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Customizing and Installing a 3D Background
by Chuck Greene (forest109)

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If you have a larger tank with a brace across the top, you now face a choice as to how to get the background into the tank. You can either remove the one-piece top trim or cut the background in half. Do not cut the brace! Removing the trim is difficult, and may void the warranty. Cutting the background in two and repairing it in the tank is not as difficult as it would appear. Select a cut line, along seams in the rock wherever possible, and use a fine hacksaw blade and utility knife to cut the background in two. Once the two sections are in the tank, run a bead of sealant down both faces of the cut, spread it thinly and evenly, and press the two sections together. I used foam wedges at the ends to hold the sections together while the sealant cures. Remove any excess with a toothpick. In places where the cut is located along seams in the rock it will be virtually invisible. In the few places it is visible, touch up the paint if necessary, then use a toothpick to draw a thin bead of silicone along the joint and press in some rock sand.

Green Rectangle Bedrock Wood Plant

Position the reassembled background where you want it and mark the location by tracing along the bottom front edge with a marker. Mark a spot near the top on each side as well in order to keep it aligned vertically. Use these as a guide to position spacers to keep the background level and create a gap of uniform depth in which to apply sealant. I used a length of 1/2-inch diameter foam backer rod (available at home improvement stores), cut it into 1/8-inch thick sections, and set them in place with silicone sealant. Using the traced line on the bottom of the tank, run a thick bead of sealant centered along the bottom edge (i.e. behind the line), move the background into position, and press it into place on the spacers. Once the background is in place, check the vertical alignment and spacing on each end and use some tape at the top to hold it in position. I also placed a couple of foam rod spacers on each end to insure a proper gap there as well. Let the sealant cure overnight before proceeding further.

Wood Bedrock Grass Trunk Art

Automotive exterior Wood Electrical wiring Cable Air gun

Wood Trunk Bedrock Sculpture Artifact

Next, fill in any gaps along the bottom joint and caulk the vertical joint on each end. You will probably be able to work only from the front, except right at the top, but that's OK. Before the sealant sets, sprinkle rock sand against the end joints and work it in to conceal the joint and blend it into the background. Once the sealant cures, carefully scrape off any excess or smudges along the end joints with a razor blade.

Wood Wall Road surface Brick Soil

Wood Grey Trunk Plant Art

There is no need to purchase "aquarium" sealant, which is typically sold in small tubes and is expensive. The major brands of 100% silicone sealant sold in home improvement stores are equivalent and non-toxic. Just be sure not to use the type labeled for kitchen/bath use that contain a fungicide. Although clear sealant is fine for most aspects of the installation, black, which is also available, is preferable in one respect. I used black sealant for setting the bottom edge of the background because it was easier to see whether the bead was thick and wide enough. I used clear sealant elsewhere, because it is less noticeable, although this had one unintended consequence. The rock sand did an excellent job of concealing the vertical joint at each end of the background, but once the tank was filled the edge of the background is visible in the reflection off of the exterior face of the glass. Black sealant may be more noticeable in the reflection, whereas clear sealant exposes the edge of the background. However, if the edge is painted the reflection blends in. This effect may not be apparent in tanks set in an open room, but in my wall enclosure it is noticeable. I may make some DIY 3D side-pieces for each end to install against the glass outside the tank.

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