So today I’m going to be showing you guys exactly how to build a glass aquarium. Let’s get started right away with what supplies you’re going to need.
Ok, so some of the materials are pretty straight forward. Obviously we are going to need silicone. I’m using GE silicone1 window and door, it’s also clear. This is the silicone I have been using for several years, it works well and it’s aquarium safe. Second, you’re probably going to need a caulking gun if you’re using the bigger tube of silicone, just based on the simple fact that you can’t use one without the other (obviously). Getting more than you need in the silicone is a good idea just so you don’t run out halfway through the job. Just when you think you have enough you probably don’t go ahead and get some more it’s only about 5 dollars a tube. You’ll also need some tape. This is going to be optional which tape you can use though. You can either use painters tape, or electrical tape. I like to use painters tape because it doesn’t leave a sticky residue, neither does electrical tape but none the less, this rips really easy so while I’m working on the job I don’t need extra hands. You’ll also need some sand paper, sand paper is going to be optional, optional based on the fact that you may or may not have to cut your glass. If you do, you’ll need to sandpaper it. For this job I’m using 60 grit, I don’t have a lot here because what it’s going to be used for only takes a minimal amount.
You’ll also need a right angle; this is a mandatory piece of equipment that you’re going to need based on the sole fact that you’re going to want to make sure your aquarium is square. You’re also going to need a glass cutter if you decide to cut your glass. Now a glass cutter is a very simple tool, it’s also pretty cheap as well. Essentially what it is, is a micro pizza cutter almost. The wheels are carbide tipped and they will etch the glass. This is about 5 dollars, and you might get maybe 15-20 cuts out of it but it’s worth the 5 dollars. Ok so now that we’ve had a look at the equipment and materials that we are going to need, it’s time to consider the cost of them. Essentially the glass cutter (which was an optional piece), cost about 5 dollars. Optional based on the fact that it depends on where you’re getting your glass really, if you’re buying your glass have them cut it for you – then you don’t need to cut it, takes a little bit of the work out of it for you. If you’re cutting your own glass or reusing glass and need to cut it in order to build this tank like I am, then you’re going to need a glass cutter. We’re going to take a look at how to cut the glass here in a minute. Silicone was about 5 dollars for a tube; you get two tubes maybe for 7 dollars or something like that. So we’re down about 10 dollars, painters tape – maybe a dollar for a pretty big roll. So we’re looking at about 10 dollars here, nothing too crazy.
So now we’re going to look at the glass. For me, like I said I’m using reused glass, so the glass for me was free as well. So the tank I’m about to build, cost me 10 dollars total. The glass I’m using I found out in my garage. It actually came from old windows. I noticed that it was plate glass and thatit was 6mm, so immediately I took off all the trim, cleaned it up, and seen if it was useable, seeing if it was scratched or anything like that. It was in perfect condition so I’m going to make a tank out of it. You might be able to find the same thing if you’re looking around, or buy your glass. It’s still cheaper to buy and build rather than buy a brand new aquarium. So let’s now look at cutting the glass, if you need to. OK, so here’s a sample piece of glass, this is an older piece of glass I had kicking around,it’s dirty and I’m not going to be using it for anything; so let’s practice cutting on it. Something I suggest you do to get used to how glass is cut.
So taking our glass cutter,we find where we need to cut. Now let’s for example say I want to cut this piece off, which should be a pretty simple process. Once I find exactly where I need to cut I ensure that it’s a straight line, and then clamp your tool down or piece of wood down, just to ensure you get a straight cut. From there, all we want to do is this; now listen to what it sounds like. OK, so that’s essentially it – as you heard it almost sounds like fabric ripping. Once you’ve etched it, you haven’t cut it yet – all you’ve done is scratched a line through it. Now what this is going to do, is cause a place for the glass to stress on, and it should crack with a little bit of pressure. Turning it onto its side, putting it onto a sharp edge of something and pushing down. So as you can see, it cut it straight off – a nice straight line. OK so now that we have our glass cut, we’re left with a very, very, very sharp edge. You never want to touch it; if you do you’re bound to cut your hands up pretty badly. Now, this is where the sandpaper comes into play. We can’t really have this sharp glass, although it’s not really going to impact the build it’s definitely going to make it extremely hazardous to handle. So, with your sandpaper we are simply going to sand down the corners and edges to make it rounded off slightly. So we’re just taking it and going back and forth, we’re not going down. And that’s pretty much it, enough to take the sharp edge off.
OK now the first thing you’re going to want to do is lay your bottom piece down. Now this aquarium that I’m building is 36 inches long, by 28 inches wide. That’s actually the dimensions of all the glass that I had. I had three pieces this size, I simply had to cut up a couple of them to create the sides, and front and back. So, once your bottom pane is down, it’s time to prepare it. You want to make sure the edges where the new silicone and new sides and front and back are going to lay are spotless. To do this, you can take some acetone on a rag and clean off all of the edges. The acetone is going to dissolve anything that’s there. What you’re looking for it to dissolve is oily fingerprints and/or old silicone residue that a razor blade simply does not take off completely. Once you’ve done that, you can consider laying your glass. Now, in order to build your tank properly, it’s the same as building any aquarium; since we don’t have a bottom trim how much aquariums are built. We are putting the bottom glass on the bottom of the tank and all edges on top of it.
Now the front and the back of your aquarium are going to be the same length as the bottom. So in my case, this aquarium bottom is 36 inches long, so I need a front and back pane that are both exactly 36 inches long. The sides are going on the inside (I will show you what I mean in a minute). Basically though, the front is going to be here, the back is going to be here, I need a piece of glass that’s going in between them. So I need to consider taking off a little bit of glass. Based on the fact that this is 28 inches long, once I have the front and back on there I don’t have 28 inches of space here anymore. Since I’m using 6mm glass, which is 1/4 inch I’m losing a half inch of space in the middle. So instead of having a 28 inch piece of glass inch lying here, I’m going to need a 27 and a half inch piece. So definitely consider that when you’re cutting your glass and/or ordering your glass. Make sure that when you’re cutting it, or ordering it that you get the proper dimensions. There is nothing worse than getting your glass cut or buying it, and it’s the wrong dimensions and you have to work with it another way.
So I’m going to go ahead and clean up this glass simply by taking a rag with some acetone on it (which is also pretty cheap, you get it for about 3 dollars for a liter). I get mine at my local Walmart, its really accessible. Put it on a rag, dampen the rag a little bit and wipe around. I’m going to wait for it to dry and then I’m going to go onto the next step. Ok, so now we’re ready to move onto the next step. The next step is a simple one now that all the edges are cleaned, I laid some tape underneath the glass; essentially what these will be used for later on, is to tape the bottom to the sides or front. We don’t need a lot of them because what they are going to do is just hold things still for the moment, and you don’t want too many to take off later on. One is spaced every 6-8 inches. Now, to open up your silicone typically what you’re going to want to do is cut the tip at a 45 degree angle, this is going to give you a little bit more control and allow you to do the corners of the seams of the aquarium later a lot easier. So let’s get started by laying the first bead, what I need to do is trace this silicone around the entire perimeter of this glass. What I’m looking to do in terms of bead size is about the thickness of the glass, so I want about a 6mm bead of silicone. You can use a lot less, but I tend to use more and simply remove the excess once I’m finished.
So let’s get started. So starting at one corner, we are just going to continuously run a non-stop bead all around the aquarium. We want it as close to the edge as possible, because that’s where the glass is going to lay. Ok now that the silicone is laid, we don’t have a lot of working time with it as it will start to skin, what I mean by skin is the outside of the silicone will start to form a barrier, meaning it’s starting to cure. So, we’re going to go ahead and start with one of the rear pieces. What we’re going to do here is going to be simple, just simply lay it as close to the edge as possible on top of the silicone. You don’t need to apply any pressure just yet. Notice I’m doing this on an old sheet, it’s already ripped and essentially I’m doing it because it doesn’t matter if I get silicone on it. You don’t want to worry about having to be clean when you’re trying to concentrate here. So try to have it on a rag or something around those lines. Now that this is up, I’m going to take my tape, fold it up, there’s not a lot I can do about holding it or bracing it, because I don’t really need to because you’re going to constantly be moving on to the next piece. Now, notice I have my silicone and my tape handy, everything is within reach. Same with my next piece of glass. So while holding the first one (this is where it gets a little complicated for yourself), have it handy, we’re going to take the silicone (notice it’s wobbly that doesn’t matter, the silicone is not curing yet), we don’t even have to worry about this being squared off yet. All we really want to do is get a couple of pieces of glass on here.
Now that the side panel is going to go on, I’m going to lay the silicone bead up the side here, and put a side piece on. Once the side and back are on, you will probably notice that it’s starting to hold itself up. Which is probably true, because the silicone is extremely tacky. See, look at that. Now we’re going to take the tape anyways, tape it up, again we are not worried about how pretty it is just yet, we have plenty of time once it’s on. We’re going to make sure the sides are taped as well, bracing it, holding onto it. I don’t know if you guys can see this or not (probably not), you will in a minute. Ok, we now have the side piece and a back piece on, they are kind of holding each other up at this point with the silicone as well as the tape. Now, before we move on to the next pieces we are going to want to make sure these are square. They probably are not, so that’s what we’re going to make sure of. The square just goes up against it, needs to touch the bottom and the back, it is very, very, very important to make sure your tank is square. Now it is. Perfect. Now I can move onto the next piece, which is another side. Don’t worry if you get silicone inside of the tank, you can let it cure and scrape it off with a razor blade later. That’s the beauty of working with silicone and glass, you don’t have to worry about the mess you make.
Everything needs to be handy, within arm’s reach. See this is why I like building glass tanks as well, you guys have seen me build acrylic aquariums and glass tanks things like that, the thing with glass tanks what I don’t like about it is that its messy. I always get silicone stuck to everything. But with acrylic aquariums, it’s so much cleaner. None the less, with glass you don’t need a lot of bracing or structural support or anything like that. It tends to kind of hold itself together while you’re getting the tape ready so that’s really, really nice. Now, again we want to square this off. See this isn’t square so because it’s not square simply push it until its square. That will typically square it off. Because I pushed it, I pushed over here. It did not have an effect, which is perfect. Ok, now, the end panel here, or the front whatever we’re going to call this side. This side is the same as any, but we are going to have to do two at the same time, so this side is not going to be fun. Although it’s going to have twice the amount of silicone to work with, so it will stick on its own. Now with this silicone, because the tank is going on the edges of it we want the silicone to run up the edges. It doesn’t matter how much you use right now, we are going to probably scrape a lot of this off and/or push it into the seams here in a minute. OK, so this is the front or the rear. This should be a pretty easy panel to put on. So now we’re going to square off the entire tank and make sure everything is fine. Again,this is the most important part of building a tank is to make sure it’s square.
So far so good. If your tank isn’t square, it’s pretty simple just to push the panels around. For example if it’s too far out, you can typically move it in slightly or move it around slightly, very slowly. Anyways, this is all squared off we’re ready to move onto the next step. OK so now that the aquarium is together it’s all siliconed together, all the walls are up and it’s taped, it’s time to apply the inner seam. Now for the most part there wasn’t enough silicone to apply to all the corners in order to make a proper seal, but that’s what we’re going to do now. We’re going to take the silicone caulking gun, and simply run a small bead all around the edges. If you want a closer look at me doing something like this, check out my article on how to reseal an aquarium. I show you exactly how to do this. So what I’m going to do is run this along every single corner, starting at the bottom and then the sides. Then I’m going to use my finger and smooth it out. Again, watch my video on how to reseal an aquarium to find out exactly what I’m talking about here. OK, so I’m going to do that and then we will come right back. Ok guys, so the tank is now complete. We’ve cut the glass, and measured it and put itin place, we’ve sealed it, and it’s essentially done. So it’s really just three simple steps.
One, cut, prepare and lay the glass. Two, put your silicone in. Three, put the glass in. The whole time we’re squaring it off and taping it, making sure everything is fine. From there, we’re going to wait about two days for this to cure. Then we’re going to come back, and we’re going to do a test fill to see if it holds water or not. I don’t have any doubts that it will, at that time after we do the test fill we can comeback and clean up some of the silicone that I messed up here and there in terms of giving it better aesthetics. None the less, let’s wait the two days then we’re going to do a test fill. OK everybody, so the aquarium is now complete. I’ve waited 48 hours for the aquarium silicone to completely cure, I then water tested the aquarium outside for a few days. I recommend filling your tank up outside just in case it leaks or bursts apart. It’s better to have that happen outside, than inside. After that’s done, I came in and filled it back up, and that’s essentially it. It’s filled with water, it’s good to go. Now, a few things we’re going to touch on right now is pretty straight forward. Now that the tank is finished, we’re going to need to put it on its stand. But before we put it on your stand since it’s a completely glass bottom, we’re going to want to make sure that there’s styrofoam laying down underneath the tank, simply to absorb the irregularities in the stand that might cause pressure points on the tank, causing the bottom glass to crack,or break, or even the seams to twist. Once you’ve done that, fill the tank up and you can start to enjoy you’re aquarium.
You’re probably “wondering where can I get glass?”, or “what type of glass should I use?”,” what thickness should I use?”, “why don’t I have a brace?”, etc. Well this aquarium is 36 inches long, 28 inches wide, 12 inches tall, it runs about 52 gallons. I don’t intend to fill it to the brim; I’m only going to run about 10 inches of water in it at any given point. Given the height of the water, and the thickness of the glass, I’m not going to need a brace. Whether or not you need a brace, depends entirely on the thickness of the glass and the dimensions of your aquarium. Go on to google and simply google “aquarium glass thickness calculator” or something along those lines, there’s tons on there. I haven’t done one yet, but I do have a ton of other calculators on my website diyfishkeepers. com, check them out there’s lots there for you guys to enjoy and to help complete your projects. There’s really not much I can cover in terms of what thickness you should use or if you should use a brace or not, because like I said it depends entirely on the dimensions you choose and the thickness of glass you’re going with. My only advice would be to simply use plate glass or float glass, just your basic glass. Stay away from tempered glass because you might need to cut it, and you can’t cut tempered glass once it’s off the production line. So essentially that’s it guys, I hope this video helps or at least gives you a guide in terms of how to build your own glass aquarium. The reason why I wanted to do this video was very simple; I did this video with scrap glass which a lot of people will probably want to build theirs out of. I built it out of old windows believe it or not. Total cost for this build was 10 dollars. I got a 52 gallon aquarium for 10 dollars, that’s not bad. That’s the beauty of do it yourself, you’re not going to be able to find a tank for less than that, not at this size. That’s like 25 cents a gallon or something along those lines. None the less guys, the aquarium is complete, the tutorial is finished, I hope you enjoyed the video and we will see you next time.