We all want our arboreal reptile tanks to look natural. The beautiful chunk of forest enclosed inside of a glass box makes a stunning centerpiece for any room, and a great conversation starter! A great natural backdrop makes your pet feel at home, reducing stress, providing lots of hiding & surface area to climb! Creating your own rainforest tank backing is not as hard as it looks, and your friend jaws will drop to the floor when you tell them YOU made it. So let's get started!
Step 1: Prep your tank!
The first thing you should do is clean your tank! Really clean all the dirt, dust and debris out from the old tank. You want your glass to be as clean as possible for the adhesives to hold better. If you have a brand new tank at your disposal, simply give the glass a spray with a vinegar/water mixture and wipe dry with newspaper. Next, cover your work surface with newspapers and lay your tank down on its back (or side, depending what area you are working on). Remove the screen top and open the doors so you can reach in at multiple angles. You must use a terrarium that opens from the front, not the top. Pisces recommends Exo Terra Glass Terrariums.
Step 2: Silicone Your Anchor Points
Next step is to install your anchor points. An anchor point is a feature or object that can be used as surface area, or texture for your backdrop. This can be anything, like rock, bark, tree trunks or branches. They will give the foam sealant we are going to use later on something to grab on to and adhere. When you are placing these anchor points, think about the layout and the look you are trying to achieve. You can see a large bark piece being used as a basking spot for a tree monitor in the left side of the cover photo. Use supports to keep your anchor points int he desired position. Time to grab your silicone! Pisces recommends: SCS1200 Black Construction Silicone. Carefully silicone around the edges of your features. Run your finger (using rubber gloves) around the edges to ensure a strong bone between the glass and the feature. Leave Dry for 24 hours.
Step 3: Spray Foam the Walls
After your silicone has dried, remove any supports you may have used. Make sure everything is in place where you want it to be. After you lay down the foam, there is no going back! Time to grab your sealant (Pisces recommends: Aquascape Pond & Waterfall Foam Sealant), give it a really good shake, and start spraying! It is best to start from the anchor points and work your way out. After you have covered all necessary areas, it is time to mash in your moss/substrate on desired areas. While the sealant is still wet, use a mixture of moss & coconut husk substrate and push firmly into desired areas. The foam will dry and grasp the substrate & moss, achieving a living wall look. Make sure to leave at least 1" from any doors or screen tops, the foam sealant will expand and bubble. Leave and let dry for 3-4 hours, keep out of direct sunlight. Poke your bubbles to make sure they are solid before starting the next step.
Step 4: Shaping your Foam
Time to get cutty! Carve the hardened foam to your liking. Cutting the foam into hexagonal shapes can give the illusion of natural rock! Don't worry if it does not look perfect, holes and imperfections as plant or branch holders. Once your carving has been completed, you can add another layer of silicone rub in desired areas and give your tank another moss/substrate bath, for that living wall look. Pisces recommends: Zoo Med All Natural Terrarium Moss. The exposed cut foam will look more like natural rock with time.
Step 5: Finishing Touches
So close! Almost done, just need to add the finishing touches. Flip your tank upright so it is standing as it will be. Add your desired substrate to your tank (to save on resources, your natural backdrop will only need to go down slightly below your substrate level, not to the floor of the tank) and add any plants or foliage to the terrarium. Air plants look awesome and are very easy to plant in your tank walls. Give your tank a solid mist, stand back and appreciate the beauty of your hard work! You should have a beautiful natural tank that looks a little something like this!
Still not sure? Click Here to watch a time lapse video of Pisces Pets putting together our own natural terrarium wall & waterfall!