After having seen the robust quality exhibited by some of the Welsh slate products from Fennstones.co.uk, I saw a range of great potential for this material. Slate has many great properties that make it stand out from other rocks and it lends itself to aquarium use too. One particular quality that I wanted to exploit is the fact that it can be split into very thin “slices.”
Using these slices, I decided to make a slate aquarium background using just a few very simple materials and processes. Other types of rock are much more difficult to work with for the purposes of creating a background, although it can be done with a few extra tools and craftsmanship.
Whilst I only made this background for my nano tank, it is entirely possible to use larger pieces for a cichlid tank using exactly the same method only on a larger scale.
You will need:
Slate (varied sizes) – many types available, great Welsh slate available from fennstones.co.uk.
Aquarium safe silicone sealant – cheap and easy to find
Acrylic sheet – cut to the size of your tank
1. Cut a sheet of acrylic to match the back face of your aquarium. Leave just a millimetre or two on either side to make it easier to install. The larger the background you wish to make the thicker the acrylic will need to be in order to support the weight of the slate during installation. For a single square foot, 2mm is plenty thick enough. Alternatively you can opt to split the background into two or three pieces for ease of manoeuvrability.
2. Lay the acrylic sheet flat on a clean surface and, using some aquarium safe silicone sealant, attach the slate pieces to the acrylic sheet making sure that you don’t overhang by too far (or else it wont fir into your tank). Some smaller pieces or chippings can be used to fill in any gaps to cover up any excess silicone. Alternatively, overlapping the slate pieces and attaching some on top of others does a great job of covering up the gaps.
3. Once you have fully covered your acrylic sheet with slate, it is vital that you leave the background to cure for at leave 48 hours. It is best to wait until you can no longer smell the sealant. Do not put it in the tank straight away. It is advisable to give the background a thorough wash before you put it in your tank to remove any dirt and dust that may have accumulated during the making process.
4. Once the silicone is fully cured you may install the background. A few small globs of silicone should be more than sufficient. It is best to leave the tank empty until this silicone has cured.
There you have it. You can now fill your tank and enjoy your hard work. In addition, you can grow mosses in the cracks between slates which can equally serve as hiding places for shrimps and small fish.
A big thank you to fennstones.co.uk for supplying the slate used in this installation. The quantity of slate used for my 300mm x 300mm background costs around £25 including delivery and around half this price if you wish to buy the same weight in non-filed and unwashed slate should you wish to do this yourselves.
The total estimated cost for this project is less than £30 per square foot.