Is it cheaper to build a large aquarium than buy one? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 14 Old 07-31-2007, 12:58 AM Thread Starter
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Is it cheaper to build a large aquarium than buy one?

Does anyone know whether it is cheaper to build a 500 gallon aquarium than buy one? Is the cost saving, if any, enough to warrant the hassle?

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post #2 of 14 Old 07-31-2007, 01:45 AM
Go to wholesale and have it manufactured to spec. My friend runs a LFS and he can get me 7'x2'x2' for 120, compared to a whacking 300-400 of the shelf. Thing is with straight from the store is that the lid will fit and for a couple of extra s you get all the filteration and heaters supplied.

Mike TBH, I really would'nt shell out on all the materails you need to build a large one on your first pop. Start small, see how difficult it is, then make a decsion. :D
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post #3 of 14 Old 07-31-2007, 02:02 AM

Unless you can find one used (which I anticipate that you can in your area) then

IMHO you are $'s ahead as well a quality ahead to fabricate one.

I am hoping to set up a "gigantic one" in my office at my offices next year.

Unless I can find one "very cheap" in Austin, San Antonio or Dallas which possesses the correct geometry I anticipating fabricating one.

This allows for custom drilling, custom cabinetry, custom wet/dry filtration system*.

The previous comments apply to freshwater as I am not familiar with saltwater.


* ie. setting the pump size, return piping sizes, outflow piping sizes:
installing a sump which has at least the 1/4th the volume as the tank and
installing 5 underflows and overflows from chambers which will contain the biological and mechanical filtration media.
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post #4 of 14 Old 07-31-2007, 09:49 PM
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Daz there is a huge difference between a 180 gallon and a 500.

It really depends on what type of tank you plan to build. I looked into some DIY tanks when i was in the market for a 400-600 gallon and spent months looking for a used tank with no avail. I finally got a good deal on a 450 (8'x3'x30") which was only a few hundred more than the materials so i jumped on it. During the same time i was talking with a guy who was building a plywood/plexi glass tank with a large piece of glass for the front. After the problems he had I was very glad that i payed for mine and he only saved a few hundred on the price i payed for the same size tank.

If you figure out what size your looking let me know what ive found out from my exp with this tank on pump size and some costs you might not have though about.
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post #5 of 14 Old 08-01-2007, 01:50 AM

Maybe you could be of some help to "with my thinking" via you experience.

You are correct that at about 50 to 100 gallons the $1/gal rule of thumb starts breaking down starts going to the 2nd power of the tank size but:
(and bear in mind that I have never seen one of these).

As a 30" deep tank is "real pain" although IMHO necessary for full growout of angels (and possibly also discus) and therefore the remainder of this post is based on a 30" deep tank.

Also for purposes of this post it is assumed that the tank will be placed against a wall and not freestanding in a room.

The tank would be 12'x3'x30" => 650G.

Obviously a glass top which is 12'x3' will not work if for no other reason just due to it's weight so:

let's break down the tank into 4x3' lengths.
the angles which the top pieces fit into transversely will also function as structurally for the longitudinal walls (this is where the big glass cost savings "kicks in").

Each top panel would be doubled hinged:
one hing at 8" from the front of the tank and
the other hinge at the middle of the panel.

Each panel would have two of these on top:

The above is just a very sketchy outline
but sets forth the major elements, IMHO, of the structural portion of the tank construction which results in major cost savings.

I have "partially mapped out" sketchy outlines for the construction of the canopies, overflow weirs, return nozzles, sumps' design, etc if anyone is interested.


BTW: this design is very scalable: you want to have an 850G tank just add 3' to the length of the one described above.
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post #6 of 14 Old 08-01-2007, 02:26 AM
Originally Posted by Gump
Daz there is a huge difference between a 180 gallon and a 500.
I know, it's a example.
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post #7 of 14 Old 08-01-2007, 11:43 AM
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Jones are you talking about making an all glass/acrylic tank? If so their are a few things you should know to about large tanks.

First a standard sheet is 8'x4' so if you can keep the tank in the 8x4 range you will save a lot of money. Thats why i have an 8'x3' tank not a 10'. I can guarantee that a 8'x4'x30" (which is 600 gallons) will be hundreds and maybe even over a thousand dollars less than a 12'x3'x30". Also if you plan to go over 3' tall you will pay a lot more as well because you need to use a thicker material and that will add up to a few thousand to your price.

As for tops large tanks usually have a covered top with holes cut in them so you can get into the tank so you won't be using the same 2 or 4 pieces of cut glass for tops like you would on a 55-180 gallon tank. On the top of my acrylic tank i have 4 squares cut in a single piece of acrylic and 4 cut pieces of acrylic to fill the hole.

As for lights i have two 48" 4x 65w PC lights that sit up on 3" feet, I was thinking about hanging 3 or 4 fixtures from the ceiling as well but didn't feel like doing all the extra work.
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post #8 of 14 Old 08-01-2007, 01:12 PM

If you do not mind I would "like to continue this" in order that I can "glean from your knowledge".

I had not gotten "far enough along with "my thinking and research" to be aware of the 8'x4' standard size of glass.
The standard size sheets of Plexiglas are 4'x8" but, at least in West Texas, the standard sheet size of glass is 30"x130".
This size yields itself to 3' nominal longitudinal dimensions.

I also do not believe that I explained myself well enough that you became aware that I am "talking about" a "semi modular design"

The information below is relevant to a 15' long, 3' wide and 30" deep tank.

The front and rear panels would be 3/8" thick(which includes a factor of safety of 1.5) and the end panels would be 3/8" thick (also with a factor of safety of 1.5).

The bottom would also be 3/8" thick glass cut into 5 panels which are fairly continuously supported.

The first item which "I am really struggling on" is can stainless steel tees be utilized for the "compartmentalization" and if so how to affix the glass to the steel?

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post #9 of 14 Old 08-05-2007, 12:38 PM
It is cheaper to build your own 500g, 'cept it would be made from plywood with one side viewable. Acrylic is the cheapest full view tank at that size and cheaper to ship, easier to handle. I can manage my 400g acrylic with only one other person helping. I will admit I spent the $300 to buy 4 Woods 8" suction tools for moving glass panels. It gives you a place to grip and lift from making all tanks seem lighter and easier to manage.

Options are to buy a nice acrylic tank or build it yourself. It is fairly easy. You get Regal Plastics to cut and polish the acrylic for you, with the help of some friends you "weld" it with Weldon products. Basically a super glue/solvent that flows like water between the cracks, melting them together.

Build a tank from plywood, 2x4's and a big old piece of glass. Seal it with marine grade fibreglass (sic: I prefer the "English" spelling to our "American" spelling) and epoxies.

Order from Glass Cages .com
500 - 8 Wide 96 x 48 x 25 Tall $2000
Since the glass 300g and acrylic 300g are the same price I think you'd get the acrylic for the same price ($2,000) as well.


get a beautiful custom once in a lifetime tank from AGE...

I know a lot of people that have ordered tanks from that company through this retailer..

For example..

I do hope those pics come up. Seems they had trouble loading earlier. Credit to Mojo@MAAST.
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post #10 of 14 Old 08-05-2007, 08:19 PM

Very good to see you again.

Please do not be such a stranger (even though I know that you are spending a ton of time now on the Luchenbach motorcycle charity).

The "only thing that 'I have thought of'" with respect to this typical design is to increase the width of the weir box to 6".
Pythons are nice but hands are sometimes much better.
What do you think?

Also folks please note that as the volume of the tank increases (either in length, width or depth) the length of the weir overflow box must increase accordingly.

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