Creating custom aquarium parts/containers

Johnez

Member
I'm getting back into the DIY aspect of aquariums and one thing that really stymied me is the difficulty in making custom parts. Currently I'm working on figuring out a DIY overhead sump/riparian plant holder in an "L" shape where the short part of the L is pouring into the tank. Many aquarium DIYers hack together premade containers and jerry rig their sumps, which I'm all for and have done in the past, but I want to create something purpose-built this time around and am not in a hurry. So far the possibilities for materials/methods:

-acrylic
-pvc board
-plywood coated in epoxy/fiberglass

None of these options are super cheap or exactly easy, tho I'd say if I can source the PVC boards that might be the easiest. I like the clean professional look of acrylic but it seems to need exacting edges and I don't think I have the tools/skill to get it down, plus sheets seem difficult to find and expensive.

The thing I'm most curious about right now is the fiberglass option. Plywood covered in fiberglass or epoxy seems fun, and doable, but I'm not sure of its effectiveness. I've watched boat builders and tons of fiberglassing videos on youtube and it seems promising, though collecting the materials might be a bit pricy. In the long run this might be a good investment for creating other custom containers and isn't limited to flat planes if you create a mold and go 100% fiberglass. There's three possibilities in this vein: build mold, create 100% fiberglass container, build plywood container and cover/reinforce/waterproof with fiberglass, or build plywood container and coat with epoxy only.

So what are your guy's experience with DIYing custom containers?
 

Zach72202

Member
Ya know I will tell ya somethin'. I've built a few small tanks out of spare glass, and I actually still use both of 'em, they hold water great. Here's what I have learned when it comes to silicone- not that I expect you to be using it, but applicable none-the-less.

If a little bit of somethin' is good, a lot is even better! The bigger the gob the better the job.


On a more serious note. Something that might spike your interest is plywood fish tanks and how people build them. Seems to be very relative to what you are describing with your materials. They are quite effective and many people build tanks 300-400g+ out of plywood. They do have their limits and purposes, but reguardless seems applicable in your instance, would probably make smaller setups like this easier and cheaper to build than buying acrylic, especially if you already have plywood lying around.
 
  • Thread Starter

Johnez

Member
Zach72202 said:
Ya know I will tell ya somethin'. I've built a few small tanks out of spare glass, and I actually still use both of 'em, they hold water great. Here's what I have learned when it comes to silicone- not that I expect you to be using it, but applicable none-the-less.

If a little bit of somethin' is good, a lot is even better! The bigger the gob the better the job.


On a more serious note. Something that might spike your interest is plywood fish tanks and how people build them. Seems to be very relative to what you are describing with your materials. They are quite effective and many people build tanks 300-400g+ out of plywood. They do have their limits and purposes, but reguardless seems applicable in your instance, would probably make smaller setups like this easier and cheaper to build than buying acrylic, especially if you already have plywood lying around.
I've checked em out and the process is fascinating. Many of the principles carry over into smaller containers as well, like avoiding sharp angles, etc. Still haven't built the confidence to give it a go yet, being I'm not sure how to deal with top edges and other issues. So far the mold idea looks pretty promising tho. So many avenues to take.
 

Zach72202

Member
Johnez said:
I've checked em out and the process is fascinating. Many of the principles carry over into smaller containers as well, like avoiding sharp angles, etc. Still haven't built the confidence to give it a go yet, being I'm not sure how to deal with top edges and other issues. So far the mold idea looks pretty promising tho. So many avenues to take.
Honestly, if you are building anything under 20 gallons, you probably won't need much in terms of bracing, especially if it is a shorter sump and thicker plywood, if this is what you are referring to. If you are talking about the spot where it overflows, perhaps a combination of a jig saw and a router would do you nicely. You could perform a cut out and smooth it over with the router. Of course you will need something like a 'slide' that catches the water so it doesn't just drip down the side of the sump.

I think your idea for a plywood sump is great, but the only problem I could foresee you running into is knowing when to perform maintenance. Unlike clear sumps, you won't be able to see into them, which I guess is a positive and a negative due to that. You won't be able to see the gunk as a visual as to when to clean, but then you won't be as familiar on how often to clean.
 
  • Thread Starter

Johnez

Member
I'm gonna stick this here-fascinating:
Cutting shapes into glass. Haven't found a use for this yet in the hobby, but **** what a neat thing to have in one's back pocket.

Zach72202 said:
Honestly, if you are building anything under 20 gallons, you probably won't need much in terms of bracing, especially if it is a shorter sump and thicker plywood, if this is what you are referring to. If you are talking about the spot where it overflows, perhaps a combination of a jig saw and a router would do you nicely. You could perform a cut out and smooth it over with the router. Of course you will need something like a 'slide' that catches the water so it doesn't just drip down the side of the sump.

I think your idea for a plywood sump is great, but the only problem I could foresee you running into is knowing when to perform maintenance. Unlike clear sumps, you won't be able to see into them, which I guess is a positive and a negative due to that. You won't be able to see the gunk as a visual as to when to clean, but then you won't be as familiar on how often to clean.
A lot of angles to consider here, good points!

Yes, that slide is part of the issue right now, with acrylic difficult but not impossible, with pure fiberglass though a mold can be made for virtually any shape. Plywood covered is even easier, though that's a lot of rounding edges being I don't have a router. With regards to cleaning, I have an idea to address that-simply create a tray to separate the media from the bottom and lift it with media/plants every now and then and siphon the gunk. Keeping media in bags might also help with manageability. Another option regarding the slide is making it a "naturalistic" situation where water is pouring from a hill top, with fiberglass I think it's doable.
 
  • Thread Starter

Johnez

Member
So I did an experiment. I built a box with lighting diffuser and pond/waterfall foam sealant. Little uglier and bulkier than I imagined, but success-it holds water!




Pics and vid. Video is unfortunately way too long I might delete it and learn how edit but it's up for now lol. Any tips on presentation or editing are welcome, I've got some more projects lined up.
 

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