How to Make a Reptile Background With Grout

If you are a reptile enthusiast, you probably would like to provide a natural-looking habitat for your pet. Although you can buy plastic or resin backgrounds for your reptile tank, commercial ones can be expensive, and you may not be able to find exactly the look you want or the size you need. You can construct your own custom background for your reptile habitat out of craft materials and tile grout from a craft store or home improvement center.

Man with pet iguana
credit: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
Make your own background for a reptile cage.

Step 1

Sculpt the base for your background out of polystyrene blocks and sheets. Reptiles like to hide, so make deep pockets and holes for them to lie in. Layer polystyrene pieces of different widths and thicknesses together to create a rock-like terrain. Build it up to the height and width of your reptile habitat so it covers the entire background. Shave off the sharp corners and edges of the polystyrene pieces with a knife to create a natural rock shelf appearance. You also may elect elect to make a theme background, such as ancient ruins.

Step 2

Glue the polystyrene pieces together using industrial adhesive, such as the glue used for wood paneling installation. Let the glue dry.

Step 3

Mix water with dry grout mix in a plastic bowl or bucket to a thin syrup consistency. You can use sanded or non-sanded grout. Tint the grout with a small amount of acrylic craft paint so it is a different color than the polystyrene.

Step 4

Paint the thin grout mixture onto the polystyrene with a large paintbrush to coat the entire surface. Coat all the cracks and inner surfaces of the hiding places. Because you tinted the grout, you can tell if you have covered the whole thing. Coat all the surfaces, even the sides, bottom and back. Let the grout dry and cover the whole thing with another coat of thin grout mix without color. Let this coat dry. Mix a third coat of thin grout mix with some color and apply another layer of grout to the sculpture. Let it dry.

Step 5

Mix a batch of thick grout, adding only enough water to make it the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Spoon dabs of this grout in any areas on the background that you want to build up or close, such as seams. Let the grout dry. Sand any sharp edges of grout with fine-grit sandpaper.

Step 6

Paint the background with acrylic craft paint in any way you like. Use spray paint or a paint brush. Paint rocks gray and brown, then and add green, mossy areas. If you have a theme, paint it according to your theme. Build up layers of paint and let each layer dry before applying the next. Let the paint dry completely.

Step 7

Spray all the surfaces of the background with a non-toxic acrylic sealer. Coat it well and get all the nooks and crannies. It is important that you seal it thoroughly because of the damp nature of a reptile cage and the fact that you do not want your pet scratching into an unsealed surface. Apply four coats in all, waiting until the previous coat has dried completely before applying the next one. When the final coat is dry, your background is ready to install.

Karren Doll Tolliver

Karren Doll Tolliver holds a Bachelor of English from Mississippi University for Women and a CELTA teaching certificate from Akcent Language School in Prague. Also a photographer, she records adventures by camera, combining photos with journals in her blogs. Her latest book, "A Travel for Taste: Germany," was published in 2015.