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Old 02-15-2014, 11:24 PM   #1
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Styrofoam 3-D

I was looking online at some DIY tank decor. I can across some really neat styrofoam rocks. But I'm wondering how safe is this... You use the styrofoam form it how you want, and then cover it in cement mix... Is the styrofoam safe to have in the tank (it says to use the pink insulation one) ? I get that it will be covered but...
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Old 02-20-2014, 01:30 PM   #2
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As long as you use styrofoam that's not coated in anything (such as mildew resistant, etc.), it's safe. The pink insulation foam is safe. If you're really worried about it, you can pick up cheap styrofoam coolers and cut those down - they are specifically labelled as "food safe" which translates to aquarium safe.

I made my own styrofoam background for my tank, and it turned out very nice. I used just plain white insulation foam sheets, covered it in latex-based drylok with cement tints, and then coated the whole thing in clear Plasti Dip for extra durability. The tricky part is you have to reallllly stick it down well with aquarium safe silicone because styrofoam is so buoyant - even covered in cement.

This is my background in a 54 gallon corner bowfront. I don't have a better picture yet because I'm not quite done with the plant-scape. I have a ton more plants in there now, but I'm not happy yet with the arrangement.
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Old 02-20-2014, 08:38 PM   #3
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It looks really nice! How would I add one to an already existing tank? I can't silicone it down... I was thinking a bunch of suction cups somehow stuck to the back?
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Old 02-21-2014, 08:30 AM   #4
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You'd have to REALLY stick those suction cups firmly into the foam somehow. And you'd need a lot of them. I know some people have had luck with using strong magnets.
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Old 02-21-2014, 09:41 PM   #5
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Alright. Well I'll see what I can find for magnets. I was thinking if need be id just have to drain my tank into buckets and let the fish live in buckets for awhile. But that seems like a big risk and a lot of work.
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Old 02-22-2014, 11:18 AM   #6
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I am thinking of doing that with the magnets also. Check out lee valley tools. They sell rare earth magnets which I believe are one of the strongest magnets. A cement 3-d background is tricky to add to existing tanks as it will jack up your Ph levels until it is fully cured. I have been filling my bathtub up and draining every night for the past 10 days and it's just now starting to level off. It's still high 8.4-8.6 but for some African cichlids that's what they like. Keep us updated with pictures.
Here's mine for my 90g.

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Old 02-25-2014, 05:24 PM   #7
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Wow looking good! We don't have a lee valley tools where I'm from (I'm assuming it's a states store). But I'll check around and see what I can find. We're going to first try some little pieces first (stones, caves, etc) and see how well we do! Haha.
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Old 02-25-2014, 07:04 PM   #8
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I am from Ontario Canada. I know that they have a web site and will ship. Once you get started its easy to do. I have also heard of people using acetone to melt all of the styrophone and just leaving the cement shell. This is a product that adds The wow factor to any tank. Git er dun.
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Old 02-25-2014, 07:10 PM   #9
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Another thing I have head people use but I think is a lot of $$$ are the magnetic glass cleaners. Mount 1 into the styrophone and the other to the back glass. My magnet scrapper is about the size of my iPhone and sticks like crazy. It was also $30.00. I would need at least 4-6 That's a lot of caulking for $180.00. Can you house the fish elsewhere for a couple of weeks while the silicone and cement cure? That would be the most economical way with the silicone and water changes. A lot of water changes. It's ok on a small tank but over 75 gal and it's a lot of work and water changes.
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Old 02-25-2014, 07:15 PM   #10
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I just have a 40 gallon. So water changes are not that hard. I just moved the whole tank to a new apartment a couple weeks ago, so I don't really want to package the fish up and move them to a different tank (I have enough friends with aquariums that they could go there). It's just a lot of work in -40 trying to move fish hah!
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Old 02-26-2014, 08:10 AM   #11
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You can skip the cement and just use Drylok with cement tints. A lot of people do it this way. Then you don't have the pH issues and the long cure time.
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Old 02-26-2014, 08:55 AM   #12
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If I were to do another background I would try the drylok just for change. I didn't mind cementing my work. I didn't have fish in my tank and wouldn't have the tank ready for fish for a couple of months as I am building a new stand. So the cement worked great for me. I had time to wait for the curing process.
I think you main issue is going to be mounting it to the back glass. If you don't use magnets you are going to have to drain the tank and wait 48 hrs for the caulking to cure before any water can go back in. Good luck. It's a great project to work on.
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Old 03-04-2014, 01:36 AM   #13
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Any other less..... Buoyant solutions? I love the look, but any ways I could achieve it not using styrofoam? I think I'm going to go with the cement shell idea, and just burn the styrofoam out after... But if someone has another solution I'm all ears!
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Old 03-04-2014, 08:41 AM   #14
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Well, you could use actual rocks. Be VERY careful when burning the styrofoam. That stuff releases so many toxic compounds when it burns. I'd wear a mask, do it outside, with a fan blowing.
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Old 03-04-2014, 09:53 AM   #15
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If you really want to get rid of the syrofoam spray acetone on it from a spray bottle. It will melt away. Make sure you leave some on the sides and top and bottom so you can attach it to the back and it won't allow your fish to get in behind it.
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Old 03-04-2014, 12:09 PM   #16
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Here's a few photos of one I did awhile back. I used pink Styrofoam and expanding can foam with Drylok and concrete tint.









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