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 Clear sealant for aquarium decor

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Liz
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PostSubject: Clear sealant for aquarium decor   Mon Oct 13, 2014 6:54 pm

About two years ago I prepared and placed a large Buddha wall sculpture on the inside back of my 125 gal. The sculpture is about 20" high so it covers a lot of the back of the tank, which is what I was going for. It is painted on the front and has exposed plaster on the inside back (concave, like a mask). I used two-part clear epoxy resin, using two coats on it with a brush, but the resin was relatively thin and flowed easily down (this is self-leveling epoxy like you'd use for a tabletop), so it was quite a chore keeping it from pooling and from thinning out too much on the high spots. I had to keep brushing it back into place until it set up enough to stay put. I let it cure for a week and gave another coat, then let it cure once again for a couple of weeks.  (Note:  This was done outside on a warm day in late September, with plenty of ventilation. Epoxy resin gives off a lot of volatiles when you are working with it so always do this type of thing in a well ventilated area, and it helps also to mix your two parts on a warm day, or in a warm environment, because the two work together better when warm, like 80-85 deg F)  

Here's how it looked not long after I added it. I siliconed a rare earth magnet to the back of it at the very top, then I used another magnet on the outside of the tank, holding the top up so it would not fall.  




A few months ago I noticed some changes in the shape, with an indentation in the chin and some peeling areas on the bumps of the headpiece. If the paint was peeling then the coating was no longer waterproof, and plaster+water = MESS. I carefully removed it and was relieved to find it intact structurally, feeling just like it did when I took it out, except for the soft spot under the chin indentation, and spots where the paint had peeled up.

So, though I definitely consider thoroughly cured epoxy resin to be aquarium safe, I would not call it 100% impervious to water, or if it is, it is difficult to apply it in such a way that no air bubbles communicate to the surface of the object, which is what I'm assuming happened in this case.

I plan on repainting the sculpture and giving it another try, probably with a Polyurethane Sealant, in aerosol form, so I can apply multiple thin coats (curing in between) to attempt a thicker coating. I will use Krylon Fusion paint in a gunmetal grey, if I can find it. That paint has been used by many aquarists for underwater applications and I'm comfortable using it, though I will allow that, too, to fully dry, cure and outgas prior to coating the whole thing with poly. The polyurethane outgases and cures to be a substance like plastic, so I don't think it is any more harmful than any plastic aquarium item, like filter tubes and decor. I'm sure epoxy resin will be more durable, but we'll see how it goes. I spent $14 on the wall sculpture at a discount store so I don't mind experimenting to see what will work, though I do truly hope to be able to keep it long-term.

I'll post back here with my progress as I wait for the Buddha sculpture to dry out and begin restoring it for a return to its place in the tank. I miss it there!

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PostSubject: Re: Clear sealant for aquarium decor   Tue Oct 14, 2014 12:56 am

Good luck on the tank ornament project. I always thought that the Buddha head was a unique tank and home decoration. I look forward to seeing new pictures when you return it to its nesting place... keyboarding!

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Liz
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PostSubject: Re: Clear sealant for aquarium decor   Wed Oct 15, 2014 12:52 pm

One thing I've discovered, which is good news, is that the sculpture is actually concrete, though a thin layer over some kind of wire frame, I'm thinking. I can see what's under the paint (an extremely thick, almost plastic layer) in spots and I'm relieved that it isn't plaster, because that always worries me about going into a tank.

I still need to seal it, however, because I don't want the elevation in pH that is likely and if there is a wire frame it would wind up rusting, so I'm still going to proceed with restoration as planned, but I feel a little better about things knowing that the essential structure is not quite as fragile as I previously thought.

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PostSubject: Re: Clear sealant for aquarium decor   Wed Oct 15, 2014 7:28 pm

@Liz wrote:
One thing I've discovered, which is good news, is that the sculpture is actually concrete, though a thin layer over some kind of wire frame, I'm thinking. I can see what's under the paint (an extremely thick, almost plastic layer) in spots and I'm relieved that it isn't plaster, because that always worries me about going into a tank.

I still need to seal it, however, because I don't want the elevation in pH that is likely and if there is a wire frame it would wind up rusting, so I'm still going to proceed with restoration as planned, but I feel a little better about things knowing that the essential structure is not quite as fragile as I previously thought.

That's great news Liz. Have fun... Hello

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     ~~~ My Aquariums ~~~
55 gal. Planted Angelfish Show Tank
(Angelfish, Guppies, Neons and Bristled Nose Plecos)
30 gal. Bare Bottom Angelfish Growout Tank
20 gal. Bare Bottom Angelfish Breeder Tank
10 gal. Bare Bottom  Angelfish Growout Tank
10 gal. Planted Bristled Nose Plecos and Guppy Show Tank
(Guppies, Bristled Nose Plecos and kuhli Loaches)
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