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About Me

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  1. This will be an ongoing journal of my materials science knowledge related to aquariums. Questions welcome. Please alert me of any errors or new science that I am unaware of, I am always open to learning and updating my knowledge! My credentials: ~Certification of completion in Composites Materials Science from Lake Washington Technical College ~5+ years of experience in the fields of woodworking and composites fabrication ~63 credits of materials science and chemistry courses at various technical/higher education institutions ~9+ years of experience as a hobbyist fabricator Glass and silicone Glass and silicone are unique materials, and are oddly similar in chemical properties in spite of their very different physical properties. Both materials have a molecular structure known as a siloxane bond, made up of silica and oxygen. The most important thing to note about siloxane bonds is that they are very strong. Materials made with these bonds are resistant to chemical degradation, extreme temperatures, and even radiation. Because glass is so chemically resistant, it is very difficult to glue together with materials that do not share a similar molecular structure. This is why silicone is our go-to glue for aquariums. Even though Silicone is the most effective glue, it still is not perfect and degrades at a very fast rate in comparison to glass. This is because in order to maintain the flexible physical properties that silicone is known for, it contains organic (carbon atom) compounds that can change certain physical properties about it. The organic compounds found in silicone can alter its shore hardness (how firm the silicone is), its UV resistance, heat resistance, and whether or not it remains a liquid or cures into a solid. It should be noted that silicone that cures into a solid does so thorough a chemical reaction, and once it is cured it is very non-reactive. This type of polymer is called a "thermosetting" polymer. Polymers that can be melted into a reactive/liquid state again are called "thermoplastic" polymers. There are other factors that can be affected as well, however these are the most obvious and useful to us in this hobby. Because silicone degrades much faster than glass, is so chemically resistant, and is only in a reactive state when it is first applied, old silicone does not stick to new silicone. This is why when an aquarium needs to be re-sealed, you cannot just scrape the inside bead and put a new one down, you must take apart the entire tank and scrape off every tiny bit of old silicone and rebuild the whole thing with fresh, new silicone. Any old silicone that remains stuck to the glass will create a potential path for water to escape, and so will any material that prevents the silicone from adhering to the glass. It is advised to wear gloves and clean the glass panels thoroughly with alcohol, as even oils from your fingers can disrupt the silicone's adhesion to the glass. One of the most common myths I see about aquarium silicone is that chemicals and medications can seep into the silicone and then leech into the aquarium water later on down the road. This is untrue, silicone is incredibly resistant to chemical penetration due to the siloxane bonds. What can happen is silicone separating from the glass in certain places, and things getting stuck in those spots where it can't easily be cleaned. It is also likely that certain chemicals have leeched into the lid and upper frame of the aquarium, and evaporation/condensation washes those chemicals back into the water. Filtration equipment can also be made of more porous plastics, making chemical contamination a higher risk for those items. Plastics PVC Thermoplastic. Can be glued using several types of adhesives that include solvents. Generally safe for aquarium use. Can release chlorine gas if heated, heat bending requires proper ventilation, do not melt. ABS Thermoplastic. Can be glued using solvents. Generally safe for aquarium use. Heat bends very easily, but melting can release toxic fumes. Great 3D printing material for aquariums, but requires proper ventilation. Can be used for structural components as it does not break down as quickly as other 3D printing materials. Acrylic Thermoplastic. Can be glued with solvents and UV epoxy. Two kinds, extruded and cast. Cast acrylic is much stronger because the crystalline structure is allowed to form naturally. Cast acrylic is stronger, visually clearer, and more heat and chemically resistant. This means that extra care needs to be taken when gluing and polishing cast acrylic. Extruded acrylic is forced through a die, so it is more consistent in thickness, but it is structurally weaker and less visually clear when compared to cast acrylic. Popular choice for aquarium building due to high clarity and strength, but needs more structural support due to being less rigid than glass. Hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water over time. This can cause bowing, overall degradation, and weakens the crystalline structure over time. Does not make a good aquarium lid in spite of fantastic light transmission, due to the tendency to bow from hygroscopic absorption. Scratches easily, meaning it may need regular surface restoration to maintain clarity over time. Cleaning algae can be difficult Acrylic is susceptible to something called "crazing" which is a crackled appearance along the surface of the plastic. This happens when the crystalline structures of the plastic are broken down by chemical, heat, and/or UV exposure. Crazing cannot be repaired, so tanks with this type of damage are to be avoided at all costs. Crazing weakens the structural integrity of the plastic and makes it more brittle, a crazed area of acrylic can spontaneously burst under pressure, or crack if impacted the wrong way. Bonus: Acrylic paints All basic acrylic paints, including aerosols, will be aquarium safe once cured. Polycarbonate/lexan Thermoplastic. Very impact resistant and much higher chemical resistance compared to acrylic. Chemical resistance makes this plastic difficult to glue with solvent, or any other material. Not as visually clear as acrylic, but allows light to pass through just as well. PLA Thermoplastic. A popular choice for 3D printing, non toxic and very predictable. Made with plant-derived polymers, so this material breaks down faster when exposed to water. Parts made with PLA should not be structural, but filtration upgrades, decor, backgrounds, etc are fine. Can be glued with solvents. PETG Thermoplastic. Lesser-known 3D printing material. Aquarium safe and does not degrade as quickly as PLA, but is more affected by chemical, temperature, and oxidative stresses than ABS. Can be clear, makes excellent custom tubing. You can purchase "PC cooling tubing" and heat bend it to create your own intake and outflow for filtration. Polyester resin Thermoplastic. Not recommended for aquarium use unless sealed. Polyester resin is a thermoplastic that cures by quickly evaporating the solvent that melted it with a catalytic additive. This solvent can continue to leech from the plastic for a very long time. Not as UV resistant as other materials. Can be glued with solvents. UV cure resin Thermoset. Aquarium safe once cured. Great for gluing applications, but degrades over time with exposure to UV. Cannot be glued with solvents. Two part epoxy resin/putty Thermoset. Comes in a variety of colors, clarities, and hardnesses. Aquarium safe unless it contains additives are not aquarium safe. Some epoxy putties are impregnated with metallic compounds to increase weight and strength, these should not be used in aquariums. Some can be applied and cured under water without harming aquatic life. Cannot be glued with solvents. Polyethylene Thermoplastic. Extremely chemically resistant, so this material cannot be glued with solvents. Used to create fittings and other various aquarium components that need high strength and high chemical resistance. This type of plastic is used frequently to make power head and filter impeller blades. Can be heat formed, but only with proper ventilation as melting this plastic will create toxic fumes. Can only be heat-welded using special equipment. Styrene/polystyrene Thermoplastic. Brittle, degrades quickly, very cheap. This type of plastic is what foam packing peanuts and foam padding is made of. Can be clear, but does not have good visual clarity. Can be glued with solvents. Produces toxic fumes when melted, not recommended for heat forming. Concrete/cement Cement is the powdered stuff used to make concrete. These two materials are often conflated, but this is similar to conflating flour and cake. Cement is a mixture of Lime, silica, alumina, magnesia, sulfur trioxide, iron oxide, and calcium sulfide. Cement can be mixed with a number of different aggregates to achieve different textures, strengths, and appearances. The typical concrete mix is made up of roughly 10% cement, 20% air and water, 30% sand, and 40% gravel. This is known as the 10-20-30-40 rule. Concrete will harden water and raise pH, as it contains lime. Coating concrete with a surface treatment will prevent this. Drylok masonry paint is a popular choice, but acrylic paint, pond sealant, and liquid flex seal are also great options. Foam There are two types of foam, open-cell, and closed-cell. Open cell foam is the foam that allows water and air to pass through it. Closed-cell foam is impermeable and is commonly used in gap filling, waterproofing, and insulation. Almost all foam that does not degrade in water is safe for aquariums. Great Stuff foam is commonly used for 3D aquarium backgrounds as it is a cheaper alternative to the Pond and Stone variety, but is nearly the same material. General purpose urethane foams must be used with caution, however most are stable and safe when cured. Latex foams are not recommended, see section on latex below. Other stone/rock products Most stone and rock is safe for aquariums unless there is a high metallic content. Rocks containing lime will raise pH, KH, and GH, but are not toxic. Quartz-based rocks are mostly safe, especially clear crystalline quartz. The vinegar test is a great way to tell if a rock may contain lime. To perform the vinegar test, drip some vinegar in one spot on a rock you wish to test. If you notice any fizzing, or any sort of reaction, the rock contains calcium carbonate and will affect the water chemistry of the aquarium. Crystals and stones that are known to be toxic to aquatic life include, but are not limited to: Malachite Azurite Chalcopyrite Lapis Lazuli Turquoise Chrysocolla Lepidolite Actinolite Amazonite Angelite Garnet Hematite Labradorite Lodestone Pyrite Serpentine Tiger's Eye Unakit Cinnebar Chalcanthite Stibnite Torbernite Latex, urethane, and other rubbers Latex Latex is a natural rubber, derived from the rubber tree. It is one of the few rubbers that is 100% biodegradeable. Due to its high biodegradability, latex is not recommended for use in aquariums. The breakdown of this rubber can cause algae outbreaks. Urethane Urethane rubbers are typically used in tires, they are high strength, however they tend to oxidize and degrade quite quickly. Because of how quickly they degrade and how chemically reactive their makeup is, urethane rubbers are not considered aquarium safe. Vinyl rubbers Most vinyls are inert once formed/cured, and are safe for aquariums. Lots of airline tubing is made out of vinyl. Wood Most non-aromatic hardwoods are aquarium safe when fully dry. Aromatic hardwoods may still be used if they are properly seasoned and all aromatics/resins are oxidized/degraded. This process can take many years. To be the most safe, avoid coniferous/aromatic species as these can sometimes take much longer to cure fully and aromatics can be toxic in an enclosed ecosystem. Conifers like pine will leak resins long after being dried, which makes them absolutely unusable in an aquarium. Woods that cannot be used in aquariums are those that are too soft and which rot too quickly, causing a decomposition overload that the closed ecosystem of an aquarium. You can "cure" collected driftwood by leaving it in the sun on dry days when the outdoor humidity is less than 60%. Most Aquarium driftwood is kiln-dried, but the outdoor sun will work just as well. It is possible to build a solar kiln to dry driftwood, however there is a fire risk to be aware of and size/cost limitations may make this unreasonable. Examples of hard woods that are known to be safe include, but are not limited to: Mopani Azalea Ash Apple Cherry Basswood Beech Cholla Elm Oak Hawthorne Madrone Malaysian Manzanita Mesquite Pear Rosewood (Dalbergia spp) Birch Sycamore Alder Bogwood Examples of woods that are not recommended for aquariums include, but are not limited to: Grape vine Horse Chestnut Yew Walnut Pine Spruce Ivy Lilac Cypress Willow I know I have forgotten some things on this list, and if you have suggestions please let me know and I will add them as long as I'm confident in my knowledge of the material. Fin
  2. My custom built "43 breeder" puffer tank 1.0 is now installed after I picked it up from an excellent custom acrylic sump builder near denver Colorado. I'd say that is aquarium related and will not name the builder here based off forum rules. I am sharing that more because that was surprisingly difficult to find a builder and I would have spent around 25% more buying materials and proper equipment to get my result below the level he did. This is what I sent him to start I subsequently shortened it to 12" tall because I did not need that extra volume or weight for my very specific use of this Here is the empty tank as soon as I brought it to the fishroom. This is pretty much exactly what my brain dreamed up with improvements we decided on during the build. The dividers allow for a filter and cave in each section. With either a 9.31"x23"x12", 18.62"x23"x12", 27.93"x23"x12", or a 37.25"x23"x12" chamber based off of how I use or leave out the dividers Black acrylic sides. bottom, back, and top clear acrylic front Top insertable dividers are reversible : holes up so flow between chambers can be limited, holes down to allow for flow the length of the bottom. Center divider reversed to show the holes blocked by the topsupport I am using 4 sections of 1/4" double wall polycarbonate for the top and eventually the coop lights for the illumination. Currently I have a fluval aquasky on 15% power for the tank. The led shop lights initially used were a bit to bright for the puffers in this set up. The trial and error phase of puffer tank testers I put a couple 1 year old palustris in to test out the tank. I quickly found thst the new and smooth black acrylic is not enjoyable to them due to the reflection in the bottom panel. I expect a bit of surface algae growth will mitigate that eventually. Those trails in the base are a puffer chin surfing it Fast forward 15 minutes to a 1/8" layer of pool filter sand and colors revert to calm and exploring began The current draft set up. Note the larger clay pot cave fits between the two dividers to allow me to breed bigger cave spawners like hairy puffers pao baileyi and seperate as needed. Two 100 watt coop heaters one back left and one back right . My plan for the filtration is currently the sicce since it has magnets to mount internal to each chamber and adjustible flow but the old school box filter with polyfil and crushed coral is tough to improve on Added two more F1 palustris to the group today bringing my total to 4. This pattern was too nice to not share here. It's not spawning pattern or normal coloration so it may just be a high alert display. They are about as amazing a fish as I've ever had the pleasure to learn from. This photo and the one below it may be the same individual but demonstrate some of the variations in color and patter the palustris shows even when not spawning. My options are 1. To breed my 3 adult wild caught pao cf palustris in this tank longer term 2. To grow this batch of F1 palustris and divide them into pairs trios etc as needed with the dividers 3. To move my adult hairy puffers into here and try and get spawning in the center large cave 4. To work on spotted congos (if I get a pair) in one section and palustris in the other section I'm not sure which I prefer to work on in this tank first and in which layout. I've giving myself a few options with this build and now I'm conflicted where to start. Anyone have any suggestions of species in which layout to breed first?
  3. I've been trying to contact the same company that did Murphy's tank, but the email bounces back, and the phone number is "currently not in service." What I emailed that company is below. Please see if you can think of a solution to my problem. (Google isn't finding me an appropriate company in my area.) "I have a unique circumstance. My child has special needs, and part of that is a compulsion to slam her head into hard surfaces. My aquariums are glass, and all out of reach. My fish are my sanity-saver, but have to be kept where I can rarely see them, and my daughter can never see them. I would benefit greatly from having a safe tank located where I and she both can see it. I'm thinking 20 gallons, but even 5 gallons would be worth the effort. It would need to be strong enough that it could take what amounts to a bowling ball being slammed into its sides and top, dozens of times over the years. For the number of gallons, it would be ridiculously thick acrylic."
  4. I am looking and buy a acrylic 300 gallon aquarium but don’t know where to go to buy all my local fish stores don’t go that high and there are a lot of online choices looking for advice on this where would you buy and why thank you so much for you time and advice
  5. Just wanted to share my hand made aquarium stand. Made it myself in about 2 hours starting from rough lumber, then milling the pieces, onto assembling, and finally finishing it including sanding and painting the plywood top, as well as sanding and poly coated the entire build. I work in a woodshop and did this on my break over a couple of days. I made this specifically for viewing while laying/sitting on the floor 🙂 nothing special but it is made from dark walnut
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