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Old 12-13-2013, 01:27 PM   #1
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DIY 3D Cliff Background

well I started a partial 3D background. this one I will be using a variety of all the different ways I have seen to do them plus my own way. then I will get cement and coat it and then let it cure then paint and seal it with several coats of concrete sealer.

First thing is work on a nice cave for my incoming Super Red BN's and included a really low baby cave so any hatchlings have a cave of their own too. I siliconed the inside of the big one so that Papa has some place rough for his eggs. I will make other caves different ways. I wanted to do it this way so it also shows people you can use imagination and combine the different techniques and come up with a really unique background that looks good. so if you run out of materials but may have something else hanging around you can improvise and know it works.

First up the big cave, then some of the front using beaded foam and melted with a hot air gun, and then one with overhang and my 5" caves. I still have to make the edges of the overhang random as they are just straight atm. and i put plexi on bottom of the caves and glued them with silicone to the overhang.







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Old 12-13-2013, 01:29 PM   #2
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I was a taxidermist for many years and we always did fish mounts in natural looking scenes and cliffs and here is one of the tricks we used and I bet It can be used here too.

We also went to the model train store and they have all kinds of really cool rubber molds for casting your own rocks and stuff so look in the train stores too for your aquarium needs.


Step 1: get some scrap plexiglass for a base, also get a couple acrylic rods from local hardware store.

Step 2: Cut your base in the shape you want your cliff wall.

Step 3: drill several holes and cut your acrylic rod to the height you want your cliff and weld them into your base with acrylic or plexi glue.

Step 4: go dumpster diving at your local carpet store for some of their scrap carpet padding. you know the stuff made from chunks of foam rubber glued together to make the padding. (I always ask the store if they are open and they always say no need to hit the dumpster and take me in the back and hand me 20 times more than i ever need.)

Step 5: Cut the width you want your wall plus maybe 1/2 inch wider and do this until you have enough layers to make the height you want.

Step 6: TEAR DO NOT CUT the front of the padding giving you random shapes. your front will be rough like rocks and you want to tear like a wavy pattern to the front so your layers of rocks are all different.

Step 7: Randomly grab your layers and poke them onto the acrylic rods you might want to sharpen the tops of the rods a little to make it easier.

Step 8: once this is all finished you should have a nice stack of foam padding and it will look like a really nice rock faced wall.

Now for the Finishing of your Wall

Finishing 1: Use whatever aquarium concrete you guys use and start out with a thin coat and completely coat the foam front and rear so that the foam is completely encapsulated. we used plaster of paris but in an aquarium I doubt that will work.

I assume you can also use urethane's or plastics for making aquarium stuff (maybe someone smart with aquarium materials for these things can make suggestions.)

Finishing 2: after the initial coat has dried you can start layering a few thicker coats on until you get the desired thickness you want. Also you can use natural sponges while the coating is still wet and dapple it around giving the rock some more texture.

Finishing 3: for your final coat you might want to tint your concrete mixture so that it is a lot easier to paint to your desired color later on.

Finishing 4: add final painting and clear coat as desired. the plexi base is created with a couple feet will be able to be slid under your substrate and even put a couple regular rocks on top to hold your wall to the ground.
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Old 12-13-2013, 01:30 PM   #3
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ok so here is the scoop I basically covered this earlier but will add a few "Cliff Notes" lol

First toothpicks and bamboo skewers are really handy for using as posts for holding the stack together they work great for your foam rocks too until you are ready to glue them all together.

if you have a spot you want to do a nice overhang remember this is foam rubber so it will go limp I just use a couple bamboo skewers and it holds it night and straight.

I have taken good ole Elmer's glue and thinned it some with water and let the pieces soak in that for a few mins then let them drain and drip for a couple mins then set on plastic to dry. this makes them hard and stiff so when you set them in place they wont droop and you don't need to stiffen with sticks.

So the first step is to rip some pieces and start making your stacks. don't worry if the pieces don't match this is nature and everything is random. be sure to not use just one long piece make several short ones so that you have Little caves.



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Old 12-13-2013, 01:38 PM   #4
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after they are all made and stacked the way you like you can take apart and start to silicone them together.

now the part i don't show is you can now concrete them and since they are foam rubber they will absorb a little more than foam but should be able to stay on bottom of tank on their own weight.

Now after concrete you can use Krylon Fusion Texture Paint and give it its looks and highlight and other fun stuff.

I didnt have any on hand so for demo purposes only used a can of rustoleum texture paint. and for a fast 5 min cliff wall it actually looks pretty convincing and would look really good and natural if I took my time and concreted it and detailed it a little more with highlights etc







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Old 12-13-2013, 01:40 PM   #5
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and there you go guys how to make a cliff using Foam Carpet Backing.

Now I just tore the edges but to get an even more cool look tear tiny pieces off the tops too it will give that rough look of rubble.

Also this took like 5 mins so its not perfect but the idea gets across. after you concrete it you can remove some of the foam from the inside as you wont need it any more. then you could silicone some PVC tubes in place and add a little concrete to the inside then take a dremel tool and cut out the cave openings. and you will have some nice caves for your fish to hide and breed. You can stack this as tall as you want I just did a short base. I been reading up and abt to get some concrete and start one for my 75G and I will post some pics here of the entire start to finish process

but it doesnt take many pics just some imagination to make a decent natural looking cliff wall
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Old 12-13-2013, 01:43 PM   #6
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Ok I wanted to show you that method so as I add it to my cliff I am making now you will understand what I am doing and don't scratch your head asking yourself what is that funny looking stuff.

now you can make a really nice wall with just the carpet backing I have done some huge ones when I mounted mountain goats etc and then glued some rubble down and they turned out really sweet looking when i took my time.
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Old 12-13-2013, 01:57 PM   #7
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there is one thing to remember about foam carpet padding is that it has a plastic backing on one side that it it all glued onto. it works out best if when you stack your padding that you glue it with the plastic backing down
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Old 12-13-2013, 02:14 PM   #8
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well Melted the Ledge and the next Layer will be using some carpet Backing foam. I will combine this with some blue foam so that I can show you how you can make a little carpet backing go a long way in case you live in an area in the boonies where it might be hard to come by.







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Old 12-13-2013, 02:56 PM   #9
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Ok I added the next Layer. In this you can see how I used some 1/2 inch blue foam for a filler and then used a thin row of backing for my leading edge. Also look how nice it runs around corners.

Now I want to add a fault line over my little caves so I will do that and show you how to add another filler in place of the blue foam.








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Old 12-13-2013, 05:28 PM   #10
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well ran to Lowe's and got some more silicone and got a bag of floor leveling mortar which I can justify to wife saying I need it to level our sloped stove getting ready for new vinyl she wants in her kitchen )) I will need 1/20 the bag for that leaving the rest for me for backgrounds lol

I also wrapped the padding over the caves which will give a fault type layer of the rock. it doesn't look like much now but once i get concrete on it will look better

Here I stacked some more layers of carpet padding. I will fill behind it with spray foam, add another Styrofoam ledge and then make some spray foam rock walls that haven't broken yet on top of that





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