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Thread: $50 Removable DIY background

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2013

    Default $50 Removable DIY background

    Ok, so this is my writeup on a 18x18x24 Exo Terra DIY Removable background for around $50. This is my very first attempt at any sort of reptile background. This can be accomplished by anybody and I am doing this just to show you how ugly these things start but that the finished product is nicer than one you would buy. It is a rewarding project once finished to say, "see that, ya I built that". The added benefit of making it removable allows you to change your design or theme of your tank over and over. Here goes....

    Step 1-Gather supplies. Eco-Earth $8, cork round $10, GS foam $5, Silicone x2 tubes $12, Egg Crate / Light diffuser $13, latex gloves $2. I had the contact paper, tinfoil, and round pvc caps but you can improvise these things. Total price came out to around $50.
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    Step 2-Cut Egg crate to fit tank, and add accents with the zip ties (optional). I cut my egg crate 1" narrower and 1" shorter than the inside of the tank. This will give you room to shape the Great Stuff to tank dimensions. You can also make small planter boxes out of tin foil. Just take tinfoil and wrap it tightly around a cap / pvc tube (like i used), shape with your hands even. This is a cheap and free planter box.
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    Step 3-Lay down some contact paper on a flat surface and place your egg crate flat. Place straws to allow for drainage on the planter (or do this after GS cures which is what I did). Now begin spraying GS foam all over the portion of background you intend to use. This stuff is nasty, doesn't shape the way you want, looks terrible, and takes some getting used to. The great news is that once cured you can cut/rip/tear the foam into the shape you want once it is cured. As you can see in these images I did not add my cork bark before spraying GS. That was a mistake on my part. Make sure you add all accents so that the GS can lock those into the background. Otherwise you have to go back, cut out a spot and respray with GS.
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    Step 4- Remove tinfoil cups once cured (24 hours), trim to fit your tank, trim off extra from accents. Now you can use a pen to push a hole in the GS and add your drains if you wish.
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    Step 5- Test Fit, Test Fit, Test Fit. You will have to keep trimming it to get it right. This where having your egg crate cut smaller than the inside diameter of your tank comes in handy. You can re-size the GS to fit your needs. Don't worry if you cut it too small. You can always spray some more GS on and repeat the process.
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    Step 6- Coat the edges of your background with black silicone. This is going to give it a nice finish without having to paint the tank. (little tip that I have used before, You can paint the outside of your tank with Plasti-Dip. It comes in a spray can and if you don't like it you can just peel it off. This however cannot be used on the interior of the tank).
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    Step 7- Place very thick coats of silicone on the background. Smear around with your fingers or a foam brush, just make it fairly thick. Add your dry coco-fiber by laying a bunch down and pressing it into the silicone. Work in patches or have another person help as this will greatly aid you.
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    Step 8- Shake off all the extra coco-fiber. I keep mine in a bucket for future use.
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    I will update in a few days on the background planted and in the tank. This is a very easy process and is very reversable if you make a mistake. The tighbond glue mix can also be used but is less forgiving, tightbond does however provide a better overall durability. I have enough egg crate and coco-fiber left over to make 2 more backgrounds. So that cuts down on the cost of your next one by almost half. Thanks for reading.

  2. #2


    I love this tutorial! I have a question: How do you secure the background in the tank so it doesn't fall forward?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2013


    Sweet tutorial! If only I saw it earlier because I was working on a viv back round recently and bought all the supplies except plants which I will get when NeHERP gets them in stock again. But it is still a great back round and I will probably use this method for another viv, Thanks!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2013


    So I have tried a few ways to secure the background. I settled on placing magnets into the background with superglue and then on the outside of the glass. I have another one that is held up by the false floor. I just simply ziptied the back ground to the false floor. I will post some pictures of that vivarium when I get home.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Mesa, Arizona


    I use velcro to secure my DIY backgrounds to the back works great, i prefer magnets but velcro is cheaper Turned out great! did you cover the back of the egg crate with foam as well? I have a lid made of eggcrate and over time from takingit on and off it cracked.
    4.3.7 Crested Gecko
    0.1.1 Gargoyle Gecko

    Rhacs Unlimited


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