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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Has anyone used the great stuff to make a background, then use the 'terrarium mortar' to make rockwork out of it? I've been thinking of ways to do cool backgrounds yet keep some of the weight off, and that was one I was kicking around. If this is the normal procedure for doing it, you can make fun of me all you want...
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Justin,

I don't think the making of fake rocks is something that has been experimented with that much, so I'm glad you posted the question and hope to hear some good ideas. I actually did the great stuff/mortar background for part of my last tank, and IMO the only thing the viv mortar is good for is to create texture. I have worked with the mortar alot and do not like it because 1)you CANNOT depend on it to hold anything up as it is very brittle when dry 2)even when used to texturize something it often flakes off (unless you make a VERY thick layer which can get pretty expensive) 3)running water breaks it down over time 4) its horribly over priced. I stuck small pieces of bowl rock into the foam to give dimension and then slather the foam in between the rocks with the mortar, again has to be a very thick layer.

You should probably know that I ended up tearing down this background because the mortar would chip away in various areas and was an overall pain in the a$$ that required constant maintaince. Check out the thread about the fiber glass tree trunk this zoo made, i bet you could make some nice rocks w/ the same technique

Dustin
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you very much for the feedback-- that really made up my mind pretty fast about that. As for that zoo, I actually worked for it for a while and helped design the displays. All the hard work was done by Clyde's youngest son-- he's really amazing at what he does.
J
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
yeah, he did one hell of a job, thats for sure! Seeing as you assissted in the construction, would you mind describing the technique used to create the tree butress? i.e. materials, tools, process, etc.
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
As I said, all the hard work was done by Elliot, I was there when we designed them. He would use wire mesh and bend it into the shapes he wanted, then coat them with fiberglass. Most of the time when he did construction, I was doing animal maintenance. He would take casts of trees, rocks, bark, etc for the tops of the molds. The top coats were some sort of rubber or latex. Then he would paint them etc. The tanks were made of aluminum framing and glass panels that slid in. These are all for the traveling zoo (one of three), so they are made to be fairly light weight and portable. There are drips in the backgrounds and filters underneath. The basic ideas were taken from the blueprints of the tanks from the NAIB, but those were something like twenty years old, so they did some improvements on it.
j
 

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I am also thinking about the exact same idea. I plan to start a tank tomorrow that will have styrofoam, part coco/weldbond, and then some motor. No idea what to expect, can't make up my mind to put in a waterfall or not, but I think I will. The mortor will be used on the waterfall section.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
If you are looking for stuff to makes molds of fake rocks you can purchase this stuff at most hobby stores. The better store to get this at will be the ones catering to building train layouts and such. They even sell premade molds of some rocks. You could always just fill these up with the great stuff or if you can find the 2 part expanding foam that you mix together yourself. Then you could paint these with acrylic paint and seal it with a clear coat of epoxy paint or fiber glass resin. The just silcone them onto the background or in to place to create a watefall fall. This is just an idea as I have yet to try any of this.

Mike P.
 

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I saw something at my local HD the other day that may be of interest to you. They had a product called feather rock. It was a light wiegth synthetic rock which resembled granite. It seemed like it would be relativly easy to carve and shape. It may be something wort checking out.
 

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Thought I would post some links from cichlid-related sites, where the styro backgrounds, or the styro+cement backgrounds are fairly popular. Obviously these guys care about safety in aquatic situations, though they don't care if the water hardness increases, which would be negative with frogs/plants probably.

This one looked fabulous on the original author's site, which is saldy no longer up... http://www.thekrib.com/TankHardware/janne.html

Also see:
http://cichlid-forum.com/articles/diy_background.php
http://greenstouch.com/articles_background.htm

hth,
Josh
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks, those sites were really informative. I think I'll wait a bit before starting the rock background, but I have some new ideas now.
j
 

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I found the site that was "sadly, no longer up"

here are some of the pics of the rockwork with some nice algae growth... best I've seen! http://kotisivu.mtv3.fi/jmjokine/malawi/images.html

Plus some fish pictures to show us PDF people we don't have all the color in the world.

Josh
 

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I got suckered into buying the mortar...I spent something like $60 for few ounces. It dries up real fast, it looks OK, but I'd never recommend it... I had a lot of waste, that's one. Two, it's all overgrown now, so you can't even see it anymore. Once I paid the guy gave me a coupon for 50% off next mortar purchase (of course, he made his money already :). Looks nothing like a rock, just like dry gray cement. I had to paint it with some epoxy paints. I ended up paying whole bunch of $$$ for paint...I had to get a bunch of shades to make it look realistic.. I'm not a big fan of it. Too expensive and results aren't really that realistic, unless you put a ton of time in it... Not worth it... I like the train idea much better.


kyle1745 said:
I have thought about doing just that, have to be careful with whats in them though so nothing leaks into the water. There are a couple of them that are fine though.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
60$ for a few ounces? ouch... I managed to buy 12 lbs (split it with Kyle)for 66 bucks. Its a real pain to work with. I did manage to make a couple things with it so far, not to pleased with the outcome. I'll post a couple of pics here when I have a chance. I think the best method is to use it to "cover something" and mix really small batches at a time.


-Tad
 
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Ok, as promised:








the streambed in the first pictures is a lot larger than I would have liked for my 20L but maybe some day it will be at hom in a larger (55g?) vivarium. The waterfall in the last few pics (to be my vent's tank), just kinda looks like mud.... but is functional and looks better in person, hopefully when I can get some java moss to cover the sides of the planters, and find something to cover the bottom (moss or leaf litter) it will look nicer.

-Tad
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I managed to get the nice smooth 'mud' texture by sprinkling dry mortar over other wet mortar that was setting, an just spraying it with a mist bottle.


-tad
 
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