10 Gallon Tank DIY styrofoam background

aylad

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Today I finally started shaping some styrofoam for the background in my long-planned RCS tank. I'll use this thread to document my progress.

I'm using a styrofoam "cutter" that is basically a long, hot wire that melts away the styro. I've never used it before. I'm mostly pleased, except for the strings of molten plastic that it leaves behind.

Three pics and a video of my progress so far:

uploadfromtaptalk1357006051078.jpg
Started with a chunk very similar to this. The styro was packaging on our new TV a few months ago.

uploadfromtaptalk1357006116068.jpg
Ended with this. The "cave" will open onto a cavity hiding the heater and one of the two sponge filters. I wanted a big opening so shrimp could graze on the filter without getting trapped, but the opening is now too big: I did want the equipment to be inconspicuous.

uploadfromtaptalk1357006271979.jpg
My work area. The cutting tool is in the foreground.

[video=youtube;5R9FSAOiqqk]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R9FSAOiqqk[/video]

I ended up making another piece for the video to close up the hole a bit. (My cinematographer/wife says the camera adds 10 pounds to my hands. )
 
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Matt B

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I can see where you're going with that, I like it! Especially the sponge filter "bay" where the shrimp can get access to it. Neat tool too, tell your wife she was filming your hands "bad side"
 
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aylad

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Thanks, I'll pass that along. ;D

I need to get back to work on it, probably this weekend. I'm very excited to be making progress, finally.
 

Matt B

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That must be a satisfying media to work with, much faster progress than my usual bashing rocks and hoping they end up in the shape I want!

I've seen these type of backgrounds come out awesome, even by people making their first attempt. So, I'll be interested to see how it progresses.

I love diy stuff in general, it seems like no matter what you buy decor wise you're settling to some degree, when you make it yourself its exactly what you imagined! (most of the time)
 
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aylad

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I just made some more progress on another corner piece for this tank.

Starting with this:

uploadfromtaptalk1357006051078.jpg

I carved much of it away and added some of the scrap pieces back on to make:

2013-01-07_10-45-23_611.jpg

This took about an hour, but it's still a work in progress. Before I can proceed, I've got to glue the scrap pieces to the base chunk so that I can keep it together while I work on it.

EDIT: In fact, I've just posted a question about this here: https://www.fishlore.com/fishforum/diy-do-yourself/135699-silicone-not-aquarium-use.html#post1473649

Here they are in a tank (10gal, the same size they're going into for real):

2013-01-07_10-48-50_718.jpg

I still have a lot of work to do. The background will go all the way across the back, all the way up to the top, and will include some "rock"-work in the mid/foreground from one end of the tank to the other.

For anyone who is interested in using a similar tool to cut styrofoam: I figured out how to clean off the accumulated polystyrene on the wire. Basically you prop it up somewhere safe and let it sit, turned on, for a while. This gets the polystyrene fibers nice and liquid. Without turning off the tool, scrape it against the edge of a piece of cardboard to wipe off the melted polystyrene. (Don't let it linger against the cardboard. I don't know how hot it gets.)
 
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aylad

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Finally made some time to get a lot more work done on shaping the styrofoam. I also figured out how to spot-weld styrofoam together with the heat tool, which made it easier to move forward without breaking out the silicone just yet.

Before (from the post above):
2013-01-07_10-48-50_718.jpg
After, with flash:
2013-02-11_10-49-56_274.jpg
After, without flash:
2013-02-11_10-50-08_847.jpg

Obviously I'm biased, but I'm very happy with how it looks so far. arty0024:

That is an awesome idea using the hot iron makes it less messy I bet.
My wife deserves all credit for the idea, but thanks. It depends on what you mean by "less messy"... the iron pulls strings of molten polystyrene behind it, and those have to be pulled or brushed off of the finished piece. On the other hand, there aren't little beads of foam getting all over the place. I'd rather have the strings than the beads. I think.

Mainly the tool just makes it easier -- a LOT easier -- to make cuts and trim pieces off.
 
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