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3D Aquarium Background by Rainh2o on September 25, 2010

Table of Contents License: Attribution (by) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Intro: 3D Aquarium Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 1: What you need . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 2: Lets get started . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 3: Lay the first layer and pieces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 4: Continue to lay pieces... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 5: Building other side . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 6: Final test fit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 7: 1st Coating . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 8: 2nd coat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 9: 3rd Coat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 10: Test fit... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 11: clean the tank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 12: Apply the silicone to the back . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 13: Install in the tank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 step 14: Fill, Drain, Fill, Drian, Fill... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 step 15: Final fill and add your stuff! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Related Instructables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Advertisements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/


License: Attribution (by) Intro: 3D Aquarium Background This instructable will show you how to make a cool 3D background that goes inside your aquarium and looks like real rock but only weighs less then a couple of pounds.

step 1: What you need You will need the following Tools Razor or Box knife Foam cutter or maybe electric knife (both are optional) Ruler or other sutible straight edge Marker (sharpie) Tape measure Caulking gun Hot glue gun (optional) Cheap paint brushes, all sizes Wire brushes small buckets Tarp (optional, to keep mess at a min) Materials 1 inch pink foam board (the kind you buy at Home Depot or Lowes) 100% Silicone for caulking gun (GE silicone 1 is what some recommend) I used the Red Devil Architectural Grade. As long as it does not contain any mold or mildew inhibitors and is 100% silicone it should be fine. The less ingrediants the better IMHO. hot glue (optional) Cement or cement overlay Cement coloring (optional) Small finishing nails Note on pink foam: There are two types, one has a plastic cover on it (vapor barrier I think?) and the other does not. I bought the one that did not have the plastic on it. If you buy the one with the plastic on it, you will have to peel the plastic off. Also if you have access or want to buy more foam, you can buy several thickness of the stuff to help create different thick and thin layers. I just used one sheet of 1 inch stuff and glued it together to get the thickness I wanted. Note on hot glue: I have read where some people used hot glue to glue everything together instead of silicone. It is faster and it shouldn't pose a threat to your fish. I used a combination of both, hot glue on the smaller pieces and silicone on the larger pieces. Its up to you. Trying to get hot glue to come out in the quantity I needed on some of the large pieced didnt work.

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/


Image Notes 1. Remote is optional if you are near a TV 2. DIY foam cutter, made from an old soldering gun and some 12 gauge wire...takes a min to heat but cuts this foam great!

step 2: Lets get started First figure out if you want to cover just the back wall of your aquarium or more. Also decide what you want your background to look like. You tube has some great video of some that others have built and a google search also comes up with some great ideas. I decided to cover 3/4 of the left side and the entire back wall of mine in a flat stacked stone style. Some people do 3 sides as well. Use your imagination if your talented enough!

step 3: Lay the first layer and pieces Since I decided to do just one side and the back I measured the back first. I wanted the background to come to within 1 inch of the side I was not going to cover, this was because I wanted to taper the edge off and not have a sharp square end showing. I then measure the left side of the aquarium, I decided on this side I was only going to cover about 3/4 of it. Then cut your foam to fit. My 75 gal aquarium was 4 foot long on the back and I needed about 10 inches on the side. I measured 1 inch shorter because of the taper effect or the back piece. I also had to make my background in 2 pieces to get it inside and past the center support when I am finished. I also cut the pieces 2 inches shorter so that there will be sand under the edge when I am done. I started with the back corner. I first used the silicone and glued the two corner pieces together along with the first bottom "rock" cut out of the foam. I used the finishing nails to hold it together until it dried. Some people cut the rocks first and test stack them. I just cut them out of the foam as I needed them. I just used my imagination on the shape of the rocks. This is where a foam cutter comes in handy. If you dont want to make one or have one, just use an electric knife or even just a normal knife and cut and carve. Remember rocks are not perfect but also remember small details will not show up after you coat the thing in cement.

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/


Image Notes 1. Make sure if you do a corner like this, to be sure and make it as square as you can so that both sides lay flat against the back of the aquarium.

step 4: Continue to lay pieces... Continue to cut and lay pieces in the desired pattern you want. I cut the pieces and test fitted them before gluing them to the back piece. I glued two pieces of foam together using silicone and the finishing nails for my bottom row and allowed them to dry. Be sure to remove the nails after they dry. After they where dry, I carved them to the desired shape. Use the wire brushed or the razor knife to give them a rough look. Use your imagination!

Image Notes 1. Notice how I tried to cut the end piece to wrap around the end of the back board

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/

Image Notes 1. Another double layer block cut and glued


Image Notes 1. Filter location marked

Image Notes 1. Two pieces of 1 inch foam glued together then carved.

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/

Image Notes 1. I marked and cut out the spot for my filter. Later I ended up cutting out the top part of this area so it would fit better.


step 5: Building other side I had to cut mine in half to get it into the aquarium. I tried to overlap pieces so that the seam would not show but I found this to be too restrictive when I went to test fit it and it would not go together. I will have to fill in the crack later after its in the aquarium. I tried to keep all the "rocks" lined up by laying it out on the table while building the other side...

Image Notes 1. This is the seem. The bottom got covered well but the more interlocking pieces I tried to make the harder it was to put together properly, so i will try and cover this seem later or maybe just hid it with plants .

step 6: Final test fit After you get all the rocks on it that you want, be sure everything lines up and fits together inside the tank like you want before the next step. Sorry I did not have a pict of this step but I had one right before I finished it. Also shows where my other filter will be.

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/


step 7: 1st Coating This step is the first in coating your background. You want to mix the concrete ALMOST water thin. Sort of like runny pancake batter. I used a concrete overlay called Ultra Tex U-91-1 but others have used regular concrete and the quickcrete overlay stuff. What ever you use make sure its doesn't have a lot of stones in it or you will be sorting through it to remove them. You want a smooth mixture and real watery. This first coat will only be the base and give the additional coats something to stick to. You dont have to add color to this coat but I was playing with the color mix to figure out what I wanted for the rest of them. Once you mix it up just use the cheap throw away brushes and brush it on like paint. I poured some on then used the brushes to spread it around even. Dont worry if it looks a little thin, the second and 3rd coats make it thicker and cover what this coat doesnt. Let this coat dry for at least 24 hrs, more the better

step 8: 2nd coat The next coat should be a bit thicker. About the consistancy of thick pancake batter. Again spread it on with he brushes. I suggest adding some of the color you want to this coat. I tinted this coat a lot lighter then the last. Again let this coat dry for at least 24 hours or longer. The longer you let it dry the stronger it will be. This coat went on a bit smoother and started filling in the gaps and small details.

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/


step 9: 3rd Coat I mixed this coat about the consistancy of the first. Add the color as well. I wanted to paint it on using the brush in a dabbing motion. I didnt want a solid coat because I wanted the last coat with the lighter color to show through. If you want to add more color then mix another batch of cement up with the colors you want and add it to this coat and repeat until you have the color and look you want.

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/


step 10: Test fit... After everything is dry, perferably at least 24 hours, I let mine dry a week, test fit it into the tank and try to plan how you are going to get it into the tank with silicone on the back without getting it everywhere. I cut my spacers and some braces before hand when I realized that the background tried to slightly lean out on the top when it was in place.

step 11: clean the tank I didn t think you needed a picture of how to clean the tank. Remove the background and make sure the glass surface you are going to stick the background to is clean as you can get it. I used a razor blade to scrape all scum and hard water stains off mine. Cleaner the better.

step 12: Apply the silicone to the back Next apply the silicone to the back of the background. Dont be shy about this step and add lots of silicone. Even though it has cement on it, these things still float like life preservers so dont get skimpy here. I ran a 1/4 inch bead about every 1/4 to 1/2 inch across. I dont know if it makes a difference but I ran the silicon lengthwise along the pieces.

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/


step 13: Install in the tank Now remember practicing in step 10 ? Here is where it will pay off. Install the pieces in the tank and brace/block/tape or hold in place till it sticks. be sure to press on it slightly to help spread the silicone against the glass. Allow to dry for at least 48 hours before adding water.

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/


step 14: Fill, Drain, Fill, Drian, Fill... This step may or may not be necessary but needs to be considered. After filling with water, check the PH level. Let it sit for a day or two and check the PH again. You may discover that your PH has climbed pretty high. If it does, drain your tank and refill. Do this as many times as it take to leach out all the PH raising chemicals. I did not have to do this step but I included it because other on the net report having to do this. I dont know if it was just the stuff I used or our well water. Our well water is high PH to begin with but I let mine sit a week and didnt see any change in PH levels. I have heard of people having to drain and refill up to 15 times to get the PH to stabilize. Just check it and decide for yourself, you dont want to kill your fishies...

step 15: Final fill and add your stuff! After letting mine sit for a couple of weeks I felt confident to start cycling the tank. I added my sand, started my filters and started a fishless cycle. Its way easier on the fish to do a fishless cycle. I also will be building a canopy to hide the lights and filters, maybe another instructible...

Related Instructables

Dirty Tank? Let's Clean It Up! by jtvreeland

River Aquarium With Custom Concrete 3D Background by NaTeB1

Begginer Fish tank by Mr. M

How to Properly Care for a Betta Fish by iGabe

Housing 3 male betta fish in 1 ten gallon tank by TheRealAnubis

Lava Rock Aquarium Background by Sgt.Waffles

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Comments 17 comments Add Comment

AZsid says:

Oct 9, 2010. 5:43 PM REPLY Wow. My next tank is getting this. If this guy from Craigslist ever gets back to me I'll have a 50Gal corner tank and I already have an old soldering gun like that looking for a purpose in life. I think some Ghost Shrimp and Diving Frogs would LOVE this thing.

Rainh2o says:

Oct 9, 2010. 6:54 PM REPLY I should have put this in the instructible but if your cutting several "rocks" at once, or a big one, you have to go slow and sometimes stop to let the thing reheat. I also used a large rubber band to hold the trigger down and let it sit like that in between gluing and cutting, it didnt seem to overload or burn it up.

Tape-structable says: Looks very professional and real! Very nice job. May I ask what kind of fish you will be putting in?

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/

Oct 7, 2010. 11:19 PM REPLY


Rainh2o says:

Oct 8, 2010. 5:11 AM REPLY My son has a medium sized goldfish he has had for 3 years. I am going to move him into this tank and then get some community fish mates, not sure which ones. I originally wanted cichlids but they dont play well with goldfish. I also plan on planting lots of plants and making it a planted tank, if the goldfish cooperate and doesnt dig things up too bad. Since he will be the only one I hope he is occupied by other things.

underwhelmed says:

Oct 8, 2010. 3:48 PM REPLY

Really nice background. I've seen similarly constructed backgrounds online before, but yours looks the best. You can use expanding foam (Great Stuff Brand) in place of hot glue. It is fish safe. Pond builders use it to secure "stones" when making waterfalls in ponds. With Goldfish you should consider other cool water fish. I like the high finned Chinese banded sharks (bad name for a great fish IMO) with goldfish, they are very docile and add a different color / shape to the tank. http://www.csupomona.edu/~jskoga/Aquariums/myxocyprinus/myxocyprinus.html Another nice cool water fish that do well with goldfish are White Cloud Minnowshttp://www.aquahobby.com/gallery/e_tanictis.php They are nice fish, visually similar to neon tetras when young and they school quite nicely as well. Plants will be tuff with goldfish, unless you plant them in pots. Tera cotta work well as do the cheap plastic ones you get from the nursery. A quick coating of Krylon Fusion paint makes them more appealing, and small stones as a top dressing should help disuade the gold fish from digging too badly in the pots. Plain clay kitty litter makes an excellent aquatic potting soil, BTW. I would also recommend either Mystery snails or apple snails to help clean the tank. I know some fish keepers aren't fond of snails because they either reproduce in huge numbers or eat all your plants, but these don't eat plants and lay egg clutches above the water line where they can be removed if you don't want babies (they can also be sold on aquatic auction sites like AquaBid.com) As an aside, perhaps an instructable or explanation of fishless tank cycling would be helpful. I am familiar with cycling an aquarium using straight ammonia and assume this is what you are referring to. Good luck with your aquarium, it looks good so far.

Rainh2o says:

Oct 8, 2010. 6:21 PM REPLY Thanks for the info. I'm only going to put 1 gold fish in it. I am going to keep the 10 gal he is in now just in case he tears the plants and such out too much I'll throw him back in there. Those sharks are cool!

underwhelmed says:

Oct 8, 2010. 7:40 PM REPLY

Well, with tropicals you would have a much broader palette of fish to choose from. Very nice, well done. I wish I had your artistic abilities.

Rainh2o says:

Oct 8, 2010. 8:44 PM REPLY OK..I reread my last reply...Im not ONLY going to put just the golfish in it...I plan on having other fish as well...the stupid goldfish is only going in there because my wife agreed to the large tank if we got rid of the little tank...since the goldfish is the only thing in the little tank then hes going in the big tank and Im going to go with some tropicals, community type fish as well...I dunno what will happen yet. I may end up putting the goldfish back in the 10 gal tank and sticking it over in the corner of the room. This goldfish is actually getting on my nerves, its limiting my selection of fish!!...LOL...I started out wanting Cichlids but they will eat the goldfish and so will about 75% of all other fish I have seen and like...of course if something eats him, I wont have to worry would I?...LOL...he belongs to my 5 yr old so I cant get rid of him...anyhow believe me if I can do this so can you, I have about .0000001% artistic ability and its in my little finger I dont use...

underwhelmed says:

Oct 8, 2010. 11:52 PM REPLY Well he would be happy in as large a tank as you can provide him, but by heating the tank for tropicals he will become stressed. So, I guess it's a bit of a catch 22. BTW, I'm a forum member at a fish geek site called aquaboards.com, I posted a link to this instructable in their DIY section. I hope you don't mind. I thought it might bring some people here who might never hear about instructables otherwise. I keep my goldfish outside in a horse trough, I cut and set it into the front porch / deck. It has been running year round for the last 10 years and the goldfish are all very healthy. Much cheaper and longer lasting than a preformed plastic pond.

evaluna says:

Oct 8, 2010. 5:50 PM REPLY

Wow, It's beautiful. Thanks for the great tips and the time you put into this

NostalgicStone says: Absolutely lovely! 5 stars!

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/

Oct 8, 2010. 2:18 PM REPLY


szklanki says:

Oct 8, 2010. 9:28 AM REPLY

really looks nice

mr.incredible says:

Oct 8, 2010. 5:14 AM REPLY

That is very cool. Beautiful job, nice instructable. I would suggest sealing the concrete. Most concrete has chemicals that kill fish, not just the PH. There is also faux rock spray paint you could use. With a few different colors you could get a pretty good effect. Yours is probably more realistic.

Rainh2o says:

Oct 8, 2010. 7:43 AM REPLY

You may be right, the only thing ultra tex has in it according to the bag is Portland and sand.

21GeeOff21 says:

Oct 7, 2010. 10:48 PM REPLY

so cool. i wish we still had a bunch of fish and a large aquarium to do this in...

Rainh2o says:

Oct 8, 2010. 5:13 AM REPLY You can do this with any size aquarium, just scale it down. If you had a 1 gal you could use some VERY thin foam to do this with, like 1/4 inch packing foam to make it look right.

21GeeOff21 says:

Oct 8, 2010. 7:29 AM REPLY yeah... we, unfortunately, no longer have any fish. but this is still cool and i will definitely try it if i get the chance anytime in the near future

http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Aquarium-Background/


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