I probably should have made a construction journal back when I originally started this buttress project, but I thought it would be more fun to have a reveal with the completed terrarium. About 12 years later and I still haven't added the piece to a tank. It has been moved 3 times since being made, and is still in good shape. Sure, there are some aspects I would change if I had it to do over, but I am still very pleased with the outcome every time I look at it.
I made this buttress in 2008 and painted it about a year later. I have been very interested in creating a naturalistic background / mounting surface for vines and epiphytes that wouldn't deteriorate over time, but would also be formed from non-toxic coatings. Other than to achieve a naturalistic aspect, one benefit would be providing a place to display nicer shingling or miniature vines, orchids, ferns, etc. that would be easily overwhelmed by other plants or be unable to exhibit proper growth in a typical vivarium design - shingle vines and epiphytes come to mind. As you can see, part of the goal in the design phase was to select an 'inspirational template' that would allow a buttress look, function, and 3D aspect, while reducing space loss you would expect an entire tree trunk. So for me, it was more about the roots' surface area, less about the tree.
Additionally, the root structures should provide additional substrate to explore for arboreal animals, as well as substantial visual barriers for individuals to hopefully relax from time to time. I thought that I would complete this build one day, and came close on two occasions, to the point of acquiring potential enclosures, but was never happy enough with the terrarium options available.
The buttress is comprised of polyethylene foam coated with Armorstone, a non-toxic Polygem Zoopoxy used for zoo exhibits, etc. The foam was sculpted, and then coated with epoxy and sanded prior to painting. The epoxy is quite hard, giving the piece a rigid permanence. I had written a couple paragraphs about how the epoxy process went, but this forum has really changed - I have to log back in or refresh every five minutes or lose progress, unless I think ahead to copy everything periodically. Frustrating to say the least. Let's abbreviate that the Armorstone epoxy is 2-part, has a brief "working viscosity", and is difficult to apply as a smooth coat; requiring some sanding.
The paints were acrylic, and included a gray primer coat. While I think the current mottled grayish-green coloration looks good, and would be a nice contrast to most plants, it would be neat to see some lichen painted on too.
A dozen mounting locations and three 'pockets' were incorporated into the structure via embedded hanging wire so that some epiphytes could be tied on or hung in place to hold them in place during the initial rooting process - or permanently, if a mount is already in use as with some mini orchids.
The vivarium that this buttress will fit inside would need to be at least 33"L x 26.5"H x 18"D - most likely a custom terrarium or modified piece of furniture, like an armoire or a hutch. A height of approximately 30” would be better as this would allow space for a false bottom, although some of the upper “trunk” portion could be removed if height is a limiting factor. Installation would require only an application of several thick beads of silicone to the back before placement against glass, etc. - this is important to prevent frogs from accessing the area behind the buttress and becoming trapped, difficult to remove when needed, etc.
Please note that, as I have not used this buttress and don't have a foreseeable plan to do so, I have listed it for sale here.