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-   -   300gal paludarium project (https://www.dendroboard.com/forum/parts-construction/52841-300gal-paludarium-project.html)

the_deeb 04-19-2010 02:37 AM

300gal paludarium project
 
1 Attachment(s)
After months of researching, planning, designing and redesigning I'm finally ready to start this project. I initially planned to go with a custom built acrylic paludarium, but after seeking out some quotes I decided that the price was higher than I was comfortable with. So instead I've decided to do a DIY plywood/glass tank, and in the process ended up scaling up the dimensions a bit.

The dimensions of the tank are going to be 60.5"L X 28"W X 41.5" tall (~300gal). Water depth will be around 15", so overall water volume will be about 100gal.

The tank will be viewable from the front and right side. The casing is going to built from 3/4" birch plywood and the interior will be waterproofed with Pond Armor. The right side window is going to be a single piece of 3/8" glass. The bottom part of the front is going to have a 15" tall piece 1/2" glass and is going to have a braceless top edge. I'm going to add sliding door track onto the top edge of the bottom piece and have 2 pieces of 1/8" glass as sliding doors so that the upper part of the tank will be accessible from the front.

I"m going to install a skimless overflow system that will maintain a constant water depth and filtration will be a 40gal sump under the paludarium. The sump will return water through a manifold that will divide the flow between spraybars at the bottom and surface of the water section, and along the top of the back and left side feeding a clay dripwall for the upper portion. I'm going to be carving styrofoam branches that will be partly submerged and partly emersed and planted with epiphytes. I haven't decided whether I'm going to have any true land area, besides small pockets of substrate nestled into the clefts between branches, so the viv will be planted primarily with epiphytes.

I'll update as progress is made.

frogface 04-19-2010 03:08 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Can't wait to see this!

vivbulider 04-19-2010 04:45 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
wow can't wh8 i'm building a tank thats smaller but close here are pics viv build pictures from reptiles photos on webshots its 4',2',4'

wimvanvelzen 04-19-2010 09:54 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
I am interested and subscribed - keep us posted! :)

daykinmade 04-19-2010 06:50 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Ive been brainstorming on a very similar project as well, so Im quite interested to see how this comes along. bookmarked! what kind of clay will you be using for the drip wall?

the_deeb 04-19-2010 07:11 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
1 Attachment(s)
Thanks for the encouraging replies guys.

I managed to get a good start over the weekend. Got all the plywood sheets cut and have started working on the stand. I managed to get all the pieces I needed from 4 (4'X8') sheets of 3/4" birch ply and 1 sheet of 1/2" ply (for the floor of the stand and some additional support pieces). All the vertical joints are mitered which will hopefully give me a clean, seamless look when it's done. I didn't have the tools to make the mitered cuts and cutouts in the panels myself, so I got some help from a guy I found through craiglist who did a great job on the cuts. If anyone in the Triangle area is looking for some help getting some wood cut up let me know and I'll pass along his info.

In addition to the plywood, I was initially going to use 2X4s as an interior support frame for the stand, but didn't like the quality of the wood I found at HD/Lowes (too warped). So instead I'm doubling up 1X4 strips of pine and plywood into multiple overlapping lap joints. This is giving me strong square joints.

Here's a pic of the approximate cutting plan I used to get the pieces I needed:

the_deeb 04-19-2010 07:15 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by daykinmade (Post 459980)
what kind of clay will you be using for the drip wall?

I was planning on using sodium bentonite/kitty litter mixed with some organic material like peat moss, coco fiber and tree fern panel. I'm a long ways away from that stage and will probably be soliciting advice from the pros on here when I get there.

frogfreak 04-19-2010 08:32 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
It looks like a fun project.

I'll be keeping an eye on this one. I would like to do something like this in my office some day.

sandiegoleu 05-14-2010 08:47 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
any progress on this? I want to make a 4' by 3' by 3' just like yours and want to see it.

the_deeb 05-17-2010 07:01 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Sorry for not updating. Progress has been a little slow. I'm almost done with the stand. I'll try to get some pics up when I get home from work. I ran into a few problems that complicated things a bit and have neccessited some sub-optimal fixes. Here's a few things I've learnt that would probably have already been obvious to a more experienced carpenter.

Were I to do this again I would NOT use miter joints on long structural joints. It's just too tricky to get everything to fit together perfectly and look good. I think a better method that would have given me a similar look and stronger joints would have been to just use butt joints on the plywood pieces and then covered them up with miter-edged trim pieces.

Don't assume that wood is the thickness that it's listed as. It turns out that my 3/4" plywood from Home Depot wasn't quite 3/4". It was more like 11/16". Unfortunately, when I made my calculations I figured that the inside edge of a mitered piece would be 3/4" less than the outside edge. Due to this oversight, the inside edge of a piece with two mitered corners is actually about 1/8" larger than I anticipated which means that my joints don't fit together as well as I hoped. I had to make some modifications to my initial design to work around this.

Epoxy glue cures very quickly. Most of my joints are glued with either Gorilla glue or Titebond III, but in the case of those poorly fitting joints with a 1/8" gap I decided to use epoxy for it's gap filling ability. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of thinking that epoxy glue would behave like epoxy resin (which it doesn't). I applied a heavy layer of the glue to both surfaces, assuming that excess glue would be squeezed out when I clamped the joint leaving me with a nice tight joint. Instead, by the time I'd applied the glue to all the surfaces and pressed them together the glue had already hardened enough that it didn't compress or squeeze out at all and instead left me with an even bigger gap! There's enough epoxy contact that I'm sure the joint is plenty strong but is cosmetically flawed and not quite flush with the other pieces.

Hopefully my mistakes will help out others working on similar projects.

jpstod 05-17-2010 08:11 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by vivbulider (Post 459855)
wow can't wh8 i'm building a tank thats smaller but close here are pics viv build pictures from reptiles photos on webshots its 4',2',4'

You are aware that you can rotate the pictures right ?
:)

the_deeb 08-30-2010 12:46 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Ok, time for some long overdue updates to this thread. Progress has been very slow and I wanted to have something to show before updating.

It all started out with a pile of wood and inadequate workspace (thanks to my wife for tolerating the mess!)

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/S_...0/P1030274.JPG

Here's the start of the stand. I added some 1X4 pieces as additional support to the sides. The plywood casing itself serves as a structural component.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/S_...0/P1030278.JPG

One of the top/bottom pieces of the front showing the 1/8" misfit due to the plywood not being quite 3/4" thick (see my previous post).

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/S_...0/P1030275.JPG

One of the legs - 1X4s doubled up with similarly dimensioned plywood strips

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/S_...0/P1030279.JPG

Skip ahead a few steps and the thing is mostly assembled

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/S_...0/P1030412.JPG

Closeup of how the sides fit together with the front/back. In addition to the glue the pieces are held together with pocket hole screws

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/S_...0/P1030281.JPG

Crappy looking gap due to my mistake with the epoxy glue hardening too quickly (again, see previous post).

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/S_...0/P1030280.JPG

I ended up using a syringe to fill the gap with West System 105/206 epoxy and then covering over that with wood filler. This means the entire gap is bridged by epoxy which should hopefully leave me with a strong joint and I don't think it looks too bad.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...s/P1040475.JPG

I stained the outside of the stand with a coat of "golden pecan" and finished it with 3 coats of satin polyurethane. The inside got 2 coats of Kilz followed by 2 coats of white latex paint.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...Q/P1040472.JPG

Here it is with the doors balanced in place (still need to add some edge banding and mount the hinges). I'm going for a sleek ADA style look.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...A/P1040474.JPG

frogface 08-30-2010 01:33 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Wow, looks great so far!

the_deeb 08-30-2010 01:33 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Ok, here the progress with the tank itself.

As I mentioned earlier, I do not recommend using a mitered corner design like this. The joint lacks structural strength and it's very hard to get everything to line up. That being said, I decided to make the best of what I had and modified the edges to create sort of a haunched miter. This would offer a better supported joint with a much larger gluing surface. Here's the plan for how I hoped the edges would fit together.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TD...VU4/joint2.jpg

I began by epoxying and screwing some 3/4" strips of plywood to the edges of all the pieces. When I first started out I was using just regular West System 105/206 (one coat to saturate the wood and a second coat for excess glue). As the build progressed I started to thicken the second coat with Cabosil and I highly recommend doing this. The thickened epoxy doesn't squeeze out as much and lets you load the joint with more glue.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TD...0/P1030423.JPG

Next I applied a coating of epoxy to all the joints (first a regular coat to saturate the wood, followed by a second layer of epoxy thickened with Cabosil) and screwed them together with 1.25" and 2" wood screws as shown in the diagram above.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TD...Y/P1030424.JPG

Here's a closeup of the joints to show how they fit together. There's a screw every 2" but they're spaced in an alternating pattern. I used clamps to hold the sides together while driving in the screws. As expected, the mitered part of the joints didn't fit together quite as perfectly as I'd hoped leaving a bit of a gap on the back edges where I couldn't produce much clamping pressure. I solved this by injecting epoxy resin into all the gaps to produce a solid, epoxy-filled joint.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TD...2/P1030425.JPG

For bracing around the top edge I installed some strips of 3/4" plywood. The back and left side are just 3". The front and right side are 4" wide and I used a coping saw to make cutouts for future fan access.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TD...2/P1030426.JPG

I attached the strips with Titebond III and pocket hole screws. This is really strong - I did a set of dips supporting myself just on the bracing and it didn't budge (though I admittedly don't weight very much)! Eventually I'm going to add an additional 3" center brace running from front to back.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TD...0/P1030428.JPG

Here's the tank flipped over and the bottom bracing installed. Here I used 1X3 poplar strips, epoxied and pocket hole screwed like the top. The difference here is that the strips were attached 3/4" away from the edge, so that once the 3/4" plywood bottom panel is installed it will be flush with the bottom edge of the sides. You can see the bottom panel leaning against the wall in the background, pocket holes drilled and ready to be installed.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TD...c/P1030512.JPG

Here's the bottom installed

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TE...c/P1030671.JPG

The bottom is glued to the sides and to the lower bracing with thickened epoxy. It is also screwed into the bottom bracing with screws every 2" and also screwed to the sides with pocket holes (staggered relative to the pocket holes in the bottom bracing).

You might recall I mentioned near the start how I discovered that "3/4" ply isn't actually 3/4" (more like 11/16"). Because the sides are joined with miters and my bottom piece is inset into the sides, this meant that the bottom was 1/8" too small. To deal with this I cut some 1/8" slivers from some scrap poplar and epoxied them into the gap. The pocket holes are actually driven through some of these poplar shims. I think this has addressed the problem quite well.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TE...2/P1030672.JPG

I filled all remaining screw holes and gaps in the bottom with wood putty, sanded and them painted with 3 coats of Drylok. Here's how it looks:

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TE...A/P1030676.JPG

For those of you know don't know, Drylok isn't smooth like paint. It's filled with bits of sand. This means the resulting finish is quite rough and can't really be sanded for a smooth finish. Here's a closeup:

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TE...o/P1030677.JPG

JrayJ 08-30-2010 01:56 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Nice build. I'm anxious to see the outcome.

If I might add that a simple 2x2 frame the exact size of the interior, screwed from the inside, would have tightened that bad boy up some.

You got it covered though...just tossing out thoughts.

Keep the pics coming!

Edit: Oh Shit! My fault I didnt see this last post, looks like what you did to some extent...

JrayJ 08-30-2010 02:04 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Now that Im looking at this last post Im wondering...do you work in a cnc router shop? With lots of wood products being delivered on a daily basis?

the_deeb 08-30-2010 03:24 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Haha, that would be nice but I certainly don't. All the wood that's lying around is stuff that I gathered together at the start of the build. I'm buidling the tank in the middle of my small apartment.

the_deeb 08-31-2010 08:00 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Here's the fan box for air circulation. It will work as explained here: http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/par...questions.html

I used a coping saw to cut out the slits in some 1.2" plywood strips
http://lh6.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...2/P1030688.JPG

Here's the box assembled
http://lh4.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...2/P1030689.JPG

and installed in the tank. I coated the inside with 2 coats of West Systems 105/206 epoxy before installing it and then covered the openings with fiberglass window screen.
http://lh4.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...4/P1040469.JPG

boabab95 08-31-2010 08:26 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Awesome!!! subscribed.

Mitch 08-31-2010 08:36 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Awesome work! That stand looks very ADA like... Great job.

RarePlantBroker 08-31-2010 11:51 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Coming along nicely.

fleshfrombone 09-01-2010 12:31 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Very impressive. Looks professionally done, can't wait to see it finished.

mitchandstuff 09-01-2010 12:51 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
-Subscribe-
This looks impressive, have to stay updated on this.

the_deeb 09-03-2010 08:29 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Ok, time for another round of picture updates. The tank has (hopefully!) been waterproofed.

Because the tank has minimal bracing I decided to use fiberglass to reinforce the structure of the submerged section. I'd never worked with fiberglass before so, as with everything else about this build, it was a learning experience and I got better as a I went along. Here's how I went about it once I had the whole process figured out.

First I tilted the tank at an angle so that all residual epoxy resin would pool into the seams, deeply penetrating them and effectively creating a fillet. This was a little cumbersome because I had to reposition the tank for every seam, but it worked out very well.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TE...2/P1030679.JPG

I coated the seams with an initial layer of epoxy to saturate the wood and provide an initial barrier coating. I also dripped a little extra epoxy into the seams to make a slightly thicker fillet.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TE...0/P1030680.JPG

After this first layer had dried and was no longer tacky, but not completely cured, I layed out a strip of fiberglass cloth into the corner. I just used the cheap, lightweight Elmer's brand cloth from Lowes since I figured it would be adequate for my purposes. The lighweight cloth is pretty easy to work with. I found it made things easier if I took my time to make sure it was cut straight before starting.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TE...I/P1030681.JPG

Here's the strip wetted out with epoxy. After brushing it on I used the flat end of a stir stick and a gloved finger to really push it into the seams and force out any air bubbles. Make sure to work out the air bubbles while it's wet and you still can. Then I dripped a little extra epoxy on to really get a nice thick layer in the seams.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TE...8/P1030682.JPG

After waiting a few hours for the epoxy to gel (but not harden) I used my trusty paring knife to trim off the excess cloth to get a nice clean edges. I found that you shouldn't try to trim the cloth before it sets up or you'll pull it out of place and introduce air bubbles. Similarly, if you wait until it's completely cured it becomes too hard and sharp, making it difficult and potentially dangerous to cut. Leave an adequate strip of dry cloth to grip on to and do it when it's tacky and rubbery.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TE...c/P1030683.JPG

And there you have the finished reinforced seam. Hopefully it's completely sealed and will resist the formation of stress fractures.

the_deeb 09-03-2010 09:14 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
So I had initially planned to just fiberglass the seams and then seal the rest of the tank using Pond Shield epoxy. However, after reading some accounts of people running into some leak issues using Pond Shield I decided to first fiberglass the entire water portion of the tank using West System 105/206 and lightweight Bondo brand fiberglass cloth. I feel that this will provide structural strength and an additional layer of waterproofing. Plus, now that I've gotten the hang of it, fiberglassing is actually quite enjoyable... almost addictive as observed by my wife :) If I had more epoxy and fiberglass I'd probably glass the entire interior but I don't want to spend the extra money and I certainly don't think it's necessary.

Anyways, here's a piece of cloth trimmed and layed out

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...c/P1040464.JPG

Wetted out with an initial layer of resin. I used a bondo spreader to wet out the cloth and a small brush to do the edges

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...U/P1040465.JPG

After it gelled I trimmed of the excess and then applied 2 more coatings with a roller to fill the weave. Here's the tank with the lower half all glassed up. It's almost hard to tell because of how clear it gets!

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...c/P1040467.JPG

I finished the outside with a coat of "golden pecan" stain and 3 coats of clear polyurethane to match the stand. I lined the edges of the windows with some walnut stained trim for a picture frame look.

the_deeb 09-03-2010 10:07 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
After the epoxy and fully cured I spent several hours carefully sanding the tank with 60 grit sandpaper. I used a sanding sponge and wet sanded by hand to keep down the dust. This should also help to completely get rid of any amine blush, which can prevent the next layer from adhering. I carefully inspected all the surfaces to make sure there were no glossy areas. I've read the main thing that causes issues with adherence is inadequate surface preparation so I really took my time at this stage to make sure everything was well scuffed up.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...M/P1040471.JPG

Then I applied my Pond Shield. This stuff was a little tricky to work with. It's thick - kind of like honey. As per the instructions, I thinned it out by adding about 8% ethanol which made it a little easier to deal with. I calculated how much I would need to cover each side and then did one side at a time, mixing up only enough epoxy to cover that side. I rotated the tank as I went so that the side I was working on was on the bottom. I think this made it easier to work with. I followed the instructions and first used a bondo spreader to spread it out and cover the entire surface. I then used a roller to evenly cover the surface. I used a cheap polyurethane roller, which I regret now, because some little bits of the roller pulled out and got stuck in the epoxy, leaving some bumps. So lesson learned - use a high quality short nap roller.

Here's the tank with the initial coating.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...M/P1040476.JPG

After I was done there was a bunch of "fish-eyeing" and pinholes in the coating so I had to go back over and patch them with more Pond Shield. At that point the coating looked pretty good under regular room light but when shining a really bright lamp on it I could make out some areas had sagged a bit and the coating was a little thin (I could faintly make out the wood color under the bright light). This probably means I didn't quite get to the recommended 10mil thickness in those areas. I guess this happened because I was thinning it a little with alcohol but I think it would have been really hard to work with unthinned. I scuffed up the areas with 60grit sandpaper and recoated but I was running low on Pond Shield so are probably still some thin areas.

If this was over bare wood I would be a little worried but since I applied the layer of epoxy and fiberglass underneath (which I'm glad I did!) I think it should be ok. There are some thin areas over bare wood in the upper part of the tank but since they're not going to be submerged I don't think it should matter as much since all I really need is a moisture/humidity barrier, not a true watertight coating.

james67 09-03-2010 10:27 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
can the material be thinned and sprayed? if you have access to an air compressor, the harbor freight $15 purple HVLP gravity feed guns are great for this stuff. they are cheap enough that with non standard paints/ sealants they can be thrown away if cleaning is too difficult.

james

the_deeb 09-03-2010 10:46 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Ok, so I hope to drill the tank and put in the bulkheads this weekend. Here's a poor illustration of my plan.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TI...#37;20plan.JPG

Water will be drawn out of the tank through the blue bulkhead on the right. It will go down to the pump/canister/heater and into a PVC manifold that will allow me to distribute the flow between the red, green and yellow bulkheads. The red bulkhead will deliver water back into the submerged portion of the tank through a locline return. The yellow and green bulkheads will be connected to spraybars that will run along of the top of the back and side walls to feed the dripwalls. I'm thinking of making the spraybars out of 1/2" vinyl hose with a plug in the end and small holes poked at regular intervals along the entire length. That way I'll have a flexible spraybar that I can mold to fit the shape of my background.

The entire tank is going to be run by a powerful pressure rated pump, but ball valves on the PVC manifold will allow me to balance the flow between the 3 returns. I anticipate that most of the flow will return directly to the submerged portion through the red bulkhead and the top dripwalls will be adjusted to just be a slow trickle.

How does this sound to you guys?

the_deeb 09-03-2010 10:50 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by james67 (Post 499985)
can the material be thinned and sprayed? if you have access to an air compressor, the harbor freight $15 purple HVLP gravity feed guns are great for this stuff. they are cheap enough that with non standard paints/ sealants they can be thrown away if cleaning is too difficult.

james

Possibly, but that's not how it's intended to be used. I think Pond Armor sells a polyurea coating that can be sprayed. Pond Shield is designed to be thick so that a single coating is sufficient to get to a 10mil thickness and complete water barrier. If you thin it too much you risk compromising its sealing ability.

stevenhman 09-05-2010 10:32 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Very nice! Can't wait to see it finished up.

Leidig 09-07-2010 06:04 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
That is an awesome project. Looking great. I, like others, can't wait to see the finish results.

the_deeb 09-17-2010 05:33 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Glass is in!

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TJ...8/P1040486.JPG

I installed each pane by pressing it in horizontally and then tipping the tank so the glass was facing down. I stacked a big pile books on top for weight. I only kept the weight on the glass for about 24hrs and then turned the tank back upright - I hope that was enough time. I used a lot of silicone (about 2 full tubes of GE-I per pane) which resulted in a bunch that was squeezed out and had to be cleaned up later. The seal looks pretty good but there are some small bubbles in a few spots (they are completely surrounded by silicone though so I don't think it should be a problem. I don't know if they were there to start with or if they formed because I didn't keep the pressure on the glass for longer.

You can also see the holes I drilled on the back for plumbing. They are 1.5" holes for 3/4" bulkheads. I drilled them a little oversized and then gave them 4-5 coatings of epoxy. They are still a little bit bigger than the bulkheads need so I may try to backfill them with silicone when I install the bulkheads to make absolutely sure I get no leaks.

The bottom of the green tape on the back is approximately where the water level will be. The two holes on the right hand side of the pic are for drainage and the one on the left is for the submerged return. There are two more at the top left corner which will feed the dripwall returns but they aren't visible in the pic. The other hole that's slightly higher up on the right hand side will ultimately be connected to a fogger/humidifier.

frogparty 09-17-2010 05:57 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
awesome stuff!




the_deeb 10-06-2010 08:46 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
I think you guys are going to be excited with this update - I know I am :)

I've gotten a lot of the hardscape finished. As I mentioned earlier, the plan for this paludarium is to have the entire lower portion of the tank filled with water with no defined "land" area. So my goal with the hardscape was to create some three dimensional structure to provide planting areas and help visually fill the large open space in the top of the tank, while not taking up too much swimming room in the submerged portion. Based on this, I ruled out the traditional buttress design that most people use because it would take up a lot of space at the bottom, rather than the top. Instead, I tried to emulate "flying" buttress roots that would leave open space at the bottom.

Here's one of my sources of inspiration:

http://images.travelpod.com/users/yy...ress-roots.jpg

Like many builds, I began with a pile of foam. I used one 8'X4' sheet of 3/4" blue foam (Dow, from Lowes) and one sheet of 2" pink foam (Owens Corning, from HD). The blue stuff is a little denser, but both are easily carvable.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...o/P1030684.JPG

Here's a rough mockup of my "tree". I cut out the rough shapes using a kitchen knife and glued them together with a mix of silicone and Titebond glue (whatever I had on hand at the time). I also stuck in some cocktail skewers as additional fasteners. As you can see, I used many layers of foam to allow me to create nice depth.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...o/P1030685.JPG

Now for the messy part! I used a keyhole saw, rasp and file to shape the foam. Good thing my wife was out of town that weekend ;)

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TH...2/P1030686.JPG

After I had shaped the foam to my liking I attached it to the tank. I know a lot of people prefer to finish the background outside the tank and then attach it, but since mine was composed of multiple parts I thought it would be easier to stick them in first. It would probably have been easier to do the painting outside the tank, but it wasn't too bad (it helps that my tank is large enough for me to fit inside easily. Here's the left side siliconed into the tank. I used a full tube of silicone.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TK...2/P1040487.JPG

Another root added. I glued this to the tank bottom and to the first piece with Gorilla glue and added a bunch more skewers for additional structural support. The rope at the bottom was serving as a ghetto clamp.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TK...2/P1040488.JPG

Then I used GS foam to help hide the seams and add more structure. I also added GS around the bottom to hopefully provide better adherence to the bottom.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TK...2/P1040489.JPG

After carving down the GS, here's an overall shot of the background.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TK...4/P1040491.JPG

the_deeb 10-06-2010 10:02 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Next step was to paint the thing. I decided to use tinted Drylok, since I found that it's been used successfully for aquarium backgrounds. I decided to tint it with a blend of "charcoal" and "terra cotta" cement pigments. I was hoping to get brown but unfortunately the best I could get was sort of a grayish/purple instead.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TK...M/P1040492.JPG

Here's the background after the first coat of Drylok.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TK...A/P1040493.JPG

I unfortunately don't have photos of the next few steps. The color after the first coating was too flat and uniform. I mixed up a darker batch of drylok and used a dry brush method to feather and shade the background. This helped a lot but I still thought it artificial and rock-like.

I had hoped to create a realistic bark texture but it was beyond my artistic abilities, so I decided to add some fake vines to try to make it look more organic. For the vines I used some lengths of cotton and vinyl rope in various thickness. First a draped/wrapped them around the background and held them in place with staples or nails. I then covered them with a coat of tinted Drylok but because the Drylok really preserves the underlying texture I thought they still looked too artificial and rope like. So I mixed up another batch of Drylok and added in a bunch of long-fibered Exo Terra "Forest Moss" and then applied that to the vines. I thought this was a huge improvement. Here's the end result:

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TK...M/P1040496.JPG

and some closer views to show more of the details. You can see how well the Drylok preserves the texture of the underlying foam.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TK...2/P1040497.JPG

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_bmzO8CY1FUA/TK...2/P1040498.JPG

Overall, I'm really happy with how it turned out except I'm still not completely satisfied with the color. I think it still looks too purple and not very wood like. I think I'm going to buy some "tan" cement pigment to mix with my current colors to see if I can get it a little browner. I may also try to finish it with some ground moss mixed in epoxy.

azure89 10-06-2010 10:22 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Great job so far, I love it! those are some of the best fake roots that I've seen here on the board. I think the color looks fine but thats just my opinion.

Keep up the good work, can't wait to see this planted

vivbulider 10-06-2010 10:38 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
wow that looks amazing i would keep it the way it is

rcteem 10-06-2010 10:47 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Looks awesome...who's new happy home will this be for? Can't wait to see this planted.

frogface 10-06-2010 11:22 PM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Wow that looks great!

Hey Chris, I think we'll all need to take a short road trip to Chapel Hill soon :D

Nate Mcfin 10-07-2010 01:00 AM

Re: 300gal paludarium project
 
Very nice! I agree the color looks great in the pics. Foliage is going to make it even better.
Still amazed at how much talent is on this board...:cool:


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