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Styrofoam backrounds


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#1 Moontanman

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Posted 02 September 2020 - 04:33 PM

I'm getting ready to build a styrofoam background with styrofoam sheets, has anyone else tried this Any advice? 


Michael

Life is the poetry of the universe
Love is the poetry of life

#2 Chasmodes

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Posted 03 September 2020 - 11:28 PM

Michael, I built my wall out of styrofoam foam boards.  Here's the post in the thread where I started my foam wall background.  Even if you don't construct yours like I did, you can at least see what worked for me or maybe get some ideas on how you'd like to proceed.

 

http://forum.nanfa.o...build/?p=140910

 

I painted mine with Drylok mixed with cement dye when I was done carving.  Then, I coated it with a clear coat made by Polygem.  You don't have to do that, but I wanted more durability so that when I work in the tank, I wouldn't damage the background.  The clear coat really protects it.  Lots of folks just paint the Drylok on and after it dries, install it in the tank as is.  

 

Also, foam floats big time, so the more you use, the more you'll need to secure it to the glass and/or bottom.  My wall was very thick, so, after carving and painting, I glued it on the sides and bottom with a lot of silicone.  I used six tubes of silicone. 

 

Depending on the size of your tank, if you have a center brace, you'll need to make the background into 2 or more sections to get them to fit for installation.  I designed mine so that the sections had irregular edges like natural cracks in rock.

 

Good luck.  If you check out my thread and still have questions, you can ask there or here and I'll try and help.

 

My background is still holding up very well.  So far, it's solidly attached to the glass.  I made it so it fit tightly in the tank frame too, so that helps to have a good tight fit.

 

If I think of anything else, then I'll post again.


Kevin Wilson


#3 Moontanman

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Posted 05 September 2020 - 07:20 AM

Michael, I built my wall out of styrofoam foam boards.  Here's the post in the thread where I started my foam wall background.  Even if you don't construct yours like I did, you can at least see what worked for me or maybe get some ideas on how you'd like to proceed.

 

http://forum.nanfa.o...build/?p=140910

 

I painted mine with Drylok mixed with cement dye when I was done carving.  Then, I coated it with a clear coat made by Polygem.  You don't have to do that, but I wanted more durability so that when I work in the tank, I wouldn't damage the background.  The clear coat really protects it.  Lots of folks just paint the Drylok on and after it dries, install it in the tank as is.  

 

Also, foam floats big time, so the more you use, the more you'll need to secure it to the glass and/or bottom.  My wall was very thick, so, after carving and painting, I glued it on the sides and bottom with a lot of silicone.  I used six tubes of silicone. 

 

Depending on the size of your tank, if you have a center brace, you'll need to make the background into 2 or more sections to get them to fit for installation.  I designed mine so that the sections had irregular edges like natural cracks in rock.

 

Good luck.  If you check out my thread and still have questions, you can ask there or here and I'll try and help.

 

My background is still holding up very well.  So far, it's solidly attached to the glass.  I made it so it fit tightly in the tank frame too, so that helps to have a good tight fit.

 

If I think of anything else, then I'll post again.

 

 

Can great stuff foam be used instead of silicone to attach the background to the glass? 


Michael

Life is the poetry of the universe
Love is the poetry of life

#4 Casper

Casper
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Posted 07 September 2020 - 11:32 AM

Ha!

 

Kevin... ( Also, foam floats big time, so the more you use, the more you'll need to secure it to the glass and/or bottom.  My wall was very thick, so, after carving and painting, I glued it on the sides and bottom with a lot of silicone.  I used six tubes of silicone.  )

 

Years ago i took a typical concrete block and sculptured it with a layer of Great Stuff.

It still floated!  I had to screw steel plates to the bottom to hold it down.

I made a Vivarium with a screened cabinet on top for Anoles.

Fish below and salamanders on the sculpted cavey concrete block projecting up out of the water.


Casper Cox
Chattanooga, near the TN Divide on BlueFishRidge overlooking South Chickamauga Creek.

#5 Chasmodes

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Posted 07 September 2020 - 01:32 PM

Michael, yes, Great Stuff will work...for a while.  It eventually pulls away from the glass, and in some cases, happened within a year.  I searched forums far and wide for the answer to that question.  I did not want to risk that.  Those that used silicone say that they haven't had problems.  But, again, all the info that I know about Great Stuff as a background is second hand, from what I read.   There are others in the reefing community that have used it with apparent success.  Some reefers were nervous about spraying it directly, and instead, sprayed it on egg crate light diffusers and then used silicone to attach it to the tank.

 

There are a bunch of very good posts on the Cichlid=Forum.  DIY Fishkeepers used to have a forum with a section dedicated to backgrounds, but that forum has since been taken down.  There is some good info in the DIY Aquascapers website as well.


Kevin Wilson


#6 Chasmodes

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Posted 07 September 2020 - 02:20 PM

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  I did a test.  I glued 2 pieces of foam board to a spare piece of glass that I had laying around, and squirted some spray foam directly to the glass.  One of the foam board was glued to the glass with silicone, the other glued with Gorilla Glue.  The next day, I successfully pulled off the foam board piece from the glass that was glued with Gorilla Glue with minimal effort, and the entire piece came off.  Although, I could not directly remove the spray foam from the glass with my hands, I was also easily able to pry off the entire piece of spray foam with a putty knife with minimal effort.  I could not remove the foam board that was glued to the glass with silicone, even with a putty knife, without breaking the foam board.  That experiment sealed my decision.


Kevin Wilson


#7 Moontanman

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Posted 08 September 2020 - 10:11 AM

Thanks guys, for the advice it'll help to avoid mistakes... 


Michael

Life is the poetry of the universe
Love is the poetry of life

#8 Moontanman

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Posted 08 September 2020 - 12:49 PM

Um, one more question, is great stuff strong enough to glue styrofoam to styrofoam?


Michael

Life is the poetry of the universe
Love is the poetry of life

#9 Chasmodes

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Posted 08 September 2020 - 01:56 PM

It probably is, but it's messy.  And, I wouldn't count on being able to use the can the next day after you open it.  Sometimes you can, but sometimes, air gets in there and it's done.  I used Gorilla Glue and that worked great.  I used the original glue.  Plus, it lasts longer.

 

Also, Gorilla Glue gives you more time to work with it after applying.  Great stuff is very messy and harder to work with.

 

It expands and works a lot like Great Stuff.  Make sure that you use clamps or weight to keep the glue from expanding too much.  Also, a little goes a long way.  Spread it thin.  I used broken slivers of foam from my carvings to spread it, as disposable spreading tools ;)


Kevin Wilson


#10 Moontanman

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Posted 08 September 2020 - 02:10 PM

It probably is, but it's messy.  And, I wouldn't count on being able to use the can the next day after you open it.  Sometimes you can, but sometimes, air gets in there and it's done.  I used Gorilla Glue and that worked great.  I used the original glue.  Plus, it lasts longer.

 

Also, Gorilla Glue gives you more time to work with it after applying.  Great stuff is very messy and harder to work with.

 

It expands and works a lot like Great Stuff.  Make sure that you use clamps or weight to keep the glue from expanding too much.  Also, a little goes a long way.  Spread it thin.  I used broken slivers of foam from my carvings to spread it, as disposable spreading tools ;)

 

 

Ok, thanks, this is going to be a slo process for sure... 


Michael

Life is the poetry of the universe
Love is the poetry of life

#11 Chasmodes

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Posted 08 September 2020 - 07:41 PM

I took me a long time to build mine, but, i was learning on the go, and procrastinated a lot.  I got nervous about certain steps, but once I got into it and figured things out, everything fell into place. If I had to do it all over again, I think that I could build the same thing in a couple weeks, knowing what I know now.  Take your time and make it perfect for your needs.  You'll be happy with it in the long run.  

 

BTW, if you put a lot of work into it, and you really love the outcome, in my opinion, it's worth the money to purchase the Polygem clear coat to protect your work.  Protect from what?  Fish that you may add later that can chew Drylok off of foam, or even from you when you clean the tank, to protect from scrapers and tools when cleaning algae.  Your wall will look like rock, but, if unprotected, can chip and you'll have pink spots.  The clear coat protects your work from those things.  Polygem is used in public aquariums and museums.  I found it to be pretty easy to apply and work with.  It's an epoxy, so there is some mixing, but if you do it a little at a time, it's worth it.  Good luck and I look forward to see what you come up with.


Kevin Wilson


#12 Moontanman

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Posted 09 September 2020 - 01:40 PM

Expanding gorilla glue is something I am unfamiliar with, I'll have to look into it... 


Michael

Life is the poetry of the universe
Love is the poetry of life

#13 Chasmodes

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Posted 09 September 2020 - 02:01 PM

Expanding gorilla glue is something I am unfamiliar with, I'll have to look into it... 

 

It wasn't a big issue with building my wall really.  I glued sections of foam board together with it, then weighed them down with a can of paint and a rock as they dried.  After about 2 hours, the expansion stopped and it was safe to remove the weight.  I think that clamps and plywood, or some other boards might work well too.  The way that I did it was to carve a section, then glue it to the previous one that I carved before, then repeat.  I did this for each of the three sections of my wall.  Once I got a rhythm and a feel for the drying time, etc., my pace picked up and I was done rather quickly.  I probably wasted time trying to overthink things about the functionality that I built into the wall, as well as the final fit.  But, it worked out pretty well. 

 

Once the glue is dried, it is very tough to separate the glued foam boards without breaking the foam.  My final structure was very solid.


Kevin Wilson





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