Styropor construction of the background and waterfall


Finally I had some time to build pieces of the paludarium again… This time the background above water, the land portion between the aquatic part and the sump… And the waterfall! In this blog post I’ll discuss the technique used in more detail.



The background

The background is made from a large, single piece of styropor foam:

Starting out with just one big block of stryrofoam... And some cutters.

Starting out with just one big block of stryrofoam… And some cutters.

I took several styrofoam cutters to it before it became a little bit in the direction of what I was looking for. I made several thicker parts into the background. Idea is that these are basically mud ledges where roots come out of (to be added later). After making some sketches onto the styrofoam where to put what I started cutting:

The first basic cuts to figure out how the background will look.

The first basic cuts to figure out how the background will look.

Then cutting of some of the edges. Starts to actually look natural:

Using a small U-shaped cutter you can actually get a lot of fuzzy detail onto the styrofoam, while remaining in total control.

Using a small U-shaped cutter you can actually get a lot of fuzzy detail onto the styrofoam, while remaining in total control.

Unlike using a torch or soldering iron the use of foam cutters will give you total control. To avoid the complexity of the waterfall into this piece, I just cut a large hole where the waterfall will be placed. I’ll figure out the waterfall later!

Finally, the first fitting of the background inside of the paludarium:

First fitting of the background into the paludarium. Fits snugly!

First fitting of the background into the paludarium. Fits snugly!




The Dreaded Waterfall

The waterfall was probably one of the most complex things to oversee in this design. There are just so many things to consider:

  • The Waterfall gets its water from the feed-throughs in the back, that should be tempered before the water hits the fall;
  • The waterfall should be like a slide into the water. That should create current which the foureyed fish will love;
  • The waterfall should be silent. Too much noise of falling water makes me go to the toilet too much;
  • The waterfall should have a separate compartment where the mist maker can sit;
  • The mist maker compartment is filled with osmosis water, and should overrun into the waterfall;
  • Every part of the watefall must be removable.
  • Quite a list… I ended up just cutting a large block for the waterfall, and work from there:

    To design the waterfall, I started out with just building a large block and draw out the design onto it.

    To design the waterfall, I started out with just building a large block and draw out the design onto it.

    As you can see, I drew on the design of the waterfall. After I was happy, I made the first cuts into the block to get the first basic shape:

    The first basic shape of the waterfall. It should look like this! Or at least, something like this.

    The first basic shape of the waterfall. It should look like this! Or at least, something like this.

    After this, I created a compartment behind the waterfall where the feed-throughs dump their water first. This compartment finally overflows through the gap in front of the waterfall. Through this gap the fall will have two slides coming down, and will finally fuse together at the bottom:

    The first cuts out of the fall where the water should flow. It is slowly getting its final shape!

    The first cuts out of the fall where the water should flow. It is slowly getting its final shape!

    Now that the waterfall had its first shape, it was time to add the two dividers that will separate water from land.


    Building a beach and bank

    Next I needed a bank with a beach to separate the aquatic and the land part. I cut the first basic shape and did a fitting in the paludarium:

    Beach and bank added in their basic form left of the waterfall.

    Beach and bank added in their basic form left of the waterfall.

    After building a smaller piece on the right side of the waterfall, things were almost done!


    Final result

    The final result is still very white, but at least the shapes are there:

    Final result of the styrofoam cutting.

    Final result of the styrofoam cutting.

    Here is a detail of the waterfall:

    Detail of the waterfall together with parts of the beach&bank.

    Detail of the waterfall together with parts of the beach&bank.

    Done for today. Now to clean up all the styrofoam leftovers :O


    TO DO

    The background, waterfall, beach and bank are now completely formed. What remains obviously is to put epoxy on them, and then use some jungle dirt, sand and other materials to be pushed into the epoxy layer. That should create the natural look.

    On top of that, I am planning to use some jungle vines to be incorporated into the background to give the idea of roots, and break the symmetry even more. Stay tuned 🙂

    Many thanks to Susan who bravely helped with the styrofoam cutting when I needed two equal sides!

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