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How to Design a Glass Aquarium

design glass aquariumDesigning a custom glass aquarium is pretty straight forward. It is just a matter of selecting a size, the glass thickness to be used, then put it together.

Determine the "footprint" (front to back, side to side measurement) of the tank. To a great extent, the footprint will determined by the final location of the tank and the stand that it will rest upon.

Make a note of the tank footprint measurements.

In order to determine the size of the side glass panels, you will first need to determine the thickness of the glass you will be using. (See the Glass Placement graphic ). Note that the side pieces are set inside the front and back panels.

For this discussion, we will be using single strength glass, as opposed to tempered or "safety" glass. Single strength glass is what you see in most aquariums the windows in your house. It can be cut to whatever size you wish and the sharp edges can be ground smooth to avoid injuries.

Refer to the Aquarium Glass Thickness Calculator to help you determine the glass thickness to use for your aquarium.

When a glass aquarium fails, it is normally for one of 2 reasons:

The adhesive (usually silicone) used to bond the glass panels together fails to adhere to one or more of the glass panels.

  • The structural integrity of the glass is destroyed (it breaks).

Adhesive bonding failure is fairly easy to prevent: 

  • Use the appropriate high quality silicone.
  • Clean the bonding surfaces with acetone before applying the silicone.
  • Fit the glass panels together with a minimum gap between the panels (essentially glass-to-glass contact).
  • Assemble the glass panels promptly after applying the silicone.

When a glass panel in an aquarium fails (breaks) it is normally from one or more of several causes:

  • Impact from a foreign object.
  • A scratch or chip reduces the strength of the glass.
  • The top of the glass panel bends beyond its breaking point.

Prevention of the first 2 causes is pretty simple: Avoid striking the tank and don't scratch or chip it. Preventing glass in an aquarium from bending to the breaking point is pretty simple, too.

design aquariumThe glass at the bottom and sides of the aquarium can't bend if the silicone adheres to the glass. The normal place for aquarium glass to bend is at the top edges of the front and back panels. The thicker the glass is, the more pressure it can take without bending, or you can simply brace the top edges to keep them from bending.

Many of the manufactured glass aquariums you see on the market employ plastic or metal bracing around the top of the tank as well as a piece across the center. This allows them to use a thinner (read: cheaper) glass and also provide a bracket to hold glass canopies. Many of the manufacturers will also use angle plastic or metal along the bottom and sides. This can be for cosmetic effect (looks) or to help hold the joints together. 


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