Vintage Stainless Frame 5G Slate Bottom Tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 06:31 AM Thread Starter
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Lightbulb Vintage Stainless Frame 5G Slate Bottom Tank

I bought this today for five bucks at a thrift store that had been closed for 20 years. Its in great shape, I am water testing it right now there are no leaks but the towel is wet after a few hours so I think the slate is seeping. There is a black seal on the bottom, it was painted over the slate. I noticed they did not use any of their sealant on the inside of the tank, the glass meets the glass and it is all done on the outside under the frame. I was thinking about sealing the inside with silicone so that I can clean up the black seal on the outside with a razor. It may be worth just siliconing a piece of plexyglass to the bottom on the inside. The frame is in excellent shape I think it could be polished into a mirror finish, and the glass has no scratches and seems very clear.

Its growing on me to use it, I was born in 1990 so these were never part of my generation and it seems everyone ditched these long before I grew up. I only saw them in science classes and usually they all had more of a tapered bell bottom shape to the frame. I am trying to figure out how old this tank is. When did they start making slate bottom stainless frame tanks? When did they stop? Did they start making tempered glass bottom stainless frame tanks before going frameless or did they drop the slate and go frameless all at the same time? I would think the advance in silicone and tempered glass came spaced apart?




I think I am going to use it to finally enter the saltwater side, just something simple like a planted SW tank with mostly different types of micro-algae and a few simple corals. It will be really funny since the reef hobby did not even exist at the time these tanks were being used...a cool retro clash but I am not sure what the salt will do to slate. I have this old Tetra 30-60 filter that fits exactly across the back which would work perfect for SW, it has an adjustable flow but I can have the flow high enough to not need a power head in the tank. It would add volume and allow me to run a heater in the HOB keeping the display cleaner, I would grow a mangrove out of the back as well. If I found a stainless light hood it will help hide the HOB too. Just an idea.



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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 12:28 PM
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There are some very good reasons as to why these tanks were ditched by most people. The all glass tanks look a lot better, and are much less prone to leaking. That being said there is now sort of a revival or stainless steel framed tanks due to the retro look.

As to the tank itself, that tar like cement that was used tends to dry out after many years. Your tank is most likely leaking. As long as the slate is not cracked or damaged it should be ok. I would drain the tank, let it really dry out for a few days, and run a bead of silicon around all the joints. Be sure to get up under that top rim too. That should seal the tank, and you'll be able to use it.

As for trying to use it as a SW tank. Do not even consider this. Having been in the FW and SW hobby long enough to have actually used such tanks in SW, I can tell you they have some problems. The stainless steel used in the tanks is not that high a quality, and it is spot welded in the corners. The frame will easily rust. Way back when, when using such tanks in SW, many people painted the frame with epoxy paint, silicon, or liquid aquarium sealer. The other problem, is the tar like cement used can be toxic to SW livestock. However, if you seal the tank as I recommended, you shouldn't have that problem. If you find a stainless steel light for it. That will also rust if used around SW, for the same reasons. As a note, you have no idea of my feelings of joy when I was able to get an all glass tank for SW, and ditch the stainless steel framed tank.

If you want to go with SW, spend a few bucks and get a new tank.

To answer your specific questions about this style of tanks history, This style of slate tanks was used in the hobby from the 1950s until the end of stainless steel framed tanks. However there were some manufacturers that did use a thick piece of glass on the bottom, rather than the slate. I don't know of anyone making tempered glass bottoms in these kind of tanks, but it might have been done. It's hard to tell how old your tank is because the style was used for so long, but I'd guess it was from the lat 1960's or 1970's.

When the all glass tanks like we see today first came out, they didn't use tempered glass. This made a tank like a 55 very heavy, because the glass needed to be thicker. The tempered glass came a little later. The original AllGlass brand tanks actually used a wood bottom frame. This was about 1967 or so. They could rot over years, but did have the advantage where you could refinish it to any color you wanted. A few years after that, the switch was made to plastic frames, and we have the tanks we see today.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 02:08 PM
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I know a guy who bought this kind of tank from a garage sale- yours is in much better condition than his. He decided he couldn't use it for fish- was unable to reseal because he tells me that silicone will not adhere properly to the slate. That's why tar was used. I think I remember him saying there's some kind of sealant used on pond linings he was going to try, and if that didn't work, to just repurpose it as a terrarium and use it to propagate plants... I saw some pics and it looks very cool.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 02:54 PM
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Quote:
In the 1960s, metal frames made marine aquaria almost impossible due to corrosion, but the development of tar and silicone sealant allowed the first all-glass aquaria made by Martin Horowitz in Los Angeles, CA. The frames remained, however, though purely for aesthetic reasons
Anyways more info:
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/20...fish-tank.html
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 03:14 PM
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Love. It.

Are you going to use retro plants? Maybe some Anacharis and cabomba?
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 03:23 PM Thread Starter
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Sure enough I let it sit over night, the water level did not really change but the towel it sits upon is completely soaked...so that slate is surely seeping either from an edge or through the stone itself. My grandmother just told me once they dried out the stone became too porous to hold water?

If silicone bonding to slate is an issue, I can always smash out the bottom and install a piece of glass can't I?

Oh man the cons against using a retro tank for SW is a total bummer, that is the only reason why I would keep this...otherwise I would rather just resell it. I used to be into the terrarium thing but I lost interest with the addition of planted tanks and ripariums. Someday I may loose interest in planted tanks and focus specifically on one large paludarium.

Thanks everyone.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 03:37 PM
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That's a nice score , looks new . Looks a whole lot better than the ones I've got from long ago that are hiding in my basement .
Some thoughts on resealing ...
The tar stuff the OEM's used is out of production for decades . There used to be a liquid version that came in small tubes that could be flowed into the seams and would ooze into any voids and thereby seal the tank . But no longer available . Same thing for asphaltum varnish , which I used with some success year's back . That's all ancient history , though .
For your purposes , I think I'd get a piece of window glass cut to match the size of the bottom slate as closely as possible .
Clean that piece , the inner glass surfaces on the tank , and the slate .Use alcohol or acetone , you want something that'll clean the surfaces and evaporate without leaving any residue . Put the glass over the slate , mask off the places where you don't want sealant and seal all the seams . Be neat , you don't need much sealant . I haven't seen black aquarium sealant for a while , however , I have experience using black Momentive 103 for this kind of thing and it worked fine . Got it from McMaster Carr .Suspect Grainger has it , too . It seems a bit thicker and 'stickier' than the aquarium sealer seen in LFS's.
My experience as regards applying silicone sealant to the seam between the slate and sides has not been good long term , even if the slate is cleaned well with acetone or alcohol .
Eventually the sealant lifts off the slate . Might happen soon , might happen after a couple of years , but I've learned not to trust the adhesion to slate long term . I suspect the slate has microscopic pores than allow moisture to get under the sealant and cause it to lift . Seen this happen a bunch of times .
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 04:08 PM Thread Starter
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Someoldguy - Regarding the silicone on the sidesand under the top rim, that is glass on glass or glass on metal so that should be no problem in theory right? Why don't I just avoid the slate all together and smash it out, scrape out the tar and install a piece of tempered glass? Someone brought up a good point about metals or copper meds, etc seeping out of the slate from the past. If I can avoid the slate all together that may be worth it.

Bananableps - Great idea on the vintage plant choices, but I do not plan on going freshwater in this tank I already have enough FW projects going on as temping as it is! If I can not make it work for a pico SW I plan to sell it on eBay. I only see rust being an issue from drips when doing maintenance, unless the salt is really going to eat stainless. I would want more stainless on top though, if I hung lights high I would want to mod a stainless light hood into a HOB cover and maybe clear coat it to prevent oxidation.


https://youtu.be/fslmNMf7pUo

^ This guy has the right idea with his lights on a 2.5G ^


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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 04:56 PM
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Yup , the sides are glass on glass ( in all the corners ) No need to seal the glass to metal areas around under the rim . If you do the glass overlay on the slate and seal joints , there's no way anything can leach out from the slate into the water as the slate is sealed off from the water by the glass/sealant . You only need 1/8 window glass as there's not a lot of pressure . Breaking out the slate , removing the sealant and bonding in a piece of thicker (or tempered ) glass is doing a lot of work for little result.

Take @DaveK's word you really don't want to put marine mix into a stainless tank . The stainless they made these things from is definitely not marine grade .
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 05:18 PM Thread Starter
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What if I tape off the glass and clear coat the stainless after polishing it? I guess I will let this idea die


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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 05:41 PM
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Suppose you could go that route , it just depends how much heroics you're willing to perform to get where you want to go.
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 05:50 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by someoldguy View Post
Suppose you could go that route , it just depends how much heroics you're willing to perform to get where you want to go.
I am very willing to make it work, I think it would really make for a unique tank. I am very cautious when working on my tanks I rarely get any drips on the outside of my glass. I figured if I was to dive into this I would paint the rear glass black so that the rear columns blend away into the rear of the tank.


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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 05:57 PM
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A point on removing the slate is that it may also change the structural aspect. Something like the concrete foundation on slab houses. Not something that I would want to risk changing.
This may also be older than the sixties as they were the type that I was using around 56-57. We raised guppies in these to help finance my first car. Definitely not good stainless as many of our tanks had rusted out hanging metal around the top. It gives a whole different view to the idea that we need to keep metal out of the tanks.
At five cents a guppie and a $25 car, how long did that take? A few other things had to help.
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-23-2017, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by JJ09 View Post
... He decided he couldn't use it for fish- was unable to reseal because he tells me that silicone will not adhere properly to the slate. That's why tar was used. ...
The tar like aquarium cememt was used because silicone sealer didn't exist yet. I never had a specific problem with silicone not sticking to slate but this was a lot of years ago.

Quote:
Originally Posted by someoldguy View Post
...
For your purposes , I think I'd get a piece of window glass cut to match the size of the bottom slate as closely as possible .
Clean that piece , the inner glass surfaces on the tank , and the slate .Use alcohol or acetone , you want something that'll clean the surfaces and evaporate without leaving any residue . Put the glass over the slate , mask off the places where you don't want sealant and seal all the seams . Be neat , you don't need much sealant ...
I'd recommend the same thing. Get a piece of glass to cover the bottom. No need to smash out the slate. Since you can seal the bottom glass to the side glass, you need not worry about the silicone sticking to the slate bottom.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Teebo View Post
What if I tape off the glass and clear coat the stainless after polishing it? I guess I will let this idea die
This has been tried, it's really not a solution.

I would say that it's much more likely that the tank is leaking due to failure of the tar like aquarium cement. It doesn't take much for it to have a gap in the cement, even when it was new. In a smaller tank the frame doesn't cover too much of the glass or slate. If you had come across even a 10 gal tank the frame would have been about twice as wide.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-24-2017, 04:43 AM Thread Starter
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It's going on eBay


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