Make Your Own Background From Styrofoam


I had seen several very nice backgrounds made from styrofoam in various tanks so when I bought my new 720 liter I decided to make one. This is how it went.

I bought six thick pieces of Styrofoam that measured 120x60x10 centimeters and one beer. The Styrofoam will become the background for the tank and the beer is for drinking while working on it.



Since the tank measures 200x60x60 centimeters I had to cut them to fit the tank properly.



Since I needed to place two pieces on top of each other I placed the joints uneven to make it stable.



Before finally placing the sheets together I applied plenty of silicone sealant. This is important so that it keeps tight when you start carving in it later. Make sure you use a silicone sealant that is made for use in aquariums.



Now the sheets of Styrofoam are glued together.



Three sheets covering the whole length of the tank and some extra pieces at the far ends where I plan to cover power heads, heaters and other equipment.



In this corner I will place the hose from the canister filter and a heater. I have cut it all the way through using a saw to create a large compartment. It helps to make it large if you need to catch stray fry or maybe add a power head later.



I have now started the actual carving; there are a lot of Styrofoam pieces flying around. On the chair to the right is that beer again. Beer is a good helper at this stage of the work.



I'm now half way through. In some places it is actually beginning to look like rocks. I carve larger rocks at the top to create shadows thus creating more depth. In some places I have made caves that are not visual from the front but will create hiding places for weaker fish.



In the left corner I will place a power head. This compartment will not reach all the way to the bottom. There are always waste on the bottom of this kind of compartments so it is easier to clean if you make it easy to reach. I make the compartment wide however, so that I can switch to a larger power head in the future if necessary.



Now the carving part is finished. All thought there might be a few small spots to touch up still.



I have now gone over the whole background with a hot air gun to smooth it out.



This is what it looks like from above.



To be able to place it in the tank it needs to cut into four large sections.



In the tank the sections fit nicely back together.



Now it's time for the finish. I bought three types of powder color pigment. Make sure you use a non-toxic kind. I choose the colors green, brown, and black to create a natural shade.



Some hobby cement to be mixed with water and color pigment. You should make a thin mixture so that you can apply it with a paintbrush.



The first coat finished.



All done. I painted three coats of cement on this one. It needs to dry for approximately 2 hours between each coat.



Now it's mounted. In the joints between the four sections I have applied silicone and finally covered them with cement.



And here it is filled up with sand, water, plants and Malawi cichlids. It's a good idea to try to imitate the background when selecting rocks for the foreground or vice-versa. It gives it a more natural look.

© Copyright 2003, Marcus Andersson, All Rights Reserved.

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