I received my substrate supplies today as well as the rest of my plants. After opening the box I realized I am definitely going to need a lot more tree fern fiber since it is the main ingredient in my backgrounds. The two gallons I had already ordered would have been plenty for just the substrate, but not after I mix most/all with glue...
That brings me to my background! I hydrated most of a gallon of tree fern fiber and realized that I didn't quite like the texture by itself. I then added in some peat moss and safe-t-sorb I had previously hydrated and have been using for cuttings. The mixture was a much better consistency and this is what I used. I added glue until when I squeezed it into a ball it held together without immediately crumbling when I loosened my fingers. Kind of the consistency of wet sand when making a sand castle at the beach if that makes sense. Anyway I pressed this mixture into my tank when it was lying on it's back. I tried to create little hills and valleys (as much as I could with only about 1" of depth in the deepest areas) to add some visual interest. I also took my cork bark and stomped on it till I could break it up into smaller pieces. Those I added to background making sure to actually cover parts of the cork bark with some of the tree fern fiber mix. And finally I added some more safe-t-sorb and pressed it in. This last was done to break up the homogeneous nature of the tree fern fiber and add more aesthetic appeal.
Overall I am pretty happy with how it looked. The last step was to take a damp paper towel (actually a bunch of them) and wipe down the glass where the the gluey wood had smeared areas that were supposed to remain uncovered.
Here is how it looks:
The blue tape is there to cover up the area where the bulkhead goes. I don't want anything interfering with my seal in that location.
And just for giggles here is how my cuttings of Marcgravia sp. Suriname were shipped:
I've never gotten a plant in a tiny vial before. I thought it was a pretty cool way to make sure they got to their destination without being crushed.
I nipped off the end, dusted them in root hormone, and planted them in damp peat/safe-t-sorb mix. I then put a little cup overtop so they keep in some humidity and put them in a window that gets indirect light.
I also got in my amazon sword plant (Echinodorus Hadi) which got a similar substrate but in a glass container I had lying around:
I have no idea how long it will take my background to dry. I've heard as little as 3 days and as long as 10 days. I don't think mine is as wet as some (I saw a video of guy whose background was so wet he was squeezing the water/glue out of it as he placed each handful) so I am hoping I am on the lower end of the spectrum. Once it is dry I can roll the tank onto it's side and do this whole process again.