So I thought I’d experiment with building my own tank. See what all the fuss is about and how hard it is. I went around the interwebs reading different articles and talking to others on ukaps who had built their own tanks from scratch and after a few weeks I finally thought I was ready to attempt it.
I made plans for a 2 foot x 1 foot x 1 foot tank (or 60x30x30cm) Nice and common size and easy to pick up condensation trays for it as one of the things I wanted to achieve was a rimless + braceless tank which would be ideally suited for a planted aquarium not just as a fish tank etc.
Using 4mm thick float glass I planned the glass cuts I’d need from my local glass place. The first 3 pieces are simple, 3 identical pieces at 60cm x 30cm for the front, back and base. Now at this point I should note that some places on the interwebs say to cut the base shorter and have the end plates biger so the end plates overlap the base. While this works its not pretty and I suspect not as strong as having a full length base and the end plates mounted ontop of the base. Basically everything fits ontop of the base.
So if you have a 30cm deep sheet of glass and you stand 2x 4mm sheets of glass ontop of it the new depth of the glass is 29.2cm. Because the end plates sit ontop of the base the overall height of the end plates is 30cm – 4mm so 29.6cm.
This means that the 2 end pieces needed to be 29.2cm x 29.6cm. It was at this point my glass cutters screwed up and did my 2 end pieces at 29.2 square 🙁 Thankfully this isn’t a total loss as its simply resulted in an end plate based lip now that fits a piece of perspex as a condensation tray perfectly still without needing any rims or braces!
Anyway so with my freshly cut glass in had I had a little prep work to do before I could stick the thing together. The glass needed the edges smoothing so as not to slice myself or the silicone open and it all needed a good clean to get greasy finger prints off it to allow the silicone to get a good seal. Its worth pointing out at this stage that using 100% pure silicone with no anti fungal or stain chemicals etc in it is a good idea if you intend to use the tank for livestock. If you’re buiding something like a shallow tank for a wabi kusa or something then this doesn’t matter as the chemicals shouldn’t effect the plants but for fish and shrimp etc its important. I used Everbuild Aquamate Transparent though the choice is upto you.
Edge smoothing was done using a medium wet and dry (wet obviously) wraped around a block of wood to achieve nice smooth edges without loosing the level as the edges needed to meet up smoothly against other straight edges so its important not to over sand or break the straight edge.
Cleaning up grease and glass dust was done using kitchen roll and methalated spirits its great stuff removes all crap and evaporates off quickly to leave the surface clean and clear ready for bonding.
The next step is the actual build and this bit is very much a start and don’t stop until you’re done thing its fast and you have about 3 minutes before the silicone starts to cure so you have to get the entire thing assembled in that time.
Prepare your build by laying out all your pieces and getting some duck tape lined up because my tank is fairly small I had 2 strips along the from and back of the bottom and one at each end. Half under the base and half hanging free as this will be wrapped around onto the front and back and end panels to keep them in place. I also had 4 other spare strips at hand to hold the front to end panel corners in place too. This picture may help this part make more sense.
With the tape ready and in place its time to silicone. Now the everbuild stuff I used comes with quite a fine tip on the tube so didn’t need cutting back. Just remember depending on the thickness of the glass you use the larger the tip you’ll need.
The trick here is to apply the silicone without stopping on each pane. If you stop and restart you run the risk of having blobs of too much silicone or even worse thin parts with air bubbles in the seal! When I did this I applied silicone to the entire base all in one and 2 vertical short edges on the front and back panels. These were quickly lifted into place and pushed firmly but lightly down into the silicone on the base. Too hard and you risk cracking your base or having too thin a seal. Don’t worry about any silicone that squirts out of the cracks you’ll be cleaning that up later with a stanley or razor blade.
With the backpanel in place quickly apply the 2 end pieces and then finally push the front panel into place carefully ensuring that the front and back panels are aligned with the edges of the base will ensure that the end panels fit squarely and accurately into the end. Quickly wrap the duck tape around your corners to hold the thing all together and walk away for at least 24 hours for the silicone to cure.
After the silicone has cured take your stanley blade or razor blade and with it flush against the glass at a 45 degree angle (or as close as)scrape off the excess silicone from the inside and outside of the tank. Fill with water and check for leaks. Now some people like to run an additional bead of silicone along the inside joints and if you choose to do this you can do it using your finger with abit of spit on it to smooth it out and push it into the corner I choose not to do it as I prefer the no silicone look but if you want adding on the inside can help seal any leaks and add an additional layer of protection / strength to the joints.
If you’re in the south yorkshire area of the UK and want to build your own but are unsure get in touch I’m happy to come help you build your own if I have the time available or I may even build one for you if you want an odd sized tank but don’t think you can handle it yourself.