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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
hello all,

****************3.25.05*******************
*****scroll down for the updated progress******
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well, i'm working on my first viv, and decided to document the process, as this sort of thing really helped me out when i was figuring out what to do.

i'm working with a 20 Gal high that i'll probably be housing 2-3 d. azureus in. stylistically, i've decided to go with a 'rock' background, which i made out of styrofoam, and will be coating with marine epoxy.

i'm pretty pleased with progress so far. next up... coat the wall with marine epoxy...

-sam

here it is so far (3/17/05)... i'll be updating it as we progress:


this is the unfinished rock wall that i'll be using as a backdrop. i used thick sheet of pink styrofoam i got from home depot, and carved away with a serrated knife. to create depth, i siliconed pieces on with GE II Door and Window silicone.


back view of my unfinished 'rock' backdrop. the long notch carved out of the back is sized such that i can pull the pump out if maintenance is needed. Notice the channel along the top ridge. the pump flows water into it and it fills up this channel that runs along the whole top ridge. there are notches in the channel that guide the water out of the channel to create what should be a pretty cool drip wall effect from multiple locations along the backdrop. i'll try and get pics of this in action when it's coated with epoxy.. i recently tried it out and it looks pretty nice.


side view of my false bottom made of egg crate and fiberglass mesh... it's secured together with GE II silicone. notice the notch in the upper right hand corner... it matches up with the notch running along the back of the styrofoam so i can pull the pump out easily. For aesthetic reasons, the dimensions are slightly smaller than the floor of the tank, thus allowing substrate in front of the thing -concealing it. The fiberglass mesh is attached via nylon fishing line i just tied onto the eggcrate structure.


put together so far.


...the mess my roommates have to put up with.


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*********updated 3.25.05****************
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alrighty... here we go. it's almost there..


ok, so i got some black and gray acrylic paint, and some foam brushes and painted it. as i was doing this i started sprinkling a mixture of white and black sand onto the paint to give it a texture and to speckle it to look something like granite. now it starts looking like rock....


ok.. so after the acrylic dried, i whipped out the west system marine epoxy, and covered the whole thing (including the back) with the stuff., being careful to get all the nooks. i think i put about 4 coats of epoxy on it. after this i let it cure a few days before working with it anymore..


before placing the wall in, i put silicone on the inside of the tank where the rock would be. i could have just ran a bead of silicone along the edge of where the rock touches the wall, but that'd be ugly it would have been abead of silicone running along the contour.


next i dropped it in... the epoxy makes the rock look a bit glossy, which at first i objected to, but realized that it should look fine given that it's going to be covered with moisture from the drip wall anyways... i suppose if i had wanted a matte look i could have sanded down a loyer of the epoxy


top view of rock in tank sitting on false bottom.


i bought one of the glass covers they sell for my tank. fortunately, the come shorter than the actual depth of the tank and give you an extra plastic attachment that i think is intended for cutting holes in. i threw that piece away, but the extra room let me make a screen vent for the front of the tank. i used fiberglass screening and the screen siding they sell for making screen windows. sawed it down to size, and made a little screen window. next i epoxied the screen to the glass top. perfect fit.


i got an extra long piece of driftwood from black jungle, giving me more to work with. then after figuring out how i wanted it to be set in i whipped out a hacksaw and cut away. to fix it to the tank, i siliconed it to the side glass. the tape it to hold it up while the silicone sets.

well that's it so far... got a misting system in today, and am going to get holes drilled in the glass soon. then it's just plants, frogs and i'm good to go.

-sam
 

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You are going to need to seal the foam before you apply any resin to it. The resin will eat through unsealed foam. Trust me, I tried making a surfboard out of the same stuff in H.S., I had it shaped out, stringer in place and looked great and then added the resin......It turned out to be one long piece of crap. It might have been too hot of a batch but...As for what to use to seal it, I'm not quite sure....But it needs something. Worst case, use a test piece before ruining all of your hard work.

Just thought I'd mention it. The background looks awesome!

Mike
 

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Looks awesome so far. Time for to get the vacuum lol.

Luke
 
G

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
hmm... well it sounds like i might be able to seal it with silicone first. then epoxy to harden the whole thing.

i'll have to do some research on this and get back

-sam
 

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You do not need to seal it if you are using epoxy. Just be sure to use thin layers first, because its the thick layers that heat up.
Hope this helps
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
epoxy reisin

i was going to say the same thoing as steven. if you epoxy it it will usually just mnelt it a little bit so that the edges are smoother.
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
what are you going to use to make it look like rock? Is thier any kind of frog safe plaster that you can color and such? I really am interested in doing some thing simular but I don't know much about it. I know steve knows a good amount. What kind of kind of plaster or mortar or what ever you would use to make it have a rocky surface?

thanks,
Tom
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
well this is the tentative plan:

i'm going to mix in some brown food dye and black charcoal powder into the coatings of epoxy. To add microtexture, i'll be sprinkling sand onto the coating as well. the rationale is twofold. 1) food dye will fade to a certain extent i imagine, even when it's embedded in epoxy, so the black carbon powder will serve as a backup of sorts. 2) using the sand, brown dye and black powder should make for a interesting mix and variety to the look of the rock.

this is just something thought up of like 10 minutes ago so it's entirely subject to change. i have yet to test this out, but i will most likely test it out tomorrow

let me know what you all think..

i know there's epoxy paint (sweetwater makes some i blieve) that's safe for aquariums, but that stuff's way expensive, and i already bought the marine epoxy. plus the colors they offer aren't ideal.

-sam
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
what kind of epoxy is non-toxic? what brand and what is it called? i would love to give a simular project a try.

Thanks,
Tom
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
alright...

so here's what i did since...

i got some gray and black acrylic paint, along with white and black sand. first, i painted the foam rock with the acrylic, followed by sprinkling of sand mixture into the paint to add microtexture.

after that dried, i applied marine epoxy over the whole thing. the first layer was just marine epoxy to make it watertight. then, i started sprinkling sand into the epoxy mixture as i added more coats, which added a nice white and black speckling that make the rock look quite a bit like granite.

no problems so far. no melting of the styrofoam. it seems you only get that massive exothermic buildup with epoxy when it's in a dense solution. so i just mixed small portions as i went along and rand into no heating/melting problems.

i'll take some pics of it when it's dry enough, but i'm really satisfied with the look.

looks like rock :).

btw... anyone that plans on doing this epoxy thing, get LOTS of foam brushes. they're useless after one use, so between coats you have to use a new one as the old brush solidifies (obviously)

-sam
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Those first few pics looked awesome. I can't wait to sdee the finished product! I've been giving a lot of thought to backgrounds for the viv I'm intending to build and this is sending my ideas in some new directions! Thanks for posting this thread! :D
 

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Wow, looking great. Makes me want to start building another tank using this method. It doesnt look like he is getting the top drilled. Just recently I started drilling all of my 10 verts with drains and misting nozzles, it really isnt that bad to do.

rob
 
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Niiice Set-up! Can't wait to see it finished!
I'm curious, did you have any trouble with the paint flaking off the styrofoam? I painted styrofoam with acrylic paint once and it kept coming off in little bits.
Do you think marine epoxy comes in a mat version?
 
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