DIY Styrofoam Epoxiresin background

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Noddy created the topic: DIY Styrofoam Epoxiresin background

As requested, here's some info:
First off, here my tank and the DIY background:




What was used:

-3 Hard Styrofoam Blocks of 2’ high, 2’ wide and 8 ”thick
(Any other thickness can be used but thinner will resolve in less structural possibilities.
-Couple of tubes of Silicone (with application gun)
-A kilo of 2- component Epoxiresin ( this of course depends on the size of the background.
-Several different sized brushes
-Sharp kitchen knife and Stanley knife
-A gas torch or big turbo lighter.
-A big pile of patience!

How it was done:

The background was build up by using hard styrofoam blocks.
The blocks were cut into the rough shape of rocks using a sharp knife.
All the tiny bits of styrofoam will make an incredible mess and a hairdryer can be used to blow the bits and pieces of the artwork before you continue.

After that a torch was used to melt the edges of the cut off parts, to get them rounder and in a natural looking rocky shape.

The major part of the frontside of the blocks was epoxied outside of the tank.
The backside of the blocks was cut into shape, so that the outer 2 blocks would fit exactly around my 2 triangle shaped dry-chambers( one as overflow, the other as output for my filter and wires).
The side front of the background overlaps the side of the overflow with half an inch from top to bottom.

All 3 blocks were fit into place and secured with a lot of silicone.
After the silicone was applied, wait 24 hours for the silicone to dry.
After that the seperate blocks were epoxied together and finished of the upper edges with epoxi too, fitting and attaching the whole thing to the upper glass ledge.



In the overflow edge a comb of plexiglass was attached and epoxied.(Broken now, this should be done better.)
The background is cemented in the tank by the epoxi and cannot ever be taken out anymore.
This wouldt not apply if you can put the background into place in one piece.
That wouldt be a lot easier, for the whole background would be epoxied before siliconing it into place.
It could not be put into my tank in one piece, because of the glass front to back braces on the tank.

Brown coloured epoxi was used so there was no need for a layer of paint first, but the best option is to paint the Styrofoam with some layers first, let that dry out and then use clear epoxiresin.
The glue used for kitchen tiles can be used as well instead of paint.
That looks nice too, but several layers should be applied then, with 24 Hours of drying in between the glue-paint-jobs.

After the layers have dried, take some fine sandpaper and rough it all up a bit.
Any brushmarks can be sandpapered away.

Epoxiresin can be bought at any boat repairshop and isn't that expensive.
It is a lot of work though, for the epoxiresin will dry out very quickly.
This resolves in dryed out brushes and for my background around 12 brushes were used.
Adviced is not to make any more epoxi at a time then one can use up in 15 minutes.
You can apply some sand in ditches and corners to create a somewhat more natural effect, for the epoxi itself will be a bit shiny if it dries.
The epoxiresin should be used with a harder that you can buy at the same boat repair shop and mixed at a 3:1 rate. Most shop will sell 2-component epoxiresin in one box.
During the use of the epoxi the fumes that come off are toxic and hazardous to your health, but when it's dry, it's totally harmless for your fish.
So allways do the job in a well ventilated room, and using a face mask will certainly help .
Although i suspect some members might like the effect of those fumes. :laugh:

This bit is personal and opinions may differ:
After 24 hours the resin is dry but the tank should be left to cure for three weeks.
Than the tank can be filled and a pump should be attached for the movement of the water.
The pumps should NOT be a filter you use for Tank filtration, for there still may be hazardous toxins in the water . A simple pond pump will do.
Daily 50% waterchanges should be done in that week to wash out any remains of toxins.
Some say after a week of 50% wc that tank should be fish ready, but I advice to let it cure 3 weeks prior to the washing ritual.

After that month the background will be extremely hard and epoxi is the best background component that is tough enough for prolongued Pleco raspings.
Given some time the background will become natural looking by some algae that will buildt up .
All in all, if you got the time and got some ideas of what you want and like, using epoxiresin can help you create a very personal background at limited cost.

The hardest part may be the wait for the month of curing of the resin to pass,
before you can finally start the rest of the aquascaping.
And of course putting the fish in there! :woohoo:
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  • Win
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Win replied the topic: Re: DIY Styrofoam Epoxiresin background

you know i did fiberglass work for almost 3 years, i never even thought of trying to use the resin in a fish tank. thats such a good idea. damn now i gotta try it.
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ikkie78 replied the topic: Re:DIY Styrofoam Epoxiresin background

Awesome post Noddy...gonna have to try this out on a future tank! :cheer:

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marcus replied the topic: Re: DIY Styrofoam Epoxiresin background

Win wrote:

you know i did fiberglass work for almost 3 years, i never even thought of trying to use the resin in a fish tank. thats such a good idea. damn now i gotta try it.


I have used fiberglass sheeting and resin but never thought of it :laugh: It looks bloody great, and I want to make it too, but wonder what I do with my fish while I make and fit it. :angry: I am thinking about building one, then wash it off in garden and leave for a few wks out in the rain with a wash and hose every so often. after a few wks give it a final clean before fitting. what do you think? I also wonder how do I fit with water in the tank :unsure: thanks for giving us the idea and info on how to, even if some of us are now left puzzled and unsure how. a very good post none the less . :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

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Noddy replied the topic: Re: DIY Styrofoam Epoxiresin background

marcus wrote:

I want to make it too, but wonder what I do with my fish while I make and fit it. :angry: I am thinking about building one, then wash it off in garden and leave for a few wks out in the rain with a wash and hose every so often. after a few wks give it a final clean before fitting. what do you think?



As said before opinion differ in how and how long to let the background cure.
But most people i know that used the resin kept the water in the tank and changing it for a month.
With the pump added for watercirculation.
I guess the "baptised" background exchanges the toxins with the water through prolongued exposure. Not sure if rinsing alone wouldt be enough.

I just read another article , that stated to check the pH after the first day, it should be elevated. Perform 50% water changes every 2 days or so for at least 2 weeks. If the pH was elevated, wait until it is consistently back at your normal level.
I think it's better to be safe then sorry. :)

I also wonder how do I fit with water in the tank


And I wonder if i could use my background to canoe across the Canal and come over to England and have some coffee with you, Marcus.
But i think I can, due to the bouyancy of the styrofoam that was used! :laugh:
Getting that styrofoam siliconed into place with water in the tank will surely make a funny video, but i suggest not to even try that.
That will most likely not work.
Take care that the silicone is completely dry before filling up the tank, or it will still float.

So that's another thing to point out:
The background is perfect for tanks that will be set up in the future.
On running tanks the fitting and curing of the background will be troublesome.
For you will have to rehome your fish for the 5 weeks it is gonna take to make the background and make it unhamfull for your fish. :S

One other thing i need to point out, is to think about the loss of actual tank water volume. A thick background like mine looks nice and natural, but will reduce the amount of water that fits into your tank quite a bit.
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marcus replied the topic: Re: DIY Styrofoam Epoxiresin background

So what you are saying is what I am thinking. you got one and I can't have one unless I buy another tank :P :angry: :laugh:

I think i could build one without the foam using sheet fiberglass matting and resin. that way it will sink and be thin hollow backed.(more water volume)as water could flow behind. I will only need something under the wet sheet fiberglass matting to hold it in place while it drys(bulging rocks). and maybe rubber suckers like heaters have to hold it in place in the tank? I worry about not being able to soak it for a long time. I know I can buy some from juwel but they are expensive.
cgi.ebay.co.uk/JUWEL-450-ROCK-AQUARIUM-BACKGROUND-Stunning_W...4QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUK_Pet_Supplies_Fish?hash=item518e8b3d42

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Noddy replied the topic: Re:DIY Styrofoam Epoxiresin background

I'm just providing you with all the info you need, even if it hurts! :laugh:

The sheet fiberglass is an excellent idea and will help overcome some of the problems of the use of styrofoam.
I think in using the sheets some more craftsmanship will be involved.
But looking at the prices of the ready-to-go backgrounds may help make it worth your while.
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Win replied the topic: Re:DIY Styrofoam Epoxiresin background

if you could take the time to maybe carve the styrofoam, then spray it with a gel coat, thus making a mold, you could then put a release agent on the foam block, and using resin, fiberglass matt, and cloth, you could then put say a 1/4" layer of glass over your "mold", let it cure overnight, and pop the mold off, it, then flip it over, and do the exact same process, you could end up with a flat sheet, molded to the shape of your carving, without the water displacement problem. OR... OR you could carve your block, take it to a plastics company, and have them "vacuum form it" with a sheet of hot plastic, and form it to the exact shape, and then dispose of the block. that would give you plastic background thats inert right? :)

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BIG GAME HUNTER replied the topic: Re:DIY Styrofoam Epoxiresin background

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Noddy replied the topic: Re:DIY Styrofoam Epoxiresin background

Hey, there BGH!
lol, wish i read this thread before, would have saved me some time and effort!
Oh, well, i couldn't sleep that night and writing this filled my night.
Did the background ever get used in a tank?
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