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Scaping the 350 Gallon Paludarium (Build Part 1)

By SerpaDesign on

00:02 Tanner: Yo, what's up, Serpa squad? Tanner here, and I'm finally getting started on the 350-gallon paludarium. I got this tank from Custom Aquariums back in January. It's been sitting in the garage since then, but just the other week, I was finally able to move it to the animal room. Full disclosure, I got this for free, but I don't receive any compensation for talking about it. Anyway, in this one, I'll get the background and hardscape in place. Let's get to work.

00:31 Tanner: First, we'll address the background. Initially, I wanted to go the DIY route. I was going to make a foam and epoxy background like the one I made for the nano 1-1/2-gallon blackwater aquarium. It would have worked well, but doing something like that at this scale would have been very time-consuming and quite expensive. Instead, I contacted Stewart from Universal Rocks and got a polyurea background. I also received this for free, but just like the tank, I don't receive any compensation for talking about it. Another advantage to using this background is the low profile. Since it's very thin, it will help me maximize the space within the setup. Plus if I ever redo the scape, I could easily remove the background without ruining it. Don't be fooled though. The background may be thin, but at this size, it is quite heavy.

01:16 Tanner: Since the background is flexible, I was able to roll it up and drop it in the tank. It was unrolled and clamped to the top of the tank with spring clamps. I didn't want the clamps to scrape the glass, so I put insulation foam on the outside. After a lot of meticulous adjustments, I was able to get an idea of how it will be situated. I think it looks great, but unfortunately, it's a few inches too long. I marked for what needed removed. To cut this, I'm using a kitchen knife. That might sound weird, but I was told this is the best tool for the job. Once I removed the excess, I put the background back in the tank. I used pieces of insulation foam to keep it flush with the glass. At this point, I could drill holes for filtration. All I did was use the holes in the tank as a guide and cut through the background with the whole saw. Then it was removed from the tank and I made more measurements. I used these to mark for a line at the top. I cut along this line using the knife from earlier. This slit will accommodate a PVC pipe I added between the previous step. I'll discuss more about that later in the series.

02:35 Tanner: With all of that addressed, I went on to clean the glass with a microfiber cloth and isopropyl alcohol. This will remove oils and debris and make a clean surface. To adhere it to the glass, I used GE Silicone 1. I put the background back in the tank and clamped it to the top on the sides. I also utilized the plumbing pieces to help keep the background situated. Then I peeled the background away from the glass and applied silicone all throughout the back. I used insulation foam to press the background into the silicone. I combined pieces together when necessary. This was all left to cure for 24 hours. After that, I could remove the supporting foam.

03:27 Tanner: Now I'll move on to the top portion of the back. I pretty much repeated the same process as before. I applied silicone and kept it in place with insulation foam. I let this cure for about eight hours. After that, I removed the foam and repeated the process on the sides of the tank. I applied silicone and used pieces of wood, PVC pipes and foam to keep the background in place. It was tough to get it right because the tank is so large, but eventually I got everything propped up. I let this cure overnight. After that, the braces could be removed. I still need to account for the flap on the top of the back. To secure this piece, I did a few things. First, I drilled holes through the background and zip tied the bottom of the PVC pipe. I spaced the zip ties about 1 inch apart down the entire length of the pipe. Once the bottom section was secure, I siliconed the top to the glass. Everything was clamped in place while the silicone cured. Then I removed all the clamps. I went back with GREAT STUFF Pond & Stone expanding foam and filled in the gap. The reason I did all of this was for the sake of water flow. If I had simply put the pipe behind the background without cutting the slit and doing these steps, it would have been almost impossible to fulfill my vision for this tank. You'll see what I mean in later installments of the series.

04:52 Tanner: Anyway, I generously applied the foam and allowed it to cure for a few hours. As you would expect, I'll carve down the foam and make it look like the rest of the background. Per usual, I used a razor scraper to do the job. In doing so, I followed the contours of the background and created an overhang. Again, I kept all off this in mind for water flow. I concealed the foam with silicone and pigments. I applied silicone and smeared it out into a thin, even layer. I went back with a brush and applied various pigments. I started with a small section just to get a feel for how it should look. It's somewhat difficult to mimic it exactly. Regardless, I think I did a decent job blending it together. With a good direction to follow, I repeated the process along the entire area.

05:49 Tanner: There was also a gap at the top of the background in some areas that looked unappealing. I filled this in with foam, carved it down and concealed it like the previous section. This completed the long and drawn-out process of installing the background. In total, it took about a week and a half, but I think it was well worth the time and effort, especially considering how long it could have took if I went the do it yourself route. Nothing wrong with that, it just would have taken months to complete.

06:16 Tanner: Now we can finally go on to hardscape the tank. I used a few faux rocks from Universal Rocks for that process. They'll only serve as secondary elements though. The majority of the scape will be done with these massive pieces of weathered driftwood. For reference, most of them are at least 3 feet long. A few were so large that I had to cut them down to fit properly. I also have smaller pieces of weathered driftwood for accents. I'll leave links in the video description to where I bought all of these pieces. Prior to placing all of the elements, I draped a few towels over the glass so I don't accidentally scrape it. I also put down a piece of insulation foam to more evenly disperse the weight of the largest piece. The others don't weight very much, so it was only done with this piece. I estimate that it weights about 90 pounds, give or take.

07:06 Tanner: Once it was in the tank, I made a few measurements to check for the waterline. I needed to make sure that most of the driftwood is submerged, and I'll use this piece as a guide for the rest of the scape. With all of that addressed, I was able to find an appropriate spot for the piece. Given the nature of how I'll set this up, I figured it would work best in the corner of the tank. It was also very stable in this location. I went on to add the secondary pieces. In doing so, I'm trying to mimic the flow and directional nature of the largest branch.

07:43 Tanner: I got three pieces situated and could see the vision unfolding. I figured now would be a good time to add a few of the stones. I placed them throughout the scape and continued with the rest of the setup. The only way I could get a few of the elements in place was with the pieces of insulation foam, as seen here. At this point, I could secure everything in place. I siliconed all the stones to the bottom of the tank. These will help keep the driftwood in place along with spray foam. I applied that along the top portions and between pieces of wood. After it cured, I removed the insulation foam and carved it out like before. It looks pretty good, but we need to embellish it with the fine details. For that, I'll simply use the smaller pieces of driftwood. I placed a few throughout both the bottom and top portions of the tank. It might not seem like a huge difference, but it's enough to make things more interesting. I went back and secured the pieces with foam or silicone, depending on where they are in the tank. I let the foam cure and carved it out like before. Lastly, I went around and concealed all of the expanding foam with silicone and pigments.

09:24 Tanner: And here it is, the 350-gallon paludarium with the completed background and hardscape. It turned out very close to what I originally planned. I've had the components for quite a long time, and it's really great to finally see them come together. My favorite aspect is all of the depths created by the driftwood. My goal was to create layers in different areas within the scape that will serve the animals well and make for a really interesting setup. Of course, all of that is accentuated by the background. Once I add the other components, that will elevate this look even further. I can't wait to show you what else I have planned.

10:02 Tanner: That's all I have for you in this one. If you wanna see what my future plans are for this setup and are not yet subscribed, be sure to do so and turn on notifications. Also, if you wouldn't mind giving the video a thumbs up, I'd really appreciate it. Until next time, Serpa squad, take care and peace.

About SerpaDesign

"Hi I'm Tanner! I am an artist, designer, photographer, nature lover and DIY fanatic. My passion is to bring nature indoors and share my projects/ideas with others."

"The focus of my channel is to show how I use nature as an artistic medium. If you want to make a beautiful, long-lived terrarium or a bioactive vivarium, then this is the channel for you! I go in depth on every topic, teaching you exactly how and why I do what I do. I also push the boundary, in hopes to create some of the most unique projects you'll see on this side of YouTube."

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