My "new" (to me) Retro 70's stainless steel 50 gallon!

KingOscar

I started keeping fish as a teen in the 70's. As such I have always maintained nostalgic feelings for the stainless steel tanks that were the standard of the day. The tanks I had as a kid were only 5 and 10 gallons. I recently saw this 50 on CL and quickly decided I had to have it.

The sellers Dad bought this M&H tank in 1970 and ran it until 2000. The family was cleaning out his home and selling everything. The tank is in amazingly nice condition considering it is 50 years old! It also came with the stainless steel hood, stand, undergravel filter and the legendary Silent Giant air pump. $30 for all! My plan is to set it up as it would have been back in the day, utilizing all the original equipment. I have been planning and working on it for several weeks now. It has been fun and exciting!
 

BigManAquatics

Those things are so cool! My grandma used to have a 10 gal on one of her kitchen counters when i was a kid...
 

jmaldo

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Wow, Congrats, nice find.

Good Luck!
 

Fisch

Will you reseal it? It was last in use 20 years ago....
That is a great tank. Keep us posted, I am curious about your journey.
 

BradleyH2O

Wow, what a find!
 

KingOscar

The son said the tank never leaked. A close inspection revealed signs of seepage and an internal silicone reseal someone had done. There was no damage to the wood frame so it must have been minor. This, along with the fact that it had been dry for 20 years meant I didn't even bother filling or testing it as is. I wanted it to be completely dry for a reseal.

These tanks were not built with silicone. The glass panels don't even touch each other! All the sealing was done within the frame with a tar like sealant that was soft and pliable when new. The best way to reseal these is to painstakingly tear the tank apart panel by panel, completely remove all the old asphaltum sealant and then rebuild. This requires a heat gun, putty knifes and lots of time and patience. People doing this would replace broken or often even scratched up glass while they're at it and have a like new tank.

The easier option is to just reseal the interior joints as you would on any all glass tank and is what I did. The tanks with slate bottoms were more problematic as sealant would not stick to it for long. Some would cut a piece of glass to lay on top of the slate and seal it like that. Fortunately I didn't have to worry about that since my tank had a glass bottom.

After a few days of cleaning out all the silicone sealant from the previous owners reseal, I resealed with black ASI aquarium sealant. It was difficult to get as neat of a finish as I would have liked, but thanks to the framework you can't see my too thick or thin spots! After allowing it to cure for a week, I set the tank on cardboard on the garage floor and filled it halfway. No leaks. The next day I filled it to the top and left it there for several days with the air pump running in it. Yay! Still no leaks!
 

Stripedbass

Please tell me you're going to keep the under gravel filter! What a nice piece of aquarium history.
 

Seasoldier

Lucky you, what a find & at a bargain price too, nice one.
 

Randomfish556

So jealous lol
 

RuralGuppykeeper

That's fantastic!

As such I have always maintained nostalgic feelings for the stainless steel tanks that were the standard of the day.
I have a bit of nostalgia from a happy memory. When I was a very little girl, my family and I visited my Grandma's house. I was happily running circles throughout the farmhouse, until I noticed her 5 gallon, stainless-steel trimmed, slate-bottomed aquarium and it's contents. I was absolutely captivated by it. The top 1/3 of the aquarium was stuffed with Egeria densa plant floating, with several colorful guppies appearing and disappearing into this plant, thinking it was 'feeding time'. It sat near the end of the kitchen counter, without a lid, and could receive a bit of direct sunlight from the southern kitchen window. I suspect this was how my interest in guppies first began.

I still have the little aquarium, I just need to give it some tender love and care. I need to redo at least the internal silicone seal, and may want to clean up the mineral deposits that accumulated from the hard well water.
 

jpm995

Good luck on your project. When i was a kid i had one that leaked. I resealed it but I was young and didn't get it right and it still leaked. Left the hobby for many years after that.
 

SamMe

I have never heard of, much less seen a stainless steel tank. Quite the statement piece. It has a bit of a timeless look, doesn't it? Congratulations on your great find and please post pics with what you decide to stock it with.
 

Basil

What a cool project. It actually looks quite modern.
 

KingOscar

Please tell me you're going to keep the under gravel filter! What a nice piece of aquarium history.
I absolutely will be using the UGF! The Halvin unit appears to be the original filter Dad bought for the tank in 1970. His son said it was the only filter Dad ever ran on it. Like other UGF's of the day, these early units had smaller diameter uplift tubes than newer ones have, and did not use air stones. The airline shot the air directly into the center of the uplift tube. Even though the tube is smaller, they flow well because there is no air stone which blocks a sizable portion of the tube. This also eliminates any concern of clogged air stones or need for regular replacements.

This filter has four plates which clip together into two units to cover the entire bottom. The connecting clips were snapped off, so I attached the sections with zip ties and reinforced it with plastic pallet strapping and Gorilla super glue on the sides. See pics.

Video shows water flow on start up!


Oh, by the way, the tank measures 48x13x18. Asking price for the entire setup was $30 but I gave the seller 40. Everyone was happy!
 

Stripedbass

I absolutely will be using the UGF!
Heck yea! Thats so much more flow than I would have expected. Sorry after I posed that I realized you stated you will be using all of the original equipment. My LFS owner swears by UGF and I always wanted to set one up but my display tanks are all already built and established. I hope you document the whole build!
 

Hellfishguy

The tank must weigh a ton! I picked up a Metaframe 29g at an auction and it took 2 people to lift it.
 

KingOscar

The stand appears like it was possibly made from a kit because there are 8 stamped (or machined) and perfectly drilled steel support plates for the outside corners. Also 4 steel supports on the inside. If not a factory built kit the builder had access to a machine shop.

This stand was built strong and is still solid, but looked like it needed a makeover... and I had some fun ideas!

First all the aging panel walls were removed. Then the wood frame and steel plate surfaces were lightly sanded. Next it was refinished with olive satin spray paint.

I bought some acrylic light diffusor sheets in "cracked ice". Two pieces were cut to fit the ends of the stand, then installed and finished with paneling inside corner strips in white for a clean look. Another piece was cut for the background of the aquarium itself. (pics to come) There will be some sort of lighting inside the stand to give a mellow glow through the background and out the sides of the stand at night.

A Wainscoting panel was fitted to the back of the stand, and also finished with plastic panel strips. The section left open will allow me to mount a light for the background.

A solid Melamine shelf in white was installed low in the base.

Finally, my wonderful wife made some recessed curtains for the front. (photos to come)

First photo is before. Second is the bare frame. Thanks for following.
 

TheFishFella

I started keeping fish as a teen in the 70's. As such I have always maintained nostalgic feelings for the stainless steel tanks that were the standard of the day. The tanks I had as a kid were only 5 and 10 gallons. I recently saw this 50 on CL and quickly decided I had to have it.

The sellers Dad bought this M&H tank in 1970 and ran it until 2000. The family was cleaning out his home and selling everything. The tank is in amazingly nice condition considering it is 50 years old! It also came with the stainless steel hood, stand, undergravel filter and the legendary Silent Giant air pump. $30 for all! My plan is to set it up as it would have been back in the day, utilizing all the original equipment. I have been planning and working on it for several weeks now. It has been fun and exciting!
that looks super cool! Never seen anything like that before
 

86 ssinit

Good looking tank. Hard to find one with the light. You can retrofit them light to house led’s. Good luck with it! Does it have the slate bottom? I’ve got a 35 with the slate bottom. Put it in the attic years ago. Just to heavy to remove it lol.
 

KingOscar

Good looking tank. Hard to find one with the light. You can retrofit them light to house led’s. Good luck with it! Does it have the slate bottom? I’ve got a 35 with the slate bottom. Put it in the attic years ago. Just to heavy to remove it lol.
Thanks. The original hood looks nice but the ballast and/or tombstone sockets were shot so it didn't work. But as you say, I found the 48" Fluval Aquasky on my 75 gallon fits within the hood so I ordered another one. :) A concession to modernity I suppose but it will be hidden away from view. Besides, I really like this light and its programable features. Pics will follow once I get it set up.

My tank has the glass bottom and I'm glad. In all my research many say the slate bottoms (cool as they are) are more difficult to reseal because silicone will not stick to it well.

I also still have one of my 5 gallon SS tanks from the 70's (with hood!) and resealed it at the same time I did this one. It also is glass bottomed and will eventually be set up next to this one.

Here's some cool info on these tanks for those interested:

Rickwrench, Alfa GTV, Falcon Squire, Corvair
 

KingOscar

I'm close to finished with the hood and lid. I had glass panels cut to fit on top of the frame, but didn't like the way the stainless steel hood sat on top of it instead of flush with the frame the way it was designed to be. Then a friend gave me the idea to fit the glass inside the stainless steel frame instead of on top. (these frames don't have the step down area to mount a glass lid like modern tanks do)

By shortening the glass panels, flipping the plastic back strips over, and adding them all around, I was able to both have a glass top, and properly fit the original stainless steel hood flush with the frame. (with a fancy Fluval Aquasky LED light hidden away inside!)

There are 3 glass panels with traditional hinges which allows for opening either side. I didn't have enough 3/16" back strips to fully cover the front panels, so I just made tabs for now.

Notice also Wifey's curtains installed. :)
 

Redviper

As us old folks say: "They don't build them like that anymore!" I even love the brute-force look of the stand. My first tank was very similar only 30G. It came from Woolworth on State st. in downtown Chicago. Great find, KO! :cool:
 

KingOscar

Meet the fish!

I decided to go with Blackbanded Sunfish. These are a cold water species native to North America so my tank will not have or need a heater. I've actually had them for about 8 weeks now and they've been in my 30 gallon quarantine tank. Present temp has been around 62-64 and they are healthy, active and happy!

They are presently around 1 1/2 inches long, and will reach about 3 1/2 when fully grown. My initial concern that they may be skittish and hide all the time was unfounded. They are always out and about and calmly swimming around. Never racing around frantically, and never chasing, poking or harassing each other. They are very calm and relaxing fish to watch, I'm quite pleased with them! Once the Retro 50 is near cycled they will get transferred over to it.
 

BradleyH2O

Great job you did. Fish look content. I'll forever be on the lookout for a find like this.
 

KingOscar

Blackbanded Sunfish have been in the Retro 50 for almost 24 hours now, and settled in just fine. Yay!

Link to fish in action:

Retro 50 gallon now with fish!
 

jaysurf7

Wow nice,a blast from the past I didn't know they made tanks like that, and I can almost guarantee it has better quality then so much of today's stuff, because things where made much better back then like lots of other things they made,Also cool you're going to use the UGF I think there great I still have UGF on my 60 gal along with a canister.
 

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