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My DIY Background thread

37244 Views 46 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  jake12345677
Well i'm getting myself a 120 gallon 2'deep 2'x4' footprint. and this thread is to document my atempt at my first foam and concrete background. i plan on making it cover the whole back, and half of the sides, covering an angle from front bottom corner to back.

features i want to include, caves for smaller fish to hide. (thinking about making them with pvc tubes foamed over and concreted.

room behind for my filter intakes and my heater (with enough flow to keep the water circulated)

thinking about including an air pump hub at top with 3-6 airlines runing inside the background to hidden hookups along the bottom of the background, so you can plug aircurtains and such up without anoying air lines visible. airflow can be adjusted out of site at the top of the piece,

1 or 2 channels to run any extra plugin cords behind the wall so extras like underwater lights or pumps can be pluged in with the cords hidden.

interegrated Undergravel jet setup, jet nozzles and pumps hidden in or behind foam concrete rock .

hooking up some quick connect plant bases to certain rocks and ledges so fake plants can easily be snaped into place.

now onto questions, if i wanted to custom paint my background, what would be some good paints that would be safe, or would any paint do if i cover it with the epoxy also obviously make sure the paint is non-toxic

would appreciate any thoughts and comments.
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Ok, here it goes. first thing i did is lay out the pvc for the UGJ system
i'm using a rio 2100 subpump with 3 jets, 2 in the front blowing towards the center of the tank, and one in the center rear (the direction can still be adjusted, i may change them to blow more circular along the tank. i could not find the marineland prefilter kit so i made my own with some epoxy and a sponge.
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looking at a lot of these projects i've noticed a lot end up looking like a stone wall, more man made then a natural rock surface, i wanted to avoid this and have plenty of depth, so i thought about gluing a template around the tank interior, then glue more foam to add detph to it, then cut out individual rock shapes and glue to this to get depth and shape
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Yesterfay my girlfriend held a brunch for several of her friends and one of mine. when my friend had to leave and i was surounded with females jibber jabbering about candles (aparently candles are the female equilivant to power tools... or porno for guys. Girls just go nuts over them. During this time i snuck out. and did some work in the garden. then spent aobut an hour just playing with foam cutting it and blow torching it.

I eventhouly made this piece

which made me think i could make a good looking wall out of one piece of foam and have depth and shape to it. it would be easier to make, easier to concrete, and easier to seal.

the only downside in this new train of thought was....
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having to rip out all the already glued foam from the tank, and take a razor knife and scrape all the silicone off of it. this took a good bit of effort.

but i feel it was for the best cause i think the solid piece idea will work out a lot better
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here are the pieces of the tank the 2 squarish pieces will go in the back, the glued on riser is over the grooves for the filter intake. and the curved ones go on the side, its glued 2 layers to add thickness to allow more depth in carving.

You can see i started a little bit of carving last nite.

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i did some more carving this morning before work. I'm really leased how it is turing out, i'm able to get a lot of depth and under cuts, and its one easy to concrete chunk, (the knotch to the left is the groove for the heaters, there will be another carved piece glued over that hole.)

and here you can see the under cuts to allow water to the filter intake.

welll thats all for today, hopw to do a lot more carving tonite maybe start the concrete phase tommorow.
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Holy poop my grammar is atrocious, please forgive.
every one seems hyped and interested in this project! so i will continue.

while cleaning out the back yard during the candle party, I found an old piece of patio furniture with square plastic legs. I cut them down and scrubbed them clean, and mounted them to both corners. This will be the channel for any electrical cables to be run out of view.
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Here is all the pieces cut and placed inside the tank.

I spray foamed around the water jets, and started the first coat of quickcrete. Man this stuff does not go on easy. you can also see the air lines ran behind the back of the styrofoam and emerging from the bottom.

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Holy barnacles Batman :eek:

That is looking awesome. I really like the idea of hiding the jets with a mound of Great Stuff then carving it like a rock.

Really spiffy!! :thumb:

I must be carving defective. I cannot seem to cut the foam right. The shapes never look like rocks. How do you guys do it?
Rhinokio said:
first thing i did is lay out the pvc for the UGJ system. i'm using a rio 2100 subpump with 3 jets
I am building the same UGJ system in my new tank. I am ordering the same pump but the info on the UGJ system by Marc Elieson in the library does not specify what size PVC to use. What diameter pipe did you use?

NOTE: I think the pre-filter kit Marc mentions is actually a Marineland/Penguin Reverse Flow Filter Kit. I searched the net and ended up at Marineland's site and see it listed there as a Penguin (see bottom image on this page Found my kit at F&S ( Hopefully when it comes in it all matches up and fits.
Well i may have a slight advantage. I have made about a million rocks over the years for various video games. And while this is sculpting them out of foam instead of digital polygons, the basics are the same.

one thing i like to do is get the feeling that the rocks are stacked and layers and not just stacked together like a block wall with morter inbetween them. The rock wall look comes from carving grooves down between the rocks, uniformly all the way around.

Here is a method of my sculpting.

1. quickly cut in lines for your rock placement, these don't have to be perfect. I found its best not to put too much thought in this, just put them where feels right.

2. pick one of the outer most stones, preferably one that you want to be sunken in pretty deep, and start cuting, i often cut way back over half the thickness of the foam. The more you cut, the more water you get, and the more 3d the over all piece will be.

3. move on to your next stone, and pay atention to where it conects to the other, does it go behind it? Does it go infront of it? Does it smoothly sit beside it?

and i would sugest getting some small pieces and just practice before you start on the project.. i didnt. And i had to rip everything out and start over
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mix: i thought about ordering that kit. but while i was at Lowes I just picked up some pvc and epoxy and made my own, cheaper and i didnt have to wait for shipping. and i just took the pump in Lowes and found the pvc that fit best, i "think" it was 3/4 inch tho check first.
I'm not using the complicated hookup i read in one tutorial here, my pump just snugly pushes down into the piping.

Thanks so much for the pictoral steps. That really helps a bunch. :D
Rhinokio said:
i "think" it was 3/4 inch tho check first.
I am having to wait a couple of weeks to order the pump and was trying to get a jump on some of the work (the PVC cutting etc). Since I am using the exact same pump, I figured I could use the same size you did. If you can read one of your pieces and let me know I would greatly appreciate it.

I was in HomeDepot looking at silicone yesterday and there are SO many brands. Are you using any silicone and if so, what brand/version. Or are you just using epoxy (and if so, what type). Last thing I want to do is build this and kill all my fish with toxins.

Great work! I will be reading every step as I continue planning mine and begin building. DIY is so much more fun than blowing a wad of money at the store.
I can check tonite when i get home for work, i'm using ge1 without the fungicide, theres a sticky thread in this forum about glue. check there.

and wait till i finish this and make sure it works before you follow my steps too closely.. this is my first one
Rhinokio said:
I can check tonite when i get home for work
Great, thanks! :thumb:

Rhinokio said:
wait till i finish this and make sure it works before you follow my steps too closely
Great point. :lol:
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