500 GALLON AQUARIUM - I MADE IT MYSELF WINNER
I wanted to start off this article by stating that I should have done this years ago...years!
Years pass ... and the desire for a larger tank was still circling in my head. I must admit that taking care of three separate tanks was beginning to get old, costly and time consuming. So I set out to find a solution ... so I hit the internet. I found a whole world of info on aquariums and experience from others, yet nothing on building a successful large aquarium. Persistent (and a nightowl) I searched on. I probably have been to each of your readers web site's if it had the word "fish" in it. I finally hit on what I considered to be the "Grail" of my searching. GARF! Answers to a lot of my curiosities were now fact. A huge sigh of relief ... but, I still didn't have a large tank. All I needed was a sign of inspiration! Granted the list of materials, and success of construction were nice too ... And I was off to the races (Hardware store).
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I, and I alone would build the tank of my dreams to all the envy of my aqua-friends! Who by this time were ready to commit me. The first thing I did was print the list of materials and start calling in order to locate everything! The plywood was not so readily available, the glue was unheard of (never did find it), and the silicone was impossible to find in volume, and every glass distributor tried talking me out of building one all together. I consider this was God's way of telling me I'm on the right track ... I was used to crashing waves and this was just one more. I ordered the plywood, I substituted liquid nails(waterproof) for the glue and I called until I found a maker of silicone that makes most of the silicone aquarium builders use, she even laughed at the price stores charge for her product, I bought a case!Garf.Org - Making Reef Aquarium Lights For Less Money #2
I'm set, all I need to do now is find a place to build it. I spent three days cleaning and reorganizing my garage, which, by the way it needed. I had the lumber yard cut my wood for me, so that was taken care of for me ... I placed an order for the glass after dickering w/ the distributor as to which thickness would hold the pressure. I chose 1/2" safety glass ( I have 3 nephews) and sprung for the edge beveling.(see cost list). With my case of Liquid Nails and Silicone ready and went to work.
I followed every detail that GARF had so graciously provided for me. I measured off where each screw should be, and then piloted each hole. I leaned the bottom wood against a work desk and used photo-stands to hold up the back panel until ready to place. I found that this was a godsend. The stands could be lowered and kept level, as I was building this alone. I ran the glue down the edge in an "S" formation and the returned down the same edge going the other way ( so far this appears to be working). I then lowered the wood in place ... I immediately sank in corner screws and then squeegeed of excess glue (yuck!). I used everything I could lift to place on the edge as to weigh down the glue.
I waited 1 hour before starting the side panels. By the end of the day I had built the bulk of what now was to be considered "The Aquarium". Well, that's what my neighbors were now calling it...
I let this sit for three days on top of 3/4 "PVC as to let any remaining glue seep w/o sticking to the floor. I must add the reason for waiting for three days is that during this time I had freezing rain and did not want to rush things. After the third day I got a break on the weather so I lifted one edge of "The Aquarium" on a four wheeled dolly and pushed it outside where I began to paint using the 2-part epoxy Home Depot carried. I might add that it comes in dark gray, light gray and black. I chose light gray in order to bounce light around later. The paint is kind of runny so I painted on two coats immediately. The paint dried rather quickly even though it was only 50 degrees outside. I wheeled it back into the garage and waited another two days before painting again. I sanded after the fourth coat and had no need for filler, I attribute this to good plywood. I finished out the two gallon container of paint on my sixth coat. I wheeled this, what was now a running joke on my street, back into the garage.
I let this set for 2 days, mainly because of the outside temperature being around freezing. It was now time to silicone, and what a fun task this was. It reminded me of being a child in play-school again ... This stuff is sticky,very sticky, and smells to high heaven (vinegar) and all in my measly closed up one car garage. Again, due to cold temperatures I remained patient to proceeding with putting in the glass. I might add at this point if you are going to do this pay them to deliver the glass ... I unfortunately did not. I did manage to get it and unpack it alone, but I do not recommend it ... it is very heavy ... very. I applied a very generous portion of silicone to the edges of the tank that the glass was going to be pressed against (again, in the "S" formation). The weight of the glass alone is enough to seal it ... I wait three days. The silicone manufacture says that the smell will disappear when the silicone has cured (much like curing rock). Now I am excited ... and so too the neighbors!
This is the point where one stumbles over emotions, Do I fill it up ... or simply turn it into a huge baby crib? With no neighbor around I pour a glass of wine, pull up a chair, and begin the filling up of "The Aquarium". I mean to tell you all your senses become real at this point. You think you see water leaks, you hear things, your vision starts questioning straightness and angles ... I should mention that again, the tank is on PVC in order for me to see underneath for possible leaks. And there were none..."Yes!" I couldn't wait to tell someone, but no one cares if you built a trough ... so I kept my excitement to a select few ... who didn't laugh ... well not in front of me anyway. I let this set for three days as well. I had marked the water level just in case ... but sure enough it did not leak..."Yes!"
The excitement of what I had just done was short and faint, as I now had to drain it, then mount it in it' new home ... understand I live in a pier and beam home and I am mounting this into my entry way wall ... In short, I tearing out a wall and building a base that will hold "The Aquarium", rock and water about 4' off the ground. Not a problem! I just have no clue as to how much weight I'm actually talking about. Off to the hardware store I go. Tomorrow would be a big day.
I am very fortunate that I have a few friends in this world ... at this point they are GARF, Johanna Allen, Ed Salas, Matt Sweet and my father RL Covington. This day was to be one of work and no-play. I had asked (con-d) Ed into helping me tear out the sheet-rock and reframe the entry way simply for a hamburger today. My father was simply just kind enough to help me cut and nail-up the sheet rock, he's like that.
Eagerness got the best of me so we worked into the evening. I had measured the base to fit "The Aquarium with less that 1/8 " lee-way, so the base would be additional support for the walls. Smart in doing so I had not made allowances for lifting this monster into place. At the time of placing there were only three of us to lift. We almost dropped it twice, the edges had already cut skin at our elbows ... as I exclaimed out ''boys we aren't gonna drop this, not now!"... And it was in place..."Yes!" We slid it forward w less than 1/8 of an inch to spare ... relief.
This is another point where one stumbles over emotions, Do I fill it up ... or simply turn it into a huge Lizard Palace? With it beginning to rain outside, Ed, his friend Matt ,and I poured something a little stronger that wine, pulled up a chair, and began the filling up of "The Aquarium".
I combined the live rock and fish I had from the other tanks. I eventually and sold them to recoup the money I spent building this one. I now use a 40 gallon tank underneath that I built as a wet/dry filter powered by one Little Giant Pump. I also have the Reef Janitors for a 100 gal tank ... love those little critters. There are 3 power heads inside the tank, and one in the wet/dry that powers the protein skimmer that I also built for under 15 bucks. Below are the cost that I incurred on the aquarium only ... I spent another $50 rebuilding the entry way wall & 25 on dinner for ED. I would like to thank all those that have gone to the time and trouble to post on the internet their experiences, and to GARF for the experience. I should have done this years ago!
The tank is 36x36x94 118.00
*Power Heads were already in my possession
* Metal Halide was " " " "
* Air Pump was " " " "
** One should keep in mind that I sold 3 aquariums for a total of $1150.00
As a finishing note I would like to ad that I have only made one change to the plans that GARF supplied, and that is only if you can afford it. I took the liberty to lay down plexiglass on the bottom and back. it gives me some self assurance that rock will not scratch through the paint ... Cost was $40 for 4x8 piece and I just split it into two separate pieces.