DIY Styrofoam and concrete 3D background - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 9 Old 02-24-2015, 02:14 PM Thread Starter
DIY Styrofoam and concrete 3D background

I recently built an aquarium background using housing insulation foam sheets, and hydraulic concrete. It is incredibly easy to make, and very forgiving of mistakes. Basically, you cut the Styrofoam board into stack-able layers to gradually build up your desired background design or look. Glue the layers together, trim edges to more closely resemble your idea. Coat with several layers of cement, allowing it to cure fully between adding layers. Cement color can also be to cement to add accent color to the background. Glue Background to tank and let cure when dry, fill edges with Silicone to make sure no water leaks behind background. Best advice on this project is don't go easy on the silicone. It is best to completely fill the space around and behind the background with it. Also, Cement will initially raise the PH of the tank. To prevent this, fill and drain tank multiple times (at least 8, the more the better) If your interested, here's some materials you'll need:

Styrofoam insulation board
Waterproof Silicone
Caulk gun
Cement (I recommend Hydraulic cement. it dries even underwater)
Razor Blade, or kitchen knife

OPTIONAL materials:
Tape, to hold layers together while silicone dries
Sandpaper, to rough up Styrofoam anytime you us silicone (better grip for silicone)
Nitrile Gloves, Concrete won't stick to them.
Concrete trowel
* I say optional because you can do without, but can be useful.

Cost is considerably low, considering how much a similar background would cost to buy.
- A 4 x 8 sheet of 3/4 inch foam board $13
- GE 1 100% waterproof silicone $8
- Hydraulic cement $6
- Caulk Gun $2
*I BOUGHT MY MATERIALS FROM HOME DEPOT (may be able to find it cheaper elsewhere)
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post #2 of 9 Old 03-02-2015, 11:49 AM
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Do you have any photos?

I tried to make a back ground a few years ago for a 10g and it failed. I didn't get the cement thick enough and the foam broke free to float to the top. After that I gave up, but I did find my cement over the weekend and though about giving it another try.

You can follow Old Fort Exotics on You Tube and on my Fish room thread.

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post #3 of 9 Old 03-03-2015, 10:34 AM Thread Starter
Yeah I do!. Mine hasn't had that problem yet. I actually just made a ten gallon that's volcano themed. Yeah I used two tubes of silicone just to be safe. Gorilla glue is what I used on the ten gallon I just made. You should definitely give it another go!
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post #4 of 9 Old 03-03-2015, 10:38 AM Thread Starter

Don't have good photos of the plated tank I did right now, but here's the volcano tank. Has airstone in the middle.
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post #5 of 9 Old 03-03-2015, 11:35 AM
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That does look pretty good. What kind of paint did you use and did you seal it when you where done?

I could do something for a cichlid tank and make it look like rock caves.

You can follow Old Fort Exotics on You Tube and on my Fish room thread.

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post #6 of 9 Old 03-03-2015, 12:26 PM Thread Starter
I used liquitex paint from hobby lobby. Then did a spray on sealer over it.

Yeah, If this was in a larger tank I would put fire mouth cichlids and rainbow sharks in it. Not sure yet what Im putting in yet,
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post #7 of 9 Old 03-03-2015, 12:33 PM Thread Starter
The only hard part about these backgrounds is being able to visualize layer by layer. I tried putting caves into the sides of one of the ones I did. I didn't work to well. Oh and a reason they come apart more easily is if they are stacked horizontally on top of each other rather that vertically side by side. The latter is the best method, but with enough silicone or glue they should hold. Also watch out for glues that expand. The pieces have to be sandwiched together and kept under pressure for a good deal. Otherwise they just get pushed apart as the glue expands.
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post #8 of 9 Old 03-03-2015, 12:53 PM
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I think my issue was I didn't get the cement thick enough. I recall putting a few coats on but it maybe they where too thin.

When the weather breaks here so I can work out side I will give one a try again.

You can follow Old Fort Exotics on You Tube and on my Fish room thread.

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post #9 of 9 Old 03-03-2015, 02:44 PM Thread Starter
Cement isn't what holds it together. Only creates a solid surface that looks better. More layers are to keep the cement from flaking apart.
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