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Old 07-08-2020, 06:58 PM
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Default 4 Foot Vivarium Build From The Ground Up

Hello folks,

For 2 years now I have been planning a 120 gallon aquarium. At first I was living in a townhouse that had no room for it. The Wife agreed that once we moved I could finally have the aquarium I really wanted.

Well after I discovered the world of vivariums I decided I rather have a 120 gallon vivarium then a 120 gallon aquarium. This brings me to current.

The plan for this build is to make the vivarium out of plywood and coat it with pond shield on the inside and paint on the outside. The vivarium dimenssions will be 2 feet wide and 4 feet long. It will be approximately 2 feet tall but I haven't settled for certain on this and may go slightly higher. The front will have sliding glass doors and one of the short sides will have a fixed glass window. The stand will have a frame made from poplar and skinned in plywood. The stand will be painted and the top will be made from poured concrete.

The end goal of all this will be a vivarium and stand that are themselves attractive since this will be going right in the middle of my living room. My house was renovated at some point before I bought it so that it is one of those open concept jobs. The living room is open to the kitchen, dining room, etc. So this vivarium will be visible in most of the common areas of my house.

Back when this was still an aquarium stand I designed the stand to be built from 2x4s. My original design for the stand looked like this:



For the door I was going to make a completely removable panel, that way I would have full access to the sump located below the tank.



I actually made most of this stand before ultimately abandoning it.



At the time I was making the entire thing in the single car garage of my rented townhouse. The only tools I had was a circular saw and a drill. The level of precision I was able to achieve with the circular saw and builders grade 2x4s was pretty sad. I just couldn't bring myself to actually finish the piece and use it. So instead it got turned into shop furniture in the garage of my new house.

When I had a day off a couple of weeks ago I picked up my lumber at a local hardwood seller. I originally wanted 8/4 poplar but they had a deal going for 4/4 shorts at 2 dollars a board foot. For my area that is a pretty good deal and I was going to need to cut any boards I bought to get them into my SUV so it was an easy decision. It did mean I needed to laminate my wood together to achieve the desired thickness but that's all part of the fun ;P

Over the past couple of days I ripped the boards to width, glued up the boards to form thicker pieces and cut them to length. Today I assembled the frame using pocket holes.

Since I went 3 dimensional with this build I decided I had enough to start my journal.

Here is the frame of the stand complete:



And here it is with the plywood sides added on:



I will also add a piece of plywood over part of the back (just there for added support against racking). I also will need to add some support in the inside corners so I can put down a sheet of plywood to act as a shelf and have it be supported.

Then I need to figure out the doors which unlike the aquarium original, will exist and be normal cabinet doors. I will take the 'cheap' way out and instead of floating panels will just use plywood with a purely decorative frame glued on. This will all be painted so I doubt it will matter much.

And... that's where I'm at! Hopefully folks will enjoy the show.
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Last edited by minorhero; 07-08-2020 at 07:41 PM.
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Old 07-08-2020, 07:54 PM
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This is a very similar stand idea I had rumbling around in my head before I got sidetracked onto the possibility of having to build a tank. I had gotten as far as sourcing lumber from a local saw mill😬

I appreciate seeing the pictures as a step by step progression through it!
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Old 07-08-2020, 08:13 PM
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Default Re: 4 Foot Vivarium Build From The Ground Up

Greetings,

I've made some very large vivs. Prior to my current plexi/glass/wood setup I had large plywood + glass and both those vivs followed a few previous mid-size setups with plexi and plywood.

I have not worked with Pond Shield. I used West System epoxy as well as a Sherwin Williams potable water epoxy for my builds. I notice pond shield instructions mentions applying it with "a squeegee or roller" which makes me wonder if the consistency is rather thick. West System epoxy has a very paintable consistency which is very, very helpful when coating a large, 3D plywood surface.

In terms of dimensions, I would suggest more ambition in the vertical. If you are going to the trouble of building such a sturdy stand, I would push the viv's height to 36". You can still get adequate lights for that height (vivs any taller are more challenging for lighting).

Aquariums tend to stay wide/long rather than tall because reaching an arm into a deep tank is a hassle for setup and upkeep. A front-opening viv does not have that limitation and you will appreciate the extra options a taller viv presents you in terms of plants and decor.
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Old 07-08-2020, 08:44 PM
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zb

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Old 07-08-2020, 09:06 PM
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Default Re: 4 Foot Vivarium Build From The Ground Up

Quote:
Originally Posted by kimcmich View Post
Greetings,

I've made some very large vivs. Prior to my current plexi/glass/wood setup I had large plywood + glass and both those vivs followed a few previous mid-size setups with plexi and plywood.

I have not worked with Pond Shield. I used West System epoxy as well as a Sherwin Williams potable water epoxy for my builds. I notice pond shield instructions mentions applying it with "a squeegee or roller" which makes me wonder if the consistency is rather thick. West System epoxy has a very paintable consistency which is very, very helpful when coating a large, 3D plywood surface.

In terms of dimensions, I would suggest more ambition in the vertical. If you are going to the trouble of building such a sturdy stand, I would push the viv's height to 36". You can still get adequate lights for that height (vivs any taller are more challenging for lighting).

Aquariums tend to stay wide/long rather than tall because reaching an arm into a deep tank is a hassle for setup and upkeep. A front-opening viv does not have that limitation and you will appreciate the extra options a taller viv presents you in terms of plants and decor.
Pond shield like the West System has variable consistency based on additives. You mix in isopropyl alcohol for the initial coat to thin it out. There are some videos out there on how to do it.

From Pond Armor:


Using silicone in the seams instead of fiberglass:


Old video from KingofDIY Fishkeeping:


Installing Glass:

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Old 07-16-2020, 11:22 PM
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Update!

Progress has been made! I have cut most of the pieces for the vivarium itself (at least the first layer) but I have not yet begun cutting the various slots/holes for ventilation/windows.

Meanwhile on the stand front work continues. I puttied over screws and then essentially set aside the stand body to work on the top. I made a form out of 3/4" melamine. I used some leftover silicone from a bathroom remodel to seal the seems.

I forgot to take a picture of it before I used it, but here it is after I peeled it off of the concrete.



When it came time to mix the concrete I made a huge mistake. You see I watched a video on how to do make a concrete table like a year ago. It was pretty simple and I 'thought' I remembered it accurately. Instead I left out a crucial step. The concrete I was using is rapidset motar mix. I was supposed to essentially make it according to the bag (with slightly more water) and then add some plasticizer to give the concrete a much lower viscosity making it pourable. I definitely forgot the darn plasticizer. I had three 55 lb bags of concrete. The first half of the first bag was essentially made to the package directions and it was THICK when I poured it into my mold. I immediately realized I screwed up and started mixing in more water, like double what the bag called for. This gave me a more pourable mix but it still wasn't as good as if I had used the darn plasticizer to begin with. The rest of the concrete was made with double water till I filled my mold. But the damage was done with that first half bucket. I got quite a few gaps around the sides.

I used a jig saw (without a blade) clamped to the buttom of my table to vibrate the whole thing and this cut down on the number of bubbles but anywhere where the first half bucket came down I got a lot of voids and bubbles.

Here is how the concrete top looked after I dumped it out of the mold:



You can see some pretty big voids around the sides in the front if you look for them. They are much more noticeable in person.

I didn't want to scrap this attempt so I decided to try and fill these voids. I literally used up all the mortar mix I had making this slab so I decided to try some grout patch I had left over from another project. I'm glad I did as it worked extremely well. Here is how it looked after I added the grout but before I sanded it down:



And here it is after I wet sanded the slab:



Pretty happy with how it turned out in the end. Not super noticeable in the picture but the darker grout patch makes it look like I purposely created the voids.

Anyway that brings me up to current. Next step is to sand the stand down a bunch to take the edge off the corners and then I can begin painting on primer.
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Last edited by minorhero; 07-16-2020 at 11:40 PM.
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Old 07-17-2020, 07:10 PM
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Keep the updates coming!
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Old 07-27-2020, 12:13 AM
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Update!

Progress has been made! Since I last posted I was able to apply a coat of killz primer throughout the stand. Here is how that looked:



Though its not pictured I did end up adding another support in the middle of the back wall. Completely unneeded for a vivarium but if I ever decide to put a 120 gallon aquarium on top of this stand, that back support will provide good piece of mind.

After that it was time to work on the doors. The proper way to make a door is what is called a floating panel where the door is a solid wood panel with the middle trapped but not glued inside a frame. For a stand I was not going to bother doing that. Instead I cheated... heavily and used 1/2" plywood with wood glued directly to it on 2 of the 3 sides. Here is what that looked like:





Once the doors were glued up it was time to turn my attention to painting. I chose BEHR Marquee One-Coat "Imperial Gray" PPU26-02. I used an exterior paint to go with it as well. I am pretty happy with the result. I chose some pretty basic hinges, handles, and magnetic closures and tada:



Here is a slightly closer look at the concrete top while it was sitting around:



I applied a sealer to the concrete and then for giggles rubbed on some paste wax as well.

At this point it was time to move the gosh darn thing. Thanks to covid this was going to be a one man job. Golly that top is heavy. I am not a big guy so moving a 150lbs of concrete top around was kind of a big deal for me. I do have a hand truck which made it possible but yea... it kind of sucked.

In the end though it all come together:





Its a TALL stand. I designed it that way so that my head would basically be in the middle of the door for viewing purposes. Still having it in place I am reminded once more that 180 gallons of viv is a LOT ;P

Next up I will be doing some paint touchup on the stand where it got scuffed coming in and having the top slid on. Then building the actual vivarium.
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Old 07-27-2020, 10:44 AM
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Nice looking stand


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Old 07-27-2020, 05:38 PM
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I like your use of concrete as a top. Glad to see it progressing so well. I built a stand a little larger than this for my reef tank... first time ever building something myself. It didn't turn out nearly as nice as yours. Well done!
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Old 07-27-2020, 11:39 PM
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Nice paint job. I love the gray tones that are popular now.
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Old 07-29-2020, 01:55 PM
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Thank you folks! Its a lot of fun building the stand. When it turned out more or less the way I envisioned it, it makes the whole thing all the better.

That said... Update!

Soooo long story short. The Wife did not like the stand.....

That she didn't like it I do not begrudge her, I just REALLY wish she had voiced her opinion before I built the darn thing and moved it into the house. We had gone over the design and dimensions when it was still in the planning stages, heck this is even the second version of the stand, the first is still very much present in my shop. Still when it finally was in the house she did not like the look of it. We moved it around to 3 different locations hoping it would look better in a different setting but in the end it just wasn't cutting it.

To be clear my wife was willing to accept the stand but I have been married long enough to read between the lines. If I kept the stand she would forever be unhappy about it and I really want her to enjoy having the frogs, and more pointedly, having them in the middle of our living room.

So its back to the drawing board ;P

The main complaint about the stand is that it was too big and too tall. The stand is 49 inches long, 28 inches wide and 38.5 inches tall. I made it this height and size so that I could put a 120 gallon rimless aquarium down in the future if I desire and have it supported appropriately all the way around and so I could be standing next to it and be at perfect viewing height without having to bend over.

The Wife simply didn't like that size. She also was not happy with the overall design aesthetic which I modeled after other aquarium stands.

The new stand will be 51 inches long, 22 inches wide, and 34 inches tall. This design will fit a 75 gallon rimless tank if I ever go that route. It will also use much nicer wood and be stained instead of painted. It will also have some halflaps and proper frame and panel doors. So in general just a much more advanced stand then the previous versions. I made a sketchup model of the stand last night and the wife tentatively approves the design. This will be the third build of this stand. I told her its the last one darn it ;P



Now I need to get rid of the existing stand. Anyone in Maryland want to buy a stand?
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Old 07-30-2020, 04:57 PM
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Update:

A review of the wood supplies I had on hand showed that I have a LOT of black walnut. This was not too surprising because I had a lot of walnut left over/reserved for a nightstand project from a few years (and a few houses) ago. This included a ridiculously large 12/4 beam. It was big enough that I could not safely cut it using my floor instruments so I used a circular saw and did it with 2 cuts (one on either side).



Once I had a chunk that was a bit easier to work with I could focus on flattening it and making a perpendicular angle.



From there I could cut it apart into legs using the bandsaw:



And from there I could cut everything to length and width and finally using a tenon jig make my joints for the legs:



These pieces will be the four main support legs for the stand. I still need to round over the edges for a smoother look but otherwise they are pretty much good to go for assembly.

I will likely be using the other half of the beam to make the 4 long horizontal parts of the frame. I started the work there and flattened the beam but I don't have a picture of it.

Its been a while since I've done quality woodworking and I've forgotten how much fun it is. Next up more woodworking!
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Old 07-30-2020, 06:27 PM
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Such gorgeous wood! This going to look amazing. And you have beautiful hardwood floors. Please seal that stand really well and be careful of those floors. My hardwood floors are literally ruined because of having numerous tanks all over the living room for the last 10 years. Most of that damage was caused by not planning ahead to have extra large vessels to catch the drainage water from my bulkheads. You still have time to plan ahead and do it right where I did not!

Best of luck. Can't wait to see how it turns out.

Mark
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Old 07-30-2020, 06:47 PM
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Such gorgeous wood! This going to look amazing. And you have beautiful hardwood floors. Please seal that stand really well and be careful of those floors. My hardwood floors are literally ruined because of having numerous tanks all over the living room for the last 10 years. Most of that damage was caused by not planning ahead to have extra large vessels to catch the drainage water from my bulkheads. You still have time to plan ahead and do it right where I did not!

Best of luck. Can't wait to see how it turns out.

Mark

Thank you!

This is excellent advice methinks. I am planning on a 5 gallon bucket as a drainage reservoir, or something similar. The stand will get a wipe on urethane of some kind. I honestly haven't settled on a product yet but water and uv protection will be high up on my list of must haves.
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Old 07-30-2020, 07:10 PM
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Sounds like you have it under control. Oh, to have had the forethought to use 5 gallon buckets as overflows. I don't have room under my stands (they are all double-deckers except one) so I have mostly little, flat plastic storage containers crammed under the bottom tanks that I regularly forget to dump. That is a recipe for horrifying floor damage. You are already on a better track.

The other thing that might help save some money (which you probably already know if you are a woodworker) is that that veneer worked great for me with pocket screws. My one quality stand is made of oak, but my friend did a fantastic job with pockets screws in oak veneer plywood and I bet it knocked 50% off the cost of the wood for the project.

Keep up the good work! You demonstrate a lot of wisdom and understanding in dealing with your wife and her opinions on the project, BTW.

Mark
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Old 07-30-2020, 07:38 PM
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The other thing that might help save some money (which you probably already know if you are a woodworker) is that that veneer worked great for me with pocket screws. My one quality stand is made of oak, but my friend did a fantastic job with pockets screws in oak veneer plywood and I bet it knocked 50% off the cost of the wood for the project.
I am in complete agreement. There is absolutely nothing wrong with plywood. Folks knock the stuff all the time but its honestly a wonderful product that when used correctly is every bit as strong and durable as solid wood. I will be using plywood on the central door panels and the sides of the stand. Doing wood panel glue-ups to recreate what plywood gives me in this location is simply too time consuming with not enough benefit. I haven't decided yet if I will use birch ply stained dark or spring for walnut ply. The price difference is essentially triple the cost.

Quote:
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Keep up the good work! You demonstrate a lot of wisdom and understanding in dealing with your wife and her opinions on the project, BTW.
When I started dating my now wife, we had a discussion early on how to settle disagreements. Basically we decided that whenever we disagree the person who cares more wins. So if something is really important to one person but only middling important to the other then the person who cared more about the issue gets their way. Its been working well for us. In this case my wife cared a decent amount. She didn't say so coherently ;P But that was because I just made something and she didn't want to poo poo it too much. For my part I cared but I also saw where she was coming from and frankly I have a lot of fun making stuff so I don't mind going back to the drawing board (literally) to make this thing happen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Encyclia View Post

Sounds like you have it under control. Oh, to have had the forethought to use 5 gallon buckets as overflows. I don't have room under my stands (they are all double-deckers except one) so I have mostly little, flat plastic storage containers crammed under the bottom tanks that I regularly forget to dump. That is a recipe for horrifying floor damage. You are already on a better track.
Not sure if you solved this yet, but just thinking about this issue, if your tanks are next to each other, could you have them all drain to a central reservoir (one of your flat ones that fit under your stands), and then put in that reservoir a pump and a float switch. The pump would have a hose on it to go to a single large storage container (5 gallon bucket, jerry can, watever you can fit in a single discrete location). You could then put a water warning system in place so you won't be able to forget to empty it. Or if you are willing and able to, through a wall and down into a basement drain. Just spit ballin.
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Old 08-04-2020, 04:14 PM
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Update:

A little time has passed and I have been out in my garage/shop almost every day for at least a few minutes and sometimes a few hours. Since I last posted I processed the rest of that giant beam of walnut.

Here are the longer horizontal support pieces:



This piece was not as nice as the first chunk in that it had cracks, knots, and the tree's center in it. This is why I didn't use it at first and I was planning not to use it at all for this build. But I eventually decided that I wanted the thickness this piece provided and I couldn't get that from the other stock I have on hand.

The cracks and knots I either cut around or stabilized with epoxy tinted black.

Once I had the pieces cut for the visible portion on the frame I could do some mockups to see how it was going to come together:



I am planning to fit plywood into slots I cut for short sides and probably the back as well. This requires half-laps for the short side horizontal supports, through mortises for the vertical legs and stopped mortises for the long horizontal supports.

Here is one of the mortises on the long horizontal support I made with a router. Not my best work but the part that's wonky will be covered up.



The horizontal supports with joinery:



Through mortises for the vertical legs:



Another dry mockup:



And then I decided to do a full size mockup minus most of the plywood:



While I don't have the full sized plywood installed I did stick in some scraps just to get an idea of how it would go together:



A look at that corner from the outside:



And that brings me to current.

I was originally planning to stain the plywood to match the walnut but I am thinking I like the contrast and may just leave it as is.

My issue right now is that I am out of supplies ;P

I have enough plywood to make the short sides, or make the bottom, or make the back, or make the doors. BUT I can't make any 2 of those let alone all 4. In other words, I need to buy some more plywood! I also need to buy more concrete for the top, hinges, handles, and stain if I'm going to stain the plywood.

For finish I think I have settled on General Finish's "Arm-R-Seal". I am going with this one because I discovered I have 2 nearly fully quart containers in storage ;P

Anyway, next time I update it will hopefully be a glue-up complete with plywood!
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Old 08-05-2020, 02:46 AM
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I like the contrast
You know that doesn't matter at all lest you end up building a fourth stand! Oh, and it looks great!

Mark
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Old 08-05-2020, 10:57 AM
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beautiful, well thought-out carpentry.
this will be great
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Old 08-09-2020, 02:40 AM
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Nice looking stand. Walnut is hard to beat.

Personally I would move the stand up to the location with a dummy ply side to check it out. With the color of the wood floors not so sure I would want to leave it natural.

Add the concrete top to the mix and I would be much more inclined to stain to match the walnut or maybe even match the floor. Contrasting woods are tricky in my opinion as often lose the balance/harmony of the piece and end up overpowering the initial intent.
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Old 08-09-2020, 01:23 PM
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Nice looking stand. Walnut is hard to beat.

Personally I would move the stand up to the location with a dummy ply side to check it out. With the color of the wood floors not so sure I would want to leave it natural.

Add the concrete top to the mix and I would be much more inclined to stain to match the walnut or maybe even match the floor. Contrasting woods are tricky in my opinion as often lose the balance/harmony of the piece and end up overpowering the initial intent.
Thank you!

The Wife has actually spoken on this issue :P

When I showed her the natural color plywood juxtaposed to the walnut (even with a bit of finish rubbed onto some scrap pieces) she immediately asked about the walnut plywood I had previously mentioned. I told her its still a possibility but this would save literally 100 dollars off the cost of the finished piece, she was unswayed. Soooo yeah need to get me some walnut plywood ;P

This has delayed me a bit because I need to go to a proper hardwood seller to obtain this and just haven't had the time. Meanwhile I have done some work on the new concrete top. I'll post that bit later today or tomorrow most likely.
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Old 08-09-2020, 07:41 PM
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Update!

So in a perfect world I would be doing a glue-up right about now. We sadly do not live in such a place. Due to issues mentioned in my last post I do not have the plywood but that does not mean I have been idle.

Once I knew it was going to be a week or 2 before I could get my hands on the plywood I shifted focus to the concrete top.

This top is a different size then the last one I made so I can't use the existing form. Instead I needed to make a new form 51" long and 22" wide.

Next problem was that I didn't have a piece of melamine (or even plywood) 51" long and 22" wide.... DOH

Instead I needed to create the all important bottom part of my form from 2 pieces. This matters because the concrete is simply going to create a mirror image of the form. So if there is a seam in the form that is not perfectly flush, that seam will be in the concrete.

I knew this, so I made darn sure that the seam was going to be perfect!

....


It totally didn't work.


So what went wrong?

Well here is a picture of my form:



It's hard to make out but the seam is on the left hand side. There was originally a noticeable difference of 1 mm or so in one side compared to the other. To solve this I sanded the area down and filled it in with silicone. I didn't need this form to be super strong, just be smooth so the concrete would cure flat.

The concrete used was the same stuff as before, Rapidset Motar Mix. This time I used the plasticizer (flow control) recommended for this stuff. I also used some charcoal cement tint as well to deepen the color. The pour this time went MUCH better.



In fact it was so liquidy that I found out my work bench is not completetly level ;P So Once it hardened I had to do a second pour. This time I didn't have any flow control.... so it was not nearly as smooth. But overall still happy with how the pours went.



When it came time to take it out of the mold, things were more difficult. The cement stuck very firmly to the area of the seam (where I sanded and applied silicone) causing me to destroy the form when removing the cement. Not a big loss but still.

The real trouble was that the seam was VERY visible in the cement. So much so that I surmise the form must have changed shape as the weight of the cement was added. Soooo yea, not great. I decided to try to fill in the resulting seam with more cement. This sort of worked... and sort of didn't. For one thing I couldn't get the tinting quite right so its obviously different stuff. For another, it did not adhere very well. In the end I got it partly filled in but its clearly a patch and aesthetically is noticeable enough that if people see it I will be forced to call it an asymmetrical artistic design..... which sounds better then a hot mess.

The good news is that all portions of the seam and repair will be underneath a 3 foot tall vivarium, so I should never see it again once there is a tank on top ;P







What I do like is just how smooth the top is. The plasticizer really did a good job making the concrete 'flow'. The vibration of the jigsaw clamped under the table also did a good job of getting rid of most of the bubbles. Soooo yea I'm going to call this a success. I may try to dye the concrete further now that its out but honestly I don't have much issue with how it looks, (the wife... well you never know ;P).
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Old 08-15-2020, 01:53 AM
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Update:

Still not a glue-up but I am definitely getting closer!

I drove down to Annapolis earlier in the week and picked up a sheet of 1/2 inch walnut plywood. I had to cut it into approximate sized pieces to get it into my car but that is pretty normal for me.

Once back I trimmed it up a little more to get it to fit in the designated locations. The walnut ply ended up being slightly thicker then the birch ply I was using as a template so I needed to make my slots and mortises slightly bigger but that was easily done with chisel or table saw. At this point its all cut to size (except the doors) and just needs to be glued. Here is how my dry fit looked:













I am on vacation for a week so nothing is going to happen till after I'm back. But my next update 'should' be a glue-up, for reals this time ;P
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Old 08-22-2020, 04:18 PM
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Default Re: 4 Foot Vivarium Build From The Ground Up

You're a pretty good carpenter, that all looks great.

While I've placed and finished my share of flatwork, I've never cast concrete or used a plasticizer. I'm planning to cast some raised-bed planters (four walls separately) as well as make a topper for my backyard block wall. So it's nice to see a viv guy taking a stab at it and doing OK.

Curious if you considered including perlite or something to reduce the weight of your sculpture? Instead of pre-mix, a DIY mix of Portland cement + "stuff". This guy is my inspiration for the raised beds plus wall topper:
He's got a little series of vids, various builds as well as some strength testing. He's pretty analytical, it's nice.

So sorry about all the do-overs! My wife is a little (OK quite a lot) like that - has abundant opinions but isn't very open with them up front. Just later, after I'm well into whatever the job is. Ha ha. Argh. I've learned to try harder to draw her out before I'm committed. Success still varies...ah, the human condition. Ha ha.
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Old 08-22-2020, 07:44 PM
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Default Re: 4 Foot Vivarium Build From The Ground Up

This is great, minorhero! The birch would have been fine, but the walnut just looks awesome. I think you made the right call. Have a good vacation!

Mark
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Old 08-27-2020, 03:26 PM
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Default Re: 4 Foot Vivarium Build From The Ground Up

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Originally Posted by jgragg View Post
You're a pretty good carpenter, that all looks great.

While I've placed and finished my share of flatwork, I've never cast concrete or used a plasticizer. I'm planning to cast some raised-bed planters (four walls separately) as well as make a topper for my backyard block wall. So it's nice to see a viv guy taking a stab at it and doing OK.

Curious if you considered including perlite or something to reduce the weight of your sculpture? Instead of pre-mix, a DIY mix of Portland cement + "stuff". This guy is my inspiration for the raised beds plus wall topper:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBvPs7CBf5Q He's got a little series of vids, various builds as well as some strength testing. He's pretty analytical, it's nice.

So sorry about all the do-overs! My wife is a little (OK quite a lot) like that - has abundant opinions but isn't very open with them up front. Just later, after I'm well into whatever the job is. Ha ha. Argh. I've learned to try harder to draw her out before I'm committed. Success still varies...ah, the human condition. Ha ha.
Thank you! Casting concrete is both fun and a bit nerve racking given how fast the stuff I'm using starts to cure. You have a few minutes (as in less then 10 or 15) to do things and then you are losing viscosity and things are starting to set. Other mixes have working time measured in hours so something slower would probably be better.

I actually have seen some of this guys earlier work though its been at least a year since I checked in with what he was doing. I began my foray into concrete with the idea of casting 2 walls out of 5 of a 120 gallon aquarium. I originally wanted to know if I could get the same strength out of concrete that I would get out of glass. I ended up not pursuing it when my strength tests showed me it wasn't a good idea in the 1/2" thickness I was targeting. Anyway that's how I found his videos the first time.

I have been tempted by the idea of making a vivarium out of concrete instead of plywood but have been put off by the weight of the structure. I need the finished product to not weigh more then I can move by myself with a hand truck. Maybe this will offer another solution? Thank you for the link and update!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Encyclia View Post
This is great, minorhero! The birch would have been fine, but the walnut just looks awesome. I think you made the right call. Have a good vacation!

Mark
Thank you! Its a pretty material to work with which is always fun.

And with that:

UPDATE:

After much ado, I finally am back and ready to do the glue-up. I used pocket holes to join the short side of the frame to longer pieces for both top and bottom frames:



Once that was in place I could glue the verticals and plywood in place and then slide the top frame into place. I practiced this maneuver once with everything just dry and clamps in place so I would know how to do it with the glue involved. I've found this is just good practice so you don't end up making a fubar as soon as glue hits the wood. I'm glad I did as well since the order of what I wanted to do needed to change because the plywood was simply too tight a fit to 'slide' down the channel I had created. Likely there was some swelling in the wood with humidity being high the last week or so.

Anyway here is how it looks now:



In 8 hours or so the glue will be dry and I can begin doing a LOT of sanding. Once the sanding is at a reasonable level I can add the bottom panel supports, bottom panel, and back panel. At that point I can start thinking about doors... since I plan to have a couple of those ;P
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Old 08-31-2020, 11:35 AM
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Update!

The glue-up continued! From the last point I added the back panel after drilling two 2 inch holes to allow for cords and tubes.

Clamping something like this is mostly impossible using actual clamps so it comes down to finding heavy things to put on it ;P



The same process was repeated for the bottom once the back panel was dry:



This brings me to current. I have done a bunch of sanding to the stand but more is needed. I am now at the phase where I need to begin working on the doors. They are going to be fully inset into the frame using proper euro style cabinet hinges this time. I ordered from amazon two pair of soft close blum hinges earlier this morning since none of the hardware stores near me carry them. Hopefully today I can find some time to begin cutting the wood for the doors. Certainly at this point the light at the end of the tunnel is visible ;P

In related news I picked up two giant (for me) pieces of Malaysian driftwood at my local fish store. They were quite expensive but definitely worth it. Here are 2 pictures of possible configurations. The final tank will be taller then the under stand storage by almost a full foot but it gives you an idea of the kind of space I will be working with.



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Old 08-31-2020, 12:42 PM
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Great work!
And nice driftwood!
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Old 08-31-2020, 03:13 PM
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Default Re: 4 Foot Vivarium Build From The Ground Up

Absolutely gorgeous stand! The idea of a concrete counter is wonderful, and I'm looking forward to seeing the vivarium come together too!

Now my only question - how do you get the curves of your sand so smooth in the sketchup model!? Any time I try, I get a horribly jagged mess
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Old 08-31-2020, 03:57 PM
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Absolutely gorgeous stand! The idea of a concrete counter is wonderful, and I'm looking forward to seeing the vivarium come together too!

Now my only question - how do you get the curves of your sand so smooth in the sketchup model!? Any time I try, I get a horribly jagged mess
Thank you!

Ahh as for that its super easy, I design and build the stand in sketchup but for models like fish tanks, lights etc, I just download those from 3D Warehouse and let someone else much better then me make them ;P
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Old 09-03-2020, 11:04 PM
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Default Re: 4 Foot Vivarium Build From The Ground Up

Update!

Since last time I got the wood for the doors milled, cut to size and then the little bit of joinery. Here you can see the slots I cut in the wood that would eventually go on to make up the sides of doors:



And here are the doors after all glued up. They are not actually installed in this picture, just sitting there to show approximately what they will look like:



After this was some more sanding. Here is one of the corners after a bit of sanding:



And then it was time for the finish!

The finish is Arm-R-Seal which is a urethane based finish so it should provide decent protection from water and from UV. Here is the stand when I was in the process of applying the finish, you can pretty clearly see the color change:



And here it is after I applied the first coat of finish:



Once dry I will be do some light sanding and then apply 2nd coat of finish. In total I will put down 3 coats of finish.
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Old 09-04-2020, 04:04 PM
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Small Update:

3rd coat for the stand main body and, 2nd coat for the doors. I am away this weekend so I won't get a chance to finish it up completely until sometime early next week, but baring something major I will be starting work on the actual vivarium sometime next week.

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Old 09-08-2020, 11:02 AM
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Update!

After coming back I did some more sanding with 320 grit paper and then it was time to add the feet.



These are non-marking rubber feet that will serve the dual purpose of keeping the stand from rocking on my definitely not quite flat floor and also allow me to push the stand around without scratching the floor.

After this I finally attached the doors to the frame. The hinges I am using have some ability to adjust the door height and angle after it is attached which is pretty spiffy. Here is how they looked:





All that was left at this point is to move it into the house and put on the top.







Done!.........................with the stand ;P

Now I need to actually build the vivarium that goes on top heh. First step will be to make a 3d model which I will hopefully work on today.
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Old 09-09-2020, 02:23 PM
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Update!

Its time to talk about the actual vivarium in this vivarium build thread :P

Yesterday I used Sketchup to make a 3D model of the vivarium. I always find this step to be SUPER helpful when building something. Even when I feel like I have a very good idea of how to go about building something I am always surprised by small details that I forget about till I see the actual model and realize I can make my life a LOT easier by cutting a piece of wood a little shorter, or making mortise where I wasn't planning one etc.

Anyway after a bit of work I came up with this design:







Dimensions are 4 feet long, 20 inches deep, and 3 feet tall.

The structure would be made out of 1/2 inch ply and then the corners are doubled up. I would have 2 bulkheads in the bottom, with a sort of trough in the very front (not pictured). The bottom most bulkhead would go to a canister filter external to the tank, the second bulkhead higher up would go to a reservoir in the stand. A third bulkhead on the back wall near the top of the tank would let water back in for a minor dripping branch effect in one corner.

I had planned on this window like design because 1) I didn't want to mate 2 pieces of glass together with a silicone seam since I am not confident in my silicone abilities getting a perfectly clean joint. and 2) When this stand was significantly shorter I was planning on using pre-made glass windows available online as 'table tops' for relatively cheap.

I posted the design over on a facebook group and asked for feedback.
athiker04 responded to the thread and linked me to his build thread here. I had seen this build thread before and have always been impressed by it but his comments made me rethink my design. The way he built his tanks he did not have a glass to glass silicone joint in the tank. And since my tank was now so much taller then before I could no longer use the pre-made glass panels I was previously considering. Thus I decided to ditch my design and rethink my approach. This included aping athiker04's design quite a bit.

Here is my new design:





Essentially the same basic principles as the last design only this time it would feature 3 glass walls instead of sliding doors and 2 windows.

If anyone has any thoughts or feedback on the design I am definitely open to them. I haven't started cutting wood yet so at this point the sky is the limit on changes

Meanwhile I have started calling around for glass quotes. I am always amazed at the wide disparity of prices on this front. So far I have two companies responding. One wanted 240 dollars for the glass sides the other wanted 90 dollars for the glass sides. These would be 1/4" thick annealed glass with a flat polished edge. I have another 6 or 7 or so quotes outstanding, hopefully I will receive most of those in the next day or 2.
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Old 09-09-2020, 07:06 PM
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Default Re: 4 Foot Vivarium Build From The Ground Up

Greetings,

The overall design looks good. I wasn't sure, after reading your latest description of the glass configuration (3 walls, 2 windows) what you meant exactly. Are there going to be doors on this viv?
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Old 09-09-2020, 08:18 PM
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Greetings,

The overall design looks good. I wasn't sure, after reading your latest description of the glass configuration (3 walls, 2 windows) what you meant exactly. Are there going to be doors on this viv?
Ah yeah I can see how that is confusing. I meant that the design would be similar to other build I linked with 2 fixed glass walls on either side and meeting those two walls would be a door. In my case using a sliding door. Definitely not trying to make a top opening custom viv ;P
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Old 09-09-2020, 11:41 PM
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Default Re: 4 Foot Vivarium Build From The Ground Up

With all the effort you're putting into this, I would recommend two things. Either add a float valve in the trough area (hidden is fine) so you don't have to worry about evap causing your canister to suck air. Or the other option would be to sump the filter. With a stand being that size, you could easily fit a 10 gallon tank underneath and make your own wet/dry filter which would be chump to maintain and you can hide an ATO valve in the sump.

I can look up the place, but there was a glass shop in Rockville that I used to deal with back in the day. They were affordable and could cut whatever size glass you need at reasonable rates. They also would bevel the edges if asked for little to no charge if you asked. For sliding doors that would be ideal to reduce chipping and friction.
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Old 09-10-2020, 12:29 AM
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Default Re: 4 Foot Vivarium Build From The Ground Up

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With all the effort you're putting into this, I would recommend two things. Either add a float valve in the trough area (hidden is fine) so you don't have to worry about evap causing your canister to suck air. Or the other option would be to sump the filter. With a stand being that size, you could easily fit a 10 gallon tank underneath and make your own wet/dry filter which would be chump to maintain and you can hide an ATO valve in the sump.

I can look up the place, but there was a glass shop in Rockville that I used to deal with back in the day. They were affordable and could cut whatever size glass you need at reasonable rates. They also would bevel the edges if asked for little to no charge if you asked. For sliding doors that would be ideal to reduce chipping and friction.
Definitely interested in any suggestions for glass cutters if the information is easily found. I have sent out about 10 requests for quotes and so far have gotten back 4. I expect the others to trickle in over the next couple of days but they are all just shots in the dark. I have no idea if these companies are particularly good or cheap etc.

I have debated whether to go with a sump over a canister filter. I actually own the canister filter already (from a now defunct aquarium) so its a zero expense item to set it up. Since my trough area in the tank will be filled with calcined clay I won't be able to use a float switch. That means I could only use one in a sump. The problem there is the risk of it failing, my drain clogging and then I am in a potential flood issue onto my floor. The frogs would be fine because the front vents would drain water before the whole tank became submerged (I plan to build up the back layer), but I don't want to put myself in a situation where its possible (even though unlikely) that I dump a few gallons of water onto the floor, especially when I might not be around to immediately take action.

The accepted solution for this is to have enough capacity in the tank to have the sump run dry without flooding, but I don't know how to calculate that in advance given that I plan to have my 'false bottom'/trough area completely filled in by calcined clay. Does that make sense?

Anyway this is why I arrived at using a canister filter instead. The water volume in one is so small its my hope that even if my drain clogs I still won't have enough water to flood the tank, and if I do, it won't be by much.
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Old 09-10-2020, 02:28 AM
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The perk of the canister is that currently it's a 'free to you' situation which is always good. The canister running dry will inevitably either overheat the motor head or damage the impeller then you have that cost. Overall a sump is just cheaper to repair in the future. With the dimensions of the stand, plus the low flow you're probably after, you're just after a pump that has the head pressure to reach the height of the outlet. As for calculating the volume of water, that's easy. Just go through and measure your calcined area and do the following:

L x W x H = (cubic inches)/231= gallons

ex:
48" x 12" x 6" = 3456 cu in / 231 = 14.96 gallons

Obviously you will have displacement of the calcined media, but if you get that total volume in gallons + what ever your top off reservoir is you should be more than safe. In my example above, that 14.96 gallons + 5 gallon reservoir would be just shy of 20 gallons. So a 20 gallon long should provide more than enough space since the area calculated to be 14.96 gallons will have displacement due to media which will reduce the volume of water. ATO's are pretty reliable these days, so if the mechanical float switch is not giving you the warm and fuzzies, a simple electronic ATO with water level monitoring (around $100) will be more than safe. I've used some simple ones for years with no floods. Only floods I get are when I forget I'm filling a tank and walk away during a water change... Yay fishroom with concrete floors!

I'm not only recommending this to save a pump, but in actuality you're probably going to be away from home at some point. Say a vacation comes up. Having this knocked out now means one less thing you have to worry about/train the pet sitter to do when they swing by. Perk of the ATO res is you can also use it as the same res for your auto misting system. Win Win.

Also, let me add that whatever you're going to stock in there has a chance of producing offspring... Couple breeder boxes in the sump = simple way to raise tads without setting up a rack or table for cups before they sprout front legs.

Last edited by Tihsho; 09-10-2020 at 02:34 AM.
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