DIY background to established tank

Discussion in 'Freshwater Aquarium Builds' started by natpodu77, Jul 19, 2014.

  1. natpodu77New MemberMember

    Okay, I have read a lot of different way s that people have made backgrounds from Styrofoam and concrete or Dry-lok and am going to try it on my already established 55 gallon tank.

    I have read that it is possible to place a background that is tight fitting in an already established tank and use the frame to attempt to keep it in place, as well as rocks and substrate at the bottom. However in addition to that I have purchased a set of 8 plastic coated aquarium safe magnets that I was going to use on the background as well. I was going to recess them on the back and attach them with silicone.

    Having an established tank, I cannot use silicone, and I really would like the option of removal in the future. I know there is pond silicone that can be applied in the water, but again I am not looking for a permanent fixture.

    What I was thinking of doing was using 1” extruded polystyrene foam, cutting it to fit and then attaching rocks to it that I will cut out of the same polystyrene to make low profile ledges and small depressions/pots to hold some Anubias and possibly stem plants on the top to keep them “floating” in place at the top of my tank. I would glue all the pieces onto the foam with silicone, and let it cure for a few days or week and then cover it with a couple coats of tinted Dry-lok. I was thinking of outlining the whole frame with a bead or thin layer of silicone just so that it would “grip” the sides of the tank as well as the adjacent piece better and keep itself in place better. I also wanted to “hide” some of my intakes as I have 2 Filstar canister filters for the tank, and make a mes screen cover out of aluminum to keep some of the debris from clogging my intake tubes.

    I am unsure if I should make it in two 24" or three 16" pieces, also since I am not attaching it with silicon, can I paint the back of it as well with the Dry-lok? I think this will help with the longevity of the background:confused:

    [FONT=Lucida Grande, Trebuchet MS, Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]I also wanted to attach it to a 4” or 5” “base” that would just be another 1” piece of foam, painted with Dry-lok and silicone to the bottom of the background…a “foot” that I can cover with my substrate as added protection from it floating or shifting. Do you think this would help with the inherent buoyancy of the foam, or it is overkill?[/FONT]

    Thank you for your help and feedback! image
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2018
  2. Tonia

    ToniaWell Known MemberMember

    Without having personal experience with creating a background such as you've described, I think it sounds very awesome. The only thing I really worry about is the plan to put this into the established tank. Are you planning to do a major water change so that you can move your existing gravel? Will the fish remain in your water while you work on the background?
  3. OP

    natpodu77New MemberMember


    Thank you for your reply!

    I was planning on removing my major driftwood, rocks and all of my fish prior to installing the background, placing them into 2 containers-the one with the fish will have a filter attached. Then I will have to remove 80-90% of the water as well. the tank is too narrow to work with them in it, and I would not forgive myself if something killed them on installation.

    Then (when it is done which could be months from now with the cure/dry time and work schedule) to move my substrate away front the back of the tank and put the background in (it will be in 2 pieces, maybe 3 because of the middle support) and place it on the bare bottom of the tank, then back-fill with the substrate to anchor the background, plant the anubias into the mini-pots I will have on the background wall and add some substrate to those pots to cover their roots as well,.

    Then it is a matter of fixing the substrate, re-planting the other plants and driftwood, and letting it cycle for a couple hours. I will do a complete testing to check that the water quality has not changed. Once it is clear I will put the fish back in. If something is wrong then out it goes, but I have read so many builds where they used Drylok with no issues or changes in water quality, pH or other issues (like fish deaths)

    I don't see any problems with that because I will have let this sit for at least 2 weeks to dry, air out and cure prior to me putting it in, I may even soak the panels in a plastic tub and check water quality prior to installing it in my tank.

    I have it all planned out, but I guess I am looking for some more reassurance that it won't go floating away before I start working on it, as I said 95% of those I read were all on new tanks, using concrete or Quick-crete and attaching permanently with silicone, then doing up to 15 water changes to remove the high pH effects of the concrete prior to cycling for a period of time. My tanks is already established, I don't have another tank, or the room to house my fish for 2 weeks while I clean out the tanks and install and cycle the background. That is why I am using magnets, the base on the background and Drylok.
  4. Adam55

    Adam55Well Known MemberMember

    It's more costly, but you might want to consider something like this. It's easier to install (you use clips that are included with the background) in an established tank. It's also super thin, which is good in a 55 because a 55 is only 13" wide.

  5. OP

    natpodu77New MemberMember


    I have seen products like this, and it does have a very slim profile-however I wanted something with ledges and "pots" for my plecos and loaches to "lay"on as well as my plants to sit on, something like the DIY below, but only the back portion and some ledges are actually going to be mini-pots to hold a variety of anubias. I have a rough sketch, but the image below is from the web site where I first got my idea for ledges:  
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2018
  6. OP

    natpodu77New MemberMember

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