How to Construct an Acrylic Aquarium from Scratch

Written by elizabeth hannigan
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How to Construct an Acrylic Aquarium from Scratch
You can build your own aquarium. (aquarium fish 2 image by cherie from

Acrylic aquariums are becoming ever more popular with pet owners. Acrylic weighs less than glass, and it is much more durable. It will not shatter if you drop it, it is nontoxic and easy to clean. Acrylic holds heat better than glass, and it is also more transparent. You can buy an acrylic aquarium at a pet store or you can build one yourself at home. A custom-made acrylic aquarium is a simple project that can be completed over the course of a weekend.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 3 sheets 1/4-inch-thick cell-cast acrylic, 12-by-24 inches
  • 2 sheets 1/4-inch-thick cell-cast acrylic, 12 1/2-by-12 1/4 inches
  • Masking tape
  • Silicone aquarium sealant

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  1. 1

    Find a Plexiglass store or acrylic dealer in your area. You also can check online sources, such as tropical fish forums to see whether you can get the sheet sizes you need from another aquarium builder. If you need to buy an entire sheet of acrylic, ask your plastics dealer to cut the acrylic sheet into the correct sizes for the pieces you need. Most will do cut the sheets for free. You should not attempt it yourself unless you have experience cutting acrylic sheets.

  2. 2

    Do not remove the protective paper from your acrylic sheet until your project is finished. This will prevent the acrylic from getting scratched or dirty.

  3. 3

    Place one of the 12-by-24-inch pieces of acrylic on a clean, flat work surface.

  4. 4

    Stand the other two 12-by-24-inch pieces perpendicular to the base piece, resting each upon the base. You may need to find some objects, books for example, to keep the front and back of the aquarium upright while you are assembling them.

  5. 5

    Place the two 12 1/2-by-12 1/4-inch pieces at either of the open ends of the tank, outside of the base and the front and back. The slightly longer side (12 1/2) should be placed vertically. The two end pieces should cap the base, the front and the back. The end pieces should reach the same height as the front and back pieces.

  6. 6

    Use the masking tape to tape all of the pieces firmly into position. Ensure that they fit together tightly and that there are no gaps between any of the pieces.

  7. 7

    Peel the protective papers slightly away from the edges of the acrylic pieces to avoid accidentally gluing any of them into your tank.

  8. 8

    Use the aquarium sealant to glue all of the acrylic pieces into place. Touch the nozzle of the sealant to the edges of the acrylic where they meet. Apply straight lines along all of the seams. Use your finger to smooth the sealant into the seams. Apply the sealant generously, leaving no gaps along the seams of the tank. This method will make your tank waterproof.

  9. 9

    Allow the sealant to dry for a minimum of 48 hours, or as directed on the package. Your tank is ready to be decorated and inhabited.

Tips and warnings

  • Taller aquariums require thicker acrylic.

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