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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Figured I would start this post so I can keep track/show progress each step along the way on this project.

First off it's funny how things can snowball so much. Because I have been out of Aquariums/keeping fish for over 15 yrs and just a few weeks ago decided to get back into it. I planned on getting just a 10g tank with some community fish to sit on top of the entertainment center. And some how that turned into a 55g mbuna tank that I am building the stand, canopy, 3D background as well as other things for myself. Guess you can tell I am the type of person that can get hooked on/obsessed with something pretty quickly :lol: Anyway on to the project....

Started out with a 55g tank I found on Craigslist. I paid $60 for the 55G and a 20g "long" tank both from the same seller. I plan to use the 20g long tank as a temp/hospital tank. The only problem with the 55g was that for whatever reason the previous owner decided to remove the center support brace. He obviously was not a very handy type of person because it looked like he removed the brace with an axe :eek:

Starting out...


So I had to remove the factory top trim and order a new trim for it. Removing it wasn't all that hard, just more of a pain in the rear because it takes awhile to cut all the silicone that holds it on the tank. I used a 4.5" paint scraper and worked it all along the outside & inside of the trim to finally get it to come off. Then I had the LFS order me a new top trim which only cost $15. They could only get me the black trim but that's not a problem because I will be building an all wood canopy so the trim will not even be visible...



Now I have started on my 3D background for the tank. After spending some time trying to decide what shape of rocks I want to make it look like and what design I wanted, I came up with something a bit different than I have seen so far. Since the tank is 13" wide I didn't want to do a background that sticks out too far into the tank where I would lose 1/3 the water volume for the fish to swim in. So what I decided on was this. I bought 6 sheets of 3/4" styrofoam and have siliconed together 3 sheets to make the thickness 2.250" at the thickest part as seen here......



Then for the design I am doing it so there are two (maybe even three) "openings" in the background. The reason for this is it will leave more room for the fish to swim, pluse it will actually give the illusion of depth in the tank to make it seem bigger. Because in the two/three openings that I leave between the "rocks" of the background I plan to airbrush the back of the tank where the glass shows with a shaded light to dark blue and then mount two 20" Cold Cathode light bars behind the tank. What that will do is give the inside of the tank the appearance of being in an underwater cave, and the two/three openings with the airbrushed blue shades and the blue Cold Cathode lights reflecting behind the opening will make it look like you can see out of the cave out into deeper "open water" of the lake.

This is a picture I was looking at online which gave me the idea to try it this way. So this will give you a basic idea of what I'm going for...



My background will be about 6 pieces on the back, then I will have some small pieces on the side to hide the intake and return tubes for the Rena xP3 filter and powerhead.

So I started out tonight shaping the first of the pieces. I found a single hand hacksaw, a small drywall scraper, and a round reamer made from a section of a fishing rod with some sanding grit epoxied to it made for the perfect tools for shaping my rocks.

The start of roughing in the edges of the first two pieces that will form the first "cave opening"....





And the first three pieces roughed in and mocked up in the tank so I can see what more shaping I need to do on this half of the background....



As you can see from this picture doing it this way I think will still give me a nice 3D look and will not take up all that much room inside the tank which was one of my main goals with this.

That's as far as I got this weekend, will post more updates as I get farther along. Hope you all enjoy and feel free to comment or make any suggestions, I am always open to suggestions and ideas I may not have thought of yet.

 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Wow not a single reply? is my idea that bad?? like I said open to suggestion, if there's no reply because you don't like the concept please let me know, I don;t take things personal :D
 

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Steve C said:
Wow not a single reply? is my idea that bad?? like I said open to suggestion, if there's no reply because you don't like the concept please let me know, I don;t take things personal :D
Looking good so far... Just remember to incorporate your HOB or sump inlet and oulets into your design.... To hide them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Agridion said:
Steve C said:
Wow not a single reply? is my idea that bad?? like I said open to suggestion, if there's no reply because you don't like the concept please let me know, I don;t take things personal :D
Looking good so far... Just remember to incorporate your HOB or sump inlet and oulets into your design.... To hide them.
That actually brings up a quick question if you don't mind Agridion. I am making room behind it for my intake&return of my xP3 I am buying this week. But I was also thinking about sticking a HOB filter on it for extra help in the tank as well as so I have a filter ready to go for my
hospital tank". You guys think it's worth doing a 2nd filter on this tank for those reasons or should I just forget the hassle/money and stick with the one xP3 and worry about a filter for the hospital tank later?

BTW thanks for the replies. I didn't want to sound like I need patting on the back or anything like that, but when I saw no replies I started thinking maybe my concept for the BG was a dud or something so I had to ask lol
 

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Using another HOB to have in case of hospitalization is kind of a comfort thing. There was a time when I nursed a 5 inch C Moorii back to health in a 1.5 gallon tank I found in a back shelf of our office supply closet because I didn't have anything else. You never know when you are going to need it, but when you need it, you need it NOW. I have had fish give up and die literally overnight.

That monstrosity I am putting in my wall is going to get an HOB filter sitting in the sump, because I don't want to look at it. Hopefully I can just throw that on a dedicated hospital tank if I need to. With a big sump, I can also just toss a beat up fish into the large part of the sump and he can recuperate in privacy.

With your cool background, I am not sure I would want it hanging down spoiling the view, but again, it's a comfort thing, give and take. I guess my answer is, it's a good thing to be able to use on a moment's notice, but not totally essential. Your call.
 

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Looking awesome dude - love the concept. :thumb:
 

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Steve C said:
Agridion said:
Steve C said:
Wow not a single reply? is my idea that bad?? like I said open to suggestion, if there's no reply because you don't like the concept please let me know, I don;t take things personal :D
Looking good so far... Just remember to incorporate your HOB or sump inlet and oulets into your design.... To hide them.
That actually brings up a quick question if you don't mind Agridion. I am making room behind it for my intake&return of my xP3 I am buying this week. But I was also thinking about sticking a HOB filter on it for extra help in the tank as well as so I have a filter ready to go for my
hospital tank". You guys think it's worth doing a 2nd filter on this tank for those reasons or should I just forget the hassle/money and stick with the one xP3 and worry about a filter for the hospital tank later?

BTW thanks for the replies. I didn't want to sound like I need patting on the back or anything like that, but when I saw no replies I started thinking maybe my concept for the BG was a dud or something so I had to ask lol
I apologize its been a few days... Busy putting the babies room together and working my new sump design. Any how like citadel said an extra filter isn't necessary for a tank. You just should make sure you have enough water circulation in your tank. A good biological filter only needs to turn the tank volume over twice an hour. But its recommend to have a higher water circulation for the fish. Now many people here will say you need 5 to 6 Times the tank volume turnover within an hour but that's realy overkill and accounts for water circulation as well. Now having an extra filter handy to use to set up an emergency tank is helpful and having some colonized filter media makes the process that much easier. I mentioned to remember to incorporate the piping (whatever filter(s) you use) into your design so that they won't be seen. I will say having an extra filter is nice for redundancy. If your main/only filter were to break it is always easier to not have to worry about your fish dying while you fix your filter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I should be back to work on it next week. Hope to have it all shaped and coated with Drylok by late next week. Tied up this weekend with closing up the cabin upnorth and family stuff in the way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Got a little free time this evening to do some more work on the background. Went to Home Depot and bought some more GE Silicone #1, a gallon of Drylok, and a masonary brush (short stiff bristles) and got back to work on the background tonight.

In the picture I have the four main pieces cut out, trimmed and shaped. I still have three more smaller pieces to make to go across the top.



These pics show a bit better how the masonary brush helps to get the thick Drylok paint down deep into the crevices to show the texture better. Roughing the foam with a drywall scraper leaves a real nice realistic rock surface look.




This is just the first base coat to see if anymore shaping needs to be done. Next will be a 2nd coat and then some shading with some earth tones to create some more depth and 3D looks.
 

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Is the drylok just paint? Does it seem to lock down that popcorn the foam gets whenever I try to carve it? It just seems to spew little beads forever.

That is really coming along, and if I am not mistaken, this will look very nice when you are finished, nice work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Basically imagine a thick paint that has a gritty sand texture to it and that is what Drylok is like. You just brush it on like paint. What I did was blew off each section with air before I painted it, then brushed the Drylok on in a normal paint method with the brush, then went back over it with the masonary brush in a "dapping" method. Still saw a few little popcorn pieces like you are talking about but the Drylok is thick enough that after a couple coats they should not pose and problem IMO.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Got a little bit of time to work on it some more today. Just have one more piece to finish building and then shaping then I can coat the 2nd section with Drylok. But was able to get the 2nd coat of Drylok on the 1st section earlier in the week and now did some of the shading paint work on the first section.

The shading I am doing is using a darker Grey in the lowest spots on the "rocks", then going over that as well as some of the medium raised surfaces with a medium earth tone brown. Then going over the most raised portions with white to give the whole surface some more depth/3D look. The method I'm using is dry brushing to get the desired look.

The start of dry brushing the deeper areas that are to be shaded. The one deep crevasse here is just dry brushed with some darker Grey at this point...


Here it is after the darker Grey, Earth tone brown and white shading is all done on it...


And the complete first sections two pieces which make up the left 1/3 side of the tank all completed. The edges are left flat because I will be building in some very small side panels as well so need a flat surface to match them up too...
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Decided to get a tad more done before I called it a night. I now have the rest of the background carved out and shaped but still have to mount the smaller piece and get it all in line across the top (trimmed down). Then it'll be time to finish the first coat of Drylok over the rest of the bare foam, then a 2nd coat, then shading like on the first sections....



Also started working on the first of the side pieces. Doing the sides in thin 1" foam board so it does not take up anymore tank space than need be. Decided to also build in some small caves into the side board. The larger cave with have a small divider in it so that it will hide the intake for the canister filter behind one side of the divider, while still providing a hiding cave for some fish. Above that is a smaller ledge supported by a rock shaped post to give it strength and provide another "home" for fish...

 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks. I'm not to sure about the little upper overhang ledge now though. I liked it when I made it and I know the fish will probably like it, but after walking away and coming back to look at it now it just looks a bit too man made to me now.

I will probably coat it with Drylok once I get the rest of the side panel done and see how it looks then, but that little ledge my be getting taken out. Not sure yet. Anyone else got any input on that little ledge let me know what you think...you might make my decision easier for me :wink:
 
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