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Building Aquarium from Scratch


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Hi all! I've got a little 12 gallon long tank (35" L x 8" W x 10" H) but it's getting crowded and is limiting my ability to decorate. I'm getting the itch to upgrade. I want something with a lot more bottom space but a 20 gallon long and 30 gallon long tank are limited to 35" in length. I realize the depth adds a lot of space but I want a longer tank, especially for where it will sit in my home. So I've decided to make my own tank from scratch. I've done the research, watched the videos, and am confident I can make the tank. I'm hoping someone who has experience building their own tank sees this and can verify I'm on the right path. So here's my goal:

40"W x 12"D x 12"H
This gives me just under 25 gallons.
Some of my biggest concerns I'm hoping someone can help me with are as follows:

1. I've run the calculations for glass width, and using a safety factor of 3.8, the calculator gives me the width of .1969". So I would use a 1/4" width glass? Should I spring the extra money and use a 3/8" glass just for the added strength/caution?
2. Do I put the side glass panes ON TOP of the bottom pane or TO THE SIDES (sandwiching the bottom) of the bottom pane?
3. What else might I be missing? I know to calculate measurements between glass panes and width. I know to get low-iron glass if I can find/afford it. I know to let the silicone cure for 2 days then test the tank for two days filled with water before using it with fish. Anything else anybody can provide would be appreciated. Thank you!



Edited by manamanaak
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Deeper front to back is MUCH easier to aquascape.  If making your own, I would for sure do low iron glass.  Well worth it.  Thicker glass is much better when you get longer.  That said, I suspect (but do NOT KNOW) that 1/4” would be thick enough with such a low tank.  Check the thickness on some frag and low boy tanks and see what they use.  I’m pretty sure side panels go on top of the bottom panel, but someone will chime in that actually knows.  Some of the fanciest rimless tanks use beveled corners for more surface area for adhesion and for viewing.

Are you sure you’re comfortable finishing the free edges on such long panes of glass?  The upper free edge especially will show every single wiggle and wobble.  It takes more to sand down edges than you might think, and to sand them down and get perfectly flat edges, well, . . . . . . .  Even the corners will show everything.  Plus the edges will be cloudy unless you polish them (with grit or heat).

Mostly just food for thought.  There are some longer “bookshelf” tanks, but longer than 36” is rare and expensive.  You can also have people build you a custom tank and they should be experienced at it and know exactly how to do it right.

Found a link to a chart of common tanks.  Check out the 23 long and the 33 long.  These bookend the length you want at 36” and 48” but are close otherwise.


Edited by Odd Duck
Add link to a chart of common tanks.
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With custom tanks I prefer using acrylic. It looks better and if you have a place like tap plastics they will do everything for you apart from glue the tank together. 


As others have stated finding dimensions in glass aquariums for the most part is pretty easy especially for those who want low slung tanks for frags. I too wanted a tank that didn't fit the mold so to speak because I cannot find a 90 gallon peninsula style tank for under $1500. I can build it from scratch for $500 including a built in planter for mangrove trees. I digress. I want to echo @Odd Duck's thoughts as well. Making a good looking glass tank from scratch takes more fine tuning. Not that it can't be done. If you haven't already Serpa design makes practically all of his tanks from scratch and is a wealth of information.

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