New Technique for "Building" a Moss Wall

calinb
  • #1
After seeing pics of beautiful moss walls, I decided to buy some Christmas moss and plant net from Aquaticmagic on Ebay . I know it takes a lot of time to get a wall to look like much and I'm very slow at sewing the edges together so I had to find faster method--given that the thing might not even grow and I could end up throwing it out one day.

I followed the basic ideas as described in the plant net description here:



and



and

https://www.killies.com/Mosswall.htm

But I think I've come up with a much faster technique for making moss walls or carpet; rather than tying the two halves together, I used a blow torch with a soldering tip to melt and weld the plastic halves to each other. I addition to the plant net, I purchased some black plastic screen at a local hardware store (used for window screens) and I welded the Aquaticmagic green plant net to the heavier black plastic window screen material.

I cut both the black screen and the green net to the same size to fit the back wall of my tank. Next, I placed the black screen over the plant net and ran the hot soldering tip along the bottom edge (the edge that will be buried into the gravel). It is necessary to heat and weld the plastic with black plastic screen on top (rub the hot tip along the edge of the black screen) because the heat will vaporize the green net instantly, if the tip touches it directly. It's best to heat the heavier black plastic while pressing it down onto the green net with the hot soldering tip. I used a strip of aluminum to protect my work bench from the heat. The melting plastic makes a stinky smell that's probably highly toxic--don't breath the fumes!

With the bottom sealed, I opened the "book" of screen and net and laid out the moss in square patches on the green plant net. I used a grid with about 4" squares and a little space between (rows and columns). Then I closed the "book" by covering the green net and moss with the black screen and I worked the hot soldering torch along the side and top edges--moving it back and forth over a small distance until the the plastic melted and fused together. Then I welded the horizontal rows. It was necessary to get the tip very hot and then turn off the flame because heat from the flame would escape and burn the moss--only the tip should be hot. I had to relight the torch a few times to reheat the tip and then turn off the flame again to continue fusing the plastic together.

I finished by making some "spot" weld points in the columns. It is not necessary to completely weld the entire line of a column, if at all--just weld a spot every now and then to keep the moss from shifting right and left, which is probably unlikely to happen if you're careful in installing it.

A large electrical soldering iron would probably work too. This method is very fast. I don't know if the melted plastic produces any toxins that could transfer to the tank. I removed a small amount of loose charred plastic and washed the assembly in water afterwards. I now have fish in the tank now and they have not died. It might be possible to simply use two halves of the black plastic screen, but I liked the finer green plant mesh and it looks like it might transmit more light to the moss too.

-Cal
 
susitna-flower
  • #2
Calinb, I really like this idea......sounds like it would be easy, and fast. I have a tank that needs a moss wall........
 
calinb
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Calinb, I really like this idea......sounds like it would easy, and fast. I have a tank that needs a moss wall........
I think I'll try a large electric soldering iron next time Susitna-flower. It would be even faster than my propane torch with a soldering tip because it won't require periodically extinguishing the flame to weld plastic, stop, relight, heat it up again, extinguish, etc.

I used four pair of little ceramic magnets to make sure the sides of the screen are held tightly against the back corners of the glass--I have little fish and I wouldn't want them to get back behind the moss wall and get stuck. The bottom of the screen is buried under the gravel a bit and the top is just above the water line.

I've seen no ill effects from the plastic welding. I have a couple of chocolate gouramis in there now and they are known to be very touchy about water quality. They are very active, colorful, and always hungry for flakes, pellets, or brine shrimp so I know they are well.

The plastic I used seems to be working well (black plastic window screen material from Home Depot and the very light weight and color green plant net from Aquatimagic on Ebay). One nice thing about the light green net is light shines through it. My moss is starting to poke out already! Actually, I've been very happy with all the stuff I got from Aquatimagic (Singapore). Becasue it was Ebay, I was a bit concerned with my purchase, but they sent a ton of the green netting material and I also got a nice DIY CO2 diffuser ladder. I like it much better than the Nutrafin ones available locally because it says cleaner longer. Also, the plants I purchased looked pretty sad after their long journey, but they are recovering nicely and none of them have died. After shipping (even combining items), they are pricey for the size of the plant portions but they have some stuff I just can't find around here.

I'm going with an Indonesian biotype theme in this tank. I found some riccia that I think is from Indonesia as it's the type that you can't tie to anything without it falling apart. It provides surface cover for the, normally, shy chocolate gouramis. (Mine aren't shy at all--they're almost eating from my finger tips already!) I may import some Indian fern (Sumatrafarn in German) from Felix and Oscar's tank too. It's now planted but I read it does well as a floating plant too. Needle Java fern are growing from kikI wood and I've ordered some small grade-A Indian almond leaves from a homemaker and mom on Ebay who seems to run a nice little family business from her home in Singapore. The leaves will blacken the water and, hopefully, I'll have as much luck as they've had here:


and


After things mature a bit, they'll be more pics of "Cal's Mini-Tower."

BTW, I'm long on projects (as always) and short on time so I took some large inventory off the hands of my local PetSmart rather than ordering the glass for the DIY tank I'd planned. I got a 125 gal 72 x 18 x 22 All-Glass with hoods and light strips for just over $200! Oscar and Felix will soon have a new home and, hopefully, some new Bristol shubunkin friends.
 
MagpieTear
  • #4
I'm thinking about snagging some fine stainless mesh from work, bending it to a 1.5" radius quarter circle about 10" long and putting the java moss on it trapped by the plastic netting as a camouflage for my Fluval's inlet pipe. Set it so just the strainer is poking out the bottom... Sound like a good idear?
 
calinb
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
Sound like a good idear?
Yeah--if it works, could you post a pic? Thanks!
 
susitna-flower
  • #6
NO !!! MagpieTear, Even stainless steel is metal, and metal and fish just don't go together!!! Even the best stainless can still impart some metal particles in the water, especially when it reacts with medications etc....OK they do make stainless heaters for aquariums, but I also have stainless steel bowls that have rust spots through, so it has to be super quality, and if you can't guarantee the quality, don't use it!

It would be much better to get some plastic mesh from a craft store.....that would also bend around the tubes....plastic is safe for the aquarium....

Two questions about your method....8mm sounds like a large hole to me...does the plastic netting you used really have that large of holes?

The ceramic magnets...are they totally ceramic coated? Once again worry about having metal in a fish tank... where did you get these? Will they hold tight enough once the moss wall gets heavy?
 
MagpieTear
  • #7
Well, the mesh we buy is surgical grade Swedish made mesh, typically used for surgical implants. If it's good enough to leave in a human body, wouldn't it be good enough for a tank?
 
susitna-flower
  • #8
I just don't know. Sounds reasonable, but I would defer to DINO.....He would have a better idea on this...
 
calinb
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
Two questions about your method....8mm sounds like a large hole to me...does the plastic netting you used really have that large of holes?
It's much smaller--the black might be 0.8mm and the green "net" is even finer.
The ceramic magnets...are they totally ceramic coated? Once again worry about having metal in a fish tank... where did you get these? Will they hold tight enough once the moss wall gets heavy?
You bring up a good point about the coating. It's hard to tell if it's sound and will stay that way. I got them at Lowes. I've seen plastic coated magnets in the past. Maybe I'll look for some of those. Or maybe I'll get some really strong rare earth magnets and coat them with plastic from one of those tool plastic coating kits.

I don't know how heavy the moss will be when it's in the water--they'll probably hold, but you got me thinking about reduced water levels during a water change. I have suction cups holding the moss wall at the top, which I think will hold, but maybe the rare earth magnets are a good idea for this reason too (for thicker glass).

Oh--my black plastic screen would hold a 1.5" radius curve okay, I think, for MagpieTear's inlet beautifier. Just a few ties with fishing line every few inches should do the trick. Then I'd "weld" the fine green net around it after rolling it up on the outside of the black screen tube with moss or riccia inside. A "weld" at the top and bottom should do it with maybe a few tack welds in between in blank areas to keep the moss from slipping downward (or floating upward?) before it grows through the net. More traditionally, it could all be tied, but welding plastic is so much faster, unless you're a surgeon, I guess.
 
susitna-flower
  • #10
Aha! .8 sounds more like it.....

Black zip ties would work to hold an inlet cover as well. They are just about as handy as duct tape....

two years ago a Walmart 80 south of me, in the little town where my LFS is, had the distinction of selling more Duct tape than any other store in the WORLD! They held a big celebration!

Cal, when are you going to be setting up your 125?


I just got a camera, one of these days when I get over MY learning curve, and figure out how to post, I'll finally be able to share my tanks with all of you!
 
calinb
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
Aha! .8 sounds more like it.....
Black zip ties would work to hold an inlet cover as well. They are just about as handy as duct tape....
Good idea! I don't have any zip ties in my tanks yet but I'll look for places to use them, now that you've mentioned it.
Cal, when are you going to be setting up your 125?
Hmm--debating this now. I'll probably need to set it up in the basement, but also wondering if Felix and Oscar might be able to wait until we move--probably not, considering we haven't even found a house up in Washington state yet.

I have a good plan for moving the two small tanks. It will require one trip--just for the fish.

1. Remove the water and fish.
2. Secure the tanks under my camper shell on the cushy BedRug.
3. Put most of the water and fish back into the tanks.
4. Hook up the heaters and filters to a power source (compter uninterruptable power supplies and/or DC/AC inverter. (I'm thinking I should devote a UPS to heaters and filters permanently.
5. Tape around the tank hoods with duct tape ( ) to confine minor sloshes mostly in the tank.
6. Drive carefully to the new house.
7. Reverse the above to transfer to the new house.

The 125 could be moved, in theory, in much the same way, but it barely fits in my pickup, I'll need help to move it (regardless of whether or not it's setup) and Oscar and Felix would need to temporarily deal with the reduced water level for a couple of hours, which I'm sure they could handle. At least I got a good deal on it, ($215, including lights and hoods) and no sales tax in Oregon.

Ever move fish, Susitna-flower?
 
susitna-flower
  • #12
Only move I have ever made with fish has been from the LFS to home, as babies!

However COBettaCouple just moved from FL to CO....They detailed their move with multiple tanks and fish. I believe they found food coolers work well. The main problem is the air, and you can get battery powered air pumps. I don't believe they did anything for filtration, or outside heat. I am sure Dave would give you valuable tips and explain their theories and problems with a big move.

For smaller trips of 4 or 5 hours even big fish can be moved in buckets with lids.

I don't think I would try to transport in an aquarium. The water could really slosh as you say, and as well as they hold together in a stationary place, I would worry about a tank having undue stress applied to it if it weren't completely level, and water movement.
 
calinb
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
However COBettaCouple just moved from FL to CO....They detailed their move with multiple tanks and fish. l
Great! I'll find their account.
I don't think I would try to transport in an aquarium. The water could really slosh as you say, and as well as they hold together in a stationary place, I would worry about a tank having undue stress applied to it if it weren't completely level, and water movement.
Actually, the stress changes (and thus strain changes) on the glass are very small, compared to the overall stress imparted by the water. Well--bad bumps would be my greatest worry, but I think they are manageable through good route finding and "scouting surveys" and they can be accommodated by under-filling the tank. I have an aircraft G-meter that can measure and record the largest bump. I could do some estimate calculations, but normal cornering and acceleration wouldn't result in much of a change in the orientation of the water column, which is what determines the magnitude and orientation of the stress. it would be like tilting the tank slightly, but unlike tilting it by picking it up, it would remain well-supported at the bottom. The effect of acceleration is actually more like tilting my entire pickup truck--or tilting the force of gravity .
(Einstein showed how an accelerated reference frame is indistinguishable from a gravity field--but that's physics, not fish and it's what makes the calculations easy).

As with a normal tank installation, I suspect the most important factor is supporting the bottom of the tank evenly. I'm inclined to try it, but maybe keep the fish in buckets--just in case. It would be nice to keep enough water in the tanks to keep the filters and heaters running and keep the plants from drying out and also not risk "de-cycling" the tanks.

That's the beauty of using a general purpose alternative power source. No need to find battery powered pumps and such. Many large computer UPS'es are available for cheap. I have several UPS's running computers, audio equipment, TVs, etc. Right now--I need less than 100 W to heat my small tanks. The filters and air pump should use much less, even. I'd also want to heat the fish in the buckets or picnic coolers (picnic heaters? ).
 
sirdarksol
  • #14
Great! I'll find their account.Actually, the stress changes (and thus strain changes) on the glass are very small, compared to the overall stress imparted by the water. I could do some estimate calculations, but normal acceleration wouldn't result in much of a change in the orientation of the water column, which is what determines the magnitude and orientation of the stress. it would be like tilting the tank, slightly, but unlike tilting it by picking it up, it would remain well-supported at the bottom. The effect of acceleration is actually more like tilting my entire pickup truck--or tilting the force of gravity .
(Einstein showed how an accelerated reference frame is indistinguishable from a gravity field--but that's physics, not fish But it's what makes the calculations easy)

I really, really wouldn't try it. There are many people who have lost tanks to moving them across the room, let alone across town. Because of glass's brittle nature, not to mention the constant strain on the glass (from the water), a small jostle can cause a weakness that will make a future rupture of the tank more likely.

Incidentally, I would go with the plastic-coated magnets. The ceramic may be porous enough for water to leach minerals out of it. It depends entirely on the type of ceramic used.
 
calinb
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
I really, really wouldn't try it. There are many people who have lost tanks to moving them across the room, let alone across town. Because of glass's brittle nature, not to mention the constant strain on the glass (from the water), a small jostle can cause a weakness that will make a future rupture of the tank more likely.

Incidentally, I would go with the plastic-coated magnets. The ceramic may be porous enough for water to leach minerals out of it. It depends entirely on the type of ceramic used.

Wow--really? These things are built with such small margins? My tanks are very small so maybe that's an advantage. I've picked them up with 3" of gravel only in them and moved them.

Yeah--I'm looking for plastic coated rare earth magnets. I have my pieces of wood pinning the wall on both sides now, gravel on the bottom and suction cups at the top. it actually fits pretty well at the sides anyway, but small fish get into the darndest places.
 
susitna-flower
  • #16
That's the beauty of using a general purpose alternative power source. No need to find battery powered pumps and such. Many large computer UPS'es are available for cheap. I have several UPS's running computers, audio equipment, TVs, etc. Right now--I need less than 100 W to heat my small tanks. The filters and air pump should use much less, even. I'd also want to heat the fish in the buckets or picnic coolers (picnic heaters? ).


I have two of these, APC Smart-UPS 1500, one on my computer and one on my big 125 tank. My idea on the tank was to be able to have filtration and air pumps going if I was gone.

We are on generator power, and often run out of gas, so the UPS is GREAT for the computer. I have plenty of time to run out ang fill up the generator. But on the fish tank, in the time it takes to fill up, it will go from intermitent beeping, to solid beeping and off!

IF I go to town and want the filtration and air, the lights and heaters have to be unplugged, and I have NEVER come home with the filter still opperating... but since I haven't been there, I can't say how long it stayed running. I have a feeling it might run for several hours. That is a Eheim 2028 which takes about 20 watts, and two air pumps at 12 watts each! Not much back-up for me!
 
sirdarksol
  • #17
Smaller tanks are less likely to have problems if moved while full, but aren't immune.
If you move a tank, the water rises against the side of the tank and pushes on it. You can feel this if you're ever moving a 5 gallon bucket of water around. The silicone binding the entire tank together is usually the weak point. It's like butt-joining boards (get the giggles out of the way now, class). Much better to use dove-tail joints, except glass won't accept a dove-tail.
Aside from that, the brittle, liquid-like nature of glass is really susceptible to minute problems that compound each other. That's why a car windshield can take a beating from rain, hail, rocks thrown up from the road, etc... year after year, and then, one day, without warning, a little tiny pebble hits the windshield and you've got a spiderweb on the thing. That's also why you are told you should replace your windshield if it gets a crack. A single visible crack means that the integrity of the glass has been seriously reduced and, believe it or not, that glass is what actually holds the body of the car up in case of a rollover. Without the glass, most cars will crumple (unless you've got a reinforced cage or rollbar)
 
calinb
  • Thread Starter
  • #18
That is a Eheim 2028 which takes about 20 watts, and two air pumps at 12 watts each! Not much back-up for me!
That's not much, compared to a computer. But we don't normally expect our computers to run long on backup power. I have some UPS's that'll run a power hungry computers AND a 19" CRT monitor for 10-15 minutes. It should run my small heaters and filters for quite some time--probably not all day, though.

I also have a 1kWh LiFeP04 battery pack for my electric bike and some 200Wh sealed lead acid batteries. I should invest in some standalone power inverters for the periods when the wind brings the power lines down around here.

My understanding of glass is premature failure is a probabilistic and unavoidable risk; latent defects in glass are a property of the material and manufacturing. We all know of cases where a tank, after performing perfectly in service for an arbitrary time, suddenly, and for no apparent reason, breaks. The defect is the crystal structure of the glass finally worsened to the point of failure. I think this is the mechanism you are referring to above, Susitna-flower; it's possible to apply stress to a tank such that the defect worsens, which may result in hastening hastening the eventual tank failure. Moving the tank may also cause premature failure outright, due to the latent defect.

Assuming that glass defects are a function of glass volume, large tanks, with more plate glass area and thickness, are more likely to contain a defect than small tanks--and it only take one defect to doom a tank! If latent glass defects are contributing to tank breakage during, the larger ones would, naturally, experience a higher failure rate--both in time and during moves.
 
≈ D ≈
  • #19
Just a theory, regarding your usage of magnets, if you coat them in silicone sealant wouldn't that eliminate the contact between the magnet and the water?


By the way, your mesh idea is great ... any pictures?
 
calinb
  • Thread Starter
  • #20
Yes, D--that's a great idea and much easier than the plastic tool coating kits! I have a source for small rare earth magnets. I'm certain I can fully coat and seal them. I wonder if I can find any of that black aquarium sealant. Black just disappears in the back of my tank.

I was in such a hurry when I made my first wall, I didn't take any pics, but I plan to make a small wall or maybe a little "carpet" with some Java moss soon. I'm also planning to try my large soldering iron, instead of my propane torch soldering tip. It should get hot enough. I'll definitely take some pictures and share next time.

-Cal
 
sirdarksol
  • #21
Just a theory, regarding your usage of magnets, if you coat them in silicone sealant wouldn't that eliminate the contact between the magnet and the water?

If you made sure to complete coat the magnet, this idea should work.
 
calinb
  • Thread Starter
  • #22
I got some PlastI Dip at Lowes:

https://plastidip.com/our-products/plasti-dip/

I coated some rare earth magnets and the black finish is much nicer and tougher than silicone sealant.

According to the FAQ, it's safe when it's cured:

Q: "Is PlastI Dip® safe to use on children's toys, animal containment, and/or on kitchen utensils?

A: "PlastI Dip® does not contain any heavy metals, and when completely dry, is considered harmless. However, it is not recommended that it be used on items that may be chewed or inserted into the mouth as it may present a choking hazard."

and

"PlastI Dip® does not contain any polyvinylchloride or any other vinyl resins."

https://plastidip.com/our-products/plasti-dip/

The stuff contains some really nasty carrier solvents, however, so best to cure for a long time at warm temperatures before placing in a tank. Even then, it's a always a scary proposition to add something un-tried and true to a tank--especially a tank with chocolate gouramis.
If I use these along the edges, they'll be no need for the suction cups at all. These magnets are quite strong and I think they'd even work through 1/2" glasss!

Any feedback or, even better, personal testimony about this product would be much appreciated.

-Cal
 
calinb
  • Thread Starter
  • #23
Here's a quick update to report that the PlastI Dip is working very well. I cut up a metal coat hangar into 2" sections and filed the ends square. I placed each magnet on a piece of metal coat hangar wire and dipped them, one at a time, into the PlastI Dip. I didn't fully dip them--the top side stuck to the wire remained uncoated for the first coat. I used masking tape to tape the wires to the edge the workbench until the magnets dried. After the magnets fully dried, I flipped them over on their wires and dipped from the side that was previously left bare. Two or more coats, without dipping the wire, results in the smoothest and most water proof finish.

I cured the coating by sticking the magnets to a heating vent for a couple of days.

No ill effects on the fish after a couple of days in the tank. The magnets should work through the thickest glass and they are very small, black, and unobtrusive. I no longer need suction cups to hold up the wall and the wall is pinned to the sides and top securely so no fish could possibly get past it.

-Cal
 

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