DIY Background ala. Back-To-Nature

Back-to-nature background is probably the most wanted item in the aquarium hobby. The only problem that keeps hobbyists from buying those, almost real, backgrounds is unfortunately price. Price ranges anywhere from $200-$600. Can everyone afford them?, No. But there are ways to go around that huge 3-digit figure and make one of those backgrounds yourself. I made this small background for my 10 gallon Lake Tanganyika tank using items available in your local hardware stores.

Pink Styrofoam, which is a lot better then white Styrofoam, is easier to work with. Styrofoam should be available in any Home Depot for price of only 12$. Look for different thickness of this product. Thicker - better !!!. It depends on what are you trying to
achieve and what type of layout you designing. I prefer to work with 2 layers. Use bottom layer as Main Layer, cut "3D" additions from second layer and add them on top of the Main Layer. You can work your way down to first layer and make shapes there as well. This will create more depth.

To glue styrofoam I used GE RTV108 series silicone. There
has been a lot of discussions on which silicone to use and which could be toxic to your fish. Here is the quote from GE company.
I was able to find GE RTV108 in Grainger ($5)

"Aquarium manufacturers have used RTV108 in fresh and saltwater aquariums up to 20,000 gallons. The only product we recommend for aquarium use is RTV108. We appreciate your interest in GE Silicones. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us."

West System Epoxy will probably be THE most expensive item
in your project. I paid $40 for resin + hardener which was enough for entire project plus I had some extras.

I purchased regular black dye from grocery store, mixed it with West System Epoxy and painted entire model. I noticed that epoxy had burning/melting effect on styrofoam and initially rough edges changed to nice and smooth shapes. I did 5 coats using dye + epoxy mix to securely cover entire model. To remove epoxy glaze, I sprinkled play sand over entire model. I repeated epoxy and sand step few times to achieve final effect and rock texture.


I soaked entire background in water for few days. I think epoxy layer was not thick enough because dye started to fade. Despite some bumps and side-effects, final outcome was very pleasing.



Back-To-Nature US retailer
Pangea Rocks
Pangea Rocks US retailer