Foam background enclosure tutorial

Dorifto

Arachnobaron
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Aug 10, 2017
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428
Hi guys, seeing that some people are asking about how I made my setup, I´m going to make a litlle tuto about it. It may look difficult, but It was more easy than I thought.

The tools:
- A propper enclosure, I choosed the European style glass enclosures, since they are cheap, they have a great ventilation and are awesome looking enclosures.
- A cutter or a knife.
- Non expansive foam, they are different grades of expansive foams, take the less expansive one, the explansive ones can break your enclosure because of the pressure they can produce while expanding.
- Water based acrlilyc paint.
- Ultra fine grade joint mortar. I tried the regular one and doesn´t work in my case. I bought the ones used to seal bathroom tiles.
- Some rocks, I used volcanic ones, since they don´t weight so much. but you can skip this part.
- Some driftwood. I sourced mine in the shore after a big storm. You can find some awesome looking woods, and the most important, a lot of them are cured by de sun and the sea, but of course you need to clean and disinfect as much as possible.
- Some plants: you need to choose the right ones for your enclosure, looking to the needs of your T, humidity, substrate etc. In my case were: Chamaedorea elegans, some bromeliads, Nephrolepis, and my last addition was the java moss ( Vesicularia Dubyana).
- An organic substrate, whithout any types of fertilizers, pesticides etc, in my case I choosed, top soil, clay and sand. I also used some xaxim for the background.
- Bioactive agents, like springtails, dwarf isopods (trichorhina tormentosa), medium sized isopods (porcellios) and earth worms to maintain oxigenated the substrate.
- And the most important one, PATIENCE

Lets start

The first thing I did, it was to imagine how I wanted to be the enclosure, possitioning the driftwoods, plants... etc in different possitions, angles... etc. After having an aproximate idea, I painted with the acrilyc paint the shape of the foam background, this way you only see a black surface through the glass, the other way you will se the foam, and won´t look pretty.

A little trick that will help you after, mask with some tape the parts that you don´t want to be painted or foamed. It´s going to be much easier to remove... Don´t ask me how I learned this trick... hahahahahaha

If you need to pass some cables like I had to do, this is the time to drill and pass cables, sensors... etc

IMG_20190813_200829.jpg


Next step is to apply the non expansive foam. It will expand, don´t freak out xD, but not as much as other ussually do. Mask the cables or the sensors with some tape. I tried to find a dark one, but they only had a terracota color... If you find a darker color it will give you better results.


IMG_20190813_221605(1).jpg



Next estep is to carve the foam, with the help of the cutter, you need to cut the most part of foam and them I suggest you tu remove some chunks of foam with the fingers, this way the foam looks better and not so square shaped. Do not left any shiny or rounded part, it will help you in the next step. If you want to add some rocks, you can drill some holes and insert some sticks to give more stability until you glue them with more foam.

IMG_20190814_111433.jpg


IMG_20190814_131856(1).jpg



IMG_20190814_133638.jpg

Next step, forget my socks hahahahaha

Now whe are going to start "painting" the foam. I use fine grade joint mortar, the blend was more thick than liquid, It gave me better results and texture. You can see that I made like a thick paste.

IMG_20200111_191828.jpg


IMG_20200111_190602.jpg



Now with the cutter or a kitchen scrapper remove all the mortar and the paint until you reach the foam rock, and you will end with something like this. As you can see I used the foam to "glue" the driftwood, this way the transition is more fluid.

IMG_20200113_000806.jpg



Now mask again the glass, because in this point the things becames a little sticky. Use some pet safe silicone and add to the parts that you want to add some dirt (substrate), in my case xaxim for the moss background. I don´t have any photo of this step, but there is no difficulty on this point. You need to be patient, and apply the silicone and with some gloves spreat it, and after add some dirt, xaxim etc. You will need to repeat this proccess several times until you get some thickness of dirt or xaxim. Finally you will end with something like this:

silicona.jpg
 

viper69

ArachnoGod
Old Timer
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Dec 8, 2006
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10,206
NIce run down. What foam are you using, brand etc. I realize what you use may not be available here. The froggers use Great Stuff Expanding foam if I recall correctly.
 

Dorifto

Arachnobaron
Active Member
Joined
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Messages
428
Whoa I forgot the brand, it can be Soudal. Great stuff is the same thing, polyurethane foam.

The brand it's not so important, you can use any brand, but it needs to be non expansive of course.

You can use a regular PU foam, but at your risk. Some may crack the glass or detach the silicone between the glass while expanding.
 
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ArachnidSentinl

Arachnoknight
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Joined
May 26, 2009
Messages
299
Firstly, let me just say this is a fantastic tutorial, and your vivariums are truly phenomenal! I love seeing this level of husbandry. Thank you for contributing this.

I choosed the European style glass enclosures, since they are cheap,
I wish this was the case in the states! Euro vivs are great, but there's only one vendor over here (that I know of) that will fabricate them, and they're pricey by the time you have them shipped.

An organic substrate, whithout any types of fertilizers, pesticides etc, in my case I choosed, top soil, clay and sand.
Were you using any particular ratio for your substrate mixture? I'm curious if you've found a certain mixture to be the best for growing plants. Do you use a drainage layer?

Also, I noticed you put a coat of mortar on the bottom glass. Was that for any particular reason, or just for looks?

NIce run down. What foam are you using, brand etc. I realize what you use may not be available here. The froggers use Great Stuff Expanding foam if I recall correctly.
The froggers usually use Great Stuff, yeah. The yellow, "regular" GS is what most people use, though in recent years a lot of frog and plaudarium hobbyists started using the black GS "pond foam," which is more dense, easier to carve/work with, and significantly more water resistant. Of course, it's three times as expensive.

What means "nice run down"? My english slang is not very rich.
"Run down" refers to a concise but thorough explanation.
 

Dorifto

Arachnobaron
Active Member
Joined
Aug 10, 2017
Messages
428
Firstly, let me just say this is a fantastic tutorial, and your vivariums are truly phenomenal! I love seeing this level of husbandry. Thank you for contributing this.

I wish this was the case in the states! Euro vivs are great, but there's only one vendor over here (that I know of) that will fabricate them, and they're pricey by the time you have them shipped.
Thanks you!!

I do a 900km round trip to buy this enclosures hahahahahaha, the local shop closed and the nearest one was in Madrid. I used the trip like an escuse to visit my syster, so it was a little bit less painful hahahaha.

I also made one for cheap and it was easy to do. If you need some measurements ask me without any problem.


Were you using any particular ratio for your substrate mixture? I'm curious if you've found a certain mixture to be the best for growing plants. Do you use a drainage layer?

Also, I noticed you put a coat of mortar on the bottom glass. Was that for any particular reason, or just for looks?
The coating worked more like a insulator for the heat mat, since in my previous house the winters where too cold, 7-9ºC inside the house... so I used a heat mat beneath the enclosures, and knowing that Ts burrow to find those heat spots, I made a natural barrier with the mortar. It heats up much less with this layer of mortar.

Yes, I use a "drainage layer" composed of a sand, clay and top soil mix. It works better than the clay balls, since the mix maintains the humidity, while the top topsoil layer doesn´t dry too much. I used the clay balls in a previous enclosure, but I believe that they work better for dendro style enclosures, with active drainage systems, since the clay balls tend to separate the water from the top layer of substrate. The mix differs from one enclosure to other, if you want more drainage, you need to encrease the clay and the sand in the mixture. I used a first layer of a 1-1-1 mix and the a top layer of a common organic top soil. Imho the simplest work the best, there is no need to complicate so much.

The froggers usually use Great Stuff, yeah. The yellow, "regular" GS is what most people use, though in recent years a lot of frog and plaudarium hobbyists started using the black GS "pond foam," which is more dense, easier to carve/work with, and significantly more water resistant. Of course, it's three times as expensive.

"Run down" refers to a concise but thorough explanation.
Thanks for the translation!!!

Yeah Great Stuff is a brand of Polyurethane foam. I never heard about the pond foam, I´ll take a look, thanks!!!
 

viper69

ArachnoGod
Old Timer
Joined
Dec 8, 2006
Messages
10,206
Firstly, let me just say this is a fantastic tutorial, and your vivariums are truly phenomenal! I love seeing this level of husbandry. Thank you for contributing this.



I wish this was the case in the states! Euro vivs are great, but there's only one vendor over here (that I know of) that will fabricate them, and they're pricey by the time you have them shipped.



Were you using any particular ratio for your substrate mixture? I'm curious if you've found a certain mixture to be the best for growing plants. Do you use a drainage layer?

Also, I noticed you put a coat of mortar on the bottom glass. Was that for any particular reason, or just for looks?



The froggers usually use Great Stuff, yeah. The yellow, "regular" GS is what most people use, though in recent years a lot of frog and plaudarium hobbyists started using the black GS "pond foam," which is more dense, easier to carve/work with, and significantly more water resistant. Of course, it's three times as expensive.



"Run down" refers to a concise but thorough explanation.
True on the foam. I asked OP because he wrote non expanding... SO wanted to know what he was talking about. I've seen the black form years ago.
 

ArachnidSentinl

Arachnoknight
Arachnosupporter
Joined
May 26, 2009
Messages
299
The coating worked more like a insulator for the heat mat, since in my previous house the winters where too cold, 7-9ºC inside the house... so I used a heat mat beneath the enclosures, and knowing that Ts burrow to find those heat spots, I made a natural barrier with the mortar. It heats up much less with this layer of mortar.
Interesting (and a great idea)! I originally thought it was just for aesthetics in case the spider dug all the way down, lol.

Yes, I use a "drainage layer" composed of a sand, clay and top soil mix. It works better than the clay balls, since the mix maintains the humidity, while the top topsoil layer doesn´t dry too much. I used the clay balls in a previous enclosure, but I believe that they work better for dendro style enclosures, with active drainage systems, since the clay balls tend to separate the water from the top layer of substrate. The mix differs from one enclosure to other, if you want more drainage, you need to encrease the clay and the sand in the mixture. I used a first layer of a 1-1-1 mix and the a top layer of a common organic top soil. Imho the simplest work the best, there is no need to complicate so much
Agreed on all points! Lately I've been constructing some planted vivs, and I'm interested in how others tackle some of these more rarely discussed aspects of arachnoculture. Thanks for the feedback and your time in answering my questions!
 

Dorifto

Arachnobaron
Active Member
Joined
Aug 10, 2017
Messages
428
Interesting (and a great idea)! I originally thought it was just for aesthetics in case the spider dug all the way down, lol.
Firstly it was going to be only for aesthetics, but then I realized that I could use the mortar like a natural barrier too. So I put a half cm layer of mortar and them a mix of clay and sand on top, finally a top soil layer for a smoother surface.


Agreed on all points! Lately I've been constructing some planted vivs, and I'm interested in how others tackle some of these more rarely discussed aspects of arachnoculture. Thanks for the feedback and your time in answering my questions!
The clay balls drain systems are more suitable for planted tanks, dendros... etc because you can drain the excess water from the back, drilling a hole or installing a waterpump, if you are going to plant a moss vivarium for example.

We are here for helping to each others!
 

Dorifto

Arachnobaron
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Aug 10, 2017
Messages
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@Dorifto what kind of lighting are you using for these?
Two 120cm fish tank lights, both 78€ with a promo code.

Firts I only had one, but I bought another to play with the shades of the rock and to grow the java moss better.

They are like this one, the price have rised a bit... Hahahaha


They are well constructed and have plenty of light
 
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ArachnidSentinl

Arachnoknight
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Messages
299
Maximum brightness looks like it could fry an egg :rofl: Mine get pretty bright, but that's like staring at an atom bomb, lol.

Nothing brings a viv together quite like good lighting. This looks really fantastic, truly.
 

Dorifto

Arachnobaron
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Aug 10, 2017
Messages
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Or blind you family lol. I have set the perfect amount of light for the moss, because at firts I leave the moss lamp at level 5 and they started to bleaching. So the moss lamp is set now in white light at level 3 and the other is with blue light at 3 too, but with the blue light is like the white alone at level 4.
 

Dorifto

Arachnobaron
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Messages
428
I have see lamps like this selling at 150+ € each in "specialized" shops... The only diference was the black anodizing...
 
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