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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
i have heard many people use Great Stuff expanding foam for their backgrounds but which kind do you use? there seems to be several (pond&stone, big gap filler, gaps and cracks etc...), if i can't find that particular kind, are there any others that will work well?

also, i know lots of people cover the foam in eco earth/coco fiber, but when do you do this? do you just press it on while the foam is still wet or silicone it on after?

and one last question about what i should use for subsrate. i have heard of orchid bark, sphagnum moss, earth etc. what is the best combination of them? do you put it down in layers or mix it all together? the tank is a 75g, so i'm looking for options that won't cost the earth.
 

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I haven't built my tank yet, so this is just coming from reading a bunch of the threads here.

i have heard many people use Great Stuff expanding foam for their backgrounds but which kind do you use? there seems to be several (pond&stone, big gap filler, gaps and cracks etc...), if i can't find that particular kind, are there any others that will work well?
It seems to be individual preference. Some like Pond & stone because it is black. I've seen people use the big gap filler to fill the bigger areas and get the general shape down and then fill in the rest/more details with the gaps and cracks. It's important to let things dry completely one layer at a time, giving it room to expand. If it has nowhere to go it can break stuff.

also, i know lots of people cover the foam in eco earth/coco fiber, but when do you do this? do you just press it on while the foam is still wet or silicone it on after?
They silicone it on. I believe you need to remove the outer smooth layer of the great stuff to give it a better surface to stick to as well.

and one last question about what i should use for subsrate. i have heard of orchid bark, sphagnum moss, earth etc. what is the best combination of them? do you put it down in layers or mix it all together? the tank is a 75g, so i'm looking for options that won't cost the earth.
A lot of people seem to like ABG mix. There are multiple threads on that. You can buy it already made or buy the ingredients and mix it yourself. Other people go for a clay substrate they make, but I couldn't tell you about this as I'm not going to do that for my first, though again there are threads (long threads with tons of information) discussing it.
 

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They silicone it on. I believe you need to remove the outer smooth layer of the great stuff to give it a better surface to stick to as well
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If you dont "skin" the great stuff getting anything to stick to it is a pain. You can use a razor blade of some sort or kitchen knife. You can get it to stick with out skining it but it may fall off easier down the line.

The thing with great stuff is you never seem to have enough. so always buy extra.

Also look into contrete primer and bonding additive from ace hardware. Mix this with coco fiber/bark,and a little water and it works great for a background but it does take a few days to a week to dry. I only mention this is you made a reffrence to not wanting to spend a lot and silicone can get expensive. I used only 1/2 gallon of my primer to cover my 4 ft tall pentagon viv. It may seem like a lot of primer but 1 gallon only cost $15.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
yes i have looked into the cement method and another one that uses a latex based masonry sealant called "drylok". from what i have seen it gives you the same kind of final product as cement but is easier to work with.

this is an example of a guy who used this method: 300gal plywood paludarium project - Page 7 - MonsterFishKeepers.com

i am still undecided about the best way to go because i have never done this before :). there's so many different ways i just can't seem to figure out which one is the best/ which one i would like to go with.

my paln so far is to embed wood into the foam and either cover the foam with coco fiber or drylock it. i want a nice natural look but also a good surface for plants to grow on.
 

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Since you have never done this before get a few practice vivs in. Get a couple 10gal or 20gal tanks and experiment with different methods. No reason to go all out on a 75gal and have something not work out and have to redo it, plus some methods are easier than others or you may find you like one over the other.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Since you have never done this before get a few practice vivs in. Get a couple 10gal or 20gal tanks and experiment with different methods. No reason to go all out on a 75gal and have something not work out and have to redo it, plus some methods are easier than others or you may find you like one over the other.
that's a good suggestion. i have some old tanks lying around i can use as practice. thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
All of the above.

I have always used the puffy stuff for large areas, gaps and cracks around wood and close to the glass.

If I had to recommend just one, Do a search for clay backgrounds and say hell with the foam
i looked briefly at one that used kitty litter. i'll go back and take another look at it, i'm just worried about weight. is it likely to just... slide or fall off/crack or melt?
 

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The Ace Binder method will not work with a waterfall or dripper or if large amounts of water will move over/through the background. It falls apart. Use a true waterproof (not resistant) matrix material, like an epoxy or water-proof wood glue. The Ace Binder method only works if you mist the tank and nothing more water wise, also the binder leaches into the water column.

Not familiar with the drylock method although it does contain a solvent so be sure to use it outside.
 

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i looked briefly at one that used kitty litter. i'll go back and take another look at it, i'm just worried about weight. is it likely to just... slide or fall off/crack or melt?
People have varying degrees of success with it. 100% clay kitty litter works okay, but there are other clays you can get from pottery stores and such that make a stronger clay. I used Dr. Elsey's kitty litter and it has been pretty stable. It's funny though, you'd think weight would be an issue but beware if you try to put down only a "thin" layer as it will likely crack and fall off. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The Ace Binder method will not work with a waterfall or dripper or if large amounts of water will move over/through the background. It falls apart. Use a true waterproof (not resistant) matrix material, like an epoxy or water-proof wood glue. The Ace Binder method only works if you mist the tank and nothing more water wise, also the binder leaches into the water column.

Not familiar with the drylock method although it does contain a solvent so be sure to use it outside.
hmm i don't think i would be going with a water fall or anything at this point, just a narrow strip of water across the front of the tank (separated) and misting. i definitely don't want it falling off though XD i also don't want it leaching (i thought i might want to have some shrimp). thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
People have varying degrees of success with it. 100% clay kitty litter works okay, but there are other clays you can get from pottery stores and such that make a stronger clay. I used Dr. Elsey's kitty litter and it has been pretty stable. It's funny though, you'd think weight would be an issue but beware if you try to put down only a "thin" layer as it will likely crack and fall off. :)
hmm i guess that actually makes sense for the thin layer.. it is actually weaker than a thick layer :) ... i think i would only be misting and not having a waterfall/dripwall or anything like that, but i'm still not sure i want to risk just having the whole thing melt or crack... from the reading i have done people say it is a balancing act. it certainly looks easy to put together anyway, but i wonder if it might be worth going with the foam, which may be trickier to get up, but not a worry once it is up.
 
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