Introduction: DIY Split Aquarium / Terrarium Background for Reptiles
I recently got a 55 gallon tank but was needing to somehow split it since I have two leopard geckos, so instead of buying something I decided while I was in quarantine that I would just make my own custom background & divider. My geckos love to climb so I wanted to add levels / platforms for them to do that.
(Thankfully I already had a lot of this stuff at home since I do quite a bit of crafts as well as my dad is a carpenter & does construction. But if I did happen to go buy something, I'll be sure to add a link to what exactly I got)
1. Foam Insulation Boards - a pack of 4 at Lowes for about $8
2. Sharpie or Marker to mark where you want to place things
3. Unsanded Grout - at Lowes for $17. They also have cheaper ones
4. WATER BASED Sealer - I got this satin polyurethane - about $9 at Lowes or Walmart
5. Exacto Knife
6. Hot Glue Gun
7. Smooth Finish Foam Coating - WalMart $5 You don't have to have this
8. Paint Brush - I used the $1 ones from Lowes
9. Sand Paper - I used an 80 & 120
10. Dremel with a sanding tip - Optional but it does make things a lot easier
11. Great Stuff Spray Foam Insulation- Lowes for $6
12. Disposable Gloves to wear while applying the Spray Foam- I used hair coloring gloves since I had a box
13. Ruler / Measuring Tape
14. Bucket for Mixing
15. Acrylic Paint - Optional
Step 1: Step 1: Measure & Draw Out Background
I measured out the length I'd need for each side & cut those pieces out of the foam board.
Then I marked up where I was going to place the ledges / platforms & where I was going to sand out lines to make the "rocky" look.
Step 2: Step 2: Sand "Rocks" Out & Add Ledges
I used sandpaper & a dremel tool to carve out the "rocks" in the foam.
Then I hot glued the ledges / platforms (that I also cut out from the foam board & sanded down to the shape I wanted) to the background.
Step 3: Step 3: Support Your Ledges
I wanted to make sure that the ledges would be stable & wouldn't break off while they were climbing on them, so I sprayed the spray insulation foam around each of the ledges, as well as the top of the middle section.. My idea was to have it stick out far enough that Leona wouldn't be able to climb ontop of it sort of like a hanging cliff.. But as you can tell, I didn't spray it out far enough.😅
After the foam dries, use an exacto knife to carve off the edges so you can sand them down to a curve. I found that if you don't take off the top shiny layer of foam, the grout won't stick to it at all so make sure you take off ALL of the shiny hard top layer.
Step 4: Step 4: Grout Entire Background
I ended up adding 2 or 3 layers of grout (sorry I don't remember exactly) with a paint brush.
The mixture doesn't have to be super thick either especially if you're doing multiple layers. If you just want to do 1 layer then I suggest making the mixture thick BUT that does make it a lot harder to paint on.
Once the grout dries, take a fine piece of sandpaper & sand over any sharp areas. You don't want your reptiles getting cut at all.
Step 5: Step 5: Paint & Seal!
Now it is time to paint. I literally had no clue what I was doing but I did know that I wanted a "textured" look so I know I needed sponges for that. I just made different color combos & dabbed them on until I was happy with how it looked.
After the paint was dry I painted on 2 layers of the WATER BASED Polycrylic. I waited for each layer to dry before I put on the next one.
Step 6: Step 7: Put Everything Together & You're Done!
While I was making the background, I was also adding the little caves & boxes that were going to go with it as well.