How to Make Aquariums

Make Aquariums at home
Make Aquariums at home (Image: moorthygounder, Creative Commons License)

Making your own aquarium is a fun activity that provides a great sense of accomplishment. It also allows you to make aquariums that are a custom size, or even specially shaped to have a custom fit into a particular area or feature of your home. Best of all, it is easier than you can imagine to make aquariums. All you need is a few basic items and a couple of hours of free time. Read on to learn how to make your own aquariums at home.

Things You'll Need

  • 5 Pieces of Glass (Bottom, Front, Back, Left, Right)
  • Acetone
  • Paper Towels
  • Non-Toxic Silicon Sealant
  • Washable Felt Marker
  • Duct Tape
  • Scissors
  • Silicon Carbide Sandpaper

Order your five pieces of glass from the glass cutter. You will need one piece each for the bottom of the aquarium, the front side, back side, the left side and the right side. The size and thickness of the glass really depends on how large you want your aquarium to be. Thickness is key because if the glass is too thin it can leak or even break under the water pressure. Consult the thickness calculator in the resources section below to make sure the glass you order is an appropriate thickness.

When your glass arrives, the edges will be rough cut. Use your silicon carbide sandpaper to smooth the edges down. Pay particular attention to how sharp the edges are, as you do not want yourself or others to get cut by coming into contact with the aquarium. If you do not have access to silicon carbide sandpaper, then use an emery cloth instead.

Lay out your glass so that you can easily identify which piece is for which specific side of the aquarium. With your washable marker, write on the glass to note which side is for the inside of the tank, and which side is up/down. This will prevent you from making the serious blunder of grabbing the wrong piece or turning a piece the wrong direction during assembly.

Take your scissors and duct tape, and begin to cut several strips of duct tape in advance, so that they will be ready when you need them. Each strip should be 2-3 inches wide by 5-6 inches long. Precise measurements are not needed. It is just used temporarily and will be removed when your aquarium is complete. You will need to cut 15 to 20 of these strips in advance. If you run out, you can always make more as you go.

Get the piece of glass that has been designated as the bottom of the aquarium. Place it on the work area in front of you, with the inside facing up. Using your acetone and paper towels, clean the surface of the glass so that your silicon sealant will adhere to the surface and form a strong bond.

Take 8 of the duct tape strips that you cut, and place them under the bottom piece of glass. Lift the edge of the glass and slide the tape half under the glass, sticky side up, leaving the remaining half of the tape strip sticking out, unused. The 8 pieces of tape should be evenly distributed around the glass pane, so that you have two strips on each of the four sides.

Use your silicon sealant, and run a line of sealant all the way down the top edge of the glass on the side that will be the front of the aquarium. It is important to use a 100% non-toxic silicon sealant when you make aquariums.

Take the piece of glass designated for the front of the aquarium and place it firmly into the sealant. Pay close attention to make sure you get the inside edge facing towards what will be the inside of the aquarium, and that you have the top and bottom situated correctly. Hold the glass in place with one hand, and use the other hand to fold up the two tape strips (from Step 6) on that side of the tank to help gold the glass in place. Do not attempt to wipe away any sealant that has squeezed out during the process, as it’s much easier to let it dry and cut it off with a utility knife.

Use your silicon sealant again. This time, run a line of sealant across the top edge of the bottom pane where the right side of the aquarium will be. Also run a line down the same side of the front pane of glass, where the corner will be formed. Once again, after pressing the right side pane firmly into the sealant, hold the glass in place with one hand while attaching the two strips of duct tape from Step 6. Also take two additional tape strips and tape them around the corner, securing the front and side glass panes together.

Repeat step 9 to secure the back pane of glass, and again to secure the left pane of glass. At this point, you should have what roughly resembles an aquarium. The front, back, left and right should all be secured to the bottom plate, both with sealant and with tape, as well as being secured to each other.

Take your sealant one last time, and use it to run a line of sealant all the way around the inside bottom edge of the aquarium, as well as running a line of sealant all the way down the inside corners. Use your finger to rub the sealant in, so that it will be forced into any cavities or crevices that did not previously have any.

Allow the aquarium to sit for at least 24 hours to allow the sealant an opportunity to dry and harden.

Remove all of the tape from the outside of the aquarium and fill the tank with water. Allow the water to sit in the aquarium for a minimum of 24 hours. This will give you a good stress test to make sure that no leaks will form under water pressure. If no leaks have formed after 24 hours, wash the inside and outside of the aquarium. It is now ready to use.

Tips & Warnings

  • Although you can do this alone, it is very helpful if you have an assistant to help hold the glass in place while you work on adding the next piece.

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