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Thread: Let's Rock! Making rocks the EZ way

  1. #1
    swords's Avatar
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    Let's Rock! Making rocks the EZ way

    DIY ROCK BACKGROUND AND ROCKS

    I finally had time to get into doing some tank decoration again so I am making a rock background and pile of rocks to be used (hopefully) as a den by my Chilean Rose Tarantula who comes from the Atacama Desert. So her tank won't be very exciting so this will have to serve as some sort of visual interest.

    I have not tried this technique before so we'll see what happens

    You will need:

    Pink Panther insulation foam get the 2" thick sheets
    Xacto extendable utility knife
    Pre-mixed Floor Patch cement stuff 1 qt
    Cheap Chip Brush
    dixie cup with cool tap water
    plastic gloves
    Colored sand from the craft store ask for "Scenic Sand" (TM)
    Gorilla Glue or elmers

    Some of the supplies:


    Firstly cut a sheet that fits the tank leave a bit of elbow room on the sides and top


    Start carving non-symetrical block out of the foam and plucking out shapes, I made all this texture, this is not necessary oh well live and learn!




    Keep a broom and shop vac handy you'll be needing it!



    So the best place to cover the background with grout is obviously the kitchen counter...
    This is the first pass, and is why you need the plastic gloves. Just dip some fingers into the grout and smear it over all the bumps and work it into the crevices don't bother smoothing it just get it on there. Add some blobs here and there to add visual interest and depth.


    That step didn't look so hot but after one pass with the paintbrush and cool water looky here:




    Even better with a second pass with more water and the paintbrush...


    Now while the grout is wet sprinkle the darkest colored sand in the deepest crevices and the lighter colors overtop



    Be liberal with the sand, you want as much as possible to embed itself into the wet surface of the grout. Now set it aside and DO NOT TOUCH IT for 8 hours.




    Since this is a desert tank I wanted to buy a pile of stones "hide" for my tarantula to burrow under and make a den in. And they had a neat one at Petco but when I saw it was nearly $30 I said screw that I'll make one so here's my DIY foam rock pile:

    Cut the chunks asymmetrically I only cut a score line on the foam and snap it so it breaks irregularly. Use the White Elmers Glue or Gorilla Glue to hold the foam pieces together. Let dry overnight if using gorilla glue.



    Now frost the whole foam hide with the grout (wear your gloves!)


    The first pass with the water


    Second pass with the water

    Sand has been added



    I decided I wanted just a a bit of red coloration to the rock so added some rust brown/red sand, did the same to the background

    I blew off most of the red sand, so there's just a hint of pigment. Not a wise idea to have blown it off all over the counter...


    Here's the finished back not too detailed but it will be underground anyway...


    The finished top:


    Well I hope this was fun for you to see and maybe gives you some ideas. I am waiting for the pieces to harden so I can shake off the excess and and see what they will look like put inside the tank. I'll put up an update when that happens.



    ****USING GROUT WITH WATER FEATURES
    If you want to use this grout stuff in vivariums with water features/frogs/fish/etc you have to soak the hardened pieces in vinegar and water until the PH becomes neutral supposedly 1-2 weeks changing the solution every other day. It would probably be worth it to buy a Ph tester to test a pure water soak's PH level overnight before putting it in with your darts or tetras.

    In my case there will almost never be water in this spiders tank outside the water dish so there is no worries about soil PH being altered from these (no plants) so I can use it as soon as the substrate dries out. This spider hates wet soil - but loves playing in her water dish...

  2. #2
    Eats genetically engineered tomatoes Sig's Avatar
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    Interesting. Are you sure the paint and rock base is non-toxic for her? You might want to make sure first, you never know. I obviously also don't know the level of experience you have with rosies but I'd advise against rocks in the first place, as they like climbing glass and could split their abdomen on that.

    Tell me how it works, though!

  3. #3
    swords's Avatar
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    Yup non toxic, same grout stuff used by many other Tarantula keepers, dart froggers, fish keepers, etc who like making backgrounds and tank decor. I'm not blazing the trail with this material here, just passing along a DIY I thought was cool. I've been reading about it for a long time and finally felt motivated enough to go for it.

    No paint, only grout, tap water and sand. The brush is to smooth the grout with tap water. Some people do use acrylics to paint the grey grout but I wanted the texture of the sand so i used sand the color of the paint I would have used. I like the sand better. Next time i may mix in some peat dust (orange asphalt dust would be even better for this kinda rock) as well to make it more dusty gritty as pure sand made it more like granite (sparkly) than sandstone (dull).

    There is another method using this stuff where you bend 75%+ Coir into the stuff to sculpt trees and vines and such that are bulky and slightly water permeable/retainable to encourage dense moss growth. I've seen some awesome sculpted buttress roots done with it in dart frog tanks.

  4. #4
    swords's Avatar
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    Well here's the new enclosure with the background and hide entrance. The den is deep and firm so she can hide way back in there when she feels like it. And it's big enough that she can molt in it too if that's what she wants to do.



    From the top


    It'll be a while before the Tarantula and her water dish go in. I know she hates moist soil so I'll let it dry a while first plus I'm gonna get a glass lid for the tank and maybe make the substrate a little deeper. This "desert" species wants dry soil but 60% rh... interesting challenge my house is 20% rh!

    I may build another rock feature shaped kinda like a ramp or ledge for the right side and put her water dish ontop of it so she has even more places to wander.

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    instigator thez_yo's Avatar
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    That's a pretty sweet setup there, great job on everything!

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    very nice , I can appreciate such effort and style
    L'imagination est la clé de la logique de la pensée, une plus grande vérité éternelle.
    Me

    Formerly Plantea

  7. #7
    swords's Avatar
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    Thanks! I will have to get better pics when I've added some more decor on the right hand side. The rock isn't white but the washed out pics are making it look that way.

    Got a new 10 gallon today for an upcoming acquisition. An eventual giant one that lives on the forest floor, meaning I can use live plants, wood and moss in that setup!

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    James H's Avatar
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    Your tank looks great. Another material that we use at my work for making backgrounds is Great Stuff spray foam. We will us it for making an interesting background and carve it out just as we want or by placing rocks that we like in the tanks then spraying in foam between the rocks making it a bit safer when using rocks in displays. Then you just have to mix up some glue and paint it over the foam with some peat moss or other soil and it look some what natural.

    I have done it for dart frog and tarantula tanks. The nice thing with the foam is you can get some PVC pipe and make caves for your animals or planters that blend in to the background.

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