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-$600. Can everyone afford them?, No. But there are ways to go around that huge 3-digit figure and make one of those backgrounds yourself. I made this small background for my 10 gallon Lake Tanganyika tank using items available in your local hardware stores.
Front view of pieces of cut pink styrofoam glued together with silicone.
Side view of cut pieces of pink styrofoam glued together with silicone.
Pink Styrofoam, which is a lot better then white Styrofoam, is easier to work with. Styrofoam should be available in any Home Depot for price of only 12$. 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.
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.
Note how the epoxy melted the rough edges of the cut styrofoam
Another view of the styrofoam covered with epoxy
Styrofoam with epoxy
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.
Tank ready for filling
Tank ready for filling – side view
Tank with sand, ready for water
The aquarium filled with water
Tank filled, cured, and ready for fish
First Publication: Greenstouch
Source: Aquarticles (no longer available)