How To Make D.I.Y. Aquarium Backgrounds - Cheap
O.k. guys and gals, get ready to make your own aquarium background.
Click on each photo to Enlarge.
The first thing you'll need is 1 1/2" - 2" Styrofoam. Get yourself a couple of sheets. They're not expensive at all, just a couple of bucks. The pink is the best to use even though I used white for the background itself. Don't forget, you'll be making rocks, caves and cliffs as well.
In the pictures, you'll see what you have to invest in initially. A background such as the one I made can sell for as much as $400. As well, buy yourself a small box of plastic gloves to protect your hands. The initial cost is going to run you over $100.00 and the reason for that is because the materials you have to buy can't be bought just anywhere. Craft stores do not sell this. The best places to buy from are boating marinas. They will all carry this because what you'll be using is exactly the same product that people use to make repairs to the bottom of their boats. If they don't have any on hand, it can be ordered and the wait time is about 1 week.
Inventory you'll need:
- You can buy or order from any Marina -- Mass Epoxies Resin (low Viscosity). Also, obtain Mass Epoxie Resin Hardener. These two are expensive and will cost you $100 in total.
- KRYLON H20 Latex Paint from any hardware store or building center.
- 2" white Styrofoam for the background. My tank was 44 gallons so you can use less than 2" if your tank is smaller.
- Pink Styrofoam for rocks.
- Tube of Aquarium Sealant (clear)
- A sharp knife (exacto blade)
- A cigarette lighter
- a few 2" staining brushes
- Styrofoam cups
- small bag of ordinary cement mix.
- Take the inside measurements of your aquarium - (width and height)
- cut the the 2" flat Styrofoam to the correct measurements and place inside tank for tight fit. Note: the Styrofoam will shrink a wee bit after we take the lighter to it. (explanation later).
- Place paper or tarp under your project to protect table or workbench.
- As per photos, cut any shape and thickness of rock formations you desire for your tank.
- To add great visual effects, use your cigarette lighter to lightly burn the edges of your Styrofoam rocks and background. Also, singe the flat front surface of your Styrofoam background. The heat will leave indents and appear more realistic when under water.
- Attach the fake rocks to the flat white Styrofoam backing with aquarium sealant. (let dry)
- Mix the cement with water as instructions on package.
- Use your stain brush to brush your cement mixture over the finished product. Let dry for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, spray paint the entire structure with the Krylon H20 paint. I think I used a reddish, brown color but you can pick any colors you like.
- Let dry for a few hours. Keep in mind, your background now is heavy and breakable, so be careful when lifting. It is liable to crack if lifted incorrectly
- Mix your Epoxies (resin & hardener) in a Styrofoam cup as per directions on bottle. This mixture will heat up substantially, so use your plastic gloves.
- With a staining brush, spread evenly over the entire project, sealing every crevice (inside caves, etc) to prevent the Krylon toxic paint from seeping into your aquarium. Let dry for 24 hours.
- When completely dry, place the background in your empty aquarium and surround with whatever sand you'll be using for your ocean / lake floor. Don't forget, the background and rocks you made will float if not anchored down. You can place a few real rocks in your tank for this purpose and press some against your background to keep it secure. You can also use your aquarium sealant to glue your rocks to the floor of the tank. This also can be done for your background to the back of the tank. I preferred not to do this step as I didn't want to mess up the glass of my aquarium.
Start filling your tank with water and let your finished project stand for a week or two before placing any fish inside.
It's not a hard job but is very satisfying and so appealing to all who enter your fish room. For those of you who aren't to sure, I had never built anything like this before, but it's easy, fun, your very own creative work of art and it will last forever. Add plants for extra viewing pleasure, even if you have Cichlids. My Cichlids never touched the plants. There are a few varieties you can purchase that Cichlids won't touch. When they start growing up your background, it will appear to be even more realistic.