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Old 11-22-2019, 01:52 AM
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Default Longevity of Silcone Backgrounds

So far, for backgrounds, I've used tree fern panels, hygrolon, and the Titebond III method. (as in separate methods, not all in one build)

Tree fern panels are too expensive, and as much as I wanted to like the hygrolon, it just looks unnatural and I had a hard time keeping it moist enough for plants to grow near the top of the viv.

I really like the TBIII/coco slurry mix but it has been so painfully slow to cure for me. I'm working on a new build now and would rather not have to wait for a month or more before I'm able to plant it. So I was thinking of doing great stuff with silicone slathered on and then coco/peat pressed into it.

I know the TBIII ends up being pretty bomb proof. Just curious to hear from people who have done the silicone method as to how well it might hold up over the years. Also, does it allow plants to take root at all?

Thanks for any input!
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:52 AM
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Default Re: Longevity of Silcone Backgrounds

Curious as well. I'm working on a 10 gal viv right now, It will be my first with a GS background.
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Old 11-22-2019, 02:40 PM
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Default Re: Longevity of Silcone Backgrounds

Just make sure you silicone some light diffuser or something against the glass so the GS can take hold. It will last forever if anchored right.

Also it expands a lot as it dries so careful not to use too much or else it'll eat a lot of tank volume. I use gs and cork pieces and push the cork pieces in as the GS expands. Then I carve away the excess GS.

It provides a good surface for epiphytes but doesn't hold water well. That's why I incorporate cork for moss and other wetter loving plants.

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Old 11-22-2019, 04:00 PM
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Default Re: Longevity of Silcone Backgrounds

The Great Stuff foam will hold up forever, however the coco husk or whatever you chose to press into the silicone will wear off over time. If you use black silicone and/or the black Great Stuff it will still look ok.

You can also look into the method of doing Great Stuff painted in dyed Drylok. I've done that on one of my builds and like it.
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Old 11-22-2019, 04:37 PM
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Default Re: Longevity of Silcone Backgrounds

Don't forget the cracked cork mosaic option where the only silicone you use is to attach the cork pieces to the background (where the silicone can't be seen) and then sphagnum is shoved into the gaps between the cork pieces. This means that the plants can grow on every surface and water can penetrate all of it. I have tanks that have this type of background that are 5 or more years old without any problems.

Mark
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:59 PM
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Default Re: Longevity of Silcone Backgrounds

Thanks for the replies.

Yeah, I'm familiar with working with Great Stuff in general. Most of my builds have been with it, only covered with TiteBond III instead of silicone.


I had considered using the cork mosaic method but was wanting to use ghost wood for most of my hardscaping and was afraid the two different wood textures might not look right mixed in the same tank. But maybe it would be fine?

Thanks again.
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Old 11-22-2019, 06:02 PM
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Default Re: Longevity of Silcone Backgrounds

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Originally Posted by athiker04 View Post
I had considered using the cork mosaic method but was wanting to use ghost wood for most of my hardscaping and was afraid the two different wood textures might not look right mixed in the same tank. But maybe it would be fine?
I can understand your hesitation. I use Manzanita in almost all of my builds which are all cracked cork mosaic backgrounds :-) I like the look of the two wood types together. However, don't forget that as your build matures, everything kind of trends a bit toward the same colors once covered with plants, moss, and algae, so I am not sure how much it matters what color/texture the two woods are in the long run.

Mark
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Old 11-22-2019, 06:32 PM
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Default Re: Longevity of Silcone Backgrounds

Haha, yep, that's very true. I guess I have put a lot of worry and time into backgrounds only for them to never be seen again once the tank gets a few months of good growth built up. Maybe I should just look for a deal on cork pieces. I need enough to cover the back of two tanks down to the substrate line, about 24"x24" each.

How many gallons / pounds would you think that might take?

Thanks!
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Old 11-25-2019, 06:28 PM
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Default Re: Longevity of Silcone Backgrounds

I think 3 gallons will do you fine. You'll probably have just a little bit of leftovers. But that's OK since it lets you pick and choose the pieces that fit together best. Seems there's always a piece or two in a gallon that don't really look or work that good with everybody else.

I like to start out by setting my glass viv backside-down on sawhorses & 2x4s in the garage. Then I can play with arranging various cork pieces in various directions etc. This can take a while - I feel it really makes a difference in the outcome. Pay attention to aligning textures, thicknesses, etc. And you can also incorporate cork pieces with some roundness behind them, that will serve as future planters. Think about what you'll be planting - if it's trailers then put your planters high up. If it's climbers, or just little erect solitaries, put your planters low down. Think about how tall they'll get, and how bright they need their light. (I guess I'm a planner. You don't have to be. But you might get better results with a little forethought.)

When you've got a great layout, you can get down on the floor, look up at your viv, and use a Sharpie to trace the outlines of each piece on the outside of the viv, then pull out all or most of the the cork pieces and set aside (e.g., on a piece of cardboard) in rough approximation of their desired layout. At your leisure you can silicone in each piece. I often like to silicone about a third to a half of the pieces in a sitting, in sort of a checkerboard pattern. This helps me not bump pieces I siliconed in 5 or 10 or 20 minutes ago. Then the next day or two you can come fill in all the gaps.

Silicone needs water to cure. Water vapor is fine, it doesn't have to be free liquid. I normally crumple up damp newspaper and set the crumples between my cork pieces for the first cure session. For the second one, just pull the papers, re-wet them, fluff them open a little more, and spread them out over the whole background. I feel like you get the very strongest adhesion possible, with ample moisture for the cure. I let everything cure at least 2 days before packing with moss. When I do it like this, my cork pieces are really, really strongly adhered to the glass. It makes for a stout build. You can really pack your moss tight between the cork pieces then, which I feel is important for longevity and stability. I never have plants or moss fall out, and it takes a long time for my moss to completely dehydrate if I have a plumbing, mister head, or timer issue when I'm out of town.

Good luck! Just talking about this stuff makes me want to go build something. Winter is the season for building!
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Old 11-25-2019, 06:37 PM
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Default Re: Longevity of Silcone Backgrounds

I meant to respond to the thread topic too. Personally, I think the silicone backgrounds get to looking pretty crappy after maybe 3 years at best. And they keep getting worse. The problem stems from oxidation of the organic matter, and simple erosion of anything inorganic (sand, expanded shale, gravel, etc). What remains is the silicone, which looks utterly unnatural. Even black looks like crap in my opinion. Mostly it's the glossiness.

These aged silicone backgrounds can't be repaired or patched since new silicone won't stick to old silicone. Nothing will, really. At that point, get out some sharp steel and get scraping. Yuck.

My 2 cents anyway. I quit the silicone background thing a long, long time ago. It just isn't satisfying over the long haul. It can look pretty awesome at first, but it doesn't stay like that long enough, for me anyway. By way of comparison - my oldest cork mosaics look better than the day I made them, or any time since. I'm thinking they're gonna outlast me.
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Old 11-30-2019, 07:26 PM
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Use a fan on T3 builds. Mine take 24hours to dry and I build MASSIVE backgrounds (7’x3’).
Silicone looks horrible after a while in my opinion, covered or not.
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Old 11-30-2019, 11:04 PM
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Default Re: Longevity of Silcone Backgrounds

Quote:
Originally Posted by jgragg View Post
I meant to respond to the thread topic too. Personally, I think the silicone backgrounds get to looking pretty crappy after maybe 3 years at best. And they keep getting worse. The problem stems from oxidation of the organic matter, and simple erosion of anything inorganic (sand, expanded shale, gravel, etc). What remains is the silicone, which looks utterly unnatural. Even black looks like crap in my opinion. Mostly it's the glossiness.

These aged silicone backgrounds can't be repaired or patched since new silicone won't stick to old silicone. Nothing will, really. At that point, get out some sharp steel and get scraping. Yuck.

My 2 cents anyway. I quit the silicone background thing a long, long time ago. It just isn't satisfying over the long haul. It can look pretty awesome at first, but it doesn't stay like that long enough, for me anyway. By way of comparison - my oldest cork mosaics look better than the day I made them, or any time since. I'm thinking they're gonna outlast me.

This is my experience as well. I did my first viv with the GS/silicone method, and the second with the cork mosaic. The cork mosaic is by far the superior method, both in looks, and functionality. Plants have a much easier time attaching to the background with the cork mosaic, and the moss helps keep the humidity up without as much misting. I actually just ripped apart the first viv to redo it with cork mosaic, partly because the background was looking so bad. The cork mosaic background looks better now than it did two years ago when I first made it.

I think the cork mosaic should be the default method, and the GS/silicone method should disappear like sealed vivariums.
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