Aquascaping with Foam?

Discussion in 'Tank Talk' started by Illithid, Jan 7, 2006.

  1. Illithid

    Illithid Vampyroteuthis Supporter

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    Has anyone used foam to make rocks and caves?

    I am trying to plan aquascaping for my tank I am setting up and was going to create sturdy caves and ledges using the concrete live rock instuctions on www.garf.org (yes-they are fully cured, and no-they dont use regular instant concrete mix.)

    They explain how to encourage coraline growth and algae to "make" live rocks, but I realized I would be making butt-burn heaven for my cuttles.

    Could I use blocks of foam-not styrofoam, but prefilter type foam and carve them to rocks and caves? I have seen from foam in my sumps that they would look like rocks.

    If they jetted into them-it would be a big pillow.

    These caves will have to be big to shelter a 15" cuttle and I wanted multiple hiding spots.

    Foam here is available and inexpensive compared to base rock.

    Then I started thinking :bonk: would a layer of foam under the sand bed help make room for anaerobic nitrifying bacteria? Kind of like media for a deep sand bed?

    This all seems too easy, show me the error of my ways. :wink:
     
  2. joefish84

    joefish84 Sepia elegans Registered

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    i dont know. the ideas actually seem pretty sound almost too simple which is probably y no one has thought about them!
     
  3. Colin

    Colin Colossal Squid Supporter

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  4. cthulhu77

    cthulhu77 Titanites Supporter

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    Nope, don't use it. The chemicals in the foam break down in the saltwater....fish might be able to stand it, but there's no way a ceph could.
    I've used cement before, cast over foam molds, in saltwater tanks...but even that is risky.
    Perhaps dental resin ?
     
  5. joefish84

    joefish84 Sepia elegans Registered

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    no you need something porous... i dont see why you couldnt use large filter foam
     
  6. William Tyson

    William Tyson Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    i thought the foam became inert after i finished curing. there are quite a few threads on reef central over this. once i find them i will post them
     
  7. TidePool Geek

    TidePool Geek O. vulgaris Registered

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    Hi Ilithid,

    A couple of thoughts from someone who has not tried what you have in mind.

    It seems to me that the main question marks for using sculpted foam as faux rock have to do with stability and recruitment:

    1. Stability - Even if the material you have in mind is heavier than water it's still going to be far lighter than real rock or even GARF style aragocrete. It seems likely that it will get knocked all over the tank unless you can devise a way to anchor it in place. Perhaps you could epoxy the foam to something heavy like ceramic tile or granite countertop remnants.

    2. Recruitment - Live rock looks the way it does largely because of the variety of things growing on it. The way you describe the material you plan to use it sounds like it's soft or spongy. I wonder how willing things will be to settle on such a surface. Marine plants and animals seem to be more than happy to recruit to man-made materials but I can't think of any examples of them using a soft surface (other than some fairly cryptic bryozoans and epiphytic plants that recruit to kelp).

    I don't think that using foam as a pseudo DSB is going to be effective. The thing to keep in mind is that a properly functioning DSB is doing far more than just denitrification. Think of it as a 'processing plant' for all kinds of animal waste, leftover food, and other detritus. To do those things the bed needs a highly varied population of critters ranging from bacteria up to some fairly sizable worms and other animals. Virtually all of those beasties function best in a bed of mixed size but fairly fine sand. Foam simply won't allow the variety that is necessary. Here's a link to an excellent (and far more detailed) article on the subject:
    http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-06/rs/feature/index.php


    Synthetically yours,

    Alex
     
  8. cuttlegirl

    cuttlegirl Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

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    Cuttlefish have pretty delicate skin, I am not sure this would eliminate butt burn...
     
  9. Illithid

    Illithid Vampyroteuthis Supporter

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    Thanks everyone for all the input!

    I have been thinking about this more.

    I have been thinking about the foam and I do think that filter foam would be inert enough. I have be sure the type of foam though-I agree that is very important.

    I also have been thinking about how to anchor it to the tank and this brought a solution for the denitrification also.

    Could I make a pvc grid on the bottom of the tank with slotted holes on the left and right sides of the pipe. Square around the outside with pipes every 1.25 or 2.5 inches across the diameter to look like the attached image. One circle on the corner would house a powerhead (no riser)that pulled water through the gravel past the bioballs and through the slotted pvc grid. The second circle would be covered and used for flushing purposes to push water out the open powerhead hole in case of problems.
    This would be a media filled undergravel filter that stays anaerobic. Water is pulled in and just released back into the tank, no air. The grid would allow me to anchor my sponge rocks(with tylons), and allow for better circulation for the undergravel than a traditional one that gets dead spots. I always wondered where the anaerobic bacteria stuck to in a undergravel filter. I believe this is why wet/drys do so well at ammonia-nitrite-nitrate conversion-large surface areas and optimal conditions for growth. Bio-balls could be lined in the gaps and the entire grid covered with nylon screen. Live sand and crushed coral could be added to cover the top and this could be my own denitrification. The bioballs would make a large surface area for bacteria to denitrify. Crushed coral would vent better than fine sand and would not run through the screen as much.

    I know that a dsb does more, but I have a big wet/dry to do that -I just have to worry about nitrates. If I went with sponge rocks I realized that I would be losing the live rock filtration capabilities. Bio balls are expensive, but at $120 for 50 gallons they are cheaper than live rock for a 240 gallon.

    The cement rocks can be dyed, do you think I could use the same dye for sponges?

    (Told ya I was dangerous when thinkin' :shock:)
     

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  10. cthulhu77

    cthulhu77 Titanites Supporter

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    I know that a dsb does more, but I have a big wet/dry to do that -I just have to worry about nitrates. If I went with sponge rocks I realized that I would be losing the live rock filtration capabilities. Bio balls are expensive, but at $120 for 50 gallons they are cheaper than live rock for a 240 gallon.

    The cement rocks can be dyed, do you think I could use the same dye for sponges?



    That is a dangerous path to tread down. Cheaper is not always better, as we all have learned the hard way.
    Some of our members have used cement castings in their tanks, the results have been mixed. I use it in freshwater tanks, but not in saltwater...and the foam does not become inert after curing, but continues to outgas for up to three years. Whether or not the pollutants would effect the ceph, I don't know...but it seems rather risky.
     
  11. Illithid

    Illithid Vampyroteuthis Supporter

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    Do you use foam as a prefilter? I do not want to risk the health of the cephs, so I will research more about foam.

    Do you have any websites to start me out on?

    I will do some searching and report what I find.

    Thanks
     
  12. cthulhu77

    cthulhu77 Titanites Supporter

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    No, I don't use foam at all. Nor bioballs...but that is just a personal preference, some of the cephkeepers here love the things.
    Prefiltering is done with regular old floss.

    I'm sure you will figure out the best way to aquascape your tank...but I doubt it will be cheaper than using live rock.
     
  13. a rabid squid

    a rabid squid GPO Supporter

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    i think the trick is to not make them jet. thye do it like twice when you put them in the tank but other than that its not a huge problem. my cuttles have always hid in a hole they dig in he sand bed.
     
  14. Illithid

    Illithid Vampyroteuthis Supporter

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    what about dyed natural sponges?

    They dye the concrete all the time to purple, gray, brown for base rocks, why not natural sponges that look like rocks, vase sponge to look like caves and finger sponge to look like gorgonians?
     
  15. TidePool Geek

    TidePool Geek O. vulgaris Registered

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    Hello again,

    There are some potential problems with using sponges:

    1. Dead sponge - If this is what you have in mind you'll need to consider that, in life, most sponges rely on toxins as their major form of defense. Usually not a big deal with live sponges since they only produce enough to deter predators. OTOH: After the sponge dies those toxins can be released into the water as the flesh decays. I suspect that the sponge will dissolve in salt water much faster than it would in use as a bath accessory.

    2. Dead sponge - Do a Google image search on "Spicules". These are what's left after the sponge's flesh has dissolved. Depending of species they're made of CaCO3 or glass. I could be wrong but these things don't look like a specific against butt-burn to me!

    3. Live sponge - The first problem is availability. It's harder than you might think to harvest sponges for the aquarium trade. Generally speaking, even momentary exposure to air is fatal to sponges. Of course you could do the 'whirl it up in a blender' trick which seems to get around the air exposure problem. Unfortunately there's little likelihood that when the sponge slurpee reassembles itself that it will be in a shape that you can use.

    4. Live sponge - If you can successfully move a live and undamaged sponge to your tank you're then faced with the problem of how to feed it. This shouldn't be a deal breaker but you do need to have a plan in place before you start. BTW: A DSB of the sort described in the article I linked yesterday will go a long way toward supporting live sponges through its production of bacteria and protists.

    Calcareally yours,

    Alex
     
  16. Illithid

    Illithid Vampyroteuthis Supporter

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  17. joefish84

    joefish84 Sepia elegans Registered

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    why not just make a form out of resin (fiberglass resin etc). get play sand dig a mold and fill it with resin. stick in ballons and such for caves and pockets and presto. costom build aquascaping. cure for 3 weeks in high salinity water and your done
     
  18. Illithid

    Illithid Vampyroteuthis Supporter

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    Using concrete or fiberglass to create rock formations is what I was originally going to do, but I didnt want to make a big butt burn factory. I am looking at big cuttles, and wanted to see if I could make something safer. I like big rockwork.

    I think I am going to try dyeing natural sponges and see what they look like. If I dont like the final product, I will create man made rockwork.
     

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