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[APD] Re: Cork Backgrounds

I 've done this to several tanks now, but only once did I have the luxury
of doing it to an unoccupied tank!

I get 12 inch squares of cork designed for bulletin boards at Target.  Real
cork sheets are probably nicer, but I doubt they're as thick (handier for
attaching plants).

I remove the livestock to a q-tank or bucket, remove plants as needed to
allow full access to the back of the tank, then drain the tank down to the
gravel and a little beyond (make a well in a corner of the gravel and drain
all the last  bits you can).

Pull the gravel or substrate away from the back glass--give yourself at
least an inch of room to work in front of the gravel.  Now scrub and dry
the back glass (on the inside of the tank--this is to promote a larger
surface area for planting, so we need it inside the tank).

Measure and cut the pieces of cork to fit the inside dimension of the back
panel exactly, end to end, and top  down to about 1 inch below the gravel.
The cork will swell a bit when wet and fill tiny gaps in not-quite-perfect
seams, but not gaping holes.

Using aquarium-safe silicone sealant, draw a grid or spiral or whatever
pattern you like on the back of the cork sheets.  The pattern isn't
important, but this is:  be sure that the silicone stripes are generous
(don't be stingy  with it) and no more than an inch apart, and no more than
a quarter inch from the edges.  Caution:  while you don't need to smear the
silicone over the entire surface (messy/icky to do), you do need the
stripes of stuff to be very close together, because if you don't, the cork
will swell into buckles and bubbles when it gets wet, looking lousy and
possibly--if you're not sealed the edges of each piece well enough--making
pockets that small fish can reach and even become trapped in.  I did this
the first time and it wasn't pretty.  Now take the pieces and slap 'em up
to the back panel.  If you start with the bottom panels and move up, they
should support each other without collapsing away from the glass.

If you're doing this in an empty tank, you can lay the tank on its back on
the floor, and it makes things a little easier, but isn't necessary.

Now wait at least 6-8 hours, and better yet 24, before refilling the tank
and adding fish back.  The labels to the silicone say it should be cured
>24 hours before use, but the silicone cures even when wet, and the curing
releases only a bit of acetic acid--vinegar--if I'm remembering correctly,
which is non-toxic to the fish, at least at low concentrations.

Now you can get to aquascape, attaching plants to the cork.  My cork
backgrounds are in a relatively dark portion of the tank, so I've only used
low light plants like Java fern and anubias, and I use heavy duty staples
to attach them by the rhizome to the cork (applying the staples by hand,
not by stapler, to be gentle to the plants.

Diane Brown in St. Louis

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