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 DIY 3D Backgrounds---Anyone else?

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cthulhuapproved

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PostSubject: DIY 3D Backgrounds---Anyone else?   Tue Aug 02, 2011 12:55 pm

This seems to be a pretty hot topic on virtually every other fish forum I've been to, so perhaps there are some fellow amatuer aquatic sculptors on here---if not, perhaps with the proper amount of advice and encouragement, there could be!

I got really tired of the plain painted-black background on my previous tank, so when I upgraded to my current 55g I thought I'd try my hand at one of those nifty DIY 3D backgrounds I've seen all over the net. Let it be known that my cement-working skills are virtually nonexistent, and so my initial idea to go the cement-over-foam route failed horribly. (Cement thin enough to get into small crevices = cement thin enough to dry out and flake off despite all my best efforts to keep it wet during curing.) I then instead just used straight Drylok over styrofoam with excellent results, also without the obnoxious fill-and-drain period required for completely curing the cement.

I didn't think to take step-by-step photos of the second prototype, mainly because I half expected it to come out as badly as the first one. So instead I only have one photo of the unfinished background, as seen here:



This is just the foam with the colored Drylok (using Quikcrete Mortar color). Then immediately after installation, now complete with two consecutively lighter shades of gray as highlights:



(Please ignore the ridiculous mismatched lighting going on in this one---I hadn't yet replaced the bulbs the tank came with when I bought it used.) The raised portion to the right houses the filter intake and the heater---the water can pass pretty freely through a gap ~2"x10", which is covered with that plastic screen stuff used in yarn crafts. The oblong rock-type thing near the bottom left hides the air stone, whose line runs down a little groove behind the background and pops out just under the rock. The fish go absolutely crazy over the little spot underneath this rock for whatever reason---it has become some pretty high demand real estate! Most of the other bumps and humps are caves, and I might add, made rock stacking for my cichlids a thousand times easier than it has been in the past.

Here it is with the tank set up:



And I think it warrants mentioning that the background seems to "blend in" a lot better when looked at from further away. (Also the photo looks a little better since the lighting doesn't wash the highlights out to such an extent that they look white, as they do in the closer-up pic.) For reference:



I think it came out fairly well for a first swing at the whole DIY background thing. In retrospect I wish I'd used some browns in the background because the rocks I had in my last tank were all a tawny brown color and looked absolutely terrible, so I had to switch them out for the ones pictured. Excuse the lack of foliage and proper lighting---working on the plant thing currently and still waiting on my custom wood canopy before I'll be able to put my LEDs and whatnot in---the crappy little plastic hoods the tank came with only have enough space to accommodate two little 18" T8 bulbs, so that really has put a damper on things as far as lighting goes!

So...anyone else ever tried something similar? I showed you mine---now you show me yours! Laughing
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theRedSkull

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PostSubject: Re: DIY 3D Backgrounds---Anyone else?   Wed Aug 03, 2011 12:53 am

wow, that looks awesome, i was intimidated by the project myself, but that sounds like a pretty good way...
A+
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PostSubject: Re: DIY 3D Backgrounds---Anyone else?   Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:03 am

i know right.this looks so much easier than what i have been trying.and it would work in so many applications.is there a trick for fixing it to the back wal of the aquariuml and does it have any buoyancy to it.oh and i must say your tank is SWEET looking. Smile you should post us some fish pics when they have gooten more comfy.
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PostSubject: Re: DIY 3D Backgrounds---Anyone else?   Wed Aug 03, 2011 6:05 pm

Totally forgot to mention the attaching it to the aquarium part---easily the most important factor of all. I used GE Silicone I (as in, "one", not "I" Wink ) as has everyone else I've ever heard of doing this. I'd imagine any brand of 100% silicone would do the trick; the only thing to keep in mind is staying away from the ones mixed with anti-fungal/bacterial/etc., for obvious reasons.

When fixing the background to the back of the aquarium, USE A TON OF THIS STUFF, as it is CRAZY buoyant. (Just think of those little orange life preservers we've likely all used at some point---they contain like a third of the amount of foam needed for a decent background, and they can hold up an adult human...CRAZY buoyant.) I used two full tubes of silicone to attach mine and seal around the edges, though since I made the background quite thin I could probably have used slightly less. Better safe than sorry though---I've read a few horror stories about people using too little silicone and having their background pop off and fly out of the tank. Definitely sounds like a bad time. In general, silicone until you think you've siliconed too much, and then silicone some more!

Thanks for the background compliments and I will definitely post some fishy pics soon!
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PostSubject: Re: DIY 3D Backgrounds---Anyone else?   Thu Aug 04, 2011 1:15 am

yeah, a big concern of mine is the buoyancy, but i guess with enough silicone anything will stick, lol...
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PostSubject: Re: DIY 3D Backgrounds---Anyone else?   Thu Aug 04, 2011 12:26 pm

True that. Not to mention---with my tank anyway---the center brace is in the way and I had to make the bg in two separate pieces to get it into the tank; even then, I had to be careful about how deep the bg was around the edges so it would fit through the opening. Not *that* much of a reassurance, but I at least know that a most only half of it is likely to come loose at any given time, and also it will have to float up at a very specific angle in order to even fit back up through the top of the tank...which is nice, I suppose, since I'd rather have a loose bg inside the tank than a loose bg that flew out of the top of it.
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PostSubject: Re: DIY 3D Backgrounds---Anyone else?   Thu Aug 04, 2011 5:18 pm

i thought i noticed a seam in there, i would try to make the thole thing tapered to the top, so it gets wider as you go higher up the tank, so if it does float its in the best way possible i guess...
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