Project
Bespoke 200ltr acrylic aquarium and cabinet
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Published
Jul 05 2019 by FaTe
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Since Miss Turtle has recently laid 2 eggs it's prompted me to finally get around to design and build an entire bespoke aquarium and cabinet. No more making do paying through the nose for large tanks.

Thanks go to Acrylic Craft for supplying the 8mm and allowing to use the machines to cut this all out on the lasers!

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/theme/200l aquarium/00 rhino 3d tank designed
So I decided to design an aquarium out of 8mm thick aquarium which is overkill - on purpose. The dimensions of the tank are 80cm wide x 60cm deep x 40cm tall. Works out as a total volume of 192 litres / 44 gallons. The aquarium is designed with finger joint sides and not just flat, it reduces the complexity of requiring perfect flat sides and also increases the strength of the bond exponentially.
/theme/200l aquarium/01 8mm laser cut tank sections
After laser cutting out the acrylic at work it was time to begin construction. The section standing upright is the base of the whole tank!
/theme/200l aquarium/02 sheet edges trimmed
To prevent unwanted scuffs on the acrylic I trimmed back the protective film around all the sides on each face. This will allow me to construct the tank using weld and glues but protect the main view pane areas until very last.
/theme/200l aquarium/03 initial construction inside welded
I used acrylic weld which isn't a glue as much as a solvent weld that binds acrylic at the molecular level as if it was cast out of one piece (when done correctly). Step one was to construct the tank which because it has finger joints takes the frustration of trying to line everything up out of the picture. The only objective here is to make sure everything is tight together, I used masking tape around the entire perimeter of each outside panel.

Then using the applicator I ran the solvent weld around each corner inside the tank, this won't bond to masking tape so all I have to worry about is ensuring everything is bonded.
/theme/200l aquarium/04 outside seal preperation
Once the inside had fully bonded I could remove all the masking tape as effectively the tank is now very strong. Next I ran masking tape along the corner of each side to create a barrier. Solvent weld can spread fairly fast and while it never happened its best to stop any drips running away. Once taped I reapplied solvent weld on the outside edges.
/theme/200l aquarium/05 tank fully bonded
I left the tank overnight to fully cure and air out. Now the tank is ready to begin additional re-enforcement's.
/theme/200l aquarium/06 re-enforcement materials
I am using Bostik hard plastic glue to provide extra strength. Additionally for strength and scratch protection I got some PVC corner trim which is 1.5mm thick.
/theme/200l aquarium/07 white pvc trim strengthening
I cut the PVC corner trim to size and used the Bostik hard plastic glue to bond it to the tank. Previous testing showed that once cured this glue is beyond stupid strong in addition to being water resistant!

However this glue will never be exposed to aquarium water as its data sheet doesn't state if marine safe so best not to risk it.
/theme/200l aquarium/08 tank fully welded braced
Once the outside trim had cured I also applied the hard plastic glue to every inside corner generously meaning any little gaps in the original solvent weld in the finger joints will now be entirely sealed.
/theme/200l aquarium/09 internal structure fitted
Now because this tank is upstairs on a floating floor I wanted to reduce the weight but not take away from the floor area size. So I designed a void area in the shape of a double step up, each step is air tight sealed using the same Bostik hard plastic glue. Below each step are support structures to spread the load of the water above it when filled.
/theme/200l aquarium/10 silicone sealing sand mixture
As I mentioned earlier I can't assume the hard plastic glue is aquarium safe so for the last step for the framework I used Bond it HA6 marine grade RTV silicone sealant. When it comes to silicone sealers its one of the best you can get. So I started by lining every corner edge inside the tank to cover the hard plastic glue layer and create a 3rd bond between each side. Once done I used an old plastic card to spread a layer of silicone on all the top surfaces and bonded some sand too it. Although not as much bonded as I'd of liked but it's not a problem.
/theme/200l aquarium/11 water test passed
Almost a week later I took the tank outside and gave it the first water test. Unlike regular tanks I'm not only looking for external leaks but also internal ones in the void areas! If these voids leak then the water level would drop!
/theme/200l aquarium/12 internal void water tight
However its all good news, zero external leaks and zero internal leaks. As you can see here in the photo looking through the inside bottom back of the tank where the largest step up void is. The tank currently has near 110 litres of water inside pressing down on these steps.
/theme/200l aquarium/13 tank cabinet
Now being such a large tank it's not like I can exactly pop to Ikea and buy a stand for the tank. So I designed and built that also using 18mm veneered chipboard for external panels and used 3x2 kiln dried wood for sub-frame supports. The top and bottom of the cabinet are 1 large piece to distribute the load of the tank across the entire footprint of the cabinet.
/theme/200l aquarium/14 initial decorations siliconed
Now the tricky part because of Miss turtle!

Usually she'll either eat my plants (expensive salad..) , destroy them or knock them all over because you know, why not lol. So I used spare plant pot cups and silicone them in place hidden behind dragon and lava rock which is also silicone in place! Now I can put plants that arrive in pots inside the holders so they can't be moved.
/theme/200l aquarium/15 green vinyl sides
Given this tank is in a corner and I like to provide plenty of shelter for the turtle I decide to use green vinyl covering on the sides and back. However I did cut out gaps so I can always check the back internal voids for any leaks!
/theme/200l aquarium/16 filter shelf electrics
The external Fluval filter needs a proper home so the back right shelf will house the filter which I added 2 left shelves for storage. The centre area is for the water container when doing changes etc.
/theme/200l aquarium/17 plants in siliconed holders
First plants arrived so they went straight into the fixed holders perfectly.
/theme/200l aquarium/18 top tank corner braces
Because I'm paranoid and know there's already 8mm acrylic with 3 different solvents holding this all together on top of finger joints... I still wanted top corner braces. So I used spare 8mm acrylic I had left over to laser cut out some perfect rounded ones and bonded them in place.
/theme/200l aquarium/19 tank corrugated lid
For the tank lid I used corrugated roof plastic double layered with opposing channels to increase the strength. I then bonded the stands for the LED light on to the lid so the light is secure always (but is still removable if required). The hole for the light also provides plenty of air exchange as I don't want a turtle with respiratory issues!

Its a cheap and effective solution.
/theme/200l aquarium/20 removable front panel hinged door
The last step is to make a front panel for the cabinet. However I want the panel to be 100% removable to make cleaning the filter and such much easier. So the front panel is 18mm veneered chipboard again, the right larger side locks in place and has a hinged smaller left side. This allows me easy access to foods and closes on a magnet lock.
/theme/200l aquarium/21 sliding lock
A nice beefy sliding lock keeps everything in place.
/theme/200l aquarium/22 spraybar lights heater finished
Now I've fitted the Fluval spray bar kit, heater and return which run down into the cabinet. Everything is nice and tidy up on 1 side leaving the rest of the tank unobstructed.
/theme/200l aquarium/23 completed tank and stand
The completed tank and stand now fully up and running. What comes next is final internal layout and tweaking!
/theme/200l aquarium/24 finished front view
Now unlike most turtles who mostly get to swim left and right the bulk of the day, this one gets to do laps, has her own caves, a dry land platform and a basking lamp.

Watch the video above for the final layout and full set up!
/theme/200l aquarium/25 25w heatlamp basking turtle
The very last step is to set up turtles basking light. I run the lights on automatic timers for sunrise and sunset on the heatlamp and main LED light for 12 hours in the summer. I cut out a new pass through spot for the light which the lid cuts out the spread from overheating, also it's easier to adjust the temp this way.
/theme/200l aquarium/26 basking platform finished
Inside the heat lamp covers the left basking area and part of the ramp in case she only wants to come out of the water a little which is often the case. Its up to her how much she wants to bask in heat - or not!
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