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Cool Background for Cichlid tanks!

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Cool Background for Cichlid tanks!

Post  CalebNmomLuvFish on Sat Feb 01, 2014 11:46 am

Cichlidlover is right about the bags of polished stones at the dollar tree. They are great to add to your aquarium in numerous ways. They can be used to cover the pots for potted plants or to disguise equipment. Black ones look great if you use white sand substrate. To make a neat & inexpensive background for your cichlids, you will need a bag of lava rock..you can get black or grey, I'm told, but I get the red lava rock. It's only about $4 for a huge bag at Home Depot. A few bags of the black polished stone from dollar tree. A tube of GE Window & Door Silicone and a bag of black zip ties, also available at most Dollar Tree locations. Last, some of the black flower pot carriers that are found at Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, etc.. and are given away with purchases or often, without..if you ask. They are available in a number of different sizes & styles, which make them perfect little caves for your cichlids and you can choose sizes to accommodate your fish. Simply measure the back of your tank and then lay out the pot holders on the floor & arrange them to your liking..vertically,horizontally or a combination of both. If you need to, you can always cut them with a utility knife for a perfect fit, or take advantage of a little "extra space" on the sides and allow for fish to use them from the back as well for extra hiding places as the sections between the caves can provide an interesting maze for them to explore.
Once you've determined the arrangement you want, hook them together snugly with the zip ties, being sure to clip off the ends and conceal or sand the tips so the fish don't get cut on them. (a hole punch does a great job of making holes for the zip ties)
Next, take your silicone and stone and begin to decorate them to your liking. You can use other stones, add in some sea shells or faux corals, use your imagination. The heaters, airlines, cords, etc can be hidden well behind or to the sides of these. You can attach faux plants and driftwood. Use a small led light to draw attention to added driftwood,plants or use in combination with an aerator by strategically running through the rocks to create an "underwater waterfall". It's also a fabulous way to incorporate a potted plant or add some rhizomes without worrying that your cichlids will dig them up. There are many ways to individualize it and add your own personal touch. Another way to make them beautiful and beneficial as well, is to add a diy aerator along the top of your background to aid with surface movement. Just remember to position it in order to direct the flow across the surface and not straight up!
In order to attach it to the aquarium, you will need to attach suction cups in several locations along the top, bottom and sides. You can buy a big pack of nice sized suction cups with hooks, at the Dollar Tree. They have a nice flat area on their front which works perfectly to silicone them to the background. The hooks are easily turned to the side or, with a utility knife, can be cut off, if you prefer. Of course, you can always affix it to the aquarium directly with silicone. If you choose to do that, don't worry. The silicone is easily removed with a paint scraper when you wish to change decor.
It's best to do this when you are setting up a tank, as you will find that you are fighting to submerge it otherwise. Just for added security, I like to position a couple of rocks near the font base..even though, provided that your suction cups are well attached, you shouldn't have any problems.
Your cichlids will love having so many "caves" to retreat to and if you affix them to allow it, exploring behind it will be a source of welcome entertainment for them.
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Re: Cool Background for Cichlid tanks!

Post  chiclidlover on Sat Feb 01, 2014 2:35 pm

Hey nice idea been looking at lava rock but doesn't it turn your water reddish color
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Re: Cool Background for Cichlid tanks!

Post  CalebNmomLuvFish on Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:21 pm

No, not as long as you rinse it off well before putting it in. Of course some pieces are a bit crumbly, so I always poke through the bag and get the sturdier pieces. it's very porous also so I would think that aids in biological media enhancement. I just put it in a bucket to soak for a little bit, that will help, after rinsing of course, then, if it doesn't hold up in the bucket, you'll be glad you soaked it first! A lot of lava rock is used for artificial plants as a base. It's used in many decorative capacities. I certainly don't think it's harmful in any way. Worst case scenario, you have to replace a stone here or there, but I actually got the idea from someone online who used it on some plastic rain gutter material to make a diy background. Then one day I was fooling with some plants and took a hard look at the plastic containers they sat in & realized this would look & work a lot better than a zillion clay pots,etc.. plus it doesn't take up all your bottom space so you can more fully enjoy the behavior of the haps & catfish. Plus if you stagger the sizes of containers, it doesn't eat up so much of your width. Cause those awesome cichlids come in a range of sizes!!! I also discovered that the long vented plastic potholders that don't have the individual pots, work great for filling in spaces and when cut & zip tied, you can use them very effectively to create your own sections, or act as a "container" to create a little tunnel maze with. I grab up every single one in every size I can get, with permission of course. It recycles, cheap, or normally free and very easy to replace.
I'm a cheapskate for one thing, plus we spend so darned much as it is on the hobby, anything we can do to save a buck here & there sure helps a bunch!!
Sarah
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Re: Cool Background for Cichlid tanks!

Post  Amp2020 on Mon Feb 03, 2014 12:31 am

Word of caution. Double check the silicone and make sure it is not the kind meant for kitchen and bath. They sometimes have antibacterial or fungalcide in them that will kill you fish or benificial bacteria. Must be 100% pure silicone with no additives. I've seen bottles labeled as 100% silicone but they still had mold inhibitors. Apparently they rounded their numbers up to 100.

Also, I don't suggest the usage of lava rocks in display tanks. They are sharp and can easily injure fish. I see it happen every day at work. Wish I could make the rules but I can't.

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Re: Cool Background for Cichlid tanks!

Post  williemcd on Mon Feb 03, 2014 12:50 am

There are two common types of silicon GE I and GE II... Only the GE I is safe for aquarium use. Others won't even touch that! And insist on the product sold in fish stores. I'll have to dig deeper and see the chemical makeup of both. Bill

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Re: Cool Background for Cichlid tanks!

Post  CalebNmomLuvFish on Mon Feb 03, 2014 1:06 pm

Excellent points guys!! I went back and checked my silicone after reading, and discovered that my husband had replaced the tube I bought for my aquarium use with a different tube of GE. OMG... apparently he used up my tube and bought another...not the right one, and put into the gun. It's still 100% silicone, but is GE 2, not GE 1. I Didn't know about the 1 & 2, so thank you Bill. I had learned it must be 100 % silicone. That's a very good lesson on why these blogs are so important. DIY is an awesome way to save $ and explore your creativity, but not at the expense of your fish.
You are also correct amp, I checked my lava rock, bearing in mind what you said about the sharp edges..it does indeed have sharp edges here & there. The background is really cool though..would love to hear some suggestions on an alternate stone for said project. The rounded polished stones from dollar tree are great, but really need to be mixed with something a little rougher looking in order to look right. So whatdya think y'all?
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Re: Cool Background for Cichlid tanks!

Post  Amp2020 on Tue Feb 04, 2014 1:27 am

I like working with flagstone. Cheap and easy to shape. Flat like slate but at a fraction of the cost. I get all my stones from landscaping stores/nurseries.

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Re: Cool Background for Cichlid tanks!

Post  williemcd on Tue Feb 04, 2014 3:25 am

Sarah... I gotta share an embarrassing but funny story about DIY... I wanted to built columns of caves utilizing drainage tiles... with the columns going upright, with periodic portals cut out for entrances.  The lids from a margerine tub was perfectly sized for flooring within the column... My next step was to purchase a product called "Great Stuff" that I used to soften the edges/appearance of the drain-piping... Whilst the "Great Stuff" was setting up, I sprinkled PFS over the assembly to make it look like a real rock/cave strewn walll..... It looked awesome... and performed miserably... That Great Stuff had such a bouyancy that I'd have needed a 10 lb. anchor to keep it submerged!  
So... with your plant trays?... How about lightly applying some GE I and sprinkling PFS to soften the look?  Bill

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Awesome Idea Bill!!

Post  CalebNmomLuvFish on Tue Feb 04, 2014 6:45 am

Thank you for that story Bill. You know, for newbies like me, it helps Soooo Much to hear stuff like that! It's easy to get down on yourself when you're learning about all these things...I think that's why so many people give up on the hobby entirely. There's simply so much to it that it can be overwhelming at times. Particularly if you don't have a ton of $ to sink into it. That would be a great new topic, Embarrassing Mistakes! Omg...if I had a quarter for every one of those thus far!!! The love of the hobby is what it's all about though and the wealth of knowledge, support & encouragement that people like yourself & Ira, Neo, Amp & so many others are Vital to beginners like my son & I. For me, this is more than a hobby, it's a means of fostering an ongoing connection with my son as he becomes a teen and watching him learn and grow & enjoy this. I hope that one day he'll share this with his own children and remember the adventures he shared with mom.
The pool filter sand is a great idea! Amp, I have been dying to get by a nursery & pick up some stones..I agree the flagstone would be great! My son found some awesome stones for us. I was piddling around with a little pile of stones I had collected when he came in with a huge smile..he'd taken the trashcan back into the woods behind our house and came back with it, like a wagon, full of these Awesome rocks in all shapes & sizes! We went through them & washed them & did the vinegar test & then boiled them and the end result was great. That's something I'll never forget..& collecting wood from the James...also something I'll never forget.
We have no short supply of beautifully colored stones around our house, I'm pleased to say. So I'll swap those out for the lava rock, but I will get by a nursery to pick up some flat rock for the angels to hopefully lay eggs on one day!
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