Building the Backgrounds using Epoxy resin

After a really busy time, I finally have had some time to work on the paludarium once more. This time I have started working on the various backgrounds using epoxy resin.


Preparations

Preparing to work with epoxy resin isn’t that hard, but you need to sort out what you will be doing and have all tools required at hand: The epoxy resin starts to set within an hour, so once you have mixed up the components you need to be ready to go. This is what I used:

Preparing for the first epoxy resin layers.

Preparing for the first epoxy resin layers.

It is VERY important that when you mix up the epoxy resin, you stick to the ratio. In my case I had different resins which needed different mixing ratios! One was 60 grams of hardener per 100 grams of resin, the other was 50 grams of harderner for every 100 grams of resin. Always check those numbers and stick to them; the better your ratio the better the resin will harden (and not stay sticky what you really DO NOT want).


The background itself

First up was the actual background (above water). I wanted to have a natural look on this, as if the background was a forest floor with roots in it. In order to reach this effect, I applied a layer of epoxy resin to the styrofoam background, then push some forest floor material into the sticky resin (readily available from your local reptile shop).

After the resin is hardened, you can use a brush to brush off the parts that did not stick. In my case I needed to apply two layers of resin (and even do some touching up with a third layer) before everything was nicely covered:

The background covered with forest floor material. Note the lower left which has had its second layer already.

The background covered with forest floor material. Note the lower left which has had its second layer already.

As you can see in the image above, the lower left part was already covered in a second layer, while the rest only had one layer applied. The forest floor material is not fully fastened to the background, and stuff will probably come loose once I start to drizzle water down there. Hopefully there won’t be any white spots!


Building the beach and waterfall

Both the beach and the waterfall are made up of basically three different textures: sand, gravel and mud. Sand for the beach, gravel for the waterfall itself and mud for the rest.

For gravel I used 2mm aquarium sand. I put a layer of epoxy resin on the inside of the waterfall, then filled the entire waterfall with gravel and pressed down:

The waterfall was covered in a layer of epoxy resin, then filled with 2mm aquarium gravel.

The waterfall was covered in a layer of epoxy resin, then filled with 2mm aquarium gravel.

After the resin had set, I threw out the excess gravel from the waterfall and got this effect:

Gravel inside the waterfall once the resin had set.

Gravel inside the waterfall once the resin had set.

For the sand I used “brekerszand” which is a very coarse type of sand. That worked perfectly when applied to a wet epoxy resin surface. For the beaches I tried the same with a much finer grained sand (from playgrounds):

Covering the beach in a fine grained sand (playground sand)

Covering the beach in a fine grained sand (playground sand)

This worked out almost nice, but not as nice as I expected. The grain was too thin for a decent coverage of the beach. I’ll need to either put on a second layer of the same sand, or go safe and apply the coarser grained sand to a second layer…

For mud I tried a recipe that works really nice. I use compressed plantation soil. This is made out of coconut husk fibres. I just worked it into a fine grained powder and then I mixed it with the epoxy resin. I first mixed the resin together, which filled my mixing jar up to 40%. Then I added the powder untill the jar was full (so about a 40% resin – 60% powder mixture). As I stirred the powder through, the resin became a thick, shiny mud. I then applied this mud directly onto the styrofoam:

Beach and background. The background appears wet, but is in fact a stirred mixture of resin and coconut fibers and isn't wet at all!

Beach and background. The background appears wet, but is in fact a stirred mixture of resin and coconut fibers and isn’t wet at all!

All that remains now is to apply a second layer to the beach sand, and make some more resin-mud for the areas I did not cover yet. Then put all the components into place inside the paludarium, and then finally… Filling it up with water and the first plants!

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