods and other bivalves. The coral that I pressed into the foam turned out nice too. It is subtle, but was enough to break up the flat shiny surface of new foam board. I don't know how much will show up later after algae builds up, but for now, I'm happy with how it turned out so far.
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Chasmodes » Wed Aug 08, 2018 7:46 am

I sponged on a little brown last night on a few layers to break up the monotone color and display a more stratified effect. I will touch it up a little more perhaps before installing it into the tank this weekend.
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Chasmodes » Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:57 am

One of my biggest concerns with the background is the amount of foam that I used and the risk that the entire thing will float up to the top after I fill the tank with water. To mitigate those risks, I filled the structure with river rocks and used spray foam to fill in the gaps. The foam will help bind all of the foam boards together along with the glue and plastic popsicle sticks that I used for the internal structure. The river rocks were to offset the buoyancy that the extra foam might cause. Also, the structure is big enough that it fits tightly in place under the frame of the tank. The junctions of the three foam sections also are shaped in such a way as you can't just pull them straight out. I plan to use a ton of silicone to affix this background to the tank glass underneath, on the sides and on the back of the background structure. The Drylok application made the fit even tighter. It fits so tightly that I can't pull it straight out to the front of the tank. I think that it might not need the silicone to stay in place, but I'm not going to take a chance on not using the silicone.

Last night, I fit the structure into the tank. The tight fit discussed above created another problem. Not only will it be challenging to apply the silicone neatly, but I had to really push to get it into place. The tight squeeze caused about a quarter sized spot of Drylok to chip away at the junction of the center and right sections. I'm going to pull it out and repaint that spot, but if it happens in during the final installation, then I'll just have to do an in-tank touch up. I'd rather not do that, but....I gotta get it done.

Here's what it looks like from the left side, you can't see the spot that chipped away. The spots that you see are just a reflection off of the glass.
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You can see where the paint chipped away near the top of the junction of the middle and right sections, leaving the pink foam exposed. It should be easy to fix, so I'm not that worried about it.
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Chasmodes » Fri Nov 23, 2018 9:36 am

I installed my background into the tank last night with silicone. I faced several issues that I had to deal with that have bothered me since I finished the construction of this beast, and two issues that I hadn't thought about. The issues were:

1) I used enough foam board and spray foam when constructing this background to float my boat, and needed to use a ton of silicone to keep it from ripping away and floating.
2) Because this background fits tightly when fitted into the tank, you have to slide the last section in to get everything to fit, so, I couldn't silicone one section at a time in place. I needed the silicone to remain uncured and wet during the process.
3) How exactly could I accomplish physically solving the two problems above without making a mess.
4) While applying the silicone, I wasn't sure if I purchased enough tubes, and it was Thanksgiving afternoon, and finding a store that was open to sell them to me was a problem. Not only that, we had family plans, and time for me to work was limited.
5) The silicone fumes were intense.

Below are pics of the process, and explanations on how I dealt with each issue.

First, I cleaned the tank and drew lines with a sharpie of approximately where I needed to apply silicone directly to the glass.
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Issue #1: Applying enough silicone to keep it from breaking away and floating. I applied silicone directly to the glass, then to the back and bottom of each background section. I cut each tube to allow me to apply a thick bead of silicone to each surface. On the backgrounds, I focused on areas that may not make contact with the glass, thinking that the silicone on the glass and in a given crevice would make contact and bond, and the areas that made direct contact with the glass would have sufficient silicone from the amount that I applied to the glass.
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Issue #2: Solved by installing everything as soon as possible. My only mistake was applying silicone to the right side of the last section. I should have applied a thicker amount of silicone directly to the glass, so that when I slid the last section into place, it wouldn't make a mess. Issue #3: I left enough room on the edges of the structure to be able to lift and maneuver each section into place. This also kept most of the silicone out of sight.
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Issue #4: Solved, because I barely purchased enough. I went through 7 tubes. Using a very thick bead causes you to go through each tube much quicker than you would for household applications. Issue #5: My entire rec room still smells of silicone. I had a really tough time after installing the first section, especially reaching over the tank. The fumes were intense. I had to turn away, take a deep breath of fresh air, then hold my breath while working in the tank the rest of the time. I opened the door to the outside, and that, at least, allowed me access to some fresh air. It didn't help inside the tank though.

In the above pic, you can see the mess that I created while sliding in the last section of the background. It's not a big deal. I'll take a razor blade to it after it cures. Here's a closer look of the mess:
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After gluing it all in place, and pressing it as firmly as possible against the glass, I installed the removable piece for a pic of what is should look like once the tank is up and running:
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Next steps:

I need to paint the glass on the sides and back where the background meets the glass, to hide the ugly silicone work. There is a gap between the first two sections where light passes through. Painting the back of the tank should hide that and make it look like a natural crevice. There is a gap on the lower part of the left side that I may have to deal with. I haven't decided if I'll apply a little foam there and carve it back, and paint it, or just leave it as it is. It bothers me though (you can't see it in this pic), because the silicone shows through there and looks unnatural.

I'm going to give this some time, about three weeks, to completely cure. Then, I'll fill the tank and test to see if the installation and glue holds up enough to move forward. I'll leave it filled for 24 hours. If it doesn't rip away and break the glass, and flood my basement, then, I'll move ahead. I am fairly confident that it will be OK.

I will begin working on the fake roots. I trashed what I had done so far...didn't like it. I have a plan though. In the meantime, I need to head to the river and start collecting rocks, gravel, and sand to hardscape the tank and get it ready to set up. Once I do that, then I'll set the tank up. The roots will be installed after the tank is up and running, unless I can finish them earlier than planned.

As far as substrate goes, I would like to grow stargrass at the right third of the tank, so my bottom layer of substrate will be dirt to provide nutrients for the grasses. Sand and gravel will go over top of that.

The thought of installing this thing posed some issues and was a source of my procrastination...the thought that it wouldn't work had occurred to me. Yesterday, I woke up determined to move forward. I'm glad that part is behind me and my stress level is way reduced.

After the tank is cycled, then the fun part begins...collecting and stocking.
-Kevin Wilson
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby skwerl » Wed Nov 28, 2018 6:08 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this process with us! It is looking great so far!
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Chasmodes » Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:26 am

skwerl wrote:Thank you so much for sharing this process with us! It is looking great so far!


Thank you skwerl, and for following along!

Next steps while the silicone is curing (I'm giving it 3 weeks, just to be safe, and it still smells like vinegar):

-build the DIY sycamore roots. I'm scrapping what I've done so far on that - don't like it. I'm going to try some new things, using PVC pipe, plaster gauze wrap, grout, Drylok and cement dye to form the roots. Why not just collect driftwood? Because, I want them to be a certain shape and form to hide my powerhead and equipment, and to have them easily removable for maintenance.
-collect sand and river rocks

-Hopefully Santa will bring me a new light fixture. My old fluorescent fixtures aren't functioning, and the cost of parts is probably worth more than the fixtures. I have my eyes in a Finnex planted light. This is the only equipment needed.

When setting up the tank, the right side of the tank will have substrate to support growing river stargrass. After filling the tank and setting it up, I'll collect fish and stock the tank. I'll eventually collect the grass to plant (next summer).

So, things will move along quickly in a few weeks. I am chomping at the bit to get this tank set up!
-Kevin Wilson
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Steve C » Thu Nov 29, 2018 2:10 pm

Nice work looks like it is coming along very nicely.
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75g Paludarium
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Chasmodes » Thu Nov 29, 2018 3:59 pm

Thank you Steve. Also, thanks for all of your DIY background posts. I learned a lot from them and was inspired by your work!
-Kevin Wilson
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Steve C » Thu Nov 29, 2018 8:20 pm

Glad you found some of my posts helpful. The silicone fumes are fun aren't they? ;) lol. I did my first one just holding my breath, then after that first one I went out and bought a full face respirator. You wouldn't think silicone fumes could be that bad but get it in an enclosed area like working in a tank and it'll burn your nose right off :D
______________________________________
240g Hap tank
120g 4x2x2 Bichir tank
75g Oscar tank
75g Bichir tank
75g Paludarium
20g grow out
10g grow out
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Chasmodes » Mon Dec 03, 2018 9:57 am

Steve C wrote:Glad you found some of my posts helpful. The silicone fumes are fun aren't they? ;) lol. I did my first one just holding my breath, then after that first one I went out and bought a full face respirator. You wouldn't think silicone fumes could be that bad but get it in an enclosed area like working in a tank and it'll burn your nose right off :D


You got that right, that's exactly what I did. I had to come up for air several times. If I did this more often, I'd invest in a full face respirator too. Even today, close to the tank, it still reeks, but gets less every day. Two more weeks and I'll fill the tank and test everything out! I need to test to see if everything holds up, test the removable section, test my circulation pump, and test my canister filter/DIY spray bar, and most of all, test to see if the tank still holds water after all that! If everything goes well, I'll collect my rocks and gravel, then fill the tank and cycle it. Then the real fun begins, fish collecting and stocking.
-Kevin Wilson
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Re: DIY Styrofoam/Drylok Aquarium Shale Wall Background

Postby Kipnlilo » Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:27 pm

Looking awesome! Have you got it full of water yet?
125G x2 Male Hap Peacock Mbuna
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