How to Build Your Own Aquarium On A Budget


Having an aquarium in your home or office offers more than aesthetic value. Not only are aquariums beautiful to look at, but they also come with loads of health and lifestyle benefits. For one, gazing upon a fish tank will have a calming effect on you and help you to reduce stress.

Other health benefits you can get from an aquarium include:

  • Better sleep
  • Healthier heart rate and blood pressure
  • Reduced anxiety and hyperactivity
  • Pain relief

With so many benefits, it’s no surprise that the cost of buying an aquarium is on the high side. Thankfully, you can build one for yourself in less than a day, and not have to spend too much. Constructing your own fish tank will not only save you money but could also be a fun activity. It’s not half as technical as building an artificial coral reef so anyone can do it.

We’ll discuss how you can build your own aquarium using any design of your choice.

Selecting Your Construction Materials

Here’s the checklist of things you should do and procure before the actual construction starts.

Decide on Your Aquarium Size

The size of your fish tank will determine the volume of materials you’d need. Factors to consider when deciding on your aquarium size include:

  • Home or office space
  • Size of your pool of fish
  • Location of the aquarium
  • Budget (you’ll need to buy more materials for larger aquariums)

Choose a Glass Type

By far, the most suitable glass for this project is the annealed glass. Some stores tag it as a plate or sheet glass, so it’s best to keep all the names in mind when shopping for it. Annealed glass is remarkably durable. Hence, it’s a good fit.

You can determine the suitable glass thickness by using an online aquarium glass thickness calculator. We advise you to use a quarter-inch thickness for an aquarium of fewer than 12 inches in height.

Get Other Materials

Here’s a list of materials you’ll need:

  • Duct tape
  • Razor blades (preferably single edge)
  • Sandpaper
  • Washable tip marker
  • Paper towels
  • Non-toxic 100% silicone sealant
  • Caulk gun
  • Acetone
  • Heavy objects to support the glass while you work

Building Your Aquarium

Follow the DIY steps below while constructing your fish tank:

1. Arrange your glass panes

Place your pre-cut glass pieces on a table with the bottom panel in the middle and the front, back, and side panes against all four edges of it to form a cross-like shape. Remember to leave an allowance on the sides to accommodate the thickness of the front and back panes. Your side panes should be shorter than your actual pre-determined length by twice the thickness of your glass.

2. Precondition your glass

It would help if you rubbed the sides of the glass with acetone to clean them. Cut out lengths of duct tape that are about half the length of each side. Ensure you cut strips for each side of the bottom pane. Half the length of your strips should be lying freely over the table, and the other half should be attached to each side of the bottom piece.

This way, when you raise a side panel, you can support it by taping on the free halves of the tape. It’s best to have a piece of tape left, right, and center of each pane.

3. Apply silicone to the Bottom with the caulk gun

Apply silicone about 2mm from the edge of the bottom pane. You will eventually have to do the same for other pieces before fitting them with other parts. Your silicone strips should be 3mm wide, and you should apply them on the bottom pane first. Note that silicone has a 2-3 minutes setting time, so you should work fast.

4. Assemble your panes

The front pane should go up first. Place it on its allocated edge on the bottom glass and press gently. Support it with the loose taping you set up earlier. This should hold it in place while the silicone sets.

Next, repeat the silicone application process with the caulk gun, this time on the side panes. Fit each, one after the other, to the bottom and front panes. Don’t forget to support them with the loose strip of tape. You should now have two separate corners of your aquarium up.

Repeat the above step for the back pane by applying silicone accordingly and placing it firmly into place.

5. Wait

Your silicone should be dry in 24 to 48 hours. However, if you want to get it as hard as possible, you may want to wait for about a week before pouring water into your new aquarium.

Filling Your Aquarium

Here’re a few tips to help you get the best out of your aquarium over time.

  • Check for any leaks by filling the tank to the brim with water. If there’re no leaks, you’re good to go.
  • You may need to set up a filtering system, especially if you built the aquarium to house freshwater fish. Power and undergravel filters work well in this case.
  • If your fish are of the tropical species that can’t survive in hard water, you should get water softeners for your aquarium. There are different types, and all of them can help reduce hardness. However, consider browsing reviews for the most efficient ones.
  • Add a heating system if you have to. Also, use lights that don’t heat the environment.
  • Be careful with your choice of soil. Ask your pet store for the best soil for any fish you buy from them. Gravel or sand are the most common types, and you can go with either, in most cases.
  • Always consider the weight of water before filling up your aquarium. You may leave an inch gap between your water level and the top of the aquarium.
  • Use water dechlorinators if you’re dealing with freshwater fish.

Now you have all the information you need to build yourself a fish tank on a budget. You can apply the tips above on an aquarium for your home or office, irrespective of the species of fish you’d like to display.


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