Nature gathers in itself something absolutely fascinating: the cycle of life, that allows us, and billions of other forms of life, since forever to exist and to procreate, a world regulated by laws at times very complicated, where there is ample space for random facts.
I believe that for most people into aquariums, the idea of creating a small world in five pieces of glass represents the desire to be able to observe a piece of nature and its biorhythms within the intimacy of his own home, an environment where fish and plants can live in harmony side by side.
A panoramic of Antibodi, with special graphic effects
I wrote this article trying to include as many photos as possible, to allow you to follow the evolution of the tank, not only through the written concepts, but also through photos that show all the details step by step.
My idea of a tank has always been that of creating something that, in due time, can create a balance between the random of the shapes, colors, spaces and something programmed and studied regarding the choice of the guests that live in it.
After several months of attempts in assembling different aquariums I decided to try to create a tank that could represent the ideal connection between the ďdo it yourselfĒ and the use of materials found in the natural environment. This is a topic that I often discussed with friends of AcquariForum, exchanging thoughts and experiences that helped me a lot in this particular task.
Anubias all around, another selfmade graphic effect
One of the elements that strongly characterize the set up ofa tank is the back wall: I always had the strong desire to recreate the shoreof a river.
That was my goal.
The shore, either muddy, rocky or covered by plants, is notonly choreographically interesting but can offer, both in nature and in a tank, a protection for fish or invertebrates, hiding places and shaded areas where they can procreate or reduce the stress that always no matter how big the tank is, can modify their behavior turning them into more aggressive animals or inducing several types of diseases.
My previous experiences with different types of wood, organic and inorganic materials, and commercialized products allowed me to choose the more appropriate without (after introducing them in the tank) having to repent of my decision.
I also tried to keep the production costs low, trying to create a product nice, realistic, and functional without having to spend too much money, letting fantasy, creativity, and patience take control during the work.
Following is the description step by step of the Antibodiís wall construction.
The products that I bought in a Brico center (an Italian hardware store) are the following:
A panoramic of all the products
Vinyl elastic gloves. The polystyrene gloves are fine as well, in a package of 10, even though it is easier to find them in packages of 100 (no problem, you can always find a use for them). Just to be more specific I used 2 pairs to work with the silicon and about ten pairs to mold and set the expanse polyurethane for all the creation that I made. Be careful because polyurethane is rather sticky and could create some problems to your hands if you donít use those useful precautions. Try to buy the right size of gloves, they have to be tight, otherwise it will be difficult to work the polyurethane, that after a short while hardens and causes problems with gloves that are too big.
The expanse polyurethane is a rather common building product (even in the ďdo it yourself"), so it is easy to find in hardware stores. Initially I bought 2 packages of 25 liters each. I realized then that it would not have been enough and I bough two more (50 liters each) that I used almost completely. Probably, having being mixed with different materials, it didníts well much, and I needed an extra amount, but at the same time it helped in making the back wall more solid.
Two bottles of expanse polyurethanic foam
Quartz sand is used in buildings, easy to find, rather grayand very fine.
It is important to use different kinds of sand or powder,both in size and color. This will help you create different shades of color anda more realistic look.
For this reason I used at the same time grayish quartz sandand another sand (previously bought), similar in size but rather yellowish incolor. I also used lava powder, very nice looking, rather dark or reddish incolor.
The silicon must be acetic and not the anti-mold type, Ibought it black, but since you use I only to attach the polystyrene and the PVCbottle to the Polyver (sealing polyurethane) leaf, it can also be white ortransparent, it doesnít matter, it will be entirely covered by the othermaterials.
A polyver leaf of the right size and about 3 mm thick, it can be adapted to the size of the tankís back wall, and polystyrene that you will cut into pieces. I bought them both in the same hardware store.
Two pieces of green tube, used for entrance of the filtration
Certainly it has been useful to hide as mush as possible the instruments that will be used for the normal functioning of the tank, like the heater and the entrance tube for the external filter.
I thought at a functional and easy to make solution, took tow bottles of mineral water (one and a half liter each), I cut them as showin the photo and adapted them to create a sort of a tube into which to put the instruments. You can also use the usual building tubes (orange or white), sealed at the bottom.
I attached it to the Plexiglas wall with silicon, leaving the top open. In the sealed bottom I opened two holes with a red-hot tool, where I put two PVC tubes to let the water flow. In this way I managed to both create an easy solution to the instrument hiding problem, and at the same time I created a bump in the back wall, giving a greater depth to it and a sense of greater random aspect to the wall.
The bottle that contains the tube of the filter and the heater
When I was attaching the bottle with silicon, I also attached pieces of polystyrene, creating some dynamic effect to the wall, in order to avoid having to use later more material. Polystyrene is cheap, easy to work with and very light.
The poliver leaf with some elements attached
When I first started to describe my adventure, I told you about my interest in searching for natural materials: soil, sand, leaves, small branches, roots, rocks and pebbles, dried grass, are all materials that in due time form the shores of rivers and lakes, and I strongly wanted to use them, trying to imitate the natural process.
The photo taken near my home show the shore of a small creek with reeds and a very choreographic wood
Some of the natural material used
In the different phases of covering the back wall I attached to the expanse polyurethane all those materials, trying to do so in a random way, fixing some of them with small amounts of polyurethane.
The beginning of the working
In the photo you can see some of the materials I collected: leaves, rocks, dried grass, that I didnít wash, and that I tried to insert by breaking them in small pieces whenever possible, or, at the end, all in one piece.
The bottle attached with silicone
At first I recommend to start playing with polyurethane and sand. Put the latter on a flat surface (I used a left over piece of polystyrene) spray the polyurethane (about a first), trying not to spread around the sand, and start molding it. Fill little by little the entire wall, keeping the surface irregular (thanks to the glued polystyrene that you have previously used). I suggest to start from on side and to use the gray sand (the other can be used later to create shades of color).
Broken wine roots on pavement
I operated by mixing the different materials with sand and polyurethane, layer after layer, donít be afraid, the layers will become more compact, so you can operate in different phases. With a little patience (not even that much!) lots of fantasy and creativity I sat on the ground, and taking advantage of a beautiful sunny day, with some breeze, I finished the first part of the wall in about two hours.
Be careful! Keep your gloves on and try not to breath the product, work outdoor if possible.
The poliver leaf has been completely covered with the materials
All the materials have been pasted together, including somepieces of roots and gravel I found on the site.
I have to admit that when it all starts to get into a shape you not only are very motivated to continue and to finish soon, in order to put it quickly in the tank, but you also are satisfied by your work and start imagining how to place the plants and the other materials in the tank.
I recommend you to operate at random, not to press the paste too much, give some little bumps to it with your fingers if you want some parts to be more flat. Remember that you are trying to create something as realistic as possible.
At times it happens to admire the photo of a river, with its shores covered by plants, rocks, roots. I saved the latter since a few months, and put them aside for the ďbig dayĒ since I had admired them a lot.
They are roots of vine, a deep walnut brown, not too thick, of various length, that I put in groups of 2 or 3 elements within about ten centimeters from the sides of the wall.
The wine roots over the grass
The roots stayed a few weeks in running water, having had care to cover them with water completely.
I fixed them to the wall when the greatest amount of the work was done. I attached them with polyurethane in the spots I had selected, trying to keep them in the right position with rocks, letting the polyurethane dry. It doesnít take long, maybe 10 minutes, till the solidity is sufficient.
The background against the wall
Donít worry if the polyurethane used to fix the roots (it happened to me too) will be of a different color and shape, sort of out of place with the rest of the wall. The final touches, also using the plastivel (a plastifying paint spray), will be easy to make.
Good! The wall is done, or at least the greatest part ofthe creative work I mean, because afterwards, other than final touchesin the coloring or the adding of a few more materials, we will alsohave to protect it, as much as possible, using a non toxic transparentpaint, the plastivel.
A different view of the Antibodi's wall
You can lift the wall and let the excess sand to fall, dust then the wall in order to eliminate the excess material. Donít worry if the green entry tubes are visible, they will be easy to hide with some plants of a rock, but I decided to give them some space for easy access.
The polyurethane mixed with all the materials took a few hours to become solid and compact, but I recommend waiting a few days before passing to the following construction steps.
A particular: the roots
The poliver wall obviously became a solid block with the rest allowing an easier maneuvering of the structure and an easier and safer introduction in the tank.
A lateral view of the background
You can see in the photo that I tried to let the roots stick out in a random way. Some of them will almost reach the front wall, and I believe that it will add some depth to the environment.
The top of the bottle with hidden instruments and filter tube-in
In this view from the top you can notice the space for the instruments, keep it in mind before choosing the bottles to use. I used two bottles I had handy at the moment, but you can try to find a unique bigger bottle, maybe a two liter bottle will be enough.
The nearly complete work
Here is the final result for the first phase of the creation. I also put some lava rocks at the bottom to figure out how the look would be with the wall and the decorations in the tank.
The lava stone over the grass
After about two days, I started the following step, I pulverized a piece of lava rock (I chose one neither too reddish not too dark) and I mixed it with the left over quartz sand.
Pulverized lava stone and some grey sand
In a hardware store I bought a liquid plastivel can and a spray bottle, and, of course, a brush. I started painting the wall with light brushing, trying neither to break nor to move the delicate dry leaves or the small branches sticking out. I had to give careful touches with the tip of brush in the most difficult zones, such as between the roots. This wasnít too difficult, but it is certainly not easy to cover the entire surface with plastivel, thatís why I later used the spray as well.
The plastivel and a brush
I want to remark that the color after using the plastivel will slightly change, in my case they became darker, also because I used lava powder, so if you want to keep the wall very light in color, use very light sand and other elements.
The background at the sun!
I wanted to show you both of the images, the original and the negative, to let you see how easy and realistic it is to mix the materials thanks to the polyurethane and to create a surface that will remind you of the elements easily found in nature. You can also notice how irregular the surfaceis.
The negative shows the irregular surface
And finally we came to final result. The back wall before being put into the tank looks like this.
The back wall... the Antibodi's wall
With the final touches I managed to change to tone of the joining areas of the roots making it uniform with the rest of the wall.
With the same procedure I had used to create the Antibodiís wall I created some rocks to give a sense of continuity with the back wall.
Over a plastic bag I assembled the materials to use for the mix, therefore more grayish quartz sand, some pieces of lava rock, leaves and dry branches, pieces of polystyrene, small rocks and the ever present polyurethane.
Remember to enclose within the paste or at the bottom a rock heavy enough to keep the created rock at the bottom of the tank, otherwise when you will add the water it will float to the surface (I used a plastic container to make a few attempts during the process).
The material used for creating the "Antibodi's rocks"
I mixed the various components breaking the leaves and Isprayed the polyurethane. The overall size was that of an apple. I mixed it,punching slightly with my fingers, adding sand and waited for the polyurethaneto dry, 10/15 minutes are enough.
The material over the bag
After about 10 minutes the plastivel had made the rocks rather solid already, but to be on the safe side I didnít touch them till the following day. With this method you can create endless forms to furnish your tank. Not only back walls, but also group of rocks, plant supports, hiding places for instruments or the aquarium living guests.
All the elements together
Once in the tank I will decide where to put the Antibodiís rocks, for the time being I only tried to imagine at once what they would look like, by putting them at the bottom of the wall.
The Antibodi's rocks and the background
Final touches before putting the wall in the tank. I cut the extra pieces of polyurethane that were sticking out using a normal knife.
Then I rinsed it all with a garden tube, and I let it dry against a wall.
The Antibodi's rocks again
With some precaution I put it in the tank, and I was glad to see that it fitted perfectly. I have to admit that when I turned the lights on I was struck by the fact that it looked really nice and realistic under the neon lights.
The out-tube of the external filter that can be now seen running at the top of the wall will be hidden later. I will spray it will a small amount of polyurethane, that I will cover, the way I did for the rest, with quartz sand mixed with lava powder.
Then, if it will be necessary (the water will not arrive up to there, I will cover it all with plastivel.
I could have inserted the tube in the overall wall before, I recommend you to think about is when working.
The back wall inside the aquarium
The roots touch the sand
In those two photos, that show some details of the wall, you can notice the choice of not using for the back the same materials I used for the wall, since I thought that a small difference in the tone of color could be beneficial to the overall look, even though (the way it happened to me with other fish tanks) the back wall will change in time, and the addition of other materials or the dwellers themselves will change the look and the composition.
Another particular shot
Another small attempt I made to make the wall as realisticas possible was to use different dried leaves, with different colors, covered with plastivel, to allow them to last a long time in water and avoid rotting.
The leaves are poplarís, a type of wood I had already used in the past.
The poplar's leaves at the sun
The tank is 180 liters and has 2 neon tubes of 30 watts each. I changed the lights by inserting another neon (20 watts), not so much to increase the overall power, but to create a sort of dusk and dawn effect. I always though that a sudden change in lighting will stress the fish, so I set the extra neon tube in order for it to start and stop working about half an hour before and after the others. It is a nice effect, believe me, not too difficult to made, and not too expensive either, there are countless options to choose from.
The aquarium is equipped of an external filter, in photo you can notice the materials
Dusk and dawn simulated effect
Finally the water!
I took this photo immediately after adding water to the tank, therefore it is not too sharp, because the water was still full offloating particles, but I wanted to show the real birth of the tank, the turning on of the filter and the heater! At the bottom I put some fertilizing material covered by thin amber and gray sand, with some lava material spread around.
Fish and plants belong to the original ecosystem, a small tributary river of the river Nyong (especially in the Cameroon): various Anubias, Crinum, and musk.
Some Anubias Bartheri "nana" grows on a wood
Two Anubias grow on the wall
We know that Anubias are also epiphyte plants likeBolbitis, Microsorum and others, so I blocked them to the back wallusing plastic hooks, that I stuck by pressing in the polyurethane. Roots are aerial, but they are slowly attaching to the background. I also arranged to fix a couple to the wooden roots by tying them with a nylon string.
A part of the plants that grow inside the tank
The beautiful green leaves of the Crinum
Fish are a couple of Pelvicachromis Taeniatus,a group of Neolebias Ansorgii (soon) and two snails Neritina Natalensis.
Neritina Natalensis on a root
A male of Pelvicachromis Taeniatus (not really identified)
The female... what a wonderful colors!
At the end some photos of Antibodi and its evolution in the time.
A panoramic after a month
In another view
The evolution goes: after two months and half
To the top
A panoramic: this is the most recent shot, after three months
Thanks for reading about my work and for your interest. I hope to be able in the future to keep describing the evolution of Antibodi, an aquarium that is providing me with a lot of pleasure.
I would want to say thanks to Paolo (nick name Paolo61) in order to have translate this article.
To the next time.
Article written by Stefano Florissi (Dabolox)
19 Gennaio 2007
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