How to build your own fish tank

Updated February 21, 2017

Building your own fish tank can give you a sense of accomplishment on several different levels. Not only is it a gratifying experience to build your own fish tank from scratch, but it also has the added benefit of allowing you to have an exceptionally large fish tank. You also can make a fish tank that is customised to fit a specific area.

Determine what size fish tank you would like to build, and use an aquarium glass thickness calculator to determine how large and thick the glass for your fish tank should be. Glass thickness is a delicate balance. If you make your fish tank too thick, it will cost more money to build, but if you make it too thin, it may crack or even bust under the water pressure.

Place an order with a glass cutter for five pieces: bottom; front; back; left side; and right side. Keep in mind that when you are building the fish tank, the bottom glass will serve as a base, and the outside pieces will be adhered directly on top of the bottom plate.

Use the silicon carbide sandpaper to sand the edges of the glass, filing down any sharp edges on the glass.

Lay out all the pieces of glass so you can identify which piece is used for each position on the aquarium. Using a washable felt-tipped marker, write on the glass to identify which piece it is (bottom, front, back, left, right). Also mark which side is the inside of the fish tank, as well as which is the top and bottom edge.

Tear off 15 to 20 strips of duct tape a couple of inches wide and 5 to 6 inches long.

Place the piece of glass that has been designated to be the bottom of the aquarium on the workspace in front of you, with the inside portion facing up. Splash a little acetone on a paper towel and clean the edges all the way around the glass.

Place eight of your duct tape strips under the fish tank, half under the tank, half out the side, with the stick side facing up. Place two strips on each side of the tank bottom, evenly spaced.

Identify the side that will be used for the front of the fish tank, and run a bead of sealant down the length of the front of the fish tank. Locate the piece of glass that you identified as the front of the fish tank, and situate it so it's in the correct position. Press the glass firmly down onto the silicon sealant, and secure the duct tape strips. Do not attempt to wipe away any sealant that has leaked out under the edge.

Run a bead of silicon sealant for the next side of the tank, which will be either the right side or left side. Run the sealant both across the bottom, where the glass will be set, and down the side of the front glass plate, where the two will meet.

Set the side panel in place. Make sure it is set firmly into the bottom glass, as well as into the front glass. Hold the glass in place with one hand, and use your other hand to flip up the two tape strips from the bottom of the fish tank. Then take two new tape strips and secure them across the corner where the front and side meet.

Continue this process until all four sides of the fish tank are secured to the bottom and to one another.

Run a small bead of sealant across all the inside edges. Use your finger to smear it into the joints. Let the sealant dry for at least 24 hours.

Fill the tank with water, and allow the water to sit for at least 24 hours. Check the outside of the tank periodically for any slow leaks that may form on the joints. If the fish tank can hold water for 24 hours without developing a leak, it is ready to be used.


Building your own fish tank usually doesn't have much of a cost advantage over buying a tank, however, it allows you to have a custom tank designed to fit a specific area of your home or office.

Things You'll Need

  • 5 pieces of glass (bottom, front, back, left side and right side)
  • Silicon sealant (100 per cent silicon and non-toxic)
  • Silicon carbide sandpaper
  • Acetone
  • Paper towels
  • Duct tape
  • Washable felt-tipped marker
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About the Author

Jerry Garner has been writing semi-professionally for more than 15 years. The body of Garner's work includes informative articles, news and current events and historical essays. He is an avid sports fan and frequently writes about outdoor activities online.