Aquarium background ala Back to Nature

DIY Background ala “Back to Nature”

Back-to-nature background is probably the most wanted item in the aquarium hobby. The only problem that keeps hobbyists from buying those, almost real, backgrounds is unfortunately price. Price ranges anywhere from $200-$600. Can everyone afford them?, No. But there are ways to go around that huge 3-digit figure and make one of those backgrounds yourself. I made this small background for my 10 gallon Lake Tanganyika tank using items available in your local hardware stores.

Achterwand uitgesneden in piepschuim
Achterwand uitgesneden in piepschuim

Front view of pieces of cut pink styrofoam glued together with silicone.

Achterwand uitgesneden in piepschuim vanaf de zijkant
Achterwand uitgesneden in piepschuim vanaf de zijkant

Side view of cut pieces of pink styrofoam glued together with silicone.

Silicone lijm
Silicone lijm

Pink Styrofoam, which is a lot better then white Styrofoam, is easier to work with. Styrofoam should be available in any Home Depot for price of only 12$. Look for different thickness of this product. Thicker – better !!!. It depends on what are you trying to achieve and what type of layout you designing. I prefer to work with 2 layers. Use bottom layer as Main Layer, cut “3D” additions from second layer and add them on top of the Main Layer. You can work your way down to first layer and make shapes there as well. This will create more depth.

To glue styrofoam I used GE RTV108 series silicone. There has been a lot of discussions on which silicone to use and which could be toxic to your fish. Here is the quote from GE company. I was able to find GE RTV108 for $5 in my local hardware store.

Epoxy voor aquarium achterwand
Epoxy voor aquarium achterwand

West System Epoxy will probably be THE most expensive item in your project. I paid $40
for resin + hardener which was enough for entire project plus I had some extras.

I purchased regular black dye from grocery store, mixed it with West System Epoxy and painted entire model. I noticed that epoxy had burning/melting effect on styrofoam and initially rough edges changed to nice and smooth shapes. I did 5 coats using dye + epoxy mix to securely cover entire model. To remove epoxy glaze, I sprinkled play sand over entire model. I repeated epoxy and sand step few times to achieve final effect and rock texture.

Achterwand in epoxy en verf
Achterwand in epoxy en verf

Note how the epoxy melted the rough edges of the cut styrofoam

Achterwand in epoxy en verf
Achterwand in epoxy en verf

Another view of the styrofoam covered with epoxy

Achterwand in epoxy en verf vanaf de bovenkant
Achterwand in epoxy en verf vanaf de bovenkant

Styrofoam with epoxy

Achterwand in epoxy en verf
Achterwand in epoxy en verf

Styrofoam with epoxy

I soaked entire background in water for few days. I think the epoxy layer was not thick enough because the dye started to fade. Despite some bumps and side-effects, final outcome was very pleasing.

Achterwand in aquarium
Achterwand in aquarium

Tank ready for filling

Achterwand in aquarium vanaf de zijkant
Achterwand in aquarium vanaf de zijkant

Tank ready for filling – side view

Aquarium gevuld met zand
Aquarium gevuld met zand

Tank with sand, ready for water

Aquarium gevuld met water
Aquarium gevuld met water

The aquarium filled with water

Aquarium Achterwand ala Back to Nature
Aquarium Achterwand ala Back to Nature

Tank filled, cured, and ready for fish

First Publication: Greenstouch
Source: Aquarticles (no longer available)

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