I love the look of gravel in a aquarium but it can be time consuming to keep clean. I found fake grass plants that are mounted on a plastic grid and I love how easy it is to clean the aquarium while using them. Just pull up a corner and siphon the muck off the bare glass under the mat. So I moved my African Cichlids from a 55 gal to a 40 breeder and lost several inches in tank height. The grass plant mats were taking up too much room. What to do? What to do? Oh lets combine the glass pebbles and a mat and make a pebble mat!
By the way this is my first instruct-able so please comment!
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Step 1: Materials
Gather your materials...
First I went to a craft store and picked up some plastic canvas - enough to cover the bottom of my tank.
My tank is a 40 gal breeder that is 18in wide x48 inches long. So I used 7 sheets of plastic canvas 10.5 x 13.5 and cut them to fit.
I used clear but it comes in other colors. I had a choice of stiffness so I chose the stiff one.
I got 4 large bags ( 3lb bags) of glass pebbles. I used a clear pebble and mixed bag of white, frosted (etched) and clear. I mixed them 50/50. I had enough to do the mats, cover two glass hurricane shades ( that I also picked up at the craft store) and some left over.
Next you need silicone to hold the pebbles to the plastic canvas and any glass vessels you want to use.
YOU MUST USE AQUARIUM SAFE SILICONE! Otherwise you will have a nice tank but dead fish.
Pet stores carry it in small tubes as well as some big box hardware stores. The best is if you can find it in a caulking tube size. I've bought it at a big on-line retailer named after a rain forest. If you find the caulking tube size you will need a caulking gun too ( and a strong pair of hands!)
A box of parchment paper, ruler, scissors and that should do it.
Step 2: Get Started
Lay your plastic canvas out and figure out how to make the sheets cover the bottom of your aquarium, trimming to fit if need be. Remove any stickers and trim the hanger off the top edge of the sheet..
Now pour put your pebbles into a dish or out on the table and mix them up if you want a random look or you can figure out a pattern.
Pull a piece of parchment off the roll and put your canvas section on top. I tried a piece of acrylic first but I found the parchment to be easier and disposable!
Now comes the fun part - gluing! ( Ok maybe not so fun but it's looks good when it's done)
Put a dab of silicone on the flat edge of the pebble and push it onto the plastic canvas. I started on the edge and worked my way in. I tried not to keep it too linear and tight since I was going for a random look. I intentionally left a little space here and there between the pebbles. Sometimes I put a line of silicone down on the canvas and pushed the pebbles into it and moved them into position. Do what you like.
After you fill a whole piece press down on the pebble mat to make sure all is secure and take it outside .
Flip the mat over pebble side down, press on all the pebbles again to make sure all are secure and pull the parchment paper off.
Leave the mats outside to dry and cure for a couple days.
I had a lot of pebbles left over so I decided to make my fish two tunnel caves to hide in.
I used two glass hurricane candle shades and covered the outside in pebbles glued on with the aquarium silicone.
You can use just about any glass container that is big enough for your fish not to get stuck inside.
Step 3: Set Up
Once all is dry and cured ( see the label on the silicone) give all the pieces a through wash under the tap.
You are now ready to set up your new aqua-scape!
I have a blue led light ( moonlight) so I chose the clear, white and frosted pebbles to reflect the blue light.
However I'm putting a color changing led light set on my Christmas wish list that I can mount inside the hood of the moonlight.
( ahem - hear me Santa?)