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Make Your Own 3-D Aquarium Background Using Foam-iT! 5 Rigid Foam
An easy way to add realism and beauty to your aquarium is to make a custom background. Using Smooth-On products, you can create custom foam rock walls that will perfectly fit and compliment your aquarium. The hardest part is deciding on your design!

Advantages/Benefits to Making Your Own Custom Backdrop:
  • Low profile
  • Minimum water displacement
  • Custom design
  • Custom fit (can be tiled to fill large areas)
  • Easy maintenance
  • Will last indefinitely
  • Eliminates reef harvesting
  • Low cost
  • Aquarium-safe (will not harm fish, invertebrates or other sea life)
  • Chemically inert
Smooth-On Products Featured in Step-by-Step Tutorial:
  • Mold Rubber: Rebound®25 Silicone
  • Support Shell: Plasti-Paste®II Trowelable Plastic
  • Rigid Foam: Foam-iT!®5 Rigid Urethane Roam
  • Resin (used to paint on foam): Smooth-Cast 327®Urethane Resin
  • Colorant: SO-Strong®Color Tints (for urethane foam, resin and rubber)
  • Sealant: Sonite Wax®Paste Wax
 Decide the shape and dimensions for the foam rock wall. Be sure to measure your tank to ensure that it will fit. Draw a box designating the wall perimeter on a base board.

1 - Decide the shape and dimensions for the foam rock wall. Be sure to measure your tank to ensure that it will fit. Draw a box designating the wall perimeter on a base board.
 Foam-iT! 5 rigid foam is used to create the rock foundation. It has a mix ratio of 1 part A to 1 part B.

2 - Foam-iT! 5 rigid foam is used to create the rock foundation. It has a mix ratio of 1 part A to 1 part B.
 Dispense part A.

3 - Dispense part A.
 Dispense an equal amount of part B.

4 - Dispense an equal amount of part B.
 Combine part A into a larger mixing container.Mix quickly and vigorously, scraping the sides and bottom of the container. Foam-iT! 5 has approximately a 1.5 minute pot life.

5 - Combine part A into a larger mixing container.Mix quickly and vigorously, scraping the sides and bottom of the container. Foam-iT! 5 has approximately a 1.5 minute pot life.
 Pour foam in a random pattern in the box perimeter that was drawn. Foam-iT! 5 has a 10X expansion rate.

6 - Pour foam in a random pattern in the box perimeter that was drawn. Foam-iT! 5 has a 10X expansion rate.
 Continue to add layers of foam, pouring again in a random pattern. In order for subsequent layers to bond to previous layers, they must be added while the previous layer is partially cured, not fully cured (tacky but not in a liquid state).

7 - Continue to add layers of foam, pouring again in a random pattern. In order for subsequent layers to bond to previous layers, they must be added while the previous layer is partially cured, not fully cured (tacky but not in a liquid state).
 Allow Foam-iT 5 to cure for 2 hours at room temperature (73 F). The random pattern pour creates a foundation for the next step - clay build-up.

8 - Allow Foam-iT 5 to cure for 2 hours at room temperature (73 F). The random pattern pour creates a foundation for the next step - clay build-up.
 Once the foam has fully cured, add water clay over it to create a realistic rock look.

9 - Once the foam has fully cured, add water clay over it to create a realistic rock look.
 Texturize the clay using a stiff wire bristle brush. We are trying to mimic natural rock formations.

10 - Texturize the clay using a stiff wire bristle brush. We are trying to mimic natural rock formations.
 Close-up view of the texturized clay.

11 - Close-up view of the texturized clay.
 Rebound 25 brushable silicone rubber is used to make the mold.

12 - Rebound 25 brushable silicone rubber is used to make the mold.
 Dispense part A.

13 - Dispense part A.
 Dispense an equal amount of part B.

14 - Dispense an equal amount of part B.
 Mix parts A and B thoroughly until there are no color streaks.

15 - Mix parts A and B thoroughly until there are no color streaks.
 Apply an initial thin first layer. Use a stippling motion to force liquid rubber into deep detail.

16 - Apply an initial thin first layer. Use a stippling motion to force liquid rubber into deep detail.
 The first layer of mold rubber is allowed to partially cure.  In order for subsequent layers to bond to previous layers, they must be added while the previous layer is partially cured, not fully cured (tacky but not in a liquid state). Keep adding more layers to build up to a thickness of 3/8''.

17 - The first layer of mold rubber is allowed to partially cure. In order for subsequent layers to bond to previous layers, they must be added while the previous layer is partially cured, not fully cured (tacky but not in a liquid state). Keep adding more layers to build up to a thickness of 3/8''.
 Once fully cured, trimming perimeter edges allows for better registration between the rigid support shell that will be created over it.

18 - Once fully cured, trimming perimeter edges allows for better registration between the rigid support shell that will be created over it.
 Completely trimmed Rebound 25 mold. Ready for rigid support shell to be applied.

19 - Completely trimmed Rebound 25 mold. Ready for rigid support shell to be applied.
 Brush Sonite Wax onto mold rubber and base board. Allow to dry thoroughly before applying support shell.

20 - Brush Sonite Wax onto mold rubber and base board. Allow to dry thoroughly before applying support shell.
 Plasti-Paste II is used to create the rigid support shell. It has a mix ratio of 1 part A to 2 parts B by volume.

21 - Plasti-Paste II is used to create the rigid support shell. It has a mix ratio of 1 part A to 2 parts B by volume.
 Dispense 2 parts B.

22 - Dispense 2 parts B.
 Dispense 1 part A.

23 - Dispense 1 part A.
 Pour parts A and B into a larger mixing container.

24 - Pour parts A and B into a larger mixing container.
 Mix thoroughly until there are no streaks. Plasti-Paste II has a pot life of 10 minutes.

25 - Mix thoroughly until there are no streaks. Plasti-Paste II has a pot life of 10 minutes.
 Spread mixed Plasti-Paste II over the surface of the rubber mold in a thin layer.

26 - Spread mixed Plasti-Paste II over the surface of the rubber mold in a thin layer.
 Add layers as needed. Finished shell thickness should be about 3/8'' (1cm).

27 - Add layers as needed. Finished shell thickness should be about 3/8'' (1cm).
 Embed paint stirring sticks or other flat edge utensils using Plasti-Paste II. This will provide support when casting into the mold.

28 - Embed paint stirring sticks or other flat edge utensils using Plasti-Paste II. This will provide support when casting into the mold.
 Level the legs.

29 - Level the legs.
 Plasti-Paste II has a cure time of 90 minutes.

30 - Plasti-Paste II has a cure time of 90 minutes.
 Once fully cured, remove the support shell from the mold rubber.

31 - Once fully cured, remove the support shell from the mold rubber.
 Lift off the cured mold rubber from the foam/clay original. You will no longer need the original to continue.

32 - Lift off the cured mold rubber from the foam/clay original. You will no longer need the original to continue.
 Clean the clay residue out from the mold using mineral spirits so it is ready for casting.

33 - Clean the clay residue out from the mold using mineral spirits so it is ready for casting.
 Foam-iT! 5 expanding foam.

34 - Foam-iT! 5 expanding foam.
 Dispense part A.

35 - Dispense part A.
 Dispense an equal amount of part B.

36 - Dispense an equal amount of part B.
 SO-Strong color tints are used to pigment the foam casting. They are ultra-concentrated so a little goes a long way.

37 - SO-Strong color tints are used to pigment the foam casting. They are ultra-concentrated so a little goes a long way.
 Dispense the required amount of part B into a mixing container. Add a few drops of SO-Strong white

38 - Dispense the required amount of part B into a mixing container. Add a few drops of SO-Strong white
 Add a few drops of SO-Strong brown.

39 - Add a few drops of SO-Strong brown.
 Add a few drops of SO-Strong green.

40 - Add a few drops of SO-Strong green.
 Pre-mix the part B resin and 3 pigments together before adding part A.

41 - Pre-mix the part B resin and 3 pigments together before adding part A.
 Pour part A into pre-mixed part B.

42 - Pour part A into pre-mixed part B.
 Stir the foam vigorously. Foam-iT! 5 has approximately a 1.5 minute pot life.

43 - Stir the foam vigorously. Foam-iT! 5 has approximately a 1.5 minute pot life.
 Pour the mixed foam into and around the mold in a random pattern.

44 - Pour the mixed foam into and around the mold in a random pattern.
 Use a brush to spread the foam around the mold as it starts to expand.

45 - Use a brush to spread the foam around the mold as it starts to expand.
 Add grid backer while foam is still expanding for stability and to create a flat back surface.

46 - Add grid backer while foam is still expanding for stability and to create a flat back surface.
 Add more foam to help further secure the backer.

47 - Add more foam to help further secure the backer.
 Use a paint stick to distribute the foam through the grid.

48 - Use a paint stick to distribute the foam through the grid.
 Embed one half of a Mag-Float* magnet in your foam. It will be used to secure the foam rock wall in place in the aquarium. Depending on the size of your custom made foam rock wall, you may need to embed more than one Mag-Float to hold your wall in place in the tank. *Mag-Float is a magnetic aquarium scraper that is used to clean algae from the inner glass tank surface.

49 - Embed one half of a Mag-Float* magnet in your foam. It will be used to secure the foam rock wall in place in the aquarium. Depending on the size of your custom made foam rock wall, you may need to embed more than one Mag-Float to hold your wall in place in the tank. *Mag-Float is a magnetic aquarium scraper that is used to clean algae from the inner glass tank surface.
 Once foam has fully cured, remove the entire structure from the support shell.

50 - Once foam has fully cured, remove the entire structure from the support shell.
 Peel back the mold rubber to reveal the foam casting.

51 - Peel back the mold rubber to reveal the foam casting.
 Foam casting completely demolded and ready for painting.

52 - Foam casting completely demolded and ready for painting.
 Smooth-Cast 327 COLORMATCH Series urethane resin is used to create a plastic paint that is brushed on in thin layers to color the foam. It will be colored with SO-Strong pigments.

53 - Smooth-Cast 327 COLORMATCH Series urethane resin is used to create a plastic paint that is brushed on in thin layers to color the foam. It will be colored with SO-Strong pigments.
 Dispense part A.

54 - Dispense part A.
 Dispense an equal amount of part B.

55 - Dispense an equal amount of part B.
 Add SO-Strong black to part B.

56 - Add SO-Strong black to part B.
 Transfer part A into a larger mixing container. Add black pre-mixed part B to part A.

57 - Transfer part A into a larger mixing container. Add black pre-mixed part B to part A.
 Stir parts A and B together until there are no streaks. Mix together thoroughly for 3 minutes. Smooth-Cast 327 has a pot life of approximately 10 minutes.

58 - Stir parts A and B together until there are no streaks. Mix together thoroughly for 3 minutes. Smooth-Cast 327 has a pot life of approximately 10 minutes.
 Use a paint brush to paint resin onto the foam casting. Use a stippling motion to work resin into deep detail.

59 - Use a paint brush to paint resin onto the foam casting. Use a stippling motion to work resin into deep detail.
 Add multiple layers of pigmented resin to create color highlights.

60 - Add multiple layers of pigmented resin to create color highlights.
 Dispense part A.

61 - Dispense part A.
 Dispense an equal amount of part B.

62 - Dispense an equal amount of part B.
 Add SO-Strong purple to part B.

63 - Add SO-Strong purple to part B.
 Transfer part A into a larger mixing container. Add purple pre-mixed part B to part A.

64 - Transfer part A into a larger mixing container. Add purple pre-mixed part B to part A.
 Stir parts A and B together until there are no streaks.

65 - Stir parts A and B together until there are no streaks.
 Continue to paint using different colors to create highlights.

66 - Continue to paint using different colors to create highlights.
 Completed foam rock wall. Remove the plastic backer from the foam rock wall before placing it in your aquarium.

67 - Completed foam rock wall. Remove the plastic backer from the foam rock wall before placing it in your aquarium.
 Ready to be placed into the back of the aquarium.

68 - Ready to be placed into the back of the aquarium.
 Submerge the foam rock wall into the back of your aquarium. Having a friend to assist you is helpful since it is made from buoyant foam and may want to float.

69 - Submerge the foam rock wall into the back of your aquarium. Having a friend to assist you is helpful since it is made from buoyant foam and may want to float.
 One half of a Mag-Float magnet was embedded into the foam previously in step 52. Use the other part of the Mag-Float on the outside of the tank to secure its position in the tank.

70 - One half of a Mag-Float magnet was embedded into the foam previously in step 52. Use the other part of the Mag-Float on the outside of the tank to secure its position in the tank.
 Attach your magnet. Depending on the size of your custom made foam rock wall, you may need to embed more than one Mag-Float to hold your wall in place in the tank.

71 - Attach your magnet. Depending on the size of your custom made foam rock wall, you may need to embed more than one Mag-Float to hold your wall in place in the tank.
 The Mag-Float magnet holds the foam background in place. Multiple foam castings can be tiled for larger tanks.

72 - The Mag-Float magnet holds the foam background in place. Multiple foam castings can be tiled for larger tanks.
 The custom foam rock wall backdrop has ultra low water displacement and a low profile while simultaneously providing a beautiful background.

73 - The custom foam rock wall backdrop has ultra low water displacement and a low profile while simultaneously providing a beautiful background.
 Front view of the rock wall in the aquarium blends in with existing rock.

74 - Front view of the rock wall in the aquarium blends in with existing rock.


Aquarium Design: How to Make Custom Foam 3D Aquarium Backgrounds

Watch more video online at Youtube

                   
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