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Thursday, July 24, 2014

DIY Styrofoam Aquarium Background

By Alasse from Everything Aquatic Forum

Forum Thread Reference:
5ft DIY Background

This is the process to making the background that is in my 5ft Angel tank:
5 foot Angel aquarium tank with custom DIY background

All pictures can be clicked on to enlarge.

What was used:
  • Styrofoam

  • Expanding foam
  • Breadknife
  • Sharp knife
  • Lighter
  • Silicone

  • Flyscreen mesh - For covering output and intake areas)
  • Paintbrushes - Various sizes
  • Water
  • Paper towel
  • Gloves
  • Render - approx. 18kg
  • Oxides - Brown & Black
  • Sealer - Clear pond sealer can be used, this will make the background inert. (not what I use on this one or later ones, but pond sealer will do the job)


Write down the Render/Oxide/Water ratio!!!

The render dries quite a bit lighter than when its first applied, especially the Acrylic render I have linked in below, it dries white or very very close to.

Oxide colours can go a long way, small amounts and build to get a look you like.
Make sure to do regular tank fittings and remember adding layers of render adds height and width the the Background.

Expanding foam does just that, so don't get to boisterous with it lol Small and build!!

Be observant of making really hard to get to areas, once in the tank you have to try and seal these areas, and it can be difficult.
You need to work out what filtration you are having on the tank before you start, as intakes and output areas need to be factored in (the one above has filter, power head & heaters behind the BG.

Do not render areas that are going to be silicone to the glass to secure BG (back ground) into tank.
Do not think you wont need to silicone it in, foam is EXTREMELY buoyant!!
These backgrounds are designed to be permanent (you can get them out if need be, but the BG will NOT survive the process!)

Be sure you give the render time to cure, dependant on thickness, the thicker you make the layers, the longer curing time it takes.
The render MUST be fully cured (dry) before sealing!
Most pond sealers like to eat foam, so extra care is needed to just coat the render.
If the BG messes with you PH, you didn't seal it properly. It is messy to do, but a lot of fun lol.

On completion you have a totally one off BG that no one else can ever have :)

30th December 2013 - The basic foam work

Step 1 Styrofoam, DIY Aquarium Background

30th Dec 2013 - Expanding spray foam added

Step 2 Expanding spray foam, DIY Aquarium Background

3rd Jan 2014 - Tank fitting

Step 3 Tank fitting, DIY Aquarium Background

11th Jan 2014 - 1st coat of render done

1st coat of render done, DIY Aquarium Background

11th Jan 2014 - 2nd coat of render done

2nd coat of render done, DIY Aquarium Background

13th Jan 2014 - 3rd coat of render done

3rd coat of render done, DIY Aquarium Background

15th Jan 2014 - Highlighting done

Highlighting done, DIY Aquarium Background

24th Jan 2014 - Siliconed into tank

Siliconed into tank, DIY Aquarium Background

18th Mar 2014 - Joins done - Now I hit a glitch here, I didn't write down the render/oxide/water ratios and could not match the colour, so yep I have to give it a 4th coat and re-highlight it

Joins done, DIY Aquarium Background

24th Mar 2014 - tank out side ready to seal

tank out side ready to seal, DIY Aquarium Background

29th Mar 2014 - Tank fully sealed and ready to put back on stand

Tank fully sealed, DIY Aquarium Background

Material Resources:

I use this render:
Dunlop Acrylic Render

I have used this sealer:
Crommelin Pondsealer

Silicone I use:
Selleys Glass Silicone

Australian Builders Oxide Powder

All of the above is available at Bunnings Warehouse :)

*note above is for Australians

For USA/Canada:

Premium USDA Safe Aquarium Silicone

Pond Sealer


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  • At September 4, 2014 at 12:55 PM , Blogger seapetal111 said...

    Big undertaking and you did a beautiful job of it, it looks AMAZING. It's the same quality you see in museums, theatre, zoos. I doubt I'll ever have such a large tank but this inspires me to do something on a much smaller scale... could make a great feature in the back centre corner of my 36G corner unit (pie shaped) tank... wheels are turning here!.. Thanks for sharing and for the great documentation of the whole process.

  • At January 3, 2017 at 2:16 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Hi just found this article very helpful as I'm starting a new project for my daughter hopefully all goes well

  • At January 3, 2017 at 2:17 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Very informative I'm starting 1 soon just collecting information from all over but i love yours thanks


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