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DIY 50-60g plywood tank and aquarium stand
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Joined: 21 Aug 2007
Location: Ellensburg, WA or Tri-Cities, WA, USA

PostPosted: 2009.04.01(Wed)21:26    Post subject: DIY 50-60g plywood tank and aquarium stand Reply with quote

I am building an aquarium stand for an aquarium that doesn't exist. Why am I doing this? I'm an art student taking a furniture-building class, the assignment is to build a table, and an aquarium stand is what I'm most interested in. Happily for me, my instructor is fascinated by the challenges involved in building an art piece that still satisfies the demands placed on an aquarium stand (weight, room for all the STUFF, etc). It's a bit backwards, to build the stand first, so what I'm having to do is design them both (tank and stand) at once.

So! Critique, please. I'm suffering from too many choices.

Tentative purpose
The tank would be 30"x20"20" freshwater planted (meaning I'd be building a custom flourescent hood, eventually, too). I like gourami of all sorts, tetras (neon and emperor), danios, kuhli and dojo loaches, glass catfish, shrimp, brilliant rasboras, and my mother adores cories and black mollies, so those are the sorts of fish that would be in there. NOT ALL OF THEM! That's just the short-list of prospective inhabitants over the lifetime of the tank, and the fish whose needs I'm thinking about when I think of tank dimensions. My current fish (in profile) would most likely be the first ones to move in.

Why build the tank?
There's secondhand 50ish gallon tanks all over the classifieds, for all the usual reasons, mostly under $100, so building a tank is actually more expensive than buying one. I think the 55gal long is the unquestioned craigslist frequent flier, actually. But I don't want one.

Or, well, I do, but I want a specific set of dimensions more. It's a design thing. 30"x20"x20" comes out to 51.95 gallons on the aquarium volume calculator, and it's a vague estimate that doesn't take into account if 30x20x20 are the interior or exterior dimensions. It will probably be the exterior dimensions, in which case the interior dimensions are unknown.

Finally, the design hurdles
Really, filtration is the eternal question. Sump or HOB? There's three options, and aesthetics are at war with water quality. I'm suffering from a lot of "what if I mess up?" anxiety and want hand-holding, though really. The answer to "what if I mess up?" is "I tear it out and do it over."

What kind of water turnover rate do I need to be looking at? Frankly, I have no idea what kind of ballpark "enough" falls into. I've never looked at the GPH of the pumps that came with my tank kits.

Option 1a: sump in rear. The problems here is that I have never 1. had an aquarium over 20 gallons, and 2. dealt with sumps in any way. HOT, HOB, and UG, both commercial and DIY, are what I know. (Oh, and I set up a quick and dirty DIY pond filter out of a 5gallon bucket and lava rock for my grandfather. I have no idea if it works or not... he keeps poisoning his fish by other means, like putting them in contaminated buckets... x_x) I've read most of the sump articles that come up on the search function, and have concluded that the universal answer to any question about sumps is "it depends." A sump would add more water volume, which isn't good or bad, it just is.

Option 1b: sump at side (pictured). Same issues as option one, though purely on aesthetics I think I like this one better. I've got masking tape laid out on my living room floor right now to try to compare the two. Laughing

Option 2: (pictured) sump is a converted 10g kept inside the aquarium stand, or made into a refugarium and left visible. I like this idea a lot.

Option 3: paired HOB filters. Paired because I'm a dork, and I like the look of little paired waterfalls. This is the chicken-out option, because it's what I already know, and is probably more expensive. Well, maybe. The sump filter certainly has the possibility to get pricey. I have no idea what the head/rise will be, since that's dependent on the stand.

The thick black lines are the plywood sides, the thin ones acrylic or glass.

here's an extremely tentative design for the stand with option 2 (refugarium sump):

I saw this post. Do I have this right? The water flows from the big tank, to the filter media on the lower right, to the refugarium tank, to the pump on the lower left, and back to the big tank. Or is it a parallel-circuit style of plumbing instead of a series-circuit style?

Any recommendations on the thickness of glass/acrylic to use? Since that really has an impact on pricing. I have a natural tendency to go for overkill, and like 10mm, despite never having seen a 50-60g aquarium made of 10mm glass or acrylic.

Important note. I'm not fond of the "porthole" look, so on the glass/glass corner it would probably be an adhesive-only join without a brace, wood or otherwise, on the outside. It's also a possibility that there would only be a negligable frame around the top edge, if any, and only for the purposes of getting the hood to fit right.

Is silicone aquarium sealant strong enough to achieve that kind of bond? Is there another adhesive I should be looking at for the primary bond, such as epoxy? Is which adhesive I use dependent on whether I use glass or acrylic? Which material I use is entirely price-dependent (I have had both kinds of tanks), but which adhesive I use isn't. I'm not gentle with my tanks, usually. Oh, I don't scratch, chip, or drop them, but they do get hauled on in transport/setup/etc. I want something that's not going to suddenly decide not to hold the water back and release. Overkill in glue is not unreasonable.

But where will the tank go?
I don't know yet. I have to check the specifications of the house it's going into to see if 500-600 pounds with a 30x20x20-ish footprint can be supported on the second floor. If NOT, well, the place has a poured-concrete foundation: first floor it is.

I'm not even thinking about the lighting hood yet, except that there will be one.

Okay, now's the time for you kind people to poke holes in this idea, offer suggestions, etc. Better to have holes poked in an idea than water all over the floor.

Photos of the stand-in-progress and its design (and hopefully the tank too! I'd like to build that concurrently, but as I don't have deadlines to meet for the tank that might have to wait) will be added to this post as they come.
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Joined: 21 Aug 2007
Location: Ellensburg, WA or Tri-Cities, WA, USA

PostPosted: 2009.04.02(Thu)12:31    Post subject: Reply with quote

Next steps in planning, posted mostly for my own reference, at this point.

Sump logic:
The height of the overflow baffle prevents the tank from draining and flooding the sump during a power outage.

The check valve prevents the water return pipe from forming a siphon and flooding the sump during a power outage.

If the main tank water level is too low, the pump will drain the sump until the water level in the main tank is sufficient to resume overflow.

Not draining the sump requires human intervention (checking the water levels against the marked level and manually topping off as needed).

Should I put egg crate on the bottom of the filter section of the sump?

I found these pages helpful:'s DIY all-glass aquarium article and glass thickness chart
"The extent of her knowledge on fish is that you've got to water them."
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