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

  1. #61
    DIYFK member Meep's Avatar


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    Play around and test different sands, the bigger the grits the more 'pimply' it will look... You might find tile grouts that have finer sand mixed in might give a better sand stone looking texture, but do note that mixing grout into the Drylock will make it incredibly thick and it will literally turn it into a cement, so mix small batches that you can used before the cement in the grout kicks in (aka don't mix into the entire can of paint and end up with a wasted can) and add a little water to make it spread better after adding the sand...

    That or you can get some mesh screen and sift any sand you use to a smaller size... A dollar store grease splatter guard might work well for this...

  2. #62
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Thank you Warfie for the compliment and idea, and Meep for the suggestions too.

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Warfie Click here to enlarge
    I get that you can add the sand to get the texture, I was looking for a more realistic sandstone look. Trying to get you to do the testing for me! Click here to enlarge
    I have plenty of sand to play with, and grout. So, maybe I can experiment with making some of the layers with that look, and others not. That's what it looks like in rock formations where shale, slate and sandstone appear together. Variety is the spice of life Click here to enlarge

  3. #63
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Hi everyone. Sorry for the lack of updates. I'm struggling with the roots. I've bent and scrapped a bunch of CPVC scraps and can't come up with anything that I'm satisfied with. I'm at the point making a decision to start over with the roots or keep going. The look that I'm going for is to have a root system that conceals my powerhead which delivers flow to the middle to lower water column, while allowing to have the canister filter spray bar deliver flow at the surface over the top of the root system, but the roots conceal that from view. This picture is my inspiration, as I imagine that you'd be looking from the right side of the tank, with the front of the tank to the left of the photo:
    Click here to enlarge



    Obviously, I can't fit the entire structure of the picture into my narrow tank, but, I can mimic the cool aspects of the roots and achieve what I want...I hope.


    I've put together a CPVC skeleton with some pipe insulation to kind of get me the basic root structure frame, right tank side view, like the picture:
    Click here to enlarge



    Here's the front view:
    Click here to enlarge



    I really like the old torn away area of the root extending to the right in the picture, and want to incorporate that into my tank. But, although I'm getting there, I don't like what I've done, so I'll probably redo that:
    Click here to enlarge



    I'm a little frustrated right now. If I decide to go forward, the next steps would be:



    • finish the frame and secure all of the pieces.
    • apply tile adhesive to the entire frame (so spray foam and grout can stick to it).
    • use spray foam to add bulk and a more realistic shape that I can carve to achieve the desired look.
    • apply grout to firm everything up and give it a base color. With the grout, I can further carve and shape to get the and shape texture that I want.
    • use Drylok mixed with cement color to paint the final touches

    That's the plan anyway. I had an idea this morning to just make the roots occupy the upper half of the tank to hide the powerhead and spray bar, and not have it go all the way to the bottom. If I do that, then I'll use pieces of what I have here. What do you all think? I appreciate suggestions very much.



    Thanks for following!

  4. #64
    DIYFK member Sasquatch's Avatar


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    Just throwing it out there but why not use real wood. I'm sure you could find a piece to your liking.

  5. #65
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sasquatch Click here to enlarge
    Just throwing it out there but why not use real wood. I'm sure you could find a piece to your liking.
    I like the challenge of duplicating nature, the art of it, so right now, that's the main driver for why I'm doing it this way. One advantage with DIY is that you can create exactly the shape and fit that you need. My frustration is probably due to being too much of a perfectionist. I get motivated by instant results and progress. When things don't work out close to what I envision, then I get frustrated and things stall. It's a flaw in my personality, I guess. If I take a few steps backwards, t wouldn't be the first time that I've changed my approach to the background of this tank. But, I'm getting impatient because I want to get it cycled and start collecting fish for it. Times a wastin'.

    In the end, if I'm not happy with what I've made with regard to the roots, I'm not against using real wood. I go fishing a lot, so I'll be keeping my eye out for a suitable piece. If I find one, then I'll get it ready for my tank. If I wind up happy with the DIY roots, then I can always use the piece of wood that I find for another tank Click here to enlarge

    Thanks for the suggestion and feedback!

  6. #66
    DIYFK member Meep's Avatar


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    I know you are well on your way, but an idea for the future... Many years ago when I was creating some artificial branches for reptile enclosures, I would feed some 'hold the shape wire' up the middle of a piece of rope, assemble the wired rope into the shape you want, then you can spiral wrap 'cotton' or 'natural twine' around the entire assembly to add bulk... Once you get the rough shape, mix up some fiberglass resin (light on the activator so it cures a little slower) and then using some disposable chip brushes, brush on and let the resin soak the heck out of the natural fiber rope, the end result is a very strong base structure the with a little more surface prep can be made to look very realistic... If you want it even stronger, you can soak each stage of the rope wrap up, creating essentially a solid fiberglass structure...

  7. #67
    DIYFK member Sasquatch's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Chasmodes Click here to enlarge
    I like the challenge of duplicating nature, the art of it, so right now, that's the main driver for why I'm doing it this way. One advantage with DIY is that you can create exactly the shape and fit that you need. My frustration is probably due to being too much of a perfectionist. I get motivated by instant results and progress. When things don't work out close to what I envision, then I get frustrated and things stall. It's a flaw in my personality, I guess. If I take a few steps backwards, t wouldn't be the first time that I've changed my approach to the background of this tank. But, I'm getting impatient because I want to get it cycled and start collecting fish for it. Times a wastin'.

    In the end, if I'm not happy with what I've made with regard to the roots, I'm not against using real wood. I go fishing a lot, so I'll be keeping my eye out for a suitable piece. If I find one, then I'll get it ready for my tank. If I wind up happy with the DIY roots, then I can always use the piece of wood that I find for another tank Click here to enlarge

    Thanks for the suggestion and feedback!
    I have the same personality so I understand. Only difference is I like actual nature as opposed to recreating it. Although I do have an artistic side to me so I get why you want to recreate it. Best of luck to you!

    BTW, getting frustrated isn't a bad thing. I consider it good to want things how you envisioned them. My 2 cents.

  8. #68
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    I decided to stick with what I have and work with it. I haven't been working on it much other than some minor changes because I couldn't stand to look at it. At least, until yesterday. I had some ideas of how I could make it work, so I went to HD and purchased a few supplies to make life easier and hopefully bring the roots to life. Meep gave me an idea, although working with fiberglass intrigues me, that wasn't it. But, using wire and rope to enhance my design seems to be a good fit. Also, rather than simply shoving wire into the pipe ends, I decided to cut holes the same diameter as the wire/plastic hose that I've used and run the smaller roots through the pipe that way, giving me a more natural appearance, hopefully. This will also add to the sturdiness of the design. The other way was shaky.

    I also didn't like the grout color that I bought before, so I picked up a different color that matches more in line with what is in my head. I can mix the old "bone" color with this one to come up with what I want. It really isn't a big deal on the color because ultimately, I'll be coating the roots in tinted Drylok, unless I mix the grout into it. But, at least as I'm building it, the realism will give me more confidence to keep moving forward.

    As it turns out, the realization that my biggest stumbling blocks for this and other projects seem to be between my ears. More to come as I plan to work on this every night after work a little at a time.

  9. #69
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    As I said before, I've been a little frustrated, almost to the point that I couldn't even go downstairs and look at it. I couldn't envision the roots turning out realistic at all. Since then, I've been doing a lot of thinking and research about it and came up with some ideas to move forward.


    But, I've decided to go with my original design and the frame but with some modifications. I went shopping yesterday and picked up the item that will do the job, plaster cloth wrap.


    One of the potential issues holding me up, other than the looks of the roots so far, was getting stuff to stick to PVC. Honestly, the issue was in my head because I hadn't tried to see if my other plan would work (from the previous post) because somehow, I felt it would fail. Hence, more frustration.


    But, it dawned on me that plaster cloth wrap that I saw used in other reptile builds might be the perfect solution, because it would be then coated with grout and then sealed by Drylok. Also, I don't like the foam insulation that I have on there currently. I will cut it off and use grout to build up my thickness and form. I don't want these roots to float, plus, I don't like the look of it. If the roots don't float, then I can make them removable for easy maintenance and tank cleaning.


    So, my enthusiasm is back. My plan for this weekend is to:

    • add more roots to the frame, cement the pipe and permanently attach wired roots. Drill holes in strategic spots to add more roots for realism.
    • cut off the black foam insulation from the pipe.
    • use foam board in a few places to get bulk, and achieve specific form and texture.
    • use spray foam to add bulk and a more realistic shape in a few places, sparingly, that I can carve to achieve the desired look.
    • wrap the entire frame and all roots with plaster cloth and let it dry.
    • apply tile adhesive to the entire frame over the plastic cloth to seal it in and firm up the structure.
    • apply grout to firm everything up, carve, shape, sculpt and sand to get form and texture that I want.
    • use Drylok mixed with cement color to paint the final touches and seal everything up.
    • build a small root structure that will be removable for access to my removable rock section


    I know, I overthink things and stress about them way too much.



    On a related note, I did receive my new Perfect Dipnet thanks to Mark at Jonah's Aquarium, so I will be ready to stock this tank once cycled! Click here to enlarge

  10. #70
    DIYFK member booth2010's Avatar


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    The background looks great, I wish I had the patience and skill to do something like that.

  11. #71
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Thank you Ryan. I promised to make a video of how I made each layer, but I keep forgetting to do it. I'll have to get my videographer to make one for me Click here to enlarge

    I'm running out of patience...I want this tank up and cycled. I went fishing this past weekend, and will be going again this weekend, so I won't have time to work on it.

    My only update is that I've stripped the black foam away and have started attaching rope to add bulk. I have several diameters of rope to use if I need them. I may use the black foam in some spots for bulk near the surface of the tank where floating isn't an issue, we'll see how it goes. Other reasons that I don't like the black foam is it's too regular of a shape and it is hard to carve.

  12. #72
    DIYFK member Stryf's Avatar


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    That's a nice looking background.
    2300 Gal pond: 7 Koi, 2 Goldfish, 2 Catfish
    125 Gal: 1 Reticulated Stingray, 2 Bala Shark, 3 Neon Tetra, 1 Glo Fish, and several guppies.

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