Aquarium Terrarium

This terrarium is made from a small glass aquarium with a foam and concrete background. I've made aquarium backgrounds in the past using a similar technique and thought it would suit a terrarium to give it a realistic look while being durable and waterproof.

The background is constructed by sticking styrofoam pieces together with silicone, shaping them and lathering the whole thing in layers of concrete. Have a gander at the clip below for some footage of the build process.

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This technique is usually used to make aquarium backgrounds however the concrete texture provides a nice rocky appearance and won't be bothered when the plants are watered.

Basic Shape

I started by cutting a piece of thin foam matching the dimensions of the back the aquarium. After going through some assorted pieces, I found a piece of shipping foam where the ends had a 'temple entrance' feel to them. An electric bread knife works well for cutting thick foam pieces.

Rock Pieces

The rocks are made by cutting sections of foam fitting the rock area and drawing free flowing rock patterns. They're cut out and attached in the same formation they were drawn. 

Ready for Shaping

It's shaped using a small wire brush and mini heat gun (a lighter would also work just fine). The wire brush adds rough edges and heat smooths them. Keeping the shapes and textures varied makes for a natural appearance. 

Rocks Shaped

Once I was happy with the shape. Several coats of thick cement were added to provide a base and rigidity. Keeping the mix fairly course provides a rough rock-like base.

Several Coats'o'Concrete

It's time to add some colour. I've just used standard concrete oxide colouring however it does take a little adjustment getting the colour right.

When dry it will be a much lighter shade than it was during application, I used a hair dryer to rush the process a little and skip to the final colour.

Now in Colour!

Oxide colourings come in various earthy tones therefore you've got all the ingredients for a rocky and natural looking background. To make the rocks, I started with a base coat of dark brown then worked to a lighter shade towards the higher points of the rock. Using dry brushing makes for a more realistic appearance.

Detail Added

A staggered brick texture is etched into the surface with a small screwdriver to complete the temple entrance.


The background is then stuck to the aquarium with silicone. Weighing things down is the only legitimate use I have for phone books these days.

Rear Covered

Some black contact film on the rear looks a bit better than foam and silicone.

Background Installed

I wanted the soil to sit on more than a single level so I made a little rock wall. It's simply river stones stuck together with silicone and given the same cement treatment.

Rock Wall

As there's no drainage holes, a layer of rock is put down before the soil. I took a wander around the garden and nicked a few plants. I transplanted some syngonium, baby's tears and a cutting of crown of thorns.

I also added a carnivorous pitcher plant I purchased from my local hardware store and some assorted stones completes the whole display. It keeps ticking over with a light water every few days and a nice sunny location. Eventually I would like to make a grow light so it doesn't have to be situated near a window but all in good time.