Silicone vs. Titebond background adhesion methods. My review.
I just finished up my 3rd tank using the Titebond III method and thought I'd share some of my experiences to those thinking about using this on their next tank. My first 2 tanks used the traditional silicone method.
Please note, for both methods I had used GS foam to create the shape of the background and it had been carved exposing the dull foam removing the shining surface. Also, on both methods, I used the same substrate, loose tree fern fibers, to cover my background.
SILICONE METHOD vs TITEBOND III (TB3)
Material Costs: For an 18x18x24 tank I use about 3 tubes of aquarium safe silicone to cover 3 full sides. Costs me about $12 for 3 tubes (I'm in Canada BTW. All mentioned prices are in CDN dollars). A 3.78L jug of TB3 runs me about $50. Most of the jug was used to cover 3 sides. I have a little left over, but not even enough to cover a full side. Winner: Silicone.
Handling: Silicone is easier to work with IMO. It grabs the background instantly and the substrate afterwards. TB3 requires you to pre-mix your substrate with the adhesive, separately, then apply to your background. When applying using TB3, it does not grab the background like the silicone does. Instead you are just placing it on top of the GS and holding it there with gravity. Coverage can be trickier with this method as previous materials seem to lift off as you at patting down adjoining sections. You need to wait a minimum of 24hrs before rotating the tank and doing the other sides. With silicone, I could do the next side within hours of curing the previous. Of course, after all sides are complete you need to let the entire background cure properly. I like to let both cure for a week, before I start planting. Winner: Silicone.
Toxic: Silicone hits your nose hard, with a vinegar smell, like heavy dose of wasabi. Especially working with large amounts like we do when covering our backgrounds. Ensure you have good ventilation. TB3 has little to no smell. Winner TB3.
Finish: This topic is subjective. It's all about what you're after really. I can only offer you my opinion. The finished background using silicone, allows the natural textures of your chosen substrate to remain intact. If I choose coco fiber, it would still have the same soft, fiber-like texture. Reason being is that the silicone only coats one side of the substrate rather than all over. The untouched side is the side visible to the viewer and inhabitants living in the tank. TB3, however, requires you to create a mixture of the adhesive with your substrate, coating all sides with the adhesive. When it dries, it leaves a coating on top of the substrate, almost like the clear coat on top of your car's paint. This coating completely removes any natural texture your substrate had to begin with. It leaves a hard rock-like finish, and when paired with tree fern fiber, also very sharp (I cut myself a few times, and scratched my arms up real good, reaching in the tank while planting). I personally don't like this. Like in nature, I'd rather have my vivs share a vast selection of textures, unaltered by a building material. Winner: Silicone.
Water Resistance: If you had a running water feature on your background, I can only assume the silicone background would deteriorate, over time, faster than the TB3. I say assume, as these are fairly new tanks and I haven't put them to the longevity test yet. The TB3 claims to be better at water exposure on the label. I would have to agree because of this coating it creates. Winner: TB3.
These are the top level things that came to mind when I was building my tanks using both methods. If there is anything I miss, or there are other questions you may have, I'd be happy to answer them. Me personally, moving forward, will stick to silicone. Cheaper, easier to work with, and a better finish (IMO). I'll just invest in better protection against the fumes. I am building a lot of tanks as I have dedicated a room in my house for these amphibians.
Thanks for reading.