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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I used smartponds black animal safe pond foam for the background, carved it and siliconed spots and applied cocofiber. I liked the color of the foam and how it looked as rocks and I wanted to leave a lot of that exposed (i am satisfied with this part visually. however, am I going to have any issues with the foam not having dryloc? I kind of jumped the gun. Do I need to go back and do anything, or is this fine for now?


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I'd tried to cover it if you can, but I don't think it will cause any major issues.
 

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Yeah, it does give a nice rocky effect! Clear silicone should keep the look while making it safe and watertight. I'm definitely gonna keep this in mind for when i start building my viv- I may change my mind on using foam yet!
 

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I recommend aquarium safe silicone and pushing the dry coco fiber (or whatever else you are using) into the silicone. I made sure to run a thick bead of silicone around the edges of the foam to seal it onto the glass almost like a caulking a seam, then applied my coco fiber there also.
 

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I recommend aquarium safe silicone and pushing the dry coco fiber (or whatever else you are using) into the silicone. I made sure to run a thick bead of silicone around the edges of the foam to seal it onto the glass almost like a caulking a seam, then applied my coco fiber there also.
I don't believe adding coco fiber adds much benefit compared to just silicone, and since the OP wants to retain the look of the Great Stuff (which I agree, looks good now), clear silicone should be fine. Coco fiber may offer a slight advantage as far as a rough surface that roots can more easily grab onto, but it retains essentially no water and roots seem to prefer cracks and crevices like you find on cork bark anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I don't believe adding coco fiber adds much benefit compared to just silicone, and since the OP wants to retain the look of the Great Stuff (which I agree, looks good now), clear silicone should be fine. Coco fiber may offer a slight advantage as far as a rough surface that roots can more easily grab onto, but it retains essentially no water and roots seem to prefer cracks and crevices like you find on cork bark anyway.
Do you think clear silicone will give it any unwanted shine, or stay pretty matte?
 

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Silicone and some sand will give you a nice faux-sandstone texture. If you have a good local fish store around, you should be able have a variety of sands and gravels to choose from. Play sand or pool filter sand would also work if you paint over it (once the silicone cures) with watered down nontoxic acrylic paint to match the desired color. I've used this method in aquariums and vivariums with no ill effects.
 

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Why can't you just leave it as is? Why would you have to cover it with anything? The only reason I can see for covering it is so bits don't get knocked off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Why can't you just leave it as is? Why would you have to cover it with anything? The only reason I can see for covering it is so bits don't get knocked off.
Yeah I was hoping I can-- I just didnt know for sure if it would last or do anything weird untreated
 

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If it wasn't cut and trimmed, I would say leave it. But with the hard outer coating cut off, I'd worry it would act as a sponge, possibly causing you to have to redo the background at some point. Drylok would be a super easy fix. There are safe pigments (concrete pigments?) that you can add to get different colors and make them look like legit rocks.
 

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I'd tried to cover it if you can, but I don't think it will cause any major issues.
Your rocks look good.

Covering it with silicone would be a mistake. 20 years ago I experimented with making what I called Silicone Soil. I mixed soil and silicone caulking together to create stream beds and ponds. It held water just fine, but the silicone had a glossy look. I was never truly happy with it because because it never looked natural. I applied sand, rock, coco fiber and soil over the silicone but over time the silicone shine always tended to come back as the material either washed off or as the coco fiber deteriorated away. The silicone soil tended to look glossy and did not look natural except when it is under water. Where the water ran, things looked fine. Where the silicone soil exited the water it did not look good.

I regularly use landscaping foam to create rock. While it is not at total mat finish, it is not glossy, it looks pretty decent. The pond foam is designed to be waterproof so it does not need to be sealed. It is designed to glue rocks together and to keep water flowing from flowing under the rocks forcing it to flow over the rock so that it creates stream beds and ponds.

These photos are from my last tank build where I used landscaping foam to create rock both inside of the tank and out. I put it on the outside of the tank so that the rock texture would hide things inside the tank and to make the exterior of the tank look like rock. It blends and hides Misting tubes, wires, cave walls, and blends surfaces to create a 3 dimensional look that blends from the outside to features on the inside. Landscape foam also was used to create hiding holes and tadpole depositing sites. None of it was sealed or painted.

Plant Leaf Botany Terrestrial plant Vegetation


The foam glued this tree to the janitorial stripping pad false bottom. The pads created these hiding caves, honeymoon huts, and the entire false bottom.

The foam created covered these caves / honeymoon laying spots and hiding spots.
Plant Bedrock Watercourse Wood Terrestrial plant






The foam glued this tree in place.
Plant Leaf Natural environment Terrestrial plant Wood


There is no real need to seal or cover the foam rocks that you created.
 

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Covering it with silicone would be a mistake. 20 years ago I experimented with making what I called Silicone Soil. I mixed soil and silicone caulking together to create stream beds and ponds. It held water just fine, but the silicone had a glossy look. I was never truly happy with it because because it never looked natural. I applied sand, rock, coco fiber and soil over the silicone but over time the silicone shine tended to come back. The silicone soil looked glossy and did not look natural except when it is under water. Where the water ran, things looked fine. Where the silicone soil exited the water it did not look good.
I think pond foam looks like pond foam if you don't fix it up a bit, but to each their own. I have a few tanks that are silicone covered with soil/substrates pushed into them. If you do it properly, you don't really see the silicone. I prefer drylock for covering it up now though.
 

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Drylok tinted black then dry brush with one or two shades of grey and call it good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Your rocks look good.

Covering it with silicone would be a mistake. 20 years ago I experimented with making what I called Silicone Soil. I mixed soil and silicone caulking together to create stream beds and ponds. It held water just fine, but the silicone had a glossy look. I was never truly happy with it because because it never looked natural. I applied sand, rock, coco fiber and soil over the silicone but over time the silicone shine always tended to come back as the material either washed off or as the coco fiber deteriorated away. The silicone soil tended to look glossy and did not look natural except when it is under water. Where the water ran, things looked fine. Where the silicone soil exited the water it did not look good.

I regularly use landscaping foam to create rock. While it is not at total mat finish, it is not glossy, it looks pretty decent. The pond foam is designed to be waterproof so it does not need to be sealed. It is designed to glue rocks together and to keep water flowing from flowing under the rocks forcing it to flow over the rock so that it creates stream beds and ponds.

These photos are from my last tank build where I used landscaping foam to create rock both inside of the tank and out. I put it on the outside of the tank so that the rock texture would hide things inside the tank and to make the exterior of the tank look like rock. It blends and hides Misting tubes, wires, cave walls, and blends surfaces to create a 3 dimensional look that blends from the outside to features on the inside. Landscape foam also was used to create hiding holes and tadpole depositing sites. None of it was sealed or painted.

View attachment 301706

The foam glued this tree to the janitorial stripping pad false bottom. The pads created these hiding caves, honeymoon huts, and the entire false bottom.

The foam created covered these caves / honeymoon laying spots and hiding spots.
View attachment 301707





The foam glued this tree in place.
View attachment 301708

There is no real need to seal or cover the foam rocks that you created.
Thanks for all your help! I love all the color in your vives. What kind of wood is that the tinc is sitting on in your last picture?
 

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Thanks for all your help! I love all the color in your vives. What kind of wood is that the tinc is sitting on in your last picture?
I have three different types of wood in that tank.

  1. The dark brown wood is Mopani. It is used in Aquariums and produces a lot of tannins which is what we use when we create tadpole tea. Tadpole tea has anti-fungal qualities. The water has a tan / brown color to it. The wood is also extremely hard. On one piece that had a butt cut I had to use power saws and carbide bits in order to cut and sculpt and shape the butt end cut to make the top look like a rotting stump. I bought it with that plan as the bottom half looked like an expanding root. With all of the plants, it is not as readily viewable, but I do like the look.
  2. The long tan thin piece of wood that the Azurius is sitting on is spider wood. It is also used in aquariums.
  3. I put one piece of grape wood in the tank as well. They look great, but are soft and will rot away fairly quickly, probably within 1 to 1 ½ years. But I actually want that. I will help provide a food source for dwarf isopods.
The first two types of wood are extremely friendly to moisture and humidity being rot resistant. All three types of wood can be found / purchased in Aquarium Fish Pet stores including big box stores like Petco. The best places I have found to look for these types of wood are places are at aquarium shops rather than pet stores. They will have product that are aimed at wet aquariums / vivariums. They are not aimed at the same products that are more general pet store that have dogs, cats, kittens, and puppies and their supplies.

I found that the aquarium shop's prices were actually cheaper than most websites. Another advantage to getting them from Aquarium Shops is you can sort through and pick out the actual pieces that will look more like trees / stumps / branches. I found that putting two pieces of the Mopani together could make a really nice looking natural looking tree stumps.
 

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I think pond foam looks like pond foam if you don't fix it up a bit, but to each their own. I have a few tanks that are silicone covered with soil/substrates pushed into them. If you do it properly, you don't really see the silicone. I prefer drylock for covering it up now though.
Everyone has their preferred methods and that is great.


I am a teacher and a biologist by education. I am also a curious innovator. I like to experiment and try new things and share my findings with our dart frog community. As a community, when we each share what we have learned we help not only new folks learn about the hobby and about how to take care of their frogs, but we also help our hobby grow and progress, to the betterment of our frogs lives and health. I have been taking care of darts since the late 1980s. The hobby was in it's infancy and all we had to communicate was FrogNet. Since then the care of our frogs have progressed greatly over the last 30 some years.

I've been home sick for the last two weeks, not with Covid. It has allowed me to post and play some.

In the photos of the tank above I shared my experimenting with using a professional foam gun and black pond foam. I modified and shaped the foam trying for a volcanic look. Some may not like the look and that is fine. I was experimenting using plastic grocery bags to create rock textures. I would also carve the rock to in areas to give it a more natural look. Some may not like it. You are exactly right, each to his own.


In 2009 - 2010 I wanted to find easier ways to a more natural looking, light weight foam rock. I experimented with two part expanding foam. Here is a rock wall that I created using two part expanding foam. It was molded from molds take from rock. It doesn't look like pond foam. It looks like and feels like rock.



I researched the ins and outs of how to create and mold colored foam. I experimented with the two part polyurethane foam. In the process I built a tank with two major changes in tank design. I posted some of my findings here on Dendroboard.

  1. First innovation was that I was able to create and molding multicolored foam foam. I could create any color I wanted, not just tan or a black / grey.
  2. The Second is innovation in modifying a regular aquarium so that it has a false back which is accessible from the rear of the tank.


To date, I have found that the two part foam method is so much easier to create beautiful, realistic rocks and walls than any of methods presently being used, but I am still experimenting.

The rock in the above photo was 100 % created and colored with three colors of foam poured at one time. There is no Paint coloring the rock.

From 1988 to the present I have watched the hobby change.

A BRIEF HISTORY: BUILDING BACKGROUNDS / ROCKS IN OUR TANKS
In the 80s - 90s concrete and colored concrete tile grout backgrounds and rock walls were the norm. It took a ton of time to install, shape the Styrofoam, apply grout / concrete / thinset over the top of the foam, then it took 3 – 4 weeks of flush and cure time in order to lower concrete / grout's pH to safe levels for our frogs. Once the concrete grout was installed it was hard to modify, the pH curing took a lot of time and work to complete. Then it was difficult to paint (and you hoped the paint would stay.) This method to gave way to using solid foam sheets to create rocks and walls in our tanks. In the late 90's and early 2000's carving and assembling various types of foam cut from sheets was popular. While the invention of polyurethane foam goes back to 1937, I believe it was Dupont that created Great Stuff, a one part closed cell expanding foam. It cured in the presence of moisture either absorbed from the air or from misting. It was originally created for the construction trades to seal around windows and doors for insulation. We in the dart frog community adopted it's use it to sculpt and created backgrounds and rocks. But the tan color, followed by having to carve it, coat it, with dry lock and paint it, or cover it with silicone, and then applying bark dust, was / still is a lot of work just to get it to look natural. Black Pond foam, a gray / black colored polyurethane foam in a can helped with that, but it still is a lot of work to get it to look natural.

In 2009 - 2010 I experimented with Two Part expanding polyurethane foam which expands like great stuff, can be shaped, cut, etc. After colorizing, the color is permanent and it runs completely through the foam. The foam is waterproof and is completely inert after it sets. The benefits are that you can create any color you want. I’ve made Black, Dark Mud Brown, Tree brown, Multi-Color Granite Rock (Grey, Burgundy, Rose), Pink, Blue, Yellow. etc. Structures are easy to Add / Remove / or Modify: (Carves like Great Stuff). It can be install into molds to make it look identical to rock.

It is easy to sterilize, It can be used to bond structures to glass, window screen plumbing pipes, etc. It is cheaper to install than: Silicone / Great Stuff / Styrofoam / Thinset / Grout / Concrete methods. It is also vastly faster to install than present systems we use in our tanks today. The foam expands in 2 – 4 minute time, in 12 –15 minutes you can pour another level onto top of the present level, It only takes 24 hour total cure time.




I documented how to easily modify a regular aquarium, to create a false backed tank with a rear access panel. This enabled to remove an internal pump from the rear for easy maintenance. I installed an Internal Tank Computer Fan / Hidden behind the false wall, accessible from rear, which Clears the front glass. How the rear access panel is magnetically attached to the tank.

I journaled a part of my experiences as I built this tank.

Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access /...

Not trying to hijack the thread, just trying to help.

Dave Calkins


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