How to Make an Acrylic Bow Front Aquarium

Written by amber decourcy
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How to Make an Acrylic Bow Front Aquarium
Bow front aquairums are a classy way to add some elegance to a fish-keeper's home. (Aquarium fish-Xiphophorus helleri image by SPLAV from Fotolia.com)

Bow front aquariums are just another way you can personalise your fish-keeping experience with a classy, modern twist on an old favourite. Making your bow front aquarium out of acrylic rather than glass can also add stability, shape flexibility and it will not scratch or shatter as easily. Go ahead and build the large tank you have always wanted; acrylic bow front aquariums not only look nice, they provide plenty of options to customise the tank you have always dreamed of.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Five 1/4-inch sheets of acrylic (two side pieces, one bottom piece, one back piece and one front piece)
  • Strip heater
  • Non-toxic silicone sealant
  • Emery cloth
  • Duct tape

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Peel off the protective film covering the piece of acrylic for the front of the tank. Apply the strip heater to the piece and let sit for several minutes until acrylic is warm enough to bend.

  2. 2

    Shape the front piece of acrylic into a bowed curve carefully. If the acrylic does not shape well, let the heater warm the sheet up for a few more minutes. When the acrylic is warm enough, it will shape easily just by bending it with your hands, never force the acrylic to shape as it could shatter.

  3. 3

    Peel off the protective film from all the pieces of acrylic now that the front piece is bent to your liking. Take the emery cloth and gently wipe down the edges of all the acrylic that will be sealed together.

  1. 1

    Lay the piece of acrylic for the bottom of the tank on your workspace. Tear eight strips of duct tape 5 inches long and apply them tacky side up on the bottom piece of acrylic, leaving 3 inches out to be folded up at a later time. Stick two pieces per side and place them at equal lengths apart. Take the emery cloth and wipe 1 inch from all the edges toward the centre of the bottom piece to prepare the acrylic for the silicone sealant.

  2. 2

    Grab a side piece of acrylic and apply a line of silicone along the horizontal edge that will bond to the bottom piece. Starting at an angle, apply the piece of acrylic to the right side of the tank to the bottom piece and firmly yet gently straighten the piece out until you have a 90-degree angle. Keep the bonded pieces in place with even pressure for 30 seconds, then carefully test if the pieces will hold together without aid. Fold up the two pieces of duct tape on the side you just bonded.

  3. 3

    Pick up the piece of acrylic for the back piece of the tank. Apply a line of sealant along the horizontal bottom edge and the right side's vertical edge you just bonded. Set the back piece onto the bottom piece of acrylic first, then carefully and firmly put into place with the right side piece. Hold the piece in place for 30 seconds, then test its stability. If it holds on its own, fold up the pieces of duct tape on the back side.

  4. 4

    Apply a line of sealant along vertical and horizontal edge of the left side acrylic piece to bond with the bottom and back pieces of the tank. Starting at an angle once more, carefully yet firmly set the piece into place beginning with bonding the bottom then the side together. Let set for 30 seconds and fold up the two pieces of duct tape once it is stable on its own.

  5. 5

    Take the last piece of the aquarium, the bowed front and apply a line of silicone along the bottom and both side edges. Carefully apply the bottom horizontal edge to the bottom piece of acrylic at an angle and firmly yet carefully lift into place until the piece bonds with both right and left side pieces of the tank. Hold the front piece in place for 30 seconds before testing its stability. Once it is stable on its own, fold up the last two pieces of duct tape and let the whole aquarium sit for 24 to 48 hours.

  1. 1

    Fill the tank up once all the silicone sealant is dried. Check over all the sealed edges for any leaks. Let the aquarium sit for 24 hours filled with water and check the seams again for any leaks after the holding period.

  2. 2

    Fix any leaks by emptying out the tank and applying more silicone to the inside and outside area where the leak occurred. Let the fixed spots dry another 24 to 48 hours before refilling the tank and testing the seams for any leaks. Continue to do this until all leaks have been fixed and you feel comfortable letting water sit in the tank.

  3. 3

    Empty the tank out once all leaks have been fixed and you are satisfied with the tank. Move your new aquarium to its proper stand or area in your home and you may begin to decorate and prepare the tank for your new community of fish.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a razor blade carefully to remove any unwanted silicone edges.
  • Ask a professional to cut your acrylic pieces to get the best fit for your aquarium.
  • Use an Aquarium Glass Calculator tool found online to get the proper thickness required for the size tank you plan to make.
  • The bottom piece of your tank should be cut to the proper measurement to seam along with the bowed front of the tank.
  • Always check your measurements when bowing the acrylic so it properly fits with the bottom of the tank.

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