Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DYI Terrarium background

Antonio is such a special and wonderful son.  We all love him dearly and cater to him a bit, his needs, wants and desires.  He is just so precious and caring to us all and he rarely asks for anything.  So when he does, we try to make it happen for him.  Also...as our children are given money for holidays and birthdays, they choose something they really, really want and save for it.  But Antonio is so limited in what he can do or spend his money on, that when he chooses an animal, we also try to make it happen for him.  He does a lot of sitting.  He loves to sit and watch his animals, especially reptiles. (but not snakes he is quick to say!)
So when he asked for a lizard, to spend his birthday/holiday money on, I started to do some research.  Yes, I am the one to care for his animals so my search was for the easiest to care for lizard out there.  Time and time again leopard geckos kept coming up.  So I told him if he wanted a lizard how about a leopard gecko as I could easily care for it and they were interesting and came in very nice colors.  He got very excited about it and so, as a project together, we have spent hours on line researching and watching videos about leopard geckos.  We have been slowly buying all the things to set up a very nice gecko cage.  It has been slow going, as part of the fun in getting the pet is the preparation and learning.  He has bought what was needed as we learned about it all.

He then got very excited about the nice backgrounds available that people were making.  So since I am a project person, I told him I would do the background for him as he watched.  He has enjoyed it all very much.  I will show you what we have done.  I must put a disclaimer here as anything you build for any pet, do research and use all pet safe, tried and true methods so as not to kill your animal.  In other words, if you are making this for a reptile terrarium, make it at your own risk.

First, I went to Home Depot and bought these square insulation boards.

Then I cut a piece to fit the back of his tank.  I cut it about a half an inch shorter top and sides, because I knew I was going to use tile for the flooring and that would raise it up some.  The large sheets were a lot more expensive than these small squares.  I did not want to pay the price of the huge sheets of board and these were a bit short for his tank so I did glue two pieces together to make it long enough, so there is a seam in our background.  Antonio and I am sure the gecko will not care.  I was trying to save money and do this as inexpensively as possible.

Then I cut two pieces (the same shape) in the basic shape I wanted (like a rock) and glued them on top of each other with Lock-tite and let them dry/cure for 24 hours.  I made four of these.

Once the three rock pieces were dry I took a very sharp utility knife and started to carve them into rocks.
Just very carefully start carving off little slivers till you have the shape that looks like a rock.  It does not have to look perfect as rocks are well...rocks.

Once I had the rocks shaped, I took the background and just randomly cut the front edge all the way around to make it beveled.

I wanted the rocks to be placed on the background so that the lizard could climb up from one to another like stairs.  So I started gluing them on in order from the bottom in the pattern I wanted.  William made me little lego scaffolding the right height to hold the rocks on the background straight till they dried/cured.
You can see in the above picture the beveled edge on the background itself.  I also made a freestanding rock and carved a little cave inside for under the right side in the space at the bottom as leopard geckos like to hide.

I understand there is many ways to go forward from here.  Some people texturize the whole thing with a hot torch or heat gun.  Some people use several thin layers of watered down grout to make it almost rock like.  Doing that fills in any faults and cracks.  I went with the spray paint approach.  According to those who have done this before as long as you use water clean up/based spray paint you are ok.  So I then took Rust-o-leum home accents "stone" paint and spray painted each piece with several coats.  Then went over the whole thing with a thick layer of water based polycrylic.  (again use at your own risk)  Some people sprinkled sand onto the last coat of polycrylic for texture and to take some of the shine off it.  But I figure the shinier, the easier to clean.
So here it is all done with the tile down and the background curing for a week or so.

Antonio is very excited and has really enjoyed this project.  I have enjoyed spending the quality time with him working on this for him, with him supervising, telling me suggestions and asking questions.  We have learned a lot.

May everyone be settling into a good routine after the holidays and enjoying this brand new year.

Hebrews 6:10  For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.






  1. oooo exciting! Cant wait to see the little gecko in its domain.

    1. Yes, he is soooo excited. It wont be long now! Me....To be honest...these geckos only eat insects like meal worms and crickets. I just had Tim by me a huge 10 inch long tweezer like things to pick up the insects with to feed the little critter. :) I am sure I will get used to working with the insects soon and wont need them. Oh the things I do for my children. Blessings!

  2. Wow!! That's great! I admire your skills at making things! From bunk beds to lizard rocks! :)

  3. Thank you Nicole, you are most kind! Gods blessings be upon you!