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Old 06-30-2020, 07:51 AM
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Default Plywood Vivariums??

Hey there all, I was wondering if anyone here has experimented with plywood vivariums? I know it's quite possible as I have built plywood aquariums in the past, (of course one side being glass) using an epoxy resin product called pond shield. But I was wondering if anyone had experience using any other products to seal plywood so that it can drain water well without needing to hold standing water? Just a late night thought I had. I know the simple answer is just use pond shield to build the viv but that particular product is rather expensive and I was looking to find if anyone knows of a less expensive alternative epoxy resin paint that can be used this way?

Thanks all
Ibp
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Old 06-30-2020, 08:15 AM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

I’ve seen people seal large plywood vivarium for tropical monitor lizards with dryloc a waterproof latex paint. Having worked with dryloc in a different context, I will say it’s a fairly strong finish, but if you were to use any large stones or wood in the vivarium I’m certain the dryloc would get scrapped away and leave sections of the plywood exposed to moisture. I wouldn’t use this method. Sealing plywood isn’t cheap, hard to get around the cost in that aspect.
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Old 06-30-2020, 08:40 AM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

Plywood is a ton of work. An enclosure sealed with epoxy is basically like building a simple rectangular wooden boat. If it will work for your project, expanded PVC sheet bonded with cement is much easier to deal with and will probably end up costing less.
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Old 06-30-2020, 11:08 AM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

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Originally Posted by ibpigeonmaster View Post
Hey there all, I was wondering if anyone here has experimented with plywood vivariums? I know it's quite possible as I have built plywood aquariums in the past, (of course one side being glass) using an epoxy resin product called pond shield. But I was wondering if anyone had experience using any other products to seal plywood so that it can drain water well without needing to hold standing water? Just a late night thought I had. I know the simple answer is just use pond shield to build the viv but that particular product is rather expensive and I was looking to find if anyone knows of a less expensive alternative epoxy resin paint that can be used this way?

Thanks all
Ibp
For wooden boat building West System Epoxy is commonly used but it is even more expensive. I used to hang out on wooden boat forums and folks there used to make noises about using garage floor epoxy for a boat but it was always just talk, no one wanted to potentially destroy a boat to test something that might give out in a few years. On facebook I have seen people build plywood vivariums using what they simply called "epoxy". It was black and when I asked if it was pond shield they got distracted and never answered. Sorry that's all I got for you. I am planning my own 120 gallon plywood vivarium and for that I am planning a sloped false bottom and will be using pond shield.
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Old 06-30-2020, 04:24 PM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

This topic has been discussed at some length here over the years, by me and others. I suggest more research, fewer questions for the next few days. Then come back, OK? Meanwhile, to summarize:

I've made a half-dozen large plywood vivs. Most are still in service - one I demolished for a few reasons that all came together at once. Another - just one - I demolished because I hadn't sealed it well enough at the drain penetration, and it was molding badly. I also came to dislike some of the features I had put in, and wanted some I'd left out.

That latter example was my very first one. I had tried to seal it with about 3 coats of Drylok, and - where the water was - some Polygem 307-Lite putty. Subsequent builds have also featured an initial Drylok seal (multiple coats) and either one of two epoxy products, in at least two carefully-applied coats: the Polygem putty, or Habitat Cast-n-Coat brushable / flowing (but thick, like cool honey) epoxy. I've never used anything from West, or from Pond Armor. I'll probably never use the West for a viv - so runny, just looks too easy to mess up. But I can easily see myself getting one of the colors of Pond Shield some day.

It is a lot of work; operator error is a distinct possibility - that's what doomed my first build, I'm still using the exact same materials and they work great when you do it right. I find the work itself mostly enjoyable and rewarding. I find the product and its performance, when successful, to be supremely gratifying. If you do it right, the product is effectively immortal. And wood is just so easy to work with. I've got the tools, I've developed adequate skills, I can get the results I want.

Optimization is about minimizing or maximizing ONE THING, and dealing with tradeoffs of all the other things you might value. If you want to minimize dollar cost, well, do that. In building plywood vivs I sought to maximize enclosure excellence for my specific application. Nothing off-the-shelf even comes close - to go that route would be to minimize expended time and effort (and sacrifice quite a lot of function). I have bought numerous xPVC, glass, melamine, and fiberglass cages for snakes (desert to jungle) over the decades. Often these bought ones can be modified to improve performance; but when I build my own, I get the size, shape, and most importantly, all the features & design specs I want.

As for cost - with experience, I can now build a large custom plywood viv for about the cost of something I can just order and get delivered. So it is not really cheaper, and it takes a fuck-ton more time. But I get what I want, which has really never, ever been the case with cages I have bought. And I have bought MANY cages. Again - for what I do, the way I want to do it - none have ever really worked like I wanted. Eventually, they let me down or left me wanting. All this is what has helped inform my own design and performance specs.

If you are interested in building a plywood viv, I recommend you bite the bullet and build a scaled-down prototype (or two...) you never mean to put in actual service, but that maybe you use as a plant grow-out tank or something. A crash-test dummy, if you will. Test it hard, crash it hard. Trust me, you'll learn a ton from the mistakes you would rather not make in a real working viv. There's no getting around the learning, you have to go straight through it. What you can control is the consequences - will you have to inconvenience your animals, and yourself, by needing to replace their home - or will you avoid that?

Good luck.
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Old 06-30-2020, 11:08 PM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

I appreciate the thoughts there guys, I may just stick to the pond shield like I have with my Koi and Arrowana setups. I've heard similar claims of the garage floor epoxy in the aquarium hobby as well. I may have to give that a small scale shot to see how well it works and if its actually safe for animals, however I've always had doubts. If I do I'll share my results on the forum. Unless someone has experience with this then perhaps ill just foray into expanded PVC for the first time.

Thanks all,
IBP
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Old 07-01-2020, 06:51 PM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

I've just used pond shield/armor on all my plywood builds.

https://www.dendroboard.com/forum/pa...od-builds.html

Probably not worth it for tanks smaller than 150 gallons minimum. But as was mentioned above there is a certain satisfaction in building something yourself the way you want it. It's a unique aesthetic as well.
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Old 07-01-2020, 07:52 PM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

@ ATHiker - I really enjoyed your build log. You made nice stuff! Mine are "function over beauty" all the way. Yours are both, I hope. Definitely beautiful.

Quote:
Probably not worth it for tanks smaller than 150 gallons minimum
Playing with a volume calculator, I see my biggest have been about 160-170 gallons, and my smallest more like 105-110. I don't come from much of an aquarium background, so don't think in those terms. Usually I'm thinking along the lines of "A third of an 8 foot sheet is 32 inches, most interior doorways are 28 to 36" wide; hmm - what shall be my smallest upright dimension? A little under 28"? 30"? 32"? Hmm.

I find the cost is just the cost. But with a little less worry about looks, you can shave off quite a bit of time. E.g., "How much sanding does this hull need, anyway?" Or "Do I really need a mirrorlike finish?"

Such questions' answers depend mainly on where the viv is going - e.g., a private, no-invites basement room, or a much more public living room. Anyway - even down at 105-110 gallons, it's been worth it to me to make my own. Even the simplest minor little things like driving a screw to add a new branch, or boring a hole for another vent or some plumbing - so much easier with wood, than glass. These vivs can "live" forever - their uses, their inhabitants, will change. I love wood for the easy mods you can make.
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Old 07-06-2020, 08:09 AM
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This is a paludarium I made with a liquid rubber product called Sani-Tred. The Sani-Tred lived up to its promise, unfortunately the epoxy the company sent to bond my plate of glass to the Sani-Tred did not. It failed twice. Had I known about Liquid Nails Fuze It or that 3M Marine Sealant (1300 ?) this beast of tank would still be standing.
The 2nd plywood tank I made started as a paludarium, then a jungle viv, now a desert viv. I used a 2 part epoxy called Total Boat or by Total Boat. I'll try to link it if I can find it. I sealed the glass this time with the 3M Marine Sealant.
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Old 07-06-2020, 08:50 PM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

Interesting topic. Thanks Dr M for those pics and the info. It prompted me to do a little digging, which led me to this:

https://www.jamestowndistributors.co...t.do?docId=510

Got any thoughts on general fish-safe / toxicity concerns with all these various adhesives & sealants?

I also looked at Sani Tred, which had a reference to a build on Monster Fish Keepers (where there's quite a bit of plywood aquarium discussion, over a long period of time):
https://sanitred.com/1700-gallon-diy...tank-sanitred/

Note the embodied warning about Pond Shield if you don't have a rigid hull. (I've heard similar about West 105 - you really need to stiffen your hull.)

cheers

Last edited by jgragg; 07-06-2020 at 09:10 PM. Reason: word tweak
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Old 07-06-2020, 08:59 PM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

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Originally Posted by jgragg View Post
Interesting topic. Thanks Dr M for those pics and the info. It prompted me to do a little digging, which led me to this:

https://www.jamestowndistributors.co...t.do?docId=510

Got any thoughts on general fish-safe / toxicity concerns with all these various adhesives & sealants?

I also looked at Sani Tred, which had a link to a build on Monster Fish Keepers (where there's quite a bit of plywood aquarium discussion):
https://sanitred.com/1700-gallon-diy...tank-sanitred/

Note the embodied warning about Pond Shield if you don't have a rigid hull. (I've heard similar about West 105 - you really need to stiffen your hull.)

cheers
I would be hesitant to use any kind of sealant that is not either designed for fish tanks or is not considered food safe. For sealing glass I have always seen silicone used. The glass is not really there to hold together the plywood box but just as a viewing window. The pressure of the water inside presses the glass into the silicone seal so the pressure works with you. I would not recommend something as stiff and unyielding as epoxy to attach the glass. Plywood doesn't move much at all with the seasons but its more than glass. That very small movement will over time break any epoxy bond. A flexible sealant is therefore needed hence the use of silicone.
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Old 07-06-2020, 09:23 PM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

@ Dr M - which Sani Tred product did you use? There are several, and it seems that some (not all) of them would adhere just fine to glass (?)

I too am confused by the "epoxy"-to-glass thing. In my experience that simply doesn't work. You can putty-knife cured epoxy (well, Polygem 307 Lite and Smooth-on Habitat Cast & Coat) right off a piece of glass.

I'm now much less likely to ever try Pond Shield, based on my peek into MFK. I hadn't been there in a few years, it's got a whole new look...there was also a thread there on Fuze: https://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/f...s-safe.356914/
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Old 07-06-2020, 09:27 PM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

@ Minor Hero - the issue is getting an epoxy / silicone bond.

Epoxied plywood - no problem, water tight, fish safe.
Siliconed glass - no problem, water tight, fish safe.

Sticking those together - details matter. It can work. It can not work. That's the issue. The weight of water helps in a fish tank. It isn't there in a viv.
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Old 07-06-2020, 10:58 PM
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@ Minor Hero - the issue is getting an epoxy / silicone bond.

Epoxied plywood - no problem, water tight, fish safe.
Siliconed glass - no problem, water tight, fish safe.

Sticking those together - details matter. It can work. It can not work. That's the issue. The weight of water helps in a fish tank. It isn't there in a viv.
All true, but you also don't need to structurally hold together a container with a coated plywood silicone glass sandwich. The silicone needs to only be strong enough to make sure your glass window doesn't fall out. If building an unmoving glass window you can make a ledge of wood the glass sits on and silicone it in place. This will create a seal that is safe and effective and doesn't even have the weight of the glass long term to deal with. It only has to contend with whatever force you put against the window outside. You can take it a bit further and create ledges on the sides that pin the glass to the plywood wall if worried about that.

If you are making sliding doors or hinged doors well you are not worried about the glass then either since the silicone/sealant is going on the hinge or sliding track.

For a stronger and fish safe (so frog safe as well) silicone you can go with RTV 108 for clear or 103 for black. This is stronger then the regular GE silicone 1 stuff sold in hardware stores and the actual cost per tube is not much more. I don't think its needed for what we do but /shrug its also not much more either so your happiness with the end product will vary accordingly. There are primers made available by RTV for a number of different surfaces including plastic. Again I don't think this is needed but they are around for those concerned about same.
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Old 07-06-2020, 11:48 PM
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Default Re: Plywood Vivariums??

Yes, I've used several layers of black silicone over sealed ply and it held water for young turtles - no leaks.

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Old Yesterday, 07:47 PM
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layers of black silicone over sealed ply
Sealed with...? Pond Shield? West 105? Drylok? Thanks.

Quote:
you also don't need to structurally hold together a container with a coated plywood silicone glass sandwich. ... If building an unmoving glass window you can make a ledge of wood the glass sits on and silicone it in place. ... You can take it a bit further and create ledges on the sides that pin the glass to the plywood wall if worried about that.
Right, I assume most folks glue & screw their plywood hulls. I certainly do. Then I epoxy.

I haven't made a fixed-front viv in a coon's age. I found it easiest to just dado / groove all 4 "sides", glue & screw the bottom (or ledge) to L & R sides, run silicone for & drop in the glass, and finally glue & screw (& silicone the glass at) the top. But this was all years before I discovered epoxy. It kind of breaks my heart all the plywood snake cages I made before discovering a really effective nontoxic sealer - eventually, they all more or less succumbed to snake shit and spilled water bowls. No more! Ha ha. I love epoxy.

Quote:
If you are making sliding doors or hinged doors well you are not worried about the glass then either since the silicone/sealant is going on the hinge or sliding track.
Oh I'm not quite so sanguine as all that. I once had a glass-track adhesion fail. Trust me, you've ALWAYS got to "worry about" (take adequate care with) the glass! Although when using epoxy on wood, it's often the case that the epoxy will adhere well enough (or even "great!") to the plastic glass track. Especially if you take a little care to roughen the glued side of the track, for better "grab". This is actually the specific way I bypass the silicone / epoxy mutual hatred thing, when doing a plywood viv. I just do sliding front doors, and install my tracks when I'm epoxying the hull. I don't use any silicone. Not over epoxy anyway - it sticks great to Drylok, which is usually what's exposed higher on the back and sides, where I adhere cork for mosaic, usually with black silicone.

Happy building!
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Old Yesterday, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by jgragg View Post
Interesting topic. Thanks Dr M for those pics and the info. It prompted me to do a little digging, which led me to this:

https://www.jamestowndistributors.co...t.do?docId=510

Got any thoughts on general fish-safe / toxicity concerns with all these various adhesives & sealants?

I also looked at Sani Tred, which had a link to a build on Monster Fish Keepers (where there's quite a bit of plywood aquarium discussion):
https://sanitred.com/1700-gallon-diy...tank-sanitred/

Note the embodied warning about Pond Shield if you don't have a rigid hull. (I've heard similar about West 105 - you really need to stiffen your hull.)

cheers
I would be hesitant to use any kind of sealant that is not either designed for fish tanks or is not considered food safe. For sealing glass I have always seen silicone used. The glass is not really there to hold together the plywood box but just as a viewing window. The pressure of the water inside presses the glass into the silicone seal so the pressure works with you. I would not recommend something as stiff and unyielding as epoxy to attach the glass. Plywood doesn't move much at all with the seasons but its more than glass. That very small movement will over time break any epoxy bond. A flexible sealant is therefore needed hence the use of silicone.
But will silicone adhere to a liquid rubber waterproofing product ? It's been awhile since I've looked on MFK or DIY fishkeepers but I think there was a lot of warning against trying the two together. Having said that I know it still would've worked better than the epoxy product they sent me. Conversely that epoxy looks great on my basement floor.
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Old Yesterday, 08:14 PM
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Here's the link for Sani-Tred. I used multiple layers of the PermaFlex and LRB which you have to mix with TAV.
https://sanitred.com/basic-product-line/

@OP as you know MFK and DIY are great sources for plywood builds. Look up a guy named the_deeb, I believe he posts on here, MFK, and Planted Tank Forum. He's a great guy to learn from and talk to. I consider him the plywood build wizard. Maybe if jgragg posted some pics of his builds I'd consider changing my mind 🙂
In a more perfect world we'd all have access to some really good fiberglassing equipment or be able to make those extruded pvc enclosures like Habitat Systems Ltd. Because let me tell you strength combined with light weight is a beautiful thing.
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Old Yesterday, 08:26 PM
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MFK and DIY are great sources for plywood builds.
Sadly DIYFishkeepers.com got shutdown. Going there now just links you to Joey's old book. It was not very active before it got shutdown but it was a great resource with all its old threads.

Plantedtank.net and monsterfishkeepers.com are both still good though thankfully.
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Old Yesterday, 09:18 PM
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Quote:
Here's the link for Sani-Tred. I used multiple layers of the PermaFlex and LRB which you have to mix with TAV.
https://sanitred.com/basic-product-line/
Very nice, thank you. When you say "multiple layers", how do you mean? 1) Alternating both PF & LRB in one build, or 2) one or the other in a given build, just several layers of the same?


Quote:
@OP as you know MFK and DIY are great sources for plywood builds. Look up a guy named the_deeb, I believe he posts on here, MFK, and Planted Tank Forum. He's a great guy to learn from and talk to. I consider him the plywood build wizard. Maybe if jgragg posted some pics of his builds I'd consider changing my mind 🙂
Yeah, the deeb. Great resource for sure. Come to think of it, I have seen him here. Cool.

I'm kinda funny about pics online (exact same reason as I never joined FB - potential for abuse by the aggregator). I enjoy others' pics, but / and I will not post any of my own. (And really, I hardly even take any photos of anything.) I try to overcome what might be seen as "just taking" by sharing experiences etc in words.

If you have a solution that works for you, and you're not interested in trying other stuff just for its own sake, for the pleasure (and the pain!!!) of discovery, by all means stick with it. I'm always looking for a little strange, so to speak. In builds anyway, ha ha. Love my missus, hate a cheater. So anyway I'm quite curious now about the Sani Tred stuff. I can see using it in a future build, from the waterline or substrate line down, and just using Drylok (and epoxy just for fake rock) above it. What I really really like about epoxy is how it does 2 jobs - dependable, nontoxic water sealing, plus naturalistic "fake rock" with great texturing & coloring possibilities. But - epoxy application is a little hard, and is pretty time-intensive. Maybe worse than the Sani Tred??? So I'm quite willing to look at it, for out-of-sight uses.

Quote:
In a more perfect world we'd all have access to some really good fiberglassing equipment or be able to make those extruded pvc enclosures like Habitat Systems Ltd. Because let me tell you strength combined with light weight is a beautiful thing.
I've ghetto-fiberglassed some plywood boxes. It's easy. And fuckin toxic! And, they're pretty stinkin' heavy! But used in a mold, yeah. That'd be cool. Lightweight strength really is the brass ring. Glass - all glass, nothing but glass - is kind of a horse turd (might as well stick with the fairground analogies): it's both heavy and weak. It's OK for small vivs, but for big ones I fairly hate it.

What's that Sani Tred weigh? Basically the same cured as in the can?


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Habitat Systems Ltd.
August 22, 2019 ·

Habitat Systems has ceased operations. The owners wish to thank all customers and friends for such wonderful support over the years.
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Old Today, 10:18 AM
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MFK and DIY are great sources for plywood builds.
Sadly DIYFishkeepers.com got shutdown. Going there now just links you to Joey's old book. It was not very active before it got shutdown but it was a great resource with all its old threads.


Plantedtank.net and monsterfishkeepers.com are both still good though thankfully.
Wow I guess it's been awhile since I've been on DIY. My last couple of builds have been of the all glass variety. MFK and Planted Tank are still going is good news.
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Old Today, 10:27 AM
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Quote:
Here's the link for Sani-Tred. I used multiple layers of the PermaFlex and LRB which you have to mix with TAV.
https://sanitred.com/basic-product-line/
Very nice, thank you. When you say "multiple layers", how do you mean? 1) Alternating both PF & LRB in one build, or 2) one or the other in a given build, just several layers of the same?


Quote:
@OP as you know MFK and DIY are great sources for plywood builds. Look up a guy named the_deeb, I believe he posts on here, MFK, and Planted Tank Forum. He's a great guy to learn from and talk to. I consider him the plywood build wizard. Maybe if jgragg posted some pics of his builds I'd consider changing my mind 🙂
Yeah, the deeb. Great resource for sure. Come to think of it, I have seen him here. Cool.

I'm kinda funny about pics online (exact same reason as I never joined FB - potential for abuse by the aggregator). I enjoy others' pics, but / and I will not post any of my own. (And really, I hardly even take any photos of anything.) I try to overcome what might be seen as "just taking" by sharing experiences etc in words.

If you have a solution that works for you, and you're not interested in trying other stuff just for its own sake, for the pleasure (and the pain!!!) of discovery, by all means stick with it. I'm always looking for a little strange, so to speak. In builds anyway, ha ha. Love my missus, hate a cheater. So anyway I'm quite curious now about the Sani Tred stuff. I can see using it in a future build, from the waterline or substrate line down, and just using Drylok (and epoxy just for fake rock) above it. What I really really like about epoxy is how it does 2 jobs - dependable, nontoxic water sealing, plus naturalistic "fake rock" with great texturing & coloring possibilities. But - epoxy application is a little hard, and is pretty time-intensive. Maybe worse than the Sani Tred??? So I'm quite willing to look at it, for out-of-sight uses.

Quote:
In a more perfect world we'd all have access to some really good fiberglassing equipment or be able to make those extruded pvc enclosures like Habitat Systems Ltd. Because let me tell you strength combined with light weight is a beautiful thing.
I've ghetto-fiberglassed some plywood boxes. It's easy. And fuckin toxic! And, they're pretty stinkin' heavy! But used in a mold, yeah. That'd be cool. Lightweight strength really is the brass ring. Glass - all glass, nothing but glass - is kind of a horse turd (might as well stick with the fairground analogies): it's both heavy and weak. It's OK for small vivs, but for big ones I fairly hate it.

What's that Sani Tred weigh? Basically the same cured as in the can?


FYI:
Quote:
Habitat Systems Ltd.
August 22, 2019 ·

Habitat Systems has ceased operations. The owners wish to thank all customers and friends for such wonderful support over the years.
That's crappy news about Habitat Systems Ltd. My first layer was LRB then PermaFlex. Then LRB and PermaFlex again. I did this about 4 or 5 times. My last layer was PF. It's incredibly strong and lightweight. When my glass to plywood tank interface failed the wood got soaked. So I figured total loss and decided to destroy it. It took reciprocating saws and a sledgehammer to take it apart. I shouldon't have used that Momentum RTV stuff to seal the glass..Or whatever it's called. I've heard good stuff about that.
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