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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys, so I'm going to use this thread to document my DIY background from start to finish. As I go along I'm going to add pictures on my progress. I'm guessing the whole journey will take at least a month or two to finish.

The first thing I want to do is ask some questions as this really is from start to finish and I'm at the very start not quite knowing how to get this thing going.

I've read all the articles in the library and I've thought about some ideas of how to make my own DIY background for my 120 gallon tank and I think I've got the basic design idea in my head and I'm going to start putting it on paper and then into works.

I've submitted a picture of my tank to my tanks list so you can see what it looks like exactly but you wont be able to see it until it gets approved a day or two from now. The problems I'm going to have to work around are mostly incorporating my hardware into my background. Right now I've got all of this that will somehow need to be incorporated into my background:

- 3 filters with intakes. Two for Rena's and one for a AC 70 I think it is.
- 2 Submersible Heaters
- Then I have my two UGJ pumps 2/3 raised in my tank since I have a lot of bottom dwellers that prefer to have substrate space than surface space.

So first off, my UGJ pumps I'd like to have completely covered by my background. Now of course since I'm covering things up like this I'm going to want to have this wall completely removable.

Along with having the background removable I'm also wanting it to be built outside of the tank and then installed into an already running tank. I have the luxury of having an empty 50 gallon with the same back wall length just a little less height. I'm planning on using this tank to "bath" the finished background in until any chemical compounds or whatever else needs to come off the wall have done so from frequent water changes.

Then I plan on installing it into my tank. The background will be in 3 pieces by this time that will either interlock or suction cup into place. So here are my initial questions:

1.) How have some of you that have done DIY backgrounds incorporated your intakes and heaters into your wall? My returns aren't an issue as one is a water fall, one is a spray bar and one is a concentrated flexible jet.
2.) How much thickness does painting on the concrete add to the styrofoam?
3.) What kind of ideas do you guys have to have this background stay in place while being removable? I understand styrofoam is quite buoyant...
4.) Can I remove the elevated pH releases that the background will give off at first in a seperate tank and then remove the now ready background to my actual tank? It'd basically stew in my other tank until all the compounds came off. Would this work?
5.) Any other information you have that you would have done differently when you did your background would also be helpful.

This is probably the type of background I am most thinking of making and I'll likely contact the member who has it:

http://www.cichlid-forum.com/phpBB/view ... p?t=172322 I like this tank's background wall.

It'd be nice to have a few of you that have experience in this follow this thread for the next month or two as I go along. I'd very much appreciate it. Let's hear what you guys think?! Thanks![/b]
 

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1.) How have some of you that have done DIY backgrounds incorporated your intakes and heaters into your wall? My returns aren't an issue as one is a water fall, one is a spray bar and one is a concentrated flexible jet.
I have most of mine located in a sump. Most of the styro's I've seen have slotted channels in the background to acommadate them.

2.) How much thickness does painting on the concrete add to the styrofoam?
Thats entirely up to you. The thickness has more to do with application. A thicker mix will will add more depth and vice versa, a thin mix will hardly add any thickness at all. From what I've seen a thin layer is put on first and thicker layers are added over that. I personally think an average thickness of a 1/2" or better would make for a strong background.

3.) What kind of ideas do you guys have to have this background stay in place while being removable? I understand styrofoam is quite buoyant...
Other then silicone some have used rare earth magnets glued flush with the back of the background with a coresponding magnet place on the outside. They have also designed them to fit snugly underneath the rim of the tank and had some way of holding the bottom of it in place with stones or grids. Stainless steel clips have also been used to hold the top of the background to the rim of the tank.

4.) Can I remove the elevated pH releases that the background will give off at first in a seperate tank and then remove the now ready background to my actual tank? It'd basically stew in my other tank until all the compounds came off. Would this work?
Yes. In fact I would recommend it if you have inhabitants in the tank already.

5.) Any other information you have that you would have done differently when you did your background would also be helpful.
This is what I did to make a removable section to get to my ugj pumps.



 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Iceblue some of that definitely helps. I think the magnets might be the best way to go to keep it in place but easily removable for when I have to move in a year.

I just went to the store and grabbed some styrofoam, a can of great stuff (is there a particular kind I should have? I went with the one for Big Gap Filling) and I also have some silicone.

I think Im gonna have the pipes for my intakes hidden up until the actual intake valve that will appear in the wall but I might camouflage it a bit.

Heaters I think I just gotta have out in the open or they wont really work well and Id have problems so I might have a piece of my wall have a place to suction cup those.

How do I go about using the great stuff? I'm going to make my three sections first out of styrofoam and then I thought I could use the great stuff to add some more natural textures and some features to the wall, does that sound like a good plan? Im sure I'll test the stuff out but stop me if Im doing something really wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
iceblue, what kind of magnets are those? I searched on ebay to get some and Im not sure of what I need. Do they have to be covered in plastic? I think this solution would be best for me but I need info on how to get the.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks again. I'm going to have to check out that thread in a bit more detail. So these magnets are aquarium safe? Nickel is safe?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Ok so I've got one of the three sections to my background constructed out of styrofoam. Right now the silicone is just curing. The two side pieces will take me a while to construct since they are going to hide my powerheads.

Iceblue, in the second picture you posted, is the stuff you've sprayed on the "Good Stuff"?

I think I'm going to build the entire background structure before I go and add on the realistic elements of it. I wont have it all siliconed together cause I want to make sure all of it gets painted properly and what not and if its together I'm going to have a hard time doing that.

Also, since my background is going to be removable, what kind of paint should I use to paint the styrofoam that will be going against the glass? I obviously won't be putting concrete on these sides cause it'd do a number on my glass, but I'd like it to still be painted a similar color since you'll see a bit of it from the sides and the entire back side I'm still going to want to paint.

Also, when I paint it, is there something I should paint on after to seal in the paint or what?

I wont get to this step for at least another couple weeks probably, but may as well be planning so that I dont miss something.
 

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My background is actually made out of lightwieght concrete. http://www.cichlid-forum.com/phpBB/view ... highlight=

I posted pictures of the structure that hides my ugj pumps to give you some ideas how to keep parts of the background seperated and easily removed. I don't see any reason not to use the foam over eggcrate and as a mater of fact reefers have been doing it for years.

It may be easier to paint the outside of your tank to cover the areas your backgrounds are going against. Since you won't be able to see through them anyway this might be the best option.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Update:

So my family had been renting a house just recently. We only plan to be here about 18 months total and we're about 6 months in. Well, just the other day our landlord said he sold his other home and wants to come live in this one now and wants us out in 3 months.

Part of the contract is "No reptiles, no birds, no animals". He's aware of my 120 Gallon tank... hopefully he doesnt kick us out for it. If he does this project will probably be put on hold but for now I'm plugging away and am thinking of ordering some magnets.

I think I'm going to get 12 magnets so I have 4 per section. Hopefully this is enough. I don't plan on making the layer of concrete covering my styrofoam too too thick so hopefully 12 will hold the sucker down. I might make a bit of a ridge at the very bottom of the wall to pile sand over too to help hold it down.

Anyways so I hadn't had my question about the magnets answered. What kind of magnets are safe to be in the water? Its metal and metal + fish isnt a good combo. Are these ones safe?

http://cgi.ebay.ca/50-Neodymium-Magnets ... dZViewItem

What should I be looking for? This set has 50 pieces. I'd prob just put all 50 in so like 8 per section... Is this safe?
 

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Well I don't know about what is safe or not (as far as the magnets are concerned) and I'm curiouse about the answer as well as for a place you can buy NEODYMIUM MAGNETS besides ebay you can get them HERE. I've ordered a couple from them just to play around with and I like the magnets they are prety strong and the company seems to be prety reliable you might even be able to call them and ask if they are safe to use, they might not be able to tell you if there safe for fish but they sould be able to tell you about how they fare in water. they have some that are coated in all plastic so mabye they might work better also there is a section on there that tells you that the sheer foce is 1/3 of the pull force so keep that in mind when/if you order you're magnets. they have a real good selection of them in all shapes and forms so brows there products section to see what you like or need.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
What do you mean they have 1/3 the pull force? 1/3 the normal force when covered in plastic? Also, they will be seperated by a 1/2" or maybe 3/4" piece of glass (I forget how thick it is... I think 1/2")

Will these be strong enough after that?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Also, how much weight do you think it'd take to submerge a piece of styrofoam that is 3/4" X 2feet X 16"

Has anyone ever tested how much weight styrofoam needs to be submerged? Some of these magnets have a force of 100 lbs... Id thik I'd only need two or so to hold down a sheet of styrofoam like that with a force like that...

I still havent heard if neodymium magnets are safe to fish. Anyone know?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
So no one really knows about the magnet question? I really wanna order some pretty soon since I think I'll be ready to silicone them into the back in a couple weeks and thats probably how long its going to take to ship. I'd really appreciate someone who knows letting me know but im also going to call that one place this week to ask them directly.

Another new question:

Does the concrete have a hard time sticking to the silicone at all? I'm going to try to make sure most of my "joints" on the front side of the wall are all sealed so debris cannot settle somewhere and never really be cleaned out. I'll be using some silicone to seal these small gaps and some "Good Stuff". Will the concrete stick to either?
 

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Well as far as 1/3 the pull force, what that means is if they have a magnet that has 100 pounds of pull force it is 100 pounds to pull it straight off of a surface. now that same magnet of 100 lb of pull force will only hold about 33 lb (1/3) verticly/sheer force wich will be the way you will be useing them. now as far as the ones coated in plastic I belive the same equasion holds the sameI would just go off what they have it listed as. now as far as shipping they shipped mine supper fast I got them 2-3 days after I orderd them but I think you live out side the US so I have no idea how long it will take. I don't know about the distance between them from the glass but I do know the greater the distance the weaker the pull is, so you're best bet would be to find out how much wait is needed to counter the boyance and call them and tell them how thick the glass is and how much you will need to hold it down and they should be able to tell you how big of a magnet you need.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
So do you think I need plastic covered ones for the ones inside the tank? Anyone get any that arent plastic and have it in the tank?
 

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Well I just had a thought about if magnets are good or bad in an aquarium.. alot of people have them, the magnet scrubers we use to clean the glass, and the strongest ones they have listed for plastic coated are 33lb of pull force so that only give you about 11 lb of force to hold down you're BG and thats not includeing the thickness of you're glass. I tell you what I'll call them tomorrow do you have any questions you would like me to ask while I'm talking to them any way?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Not too many, I just want to know how they respond in water and if they are safe for fish specifically. Do they corrode at all? Could also ask if they have any deals on magnets right now other than the ones on their site.

You could also ask if there were plastic coated ones inside the tank and just regular ones outside the tank if the pull force would be increased and lastly maybe just ask about what the pull force would be like if the magnets were seperated by 1/2" of glass. I appreciate it a lot. Sounds like we can both benefit from the information. Cheers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Here's some pictures of the first section of my background. Right now it still needs a ton of work though. I basically have only completed the structure of the right side which will cover my pump. I've put in a couple caves that still need to have the "good stuff" applied and then I'll also be adding plenty more rock features once I get the other side complete and can see the big picture of how it looks and can plan to make it look as natural as possible.



This is a shot of the left hand side pump in the tank. I have it raised up since I have lots of fish that really like the substrate space such as my four plecostomuses. The right side one looks the same.



Here's a picture of my powerhead that I've taken out of the tank to build the background around it.
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Here is the structure to hide the powerhead on the right side. There are two caves in the design, one atop the powerhead and one below it. Like I said above this is still very rough, I realize it doesnt look that rock like and I'll work on that after I get the left side structure done. I still plan on spending a lot of time on this before I think about doing the concrete.



Here's a nice view of how it will look as if you were looking into the tank with the two caves showing.



Side picture of the structure, still looks WAAAY too box like but you can see how the structure is so far. I havent touched the actual backing of the background yet, this will also be done once the two structures are done.

Let me know what you guys think. If you guys have suggestion on how to make these two rather large protrusions look more natural I'd appreciate it. I think once I rough it all up with the "Good Stuff" it'll get a lot more rock like but for now this is my progress.
 

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No sorry I've been so busy at work I havent had a chance to call them but I should be able to today and will get back with you later this evning on it.
 
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