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Building Glass Tank from Scratch


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I plan to build this custom tank from scratch.













Don't want to use acrylic because it scratches way too easy (I ruined my current office tank w/ crappy generic paper towel).

1. What size hole should I get the output drilled for a small return pump?

2. I need a weight that is easily moveable from home to office. 30lbs or less?

3. How long could coral last out of water? (In case I need to partially drain and take it home)

4. Good reference on How to silicone a tank together?


Proposed Specs:

LED lighting for primary lighting

9W PC for fuge

custom wood hood w/ one fan and glass cover for LEDs

Room for current USA fission skimmer in future

Custom Fuge as filter

one to be decided power head in display

Greatstuff Foam backwall


corals: xenia mostly, some zoos, shrooms, green star polyps all over the foam backwall

life: goby (really want a clown again) :angry: sexy shrimp, nass, astrea, scarlet crab


my local glass company said to plan about $5/side and about $5 to drill it from 1/4" hole to 1 1/2" hole. The overflow has to have that curve instead of a straight line because he said the corner would cause a weakpoint in the glass.


LED lighting topic

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1.) you wont need a big hole , mabye if you went with a hydor pico pump....But you couldnt pipe in pvc , so .................

2.)probally not goin to happen . its heavier then you think , and it would be a big risk especally because youre buildin it

3.) wouldnt even risk it..

4.)no idea

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Cost estimate for my custom cut glass was $49.93, it'll be ready in 1-2 days.

3/16" thick glass and 1/4" thick base.


I'm going w/ a 3/4" hole and plan to silicone in a 1/2" PVC piece. I'll buy a pump and fittings later.


Going to stop by home depot tonite for non-toxic 100% silicone and pick up my glass in a few days.


I will post photos when ready.

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can't wait to see the finished product and better yet a step by step. when siliconing the tank just make sure that the glass are set on a flat surface and the glass meet at a perfect 90 degree angles. you also want to apply tape to the outer edges of the area you are siiconing. remove the tape before the silicone dries and you end up with perfect edges. google up diy aquariums.


you got guts building a AGA. i would have just bought a bigger tank and then added the fuge area to it.

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Ok, I finished siliconing my tank together. I haven't insterted the baffles and divider yet (mainly because the glass company cut my center divider upside down, but did do the overflow cut and 3/4" hole correctly)


I started by placing two strips of duct tape face up on the bottom panel on each side. I then put a small strip of silicone on the top edge of the bottom panel and set my front piece ON TOP of the panel. I then did the same for the sides all the while duct taping up the pieces to hold them at perfect 90 degree angles. It fit together pretty flush. I finished up by putting a thick bead of silicone down each seem on the inside of the tank and smoothed it w/ my thumb. I inspected my work and don't see any obvious gaps after some slight fill-ins. Tomorrow I plan to insert the baffles after getting the divider re-cut. I plan to water test either thursday or friday. I will be ordering my LEDs etc this week.


final dimensions 12"Lx12"Wx10"T


newspaper taped on top to keep cats from lying in it!



no anti-mildew in this silicone. apparently reef safe according to reefcentral.



this is what I will be using for a background, I will shape it on a pre-cut piece of acrylic and then silicone it to the backwall.

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Well all of my electronics/LEDs are ordered. More to come.


Here is the glass complete construction. Just like my diagram. It is quite heavy though. The main display ends up being about 2.9 gallons when filled. The sump will add about 1.8 gallons, so about 4.7 gallons of water can actually fill the aquarium total.


Water test will happen tomorrow. Foam background either tomorrow or this weekend depending on my acrylic sheet situation. The lid will be likely one or two weeks from today. I will post ALL construction until I have coral thriving!





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props to you DIYing the tank. looks good, silicone beads could use a little work, but its not a big deal. for future reference i usually take a wooden dowel and slide it up the side at an angle to give it a nice uniform finish. what matters most is that it works though. good job.

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Water test today. I picked up the rest of my materials from Lowes (where great value begins). I'll probably cut my acrylic sheet, coat it w/ great stuff and paint it this weekend. And I'll do my lid onn sunday.


What do you think about running PCV pipe from the output hole down the wall, buring it in the sand and having it blow UP from the sand? or splitting it w/ a T at the output to divide the output between straight out and one from under the sand?


I'm so confident my tank wont leak that I'm taking no action to protect my roomate's countertop.


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Looks good......When I was in the USAF, I worked in the sturctural repairs shop, and we got a lot of practice applying fillets etc to joints on aircraft. Even with years of experience sometimes you could get a nice fillet joint in the corners other times it looked like a blind man did it........What we usually did, was to apply strips of masking tape paralell to the fillet area, so that the tape provided a perfectly straigt guide on both sides, and also proovided just a bit of height, instead of a knife edged edge seal. The little extra height (thickness of tape) made that fillet edge a lot stronger and less likely to fray or peel off. We would run a bead of sealant down the joint, then moisten our finger with vinegar or readily available spit, and just rinning yur slicked up finger back and forth in that corner joint produced beautiful slightly concave fillets and the masking tape provided nice straight edges of uniform thickness. Once silicone was setup, a razor blade will follow the edge of that tape very nicely if you take your time, and then pull off tape, or often the tape can simply be pulled off at a right angle to the joint and it separates from the fillet itself just nicely if its fully cured.


I sort of lean to the gray or black silicone instead of the clear for making tanks anymore, and lots of companies do this such as AGA on some of their larger tanks. It aides in keeping any algae that may happen to get under a seal from showing and it makes algae growth on that clear silicone less visible and unsightly.....and if its apoied with a masking tape guide it looks good.

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I plan to use the base and hood, No I don't plan to build a frame, the center brace should help keep its form maybe. No leaks at 48 hours. Today I finished the hood, base, auto top off bracket and part of the background.


here is the unstained hood and base, made from a sheet of pine.



here is the hood/base stained, varnish to go on tomorrow, I plan to leave the inside unfinished w/ no protectant



here is the greatstuff foam background while drying. It expanded more then anticipated, it is nearly 2" thick which only will leave me w/ 4.5" of width for rockwork/coral :angry:



we are using a heatshrink gun to melt a piece of acrylic and form a 90 degree bracket.



this is the completed bracket w/ my existing float switch attached. This will be siliconed into the sump at the desired level and will power a air pump that will pressurize a container of either ro/di water or kalkwater. (undecided)



Tomorrow plans are to varnish hood/base, and spray paint my background purple, cut and silicone it in.

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I find it surprising that silicone can hold that much weight. Are you going to build a frame for it, or just use that with a lid?


Don't underestimate the strength / adhesion properties of silicone. The plastic frames on aquariums adds no structural integrity, its there as trim and a means to finish the edges and give a place to lay in a glass cover etc.........nothing else.

If the glass thickness is sufficient for size tank it will not bow sufficiently under water pressure to affect the silicone seals one bit. About the only tanks with platic trim that adds some structural integrity is the larger ones with the center braces and thats only to help with glass bowing not the silicone sealing and adhereing ability

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Getting ready to go spray paint my background and trim it up. I tried doing some sample drilling of my 1/8" acrylic sheet to prepare for the LED array and it chips WAY too easy. I'm thinking of trying out a piece of plexiglass or maybe using a drill press at my parents instead. I really have no problems until you get too close to an edge or another hole, then it either cracks or chips the piece.

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I had similar issues. The drill press will help as you can use a lighter pressure and still maintain control. If you press too hard, the tip of the drill bit digs in and grabs a chunk of acrylic - instant chip. If you take it slow, it shaves the acrylic out of the hole. A sharp drill bit and a fast RPM will also help. You don't have to use ridiculously light pressure like when drilling glass, but you can't power through it like it's wood.

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I had similar issues. The drill press will help as you can use a lighter pressure and still maintain control. If you press too hard, the tip of the drill bit digs in and grabs a chunk of acrylic - instant chip. If you take it slow, it shaves the acrylic out of the hole. A sharp drill bit and a fast RPM will also help. You don't have to use ridiculously light pressure like when drilling glass, but you can't power through it like it's wood.



Reducing the drill bits angle to less than a 90 deg or 118 deg point will help a lot in reducing cracking, as will having the plexi on a piece of wood so the bottom edge of the hole is supported fully when being drilled. Typical drill bits used for driling metal have to much rake and the bits angle is too agressive to make nice clean holes, so the backer of wood or some other material under it along with light pressure as well as a clamp as close to the hole as possible will reduce the chance of the bit pulling up the plexi and making it crack or chip out.....yea a real pain unless you regrind a drill bit, but clamping and a backer board are pretty good at solving your drilling problems. Just as soon as a regular drill bits point breaks through the other side it has a tendency to sort of spiral through instead of cut through, and thats what makes it chip and split....clamping it firmly down eliminates it being able to lift up into the drill bit. A spray bottle with water also helps if the plexi is thick....

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you could also use a dremel, a little less accurate, but faster RPMs. i have had the same problems drilling plaxiglass....can't tell you how many projects ive ruined from chipping, cracking, or all out smahing with the drill. otherwise, it looks like you are moving right along. props for bedning the acrylic, its so easy and possibly the most useful DIY material in the hobby. keep up the good work!

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I'll be working w/ the drill press tonite w/ acrylic. My DIY foam background looks good I think. It's painted purple and siliconed into my display now. The paint made the foam curl about 1/2" up on each end, Bending the acrylic background. I siliconed it into the tank despite this and plan to shoot some great stuff directly into the exposed areas to prevent detrius buildup behind those curled edges... hopefully this wont get behind there and push w/ enough force to rip it off the glass... we shall see. I can not wait for my LEDs to get here so I can run some tests on them. Pix on tuesday or wednesday.

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used the drill press tonite, worked like a charm on the slowest setting. Lid/base is done and drying. LED holder is cut. Background is done, but edges are not painted. Pretty much ready to pick up live rock and start cycling.


PIX tomorrow around 6pm!

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I finished my hood, base, background, glass tank, autotopoff bracket/switch and led holder so far. Next phases are picking up LR/LS to start the cycle. plan on throwing in a piece of raw shrimp and letting the tank go for 3 wks or so while i wire up the LEDs and finish my planning stages.


thinking of all GSP, xenia and a few zoos. maybe a goby ??? in addition to a cleanup crew. later of course.




display only




inside hood


view of sump behind foam wall


completed base for LEDs to be wired into: 10mm X 96, 30 some 5mm moonlight/actinic



I will update you in the coming weeks as to my LED primary lighting portion of the project. The fuge lighting method will likely be 65ooK 13W PC... we shall see.

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rustoleum or seymour from homedepot i believe. it did shrink the foam a bit but i believe all spraypaints are reef safe. i hope.

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