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Has anyone built their own aquarium?

2189 Views 17 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Beer
I'd like to build a small aquarium, maybe 20" long, 20" tall and 12" wide. Can someone give me directions?
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Why wait for an answer? Search the web for instructions.
I always do that but wanted someone's opinion here that has a lot of experience.
Search for Urau Joey on Youtube. He has a lot of great tutorials for the hobby. He also has a DIY website and that forum is loaded with people that build their own aquariums.
Don't skimp on the silicone. Get Momentive (formerly GE) RTV103 (black) or RTV108 (clear), or go with SCS1200 which has a higher tensile strength.
You can get both on Amazon for around $10 a tube. Far better grade, aquarium safe, no mold inhibitors, better bond strength and tensile strength than the stuff at the hardware store. The majority of the aquarium manufacturers use one of those three products from what I've found.

It is pretty straight forward and there are plenty of good write ups and videos. Go through a bunch of them and you will see what is common amongst most of them. You will see what will work for you based on your abilities and available tools/equipment.

If you are not cutting the glass yourself, make sure that the glass shop cuts the glass to the exact measurements you want. Some will only give you a +\- 1/16 or 1/32 accuracy for the cuts.
I looked it up, it is Uaru Joey. You don't get many results with the other spelling.
And if his forum is DIY Fishkeepers, don't plan on looking around without creating an account. You can view two threads, then it blocks you from viewing anymore without creating an account and signing in. I definately won't be going back there.
Actually you can get to Joey with either spelling so it doesn't matter. Once you find him you can search his channel. His site is free just as this one. If you want the info on how to build a tank and get pointers and reach out to experienced tank builders, you need to take every avenue you can. I joined the site for that purpose. Knowledge is grand and that site can save you alot of headache.

Secondly, don't buy silicone on amazon. Go to Home Depot or Lowes and get the GE Silicone I in clear for 5-6 bucks with not wait time and not shipping fees. On the container it will tell you its not for aquariums. This is a cya note from the manufacturer. Make sure its not Silicone II. It has additives and you will possibly kill off your inhabitants in your tank once you set it up. Tons of people use GE Silicone I when resealing their tank or building one. Joey will also tell you this in his video. Search this site and many others and they will also tell you GE Silicone I. Don't bother paying the expensive prices for expensive small oz tubes of aquarium silicone. GE Silicone gives you more bang for your buck. Also picks up some painters tape for masking. Masking gives you a professional look and makes the cleanup process so much easier. Masking is a tab bit tedious but its worth it in my opinion.
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It is only a few bucks more for the Momentive and it is better suited for building aquariums. There have been reports lately of people having issues with GE I. Loss of life in their tanks.
Personally, I'd rather spend the extra $4 and wait two days to have the proper silicone.
Practice with glass cutting, I went through many pieces of glass and many lacerations before I got right. Try out different thickness of glass to get a feel for it. For me the was the challenging part, everything else was like building with Legos.

Sent from my A500 using Tapatalk 2
I found that the running pliers helped out a lot. Easier to get clean breaks and the edge is more even. I noticed that when using the method of laying the score line over the back of the cutter, the edge would have an uneven spot where it rested over the cutter.
In regards the the GE Silicone, I've notice that sometimes even if it says 100% Silicone it's not true.

It just happened to me recently, I've use GE on a few application but this time when I open it. I noticed it smelled different, 100% should smell like you got smacked in the face by a vinegar bag. If it doesn't there might be additives, so don't use it on your tank.

Have you thought about glass thickness? Bracing, no bracing, etc?

Gives you a rough idea of glass thickness for Eurobraced tanks
Not sure if you all realized it but any silicone that is colored, is not 100% even though it says it is. To get the color they add the pigment therefore makes it not 100%. Also, the report of people that are having issues is because of two reasons. 1) they didn't pay attention to the version they purchased 2) they did not wait for the proper curing time.

Also I doubt if anyone bothered to look at the fine print on the label. It states that GE I is approved by the FDA for incidental food contact. Any label that says this, will be perfectly fine for aquatic life given proper curing time. Some wait the 24hrs some go 1-2 weeks to be on the safe side. I have resealed a couple of times and I go 1-2 weeks curing time and include a leak test outside for 1-2 weeks to make sure the tank holds outside before I bring it inside.

O.P. its your call though. Either will work. On a small scale tank, GE I is fine. I have yet to see a small scale tank use thicker than 3/8" glass so by stating 1/2"+ is overkill and doesn't do any justice. I am sure that its hersay and not from experience. For a large scale tank different methods apply and then thickness of the glass comes into play and other options should be considered. Just my added 2 cents.
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Incidental is not the same as continuous food contact, which RTV108/103 is rated for. 108/103 also do not carry warnings against aquarium use. The black (103) carries all of the same ratings as the clear (108).

I was not able to find a MSDS or technical data sheet on GE Silicone I, would you happen to know where to find that information? 108/103 series is readily available. I would like to compare the differences. What are the food contact codes and standards listed on the Silicone I? I don't have any to reference.

Silicone I can work, lots of people have not had issues, a lot have as well. Not everyone that has had issues had a tube of Silicone II. It is a consumer product not intended for structural applications and may not have the same QA standards. People have reported getting products that did not match what they had before in previous tubes of Silicone I. This could possibly be the issue people have had with Silicone I; the wrong product in the tube. Also Silicone I is not an adhesive, unlike 108/103, it is a sealant. The bond strength is lower. I really need to see the technical data sheet to know what the difference is, but my initial search came up empty handed (including searching the manufacturer's site).

It is your choice, so go with what you feel comfortable using. The cost difference is pretty minimal, especially compared to the life that is potentially going in your tank and the possible damage that my result from failure. Personally I do not see the $4-$5 saved as being worth the risk. Silicone I has worked fine for a lot of people, but not all. The only reports I have seen (two or three) that had issues with 103/108 were due to construction issues that were readily admitted by the people that built the tanks.

If you want to find out a bit more, search ReefCentral. UncleOf6 on there has a lot of good information regarding silicone and tank building. He builds a lot of tanks and has spent a lot of time speaking directly with the application engineers of several silicone manufacturers over the past few years regarding different products.
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According to the FDA title 21 I believe it is for continuous use.

A little fyi. Scroll down to the Cookware section. Silicone is used alot more widely than we may think.

The reference is in print under Specifications on the back label of the Silicone tube. If references FDA 21 CFR177.2600

I have visited ReefCentral in years past and Uncleof6 is pretty knowledge I will agree. That is one person being referenced. DIY is a site loaded with people that build their own tank. I don't find one person being any better than several people that have been doing tanks for awhile. If the O.P. wants to ask questions to Uncleof 6 they would be required to sign up there as well. What makes ReefCentral above and beyond DIY fish keepers. Joey is actually a recent signee here within the past year. If he wasn't so busy, I am sure he would chime in to give his 2 cents

I am not arguing that the more expensive option won't work or isn't the right option, I am simply saying there are options out there for small tank builds. A $4 dollar difference may not be much to a few but to others, it can make a big difference. Some are on tighter budgets than others. I am sure when Petco has their dollar sale, I doubt they are using expensive adhesives vs sealants.
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It just happened to me recently, I've use GE on a few application but this time when I open it. I noticed it smelled different, 100% should smell like you got smacked in the face by a vinegar bag. If it doesn't there might be additives, so don't use it on your tank.
Not necessarily. Age has alot to do with smell. The fresher the batch of silicone the more potent and effective it will be. Silicone does have shelf life and it does have a expiration date in which its less effective closer and beyond that date. Its then when the chemical makeup can be faulty. I am sure alot of people have used old silicone and fault the product in general due to this aspect as well.
Practice with glass cutting, I went through many pieces of glass and many lacerations before I got right. Try out different thickness of glass to get a feel for it. For me the was the challenging part, everything else was like building with Legos.

Sent from my A500 using Tapatalk 2
Wear gloves! Eye pro

I am aware that silicone is used in cooking and baking quite frequently. But not all silicone is the same, it comes down to additives. Which is why things like Silicone II are unsuitable for aquariums. (I'm not a fan of cooking with silicone, I'm still on the fence about the utensils)

I mentioned UncleOf6 on ReefCentral because he has posted quite a bit of information on there. He is also building tanks professionally and has spent quite a bit of time communicating with manufacturers. A lot more research has gone in on his part than the majority of DIY builders. I'm not sure about the people on that DIY site, but I'm not a fan of places that feel the need to hide their information unless you join their group. So I can't really comment on the amount of research that they have done.

For me the potential cost of seam failure is far more expensive than the difference in silicone. I have learned the hard way that the cost of saving a few dollars on a DIY build is typically several times higher than the initial savings plus the time investment to redo the job.

FDA 21 CFR177.2600 is the same rating as the 108/103 which is for continuous food contact. There is a NSF rating as well.
I'll have to find the technical data on the silicone I at some point. I really am curious in the difference between the two products.

Yeah, those Petco $1 a gallon tanks are not quality. Lots of bad seams, leaks from day one, and complete seam failures.
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