How to Build Your Own Acrylic Aquarium

Updated on August 13, 2019
tehgyb profile image

Don loves doing DIY projects, and he has successfully built aquariums from scratch.


Building Your Own Aquarium

Let's get going with our DIY aquarium. As with any aquarium set up, the first step is deciding what kind of critters you want to incorporate in your tank - and how many. This is very important as it will decide what size you need, and how much it will cost you in the long run.

As a general rule of thumb, most people will say one gallon per inch of fish, at minimum, for fish under 3 inches. 3 gallons per inch for fish over 3 inches. We're going to assume we want to build a 120-gallon tank with dimensions of 48x24x24, in inches. I will leave this for you to decide. With some simple math, you can play with the size and adjust the volume to your needs. The tank I built for myself is 50 gallons.

Estimated Price(USD)
0-12 Inches
1/4 Inch
13-19 Inches
3/8 Inch
20-24 Inches
1/2 Inch

Once we know what size we desire, we need to find our resources for the build. Here is what we will need:

  • Acrylic Sheet(s)
  • Small aluminum angle irons (1"x1"x desired perimeter for top AND bottom) for top and bottom support rims
  • Weld-On brand #4 Solvent Cement
  • Aquarium safe silicone
  • Solvent bottle
  • A few 1x4s
  • Duct tape

First We Need Supplies

Most plastics suppliers will stock acrylic sheets 4'x8'. One sheet is perfect for our build, as every inch of the sheet can be used with none left over, with no more extra needed. Be sure to get cell-cast acrylic, as other types will not work; the seams and often the sheets themselves will be too brittle and fail - not a fun time.

When you order your acrylic, ask if the price will include cutting, if not, pay the extra - acrylic is extremely hard to cut in a perfectly straight line by yourself. I would also recommend asking if they can route the edges smooth for you, as this will make your job a whole lot easier and give you a much smoother surface to adjoin. While you're at the supplier ask if they have any scrap pieces they're throwing away, they don't need to be big at all, just something to practice gluing and assembling with. As with anything in life, it is always good to practice a bit before the big game.

Acrylic thickness is extremely important, and varies per build. The length of the tank will not be the deciding factor, not the volume; however, the height is the big factor here. For a tank from 0 to 12 inches tall I would use 1/4" thick acrylic, for 13-19" I would use 3/8", and from 20-24" I would use 1/2". Obviously, we could go taller and as a result need thicker acrylic, but let's not go there for today.

Expect to pay $160-$200 for a 4ftx8ft sheet of 1/4" acrylic, $250-$350 for a 3/8" sheet, $350-$450 for a 1/2" sheet.

Some acrylic sheets at the plastics supplier.
Some acrylic sheets at the plastics supplier. | Source

Practice Makes Perfect

Remember the scrap I mentioned earlier? This is where it comes in. This is not absolutely vital to the project, but it is definitely a good idea to practice smoothing and joining with some scraps before you do it on the real thing. Joining acrylic is not like gluing the macaroni on construction paper like we did back in the day, take a minute to practice and get it right.

Next Steps

You will notice your acrylic will have a protective film on it. Do not remove this, as it will prevent the solvents from staining the acrylic where the solvents don't need to be. Instead, leave it all in place, except for a sliver you cut away, about 1", around all sides.

Now do a test fit and make sure all of your panels fit up 100%. Be sure to check for any gaps between all surfaces. This is extremely important because if there are any gaps, you will have a weak spot that will eventually break down and cause either a leak or a massive and horrible failure. Also, during this step, I would recommend checking every edge thoroughly for any abrasions or burrs. If you didn't or weren't able to have the edges routed by the supplier, you will have little saw marks over every edge. These need to be smoothed out as much as possible to provide the best adhesion and seal. I've found a 2 flute-straight-cut router bit (used by hand) works well for this.

After you've scraped the sides smooth, we can now join the pieces. Lay the pieces in the fashion you want to adjoin them. It is very important you don't apply too much pressure on the pieces, as the solvent will not be able to penetrate the joint properly. Once the pieces are laid out the way, you want them adjoined, use your solvent bottle, or even a syringe, to run the solvent cement along the joint, until you see that the joint is 100% penetrated. Since acrylic is transparent, you will actually be able to watch the solvent run into the joints. Only do this process once, as adding more will weaken the joint.



  1. Lay a support for your bottom plate, I like to use a few 1x4s. Lay your bottom plate on the 1x4s.
  2. Add strips of duct tape, roughly 6 inches long, every 5 inches around the plate, from the bottom side (Half adhered to the plate, the other half hanging, adhesive side up.)
  3. Have a friend help you set the sides up in place on the bottom plate. Use the tape from step 3 to hold the sides on the bottom, and also put a few pieces on the sides to hold them together.
  4. From the inside of the tank, run your solvent cement along only the bottom edge. Apply solvent only on a horizontal plane, as it will not penetrate the joints if you do it vertically.
  5. Let the tank sit for 4 hours. It is extremely important that you do not move it!
  6. Now, the bottom has sealed and cured, you can do each corner. Flip the tank to its side, now you have two corners on a horizontal plane, run your cement.
  7. Wait 4 more hours. Again, be extremely careful to not move it.
  8. Once the side you just did is ready, flip it over to the other side and repeat the process.
  9. And then, another 4-hour wait.
  10. Now that your tank is all assembled and cured, run the aquarium safe silicone sealant along all joints to ensure a good, safe seal.
  11. Now the angle irons come into play. Cut them to length and miter the joints. If you know someone who can weld well, have them weld the angle irons into rectangles for your top and bottom supports, you can grind the welds down to a flat and smooth finish for style. If you don't know a welder, you may need to join them with metal adhesive available at your hardware store. I was careful to cut mine exact enough that they almost snapped right onto the tank, I used some of the silicone as a glue to keep them on the tank snugly.

Now you have a brand-new aquarium! The next part is to find or make a hood (I'll leave this up to you,) get your accessories and fill her up!

Don't forget to cycle the tank before adding your fish!

Here is my finished tank, with my original makeshift hood/filter set up. (Yes the stand is crooked, please don't tease me.)
Here is my finished tank, with my original makeshift hood/filter set up. (Yes the stand is crooked, please don't tease me.) | Source

© 2011 Don Colfax


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Domas van wijk (dutch) 

      4 months ago


      and thank u for this tutorial,

      I hat a question:

      How thick must the acrylic be if I want to build a thank that is 37 inches high?

      thanks in advance!

    • profile image

      Israel Adediran 

      11 months ago

      Very Insightful

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      hi every one i am building a acrilic tank for marine five sides 1200mm high 1800mm face 1600mm deep 900mm face 1300mm face 900mm facefish tank encased, 4x2 frame then 50x50 steel frame, 30mm to 40mm acrlic .

      dont know what way to join it together . want to use silicone but cant find one that bonds to acrilic .

    • flint3099 profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this project with us. Would like to see some more pictures of the finished tank if you ever plan to add any.

    • tehgyb profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Colfax 

      6 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

      Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed this hub!

      I will be posting many project tutorial hubs in the near future, stay tuned ;)

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      What a great project; interesting and very useful.

      Voted up, shared and now looking forward to many more by you.


    • tehgyb profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Colfax 

      6 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

      Bassmaniac, I am so sorry I missed your comment! I have been on a bit of a hiatus and haven't been on HP for a while. I'm back though!

      As a quick answer, I purchased mine from a local source, a direct manufacturer. I've also updated the prices above to match current market values.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      hey i have been looking for prices for the acrylic and i cant find a 4'x8' sheet for 180 dollars. I find the sheets for twice that and more. can you give me a good dealer to buy from?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)