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Old 01-28-2008, 11:34 AM
Marty's Avatar
Marty Marty is offline
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Default Vivarium Rock Wall construction

OK, this is repost from another forum, but I thought I'd post it here

I had a new tank that I was building so I thought I'd try to build a fake rock wall structure as a background. Just for the record, I have zero art abilities and am not the art type.

In the past I've used a variety of different backgrounds and methods, I decided to try something different this time. Instead of tree fern panels, I used the Eco-friendly EpiWeb, through First Rays Orchids. Main idea was that I wanted uniform pieces to work with and no breakdown over time.

The tank that I'm working with is acrylic made by First Class Aquatics. It's hard to attach things to acrylic, because over time it tends to release. In my other tanks, I had to badly score the acrylic in order to get a decent adhesion. Bonding with methylene chloride to acrylic lasts forever, so I figured I'll try to bond my background to acrylic via a piece of plexi.

I then attached the plexi to epiweb with stainless steel pegs. Epiweb is very tough, so I wasn't worried that it won't hold. I put the pegs on both sides.

Once the pegs are in, the plexi holds well and is ready for bonding.

I poured some methylene chloride in between the sheets with a needle applicator and applied some pressure with heavy books.

That was done for all 3 sides.

Now a bit of a time lapse...I didn't snap photos of poly urethane foam layer, but I sprayed some strange shapes onto the background with the poly foam and then I applied the HabaCrete Vivarium concrete (purchased from HerpInvert).

Concrete dries rather fast, so make small batches and wear gloves.

I forgot to add that I've attached some roots into the background. I got few fake realistic roots/limbs from PetSmart. Expensive, but they do look good and once they get a bit of dirt, growth and algae they look very realistic. Ok, I don't normally go to PetSmart.

Background i secure, concrete is applied, it's time to paint it.

Did I say, I have not art abilities??? I used some non toxic acrylic paints for this, but left them way to thick...the whole things turned out horrible!

Since it really looked bad, I put another very thin, very watered down layer of concrete on top to regain some creative control over the tank. Trick was to use a 'wash', very diluted paint. 2nd time around it came out a bit better, although the camera flash tends to wash out all the highlights.

Here's the side with the PetSmart root, embedded into the foam and concrete.

I also wanted to make some type of a center piece. I made a giant blob with the poly foam

Idea was to carve out 'something' that would stay in the middle of the tank...I tried a hack saw blade, but it didn't go too well and it was hard...Fortunately I had the Ronco Rotisserie, which came with a long carving knife. I knew the purchase was justified!

I carved out a piece that looked like this

on goes a layer of concrete.

Then a dark wash. I also dry brushed some light highlights onto the rock, to make it a bit more realistic.

For the substrate of the tank, I've purchased some more epiweb. I used the leca clay pebbles before, but this seemed like a light wight alternative.

Layer of landscaping fabric to cover the epiweb.

Some coco fiber dirt on top and few plants are in. Now I have to add a bit more plants and let everything grow for a few months to fill in.

Bromeliad attached with some fishing line

Few more broms.

That's the center piece in the middle of the tank.

I still need to fix few things in the I do them, I'll try to post some more photos. My rock wall attempt I'm sure could be done much better if someone actually knew what they were doing and how to scape and mold it, but once things get overgrown, I'm sure it will look half decent.
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Old 01-28-2008, 12:04 PM
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Tindomul Tindomul is offline
Vivarium Rock Wall construction

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OOOoooooooooooh! Looks good. I know I can't make fake rocks like you. Nice job Marty. You need more orchids in there though.
"We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?"

Goblin Market
by Christina Georgina Rossetti
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Old 01-28-2008, 12:48 PM
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cb977 cb977 is offline
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Way too cool!!!
Thank Goodness for the Ronco Rotisserie, huh?

to our
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Old 01-28-2008, 01:47 PM
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Marty Marty is offline
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Yes I do need more orchids... I only got one bulbo in there. When it gets warmer, I'll order a few for that and another tank that I'll be working on in the spring.
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Old 01-30-2008, 11:04 AM
flhiker flhiker is offline
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Great Job Marty, Where did you get your non-toxic paint from? My local Depot doesn't seem to have it.
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Old 01-30-2008, 12:12 PM
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I got it at Wallmart, though it probably has lead in it
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Old 02-25-2008, 12:35 AM
Mike Davis Mike Davis is offline

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That looks awesome!!!! I have planned to do something like that but was unsure of "creating" the rocks, i just aquired a 37 gallon aquarium that i plan on doing, i'll try my hand at rocks and post pics. Hope i can pull it off like you did
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Old 02-25-2008, 02:05 AM
gmdiaz gmdiaz is offline
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Your rock work looks really great!

I like the arrangement with the roots on the sides and the center piece in the middle. I think you got lots of good texture and variation using that concrete! Good job!

And I am very happy to see what products to use and a way to use them. . .I've been wanting to do something similar but wasn't sure where to begin.

Are those products and paint safe for frogs? And are you planning to add any frogs to your new tank?

P.S. I am still laughing about that big pile of poo sitting on the cushion. ROFLOLOL
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Old 02-25-2008, 07:50 AM
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Marty Marty is offline
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These should be safe, I used them before with no ill effects. I'm not sure if I'll put frogs into this tank because I have it planted now with bunch of carnivorous plants, including 6 different species of drosera (sundew) on the ground. These are pretty delicate so I may put few thumbnails in there, but nothing large. Once it grows over a bit more, I'll post some updated pictures.
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Old 05-01-2008, 07:38 PM
Gookis Gookis is offline
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Vivarium Rock Wall construction

Hey Marty,

Do you have a fan in your enclosure? How do you manage air exchange? Very nice, I like it alot!

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acrylic, background, concrete, tank, time, construction, wall, rock, vivarium

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