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Thread: 75 Gallon US Native Tank with DIY Foam/Drylok Background w/Faux Sycamore Roots

  1. #91
    DIYFK member Nil13's Avatar


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    If you thought those fumes were bad, you should try thinning the silicone with xylene. It'll curl your toes. I take black silicone, thin it down, and then spatula it on to cover the glass on the inside. It's nice because then you don't have to paint the outside to hide stuff and you end up with a niceglass surface all around on the outside. I do at least the back and a band around where the substrate goes but I would also do edges of a background too. Works great.,

  2. #92
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Thanks for the suggestion Nil. I've been thinking about that a lot. I was considering using black foam to fill the gaps and cover up the space showing through, but it is expensive, and I'd rather save that for another day. The black silicone idea sounds like it might work for me. I just need to find a way to apply it so it doesn't mess up the display side of the foam. Maybe I can rig a rubber tube to the nozzle of the silicone tube to reach back in there, secure it with a hose clamp. Do you think that would work? Anyone ever try and do that?

  3. #93
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    I finally got my butt in gear and started back on the roots. I don't know if you all remember, but I scrapped my last attempt because, I just didn't like the way it was turning out. So this time, I decided to start by building the frame first, and not try to work details in as I went, and I'm much happier with the progress. Basically, I worked with just CPVC pipe, CPVC fittings, a heat gun, and a few zip ties to build the frame. I'm almost done with the frame, then I'll apply the CPVC glue and lock it up. I'm making these roots removable to make maintenance on the tank easier. Here is what it looks like so far:


    Full tank shot:
    Click here to enlarge


    Close up:
    Click here to enlarge


    Here is what it looked like before (ugh):
    Click here to enlarge


    Next steps:
    * Glue the CPVC structure together
    * Glue some rope and other detail materials in place with a hot glue gun
    * Wrap as much pipe as I can with plaster gauze to give stuff something other than a slippery surface to cling to
    * Apply some spray foam to some areas for bulk and to get rid of straight lines to make it more realistic.
    * Carve the foam to finish the base skeleton of the roots
    * Apply grout for the next most outer layer of the roots to provide the final amount of bulk and sculpting for realism.
    * Paint and seal with Drylok mixed with cement die to provide the final details and realism but also to seal in the grout to prevent pH issues.

  4. #94
    DIYFK member Nil13's Avatar


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    After coating the inside of a sheep tank with Flex Seal Liquid for a fountain for a client, I think I will be using that in place of thinned silicone from now on. It's a whole lot easier to deal with and xylene is about impossible to come by in L.A. anymore. It takes a while to set up and you could easily coat the back of an aquarium and stick a foam background to it.

    Idk about the tube idea. Tubes are a bit of a PITA for that sort of thing IME bc of wall thickness.

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  5. #95
    DIYFK member Nil13's Avatar


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    That latest set of cpvc armatures looks better than the previous attempts. I think I would skip the reducing couplers though. I would try heating the smaller pipe and crimping the end so that it fits into the larger pipe instead. Another option would be solid acrylic rod for the armature. It would bend more cleanly and it won't have a big void filled with buoyant air in the middle. I might have to give that a try. You could glue together a bundle of rods and the heat it up in the oven to form it by bending and twisting although it will be pretty dang hot.

    Have you considered modeling the branch with smooth-on habitat? A hand formable putty epoxy would be a lot easier than expandable PU foam and it has a density greater than water.

    Do you have a reference image for the roots?

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  6. #96
    DIYFK member Meep's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Nil13 Click here to enlarge
    I would try heating the smaller pipe and crimping the end so that it fits into the larger pipe instead.
    If you put on a decent set of leather gloves (welding gloves work well) and roll a section of PVC about 2-4" high over an electric stove burner (or portable hot plate) on high (keep is rolling so it doesn't burn) when it gets warm you can pull the ends apart and in turn thin out the middle section to create two slide inside joints after you cut in the middle of the thinned area... Or you can just roll the end over the heat and push it down over a section of pipe (or wood dowel) to flare it out and create a slip over joint...

    60663-R-1.jpg
    Same with bending it, if you do it over a bigger heat source like a stove burner vs a heat gun the stuff turns to spaghetti and can be bent very easily without much kinking, the biggest problem is holding it until it cools, but you can run it under cold water to nearly instantly set it or as I have done in the past make a pin board (just a sheet of plywood and finishing nails) that I can lay the warmed piece into to hold it's shape... Like this...
    Click here to enlarge

    I did A LOT of pvc bending and forming like this when I did a job running it underground and up the side of trees and post for outdoor lighting for a client, we wanted to avoid connectors as they generally don't hold up as well outside over time plus you can do so much more with freehand bending...


    ***Edit there appears to be something FUBAR with the forum and bringing outside images over to local storage as evidenced by the 'click here to enlarge' link that goes nowhere and I can't even edit out, I linked the image separately...

  7. #97
    DIYFK member Nil13's Avatar


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    That's a good tip about pulling the PVC apart. Thanks.

    That's one fancy pin board in the picture and here I am just drilling holes each time I need a bend. Lol

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  8. #98
    DIYFK member Meep's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Nil13 Click here to enlarge
    That's one fancy pin board in the picture and here I am just drilling holes each time I need a bend. Lol
    That is not mine, just an example picture I found in a Google search (that particular one is for fine-scale wood model boat building) I just do like you either a piece of wood with holes and pins or I just scribble out the shape with a sharpie on plywood and nail in some finish nails...

  9. #99
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Thanks guys for the feedback. Those are good suggestions, but I'm a bit deep into this now. I looked into the Smooth-on Habitat, but man, the volume that I'd need would be expensive. I think my plan will work. Good point about air being trapped in there. I think I'll drill some holes in the final product at the top, or in the back out of view, so air can escape and let water in.

    Here's a picture of sort of what I'm shooting for:
    Click here to enlarge

    I made more progress yesterday. First, I glued all of the PVC joints. I tweaked a little bit by bending some more of the existing pipe, then bent and added another pipe. After that, I zip tied it and a couple different thicknesses of rope to help break up the straight edges and give the main roots more bulk. Next, I'll use a hot glue gun to affix the rope a little more in strategic places, maybe add some more, to create more knots and ridges and stuff, and add more detail. I may add some smaller "twigs" as well in strategic places. Once I'm done with that detail, it will be time to foam, to get rid of straight edges and evidence of pipe fittings, and to consolidate the pipe and rope into the overall shape of each root. I'll have to do some carving and sanding after that to finalize the shape. Once that's done, I'll coat it with grout to give the entire structure rigidity, weight, form, and bulk, and hopefully the overall smooth texture characteristic of sycamore roots. The final step will be to paint the structure with Drylok mixed with cement dye to seal everything in and give it a final touch of realism.

    The issue that I'm struggling with now, although I'm not near that step, is what color to paint the roots. Should I paint them to look like the roots would look like if not yet submerged? Or, should I paint them to look like they've been underwater a long time. What do you think? I'm leaning toward the latter. Eventually, stuff like algae will build up on them, but I don't think it would look like they do in the wild for years, and I want that realism right away.

    Pics of my progress:

    I also glued my DIY spray bar for my canister filter together. This will channel water over the top of the roots, while a large powerhead, hidden within the roots, will push water through the roots and the tank and provide most of the flow. I figured that this current arrangement would best mimic current through a natural undercut root against a cliff. I had to trim the root structure and inch or so to get it to fit correctly. Here is what it will look like from above the tank:
    Click here to enlarge

    The root structure as it looks like today:
    Click here to enlarge

    Full tank shot:
    Click here to enlarge

  10. #100
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    As far as buoyancy goes, I was hoping that the grout would weigh everything down. Maybe I'll fill as many tubes as I can with sand. Also, I can attach river rocks at the base of a couple roots to hold them down. Of course, I'd need to find a way to do that.

  11. #101
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Nil13 Click here to enlarge
    After coating the inside of a sheep tank with Flex Seal Liquid for a fountain for a client, I think I will be using that in place of thinned silicone from now on. It's a whole lot easier to deal with and xylene is about impossible to come by in L.A. anymore. It takes a while to set up and you could easily coat the back of an aquarium and stick a foam background to it.
    Looks like a 16 oz. can of this is pretty cheap. Do you apply it with a paint brush? I currently am thinking of using my black foam to spray in the gap. I'm afraid that if I try to apply something like this with a paint brush, that I might accidentally get some on the faux rock surface where I wouldn't want to see it. With the foam, it has a tube applicator and I can control how much gets in there. I guess I can use a smaller brush and be really careful and apply it slowly. The problem with that is working inside the tank is a lot more cramped than working on the background outside of the tank. When this stuff dries, it's inert and safe for an aquarium, right?

  12. #102
    DIYFK member Nil13's Avatar


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    Yeah you apply with a brush, sponge, or roller. It says the liquid is non-toxic when cured and safe for animals, although they don't make an explicit 'for potable water' claim which is a little concerning.. The spray is not however. Must have something in the propellant. I would probably test it on a spare piece of glass and foam to make sure it cures up properly sandwiched between to non-breathing surfaces before going for the final.

    ETA: you could also lay the tank on it's back and pour it in. It will flow pretty well. That would make placing the foam easier too I think.

  13. #103
    DIYFK member Nil13's Avatar


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    I did like what Smooth-on did with their expandable foam background for mounting. They just cast an aquarium magnet cleaner into the foam.I am thinking that a piece of epoxy coated steel would be a pretty good way to mount a background

  14. #104
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Nil13 Click here to enlarge
    I did like what Smooth-on did with their expandable foam background for mounting. They just cast an aquarium magnet cleaner into the foam.I am thinking that a piece of epoxy coated steel would be a pretty good way to mount a background
    That's pretty cool! BTW, I think that I'm going to take your advice and remove the reducer fitting, and connect pipe as you suggested. I don't like the way that root looks. I thought about removing the T fitting too, but, the rope, as is, with a bit of foam will give me the look that I need. I'll have some time this weekend to work on it. Hopefully, it will look a lot more like roots when I reach a stopping point this weekend. Thanks again for the suggestions.

  15. #105
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Hi everyone. I added more structural detail including a tree root knot and an area where bark wore away, and some twig like roots. I also added one more small root to break up the large open space a bit. I was going to apply some hot glue on some key spots so it holds tightly during the foaming step, but, I'm out of hot glue sticks, so I'll have to pick some up tonight. After I hot glue everything in place, then it's foaming time. Here are some pics of the progress:


    Some detail added to the long root:
    Click here to enlarge


    The knot:
    Click here to enlarge


    The worn spot:
    Click here to enlarge


    The overall structure:
    Click here to enlarge


    Fitted in the tank and a close up in the tank:
    Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge

  16. #106
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    I was able to work on my background and roots again this past weekend. First, I used a hot glue gun to secure all of the root structural pieces and fill in some of the smaller gaps. I may do more of this in the future.


    After that, I used Beckett's Pond Foam to fill in the gap in the background between the center and left piece. It turned out well, so I'm pleased.
    Click here to enlarge


    Then, I used the spray foam on the roots to fill in gaps and add some bulk to the root structure. It was a messy process, and it expanded a lot more than what I think the directions stated, so I'll have plenty of carving and sanding to do to transform the structure from a bunch of pipe with blobs to a more realistic root structure. Overall, I'm pleased with the result. I've never carved this stuff before, so I'll have to experiment on what tools to use. Below are some pics of the roots after foaming.


    The foamed root structure:
    Click here to enlarge


    The knot:
    Click here to enlarge


    The eroded root:
    Click here to enlarge

  17. #107
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    The root build is moving along, slow but steady. I used spray foam to fill in some gaps and add some bulk (posted last time) and have since carved and sanded the foam. I got rid of a good bit of the expansion, to improve the look and texture, and to reduce the amount of foam overall to help keep them from floating.


    Here is a before carving/sanding pic:
    Click here to enlarge


    Here are some pics after carving/sanding:
    Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge


    Fitted in the tank:
    Click here to enlarge


    The next steps will be to first, cover the pipe with plaster wrap to give the grout something to hold on to. Then, apply the grout for the final bulk and root shaping, including more carving for realism. After that, I'll paint the structure with Drylok mixed with cement dyes to get the coloration that I want.

  18. #108
    DIYFK member HillbillyHomer's Avatar


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    Click here to enlargeClick here to enlarge

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