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Old 06-27-2012, 06:06 AM
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Default Concrete/Fake Rock Wall Build Log

Hey everyone, it's been awhile since I've been on the boards...school gets in the way ya know. Anyway, I just graduated and am starting up a new project. An old 18 x 18 x 24 Zoomed that I had lying around in the basement waiting for a rainy day. My plan is to have a fake rock wall back with half of one side also having fake rocks. On the right side I will be putting some ecoweb and a dripwall on both the back and the right side. Hopefully it will become a moss heaven! I am at the stage now (will post pictures tomorrow) where I have completed the styrofoam sculpting and am about to choose a cement. Any suggestions from people who have done this in the past? I went to Lowe's today and found about 20 varieties of cement so the choice is a daunting one.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the rest of this build....now that the styrofoam cutting is over ... This tank will house my three leucs who deserve more badass digs now that they are older.
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Old 06-27-2012, 06:49 AM
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Subscribed! I'm going to turn a 60 corner half hex into a nice display and am going to use concrete of some sort. Would like to see it being done
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Old 06-27-2012, 11:00 AM
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Default Re: Concrete/Fake Rock Wall Build Log

Your best bet at the moment, being how there are no pH neutral cements currently on any market, is to use one that will have the lowest level of CaOH easily available. I have had some success with Quikcrete's rapid set mortar. There is a really long chemical reasoning why this is the case, but basically it has a lower volume of material in it, than other portaland cement based cements (including grouts), that produces CaOH long after the initial "cure".

You WILL need to cure your cement. This will take at minimum a month. Very likely longer. If you want moss, you will need to probably need to wait at least two months before you try to seed or introduce any mosses. The first month to cure to cement to a tolerable pH, the second month of the drip wall continuing to leach out the CaOH from the cement. All the while you make full water changes about every 4-5 days.

I have posted many times on using cement in the vivarium. Look up some of the ones I've posted about a year or so ago if you want detailed specifics on the chemistry of it all.

To cure the background you want to spray it with water and keep it wet, while allowing air to move over it, and then repeating over/over. Unless you want to get really fancy, in which you spray it wet, and then use dry ice inside the empty tank, cover the top with plastic wrap, and let this sit. The C02 mixing with water is what neutralizes the CaOH properly. The dry ice accelerates the "cure", but it won't make it go but maybe a week faster, when done right.
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Old 06-27-2012, 02:11 PM
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* disclaimer* there has been no scientific evidence to proove this.

When I built my rock wall for my newt tank. I used pink foam and quickcrete cement. Using only the acrylic fortifier as the liquid, no water at all. My fluctuations in pH have been very minor now that its a year later. I suspect its because of the acrylic fortifier.

Before I started preping it for inhabitents I soaked it for 2 weeks to the brim with moving water and changed it out every other day. Then I cycled my tank with no inhabitents. So another 2.5 weeks in water

I have very hard water with a out of the tap pH of 8.2 and my pH in the tank sits at 8.4 normally. I'm running a walstad setup with that background. Which I can't remember what detail exactly buuut I think the plant respiration may help bring my pH down over time.

I've heard that vinegar baths work well for curing but can shorten the life of your cement.

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Old 06-27-2012, 07:48 PM
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Default Re: Concrete/Fake Rock Wall Build Log

Thanks for the comments and suggestions everyone. I am aware of all the issues concerning hardening and pH neutralization, etc. I'm still deciding on the actual cement to utilize. Anyway, as promised, here are pictures of the build so far:


This is the tank I am utilizing for the build. I ripped out a crappy first effort from about 1 year ago and cleaned it all up for this attempt.


I began by gluing a bunch of pieces of styrofoam together to be able to shape some rocks from them as loose pieces that will accent the main rock wall.


I started by gluing a few layers together and then siliconing them very securely to the back wall. I let that dry for a few days to make sure it was nice and secure. This allowed me to flip the tank right side up and layer the rocks on top of these.


Here is the first round of styrofoam blocks on the tank. I am going for a sort of stacked river stone look. I'll be adding some extra pieces to give it a little more depth.

That's it for now, more to come. I'll be roughing out the false bottom soon.
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Old 06-28-2012, 02:16 AM
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Default Re: Concrete/Fake Rock Wall Build Log

I am planning on utilizing some ecoweb on the right hand side where there are no fake rocks. I have realized through the forums that the only real place that sells it in the states is First Rays. The product page is here

My question is this. The website for this place is super old, like 1990's old. Has anyone purchased this stuff from them on this board? Recently? I just want to make sure I'm not sending my hard-earned money down a never-ending rabbit hole...Thoughts? Thanks!
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Old 06-28-2012, 12:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qfrogs View Post
I am planning on utilizing some ecoweb on the right hand side where there are no fake rocks. I have realized through the forums that the only real place that sells it in the states is First Rays. The product page is here

My question is this. The website for this place is super old, like 1990's old. Has anyone purchased this stuff from them on this board? Recently? I just want to make sure I'm not sending my hard-earned money down a never-ending rabbit hole...Thoughts? Thanks!
I bought ecoweb from them about 9 months ago.
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Old 08-20-2012, 08:15 PM
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Default Re: Concrete/Fake Rock Wall Build Log

Alright, so big update here. Sorry for the long delay, but such is the life of an unemployed recent college graduate. I have just accepted a position now so I have time on my hands to show you the goods. So without further adieu, here we go!

**NOTE: BETTER PICTURES WILL BE UPLOADED IN THE FUTURE!!!**

This is the first layer of concrete (mortar mix) that I spread out onto the styrofoam. I made this quite thin so that it could pour into all the nooks and crannies.



Final Coat of concrete and some shaping and this is the finished product. Sorry for some of the poor pictures, all I have to work with now is the phone. Will get some better pictures before I plant...The chiselling and shaping took a lot of work but will help when painting.


I put some "rock" coming out of the side of the glass as well to make it all come together "theme-wise".


Close-up of the sculpting of the rock. The look I finally decided I wanted was sort of a rough, volcanic rock as it would "pop" a little better with the wood in the foreground.


This is how I did the curing. I did short spurts using my fogger to lightly wet the surface of the rocks. I will have a glass top when it is all said and done but decided to just use styrofoam for now.



This is the rock after it has been finished in the pain department. I used acrylic paints and again decided to go for the volcanic rock look. The colors here are difficult to really see, but the final version looks much better than the picture shows...again, promise to get better pics up soon. The wood is also not in its final position, just in there to show the contrasting colors.


As I will be utilizing a drip wall here, I installed some background material on the side. Hopefully this will fill in quickly making the rock appear to jut out of the vegetation. I used 3M scrubbing pads here as it is almost exactly like ecoweb but much much cheaper!


Closeup of the rock and scrubbing pads. This will give you a better idea of the color of the paint and the texture.



Alright, that is it for now. I will be putting the finishing touches on this guy in the next week so stay tuned for more updates. I'm trying to finish the construction before I move to my new job so I can plant when I get settled there. Thanks for looking!
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Old 08-22-2012, 09:29 AM
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Default Re: Concrete/Fake Rock Wall Build Log

The painted finish looks amazing!

Did you need to seal the cement with anything once you had painted it? I plan to use this as the main coating for my waterfall (SikaŽ Waterproof Coating Grey 5kg | Screwfix.com) which I will just put straight onto expanding foam/styrofoam background.

As a side question, would this type of 'acrylic spray' be suitable to use once painted to seal it up further? Plasti-Kote Clear Acrylic Sealer 500ml | Screwfix.com Or would it not be suitable?

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Old 08-22-2012, 03:48 PM
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Default Re: Concrete/Fake Rock Wall Build Log

Quote:
Originally Posted by SLiK JiM View Post
The painted finish looks amazing!

Did you need to seal the cement with anything once you had painted it?
I did use an acrylic spray to seal it up. I was a little wary of leaving it unsealed. The cement was cured but like most cement there are a bunch of pinholes that I worried about since there will be some prolonged water exposure on most of the rock. I would not just use a single color spray paint (acrylic or not) on the rocks as a flat color doesn't look so great. The painting I did here is not very difficult and if you go to a craft store and get a few colors of acrylic paint you can make all kinds of realistic looking rocks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SLiK JiM View Post
As a side question, would this type of 'acrylic spray' be suitable to use once painted to seal it up further? Plasti-Kote Clear Acrylic Sealer 500ml | Screwfix.com Or would it not be suitable?
I don't see why not as it is an acrylic, but without having the one sheet of chemicals in front of me it is difficult to say. There are lots of other people on these boards that are more educated on these matters than me. Hopefully one of them will answer that question for you.
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