Cichlid Fish Forum banner
21 - 40 of 141 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
113 Posts
Discussion Starter · #21 ·
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.

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
113 Posts
Discussion Starter · #22 ·
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.

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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
113 Posts
Discussion Starter · #23 ·
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.


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.





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.


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:


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:


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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
113 Posts
Discussion Starter · #25 ·
skwerl said:
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!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,395 Posts
Nice work looks like it is coming along very nicely.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,395 Posts
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
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
113 Posts
Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Steve C said:
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
113 Posts
Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Thank you Kipnlilo! Not yet. I had planned to test everything this weekend, but wanted to have my river rocks and gravel in place first. I was hoping to get out and collect some sand and gravel this past weekend, but it rained a ton and our rivers and creeks are flooded. I managed to use a razor blade to scrape off as much excess silicone as I could, so at least I made a little progress. Once the river and creeks are back to normal, and if everything isn't iced up, I'll get out and get some gravel and river rocks. I want to use gravel and rocks from the same ranges that I collect the fish as much as I can.

I also purchased additional materials to build my DIY sycamore roots yesterday, and will get started on that soon. I don't need to have the tank empty to complete them, as I plan to make them removable. The main purpose is to have something realistic looking hide my powerhead, and DIY roots can be made in a the exact shape that I need. Also, the DIY roots don't float, so no soaking. Hopefully, they'll turn out nice and I'll use them. If not, I'll scrap them and search for a good piece of real driftwood that will work.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
229 Posts
Sycamore roots sounds really nice. Flooded and icy sounds cold, I wouldn't be in a hurry either. Lol!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
113 Posts
Discussion Starter · #33 ·
I finally got my butt in gear and started back on the roots. I don't know if you all remember, but I scrapped my last attempt because, I just didn't like the way it was turning out. So this time, I decided to start by building the frame first, and not try to work details in as I went, and I'm much happier with the progress. Basically, I worked with just CPVC pipe, CPVC fittings, a heat gun, and a few zip ties to build the frame. I'm almost done with the frame, then I'll apply the CPVC glue and lock it up. I'm making these roots removable to make maintenance on the tank easier. Here is what it looks like so far:

Full tank shot:


Close up:


Here is what it looked like before (ugh):


Next steps:
* Glue the CPVC structure together
* Glue some rope and other detail materials in place with a hot glue gun
* Wrap as much pipe as I can with plaster gauze to give stuff something other than a slippery surface to cling to
* Apply some spray foam to some areas for bulk and to get rid of straight lines to make it more realistic.
* Carve the foam to finish the base skeleton of the roots
* Apply grout for the next most outer layer of the roots to provide the final amount of bulk and sculpting for realism.
* Paint and seal with Drylok mixed with cement die to provide the final details and realism but also to seal in the grout to prevent pH issues.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
229 Posts
Looking good, what are you using for the fine roots coming out of the pipe? It looks like speaker wire?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
113 Posts
Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Kipnlilo said:
Looking good, what are you using for the fine roots coming out of the pipe? It looks like speaker wire?
Thank you Kipnlilo. Well, the last picture is what I scrapped, but I may do something like that when I work on the detail later, prior to foaming and applying grout, just not to that extent. It's metal coiled wire from the hardware store pushed into aquarium air line tubing. I don't mind using metal in this tank, although it wouldn't matter because it will all be covered in grout and Drylok anyway.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
113 Posts
Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Thank you! What I like about using it is that yo can easily shape it any way that you wish. I think that I might have to find a way to rough up the airline tubing so that foam and/or grout sticks to it. My guess is that sandpaper would do the job.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
113 Posts
Discussion Starter · #38 ·
Hey everyone. I made more progress yesterday. First, I glued all of the PVC joints. I tweaked a little bit by bending some more of the existing pipe, then bent and added another pipe. After that, I zip tied it and a couple different thicknesses of rope to help break up the straight edges and give the main roots more bulk. Next, I'll use a hot glue gun to affix the rope a little more in strategic places, maybe add some more, to create more knots and ridges and stuff, and add more detail. I may add some smaller "twigs" as well in strategic places. Once I'm done with that detail, it will be time to foam, to get rid of straight edges and evidence of pipe fittings, and to consolidate the pipe and rope into the overall shape of each root. I'll have to do some carving and sanding after that to finalize the shape. Once that's done, I'll coat it with grout to give the entire structure rigidity, weight, form, and bulk, and hopefully the overall smooth texture characteristic of sycamore roots. The final step will be to paint the structure with Drylok mixed with cement dye to seal everything in and give it a final touch of realism.

The issue that I'm struggling with now, although I'm not near that step, is what color to paint the roots. Should I paint them to look like the roots would look like if not yet submerged? Or, should I paint them to look like they've been underwater a long time. What do you think? I'm leaning toward the latter. Eventually, stuff like algae will build up on them, but I don't think it would look like they do in the wild for years, and I want that realism right away.

Pics of my progress:

I also glued my DIY spray bar for my canister filter together. This will channel water over the top of the roots, while a large powerhead, hidden within the roots, will push water through the roots and the tank and provide most of the flow. I figured that this current arrangement would best mimic current through a natural undercut root against a cliff. I had to trim the root structure and inch or so to get it to fit correctly. Here is what it will look like from above the tank:


The root structure as it looks like today:


Full tank shot:
 
21 - 40 of 141 Posts
Top