Common Aquarium Options
We have been asked to customize tanks with countless different options over the years. Below are some of those options that seem to be done on a regular basis which may give you some ideas. This is by no means a complete list, just a sampling of some of the more popular ones.
Many Overflow Styles. The standard overflow in an aquarium would be a rectangular shape. We do offer other options on shape, configuration, and placement. Some examples below.
1. Corner 45. This style works great for corner tanks and built-ins. When placed in the back corner(s), you really don’t even know there is an overflow in the tank, as there are no corners from a box anywhere. They just seem to blend in.
2. Trapezoid. The shape of some tanks will simply look better with trapezoid shaped overflow. They will have 2 bends on the front with angled sides. Others simply like the look better and prefer it over a rectangle.
3. Round. Typically reserved for round aquariums, a round overflow is usually built from a flat sheet of stock and will have a single vertical seam that you likely will not be able to see.
4. Short. If you have room to come out the back or end of your aquarium with the plumbing, a short overflow might be a good option. They work the same way but do not go all the way to the bottom of the tank. This gives you more room in the tank and don’t have to work around them with your aquascaping. They typically are 6-8” deep from top to bottom but can be made any size.
5. External. If you have room behind the tank or space on the ends, external overflows are often desirable. There will be no boxes inside the tank at all to interfere with anything which gives the aquarium a nice, clean look. A ¼” thick colored plate with the teeth will be bonded over the overflow area on the inside of the tank.
6. Bottom Draw. We sometimes build rectangular overflows with a feature that allows a portion of the water to be pulled from the lower depths in addition to the top surface. There is a weir inside that prevents draining of the tank in the event of a power loss. Overflows can also be built to pull from the bottom only.
Colored Background Panels.
More tanks than not will have one or more colored background panels. It is easier to focus on the interior of an aquarium if you can’t see all the way through it. It can be distracting to see objects behind the tank that are not part of it. Plus it simply looks much better with a colored background. Though some will have colored acrylic, most aquarium panels will have a painted exterior. We use a high quality custom paint made for smooth surfaces that will not ever flake or chip off. There are always multiple coats. Black and blue are standard but we have done a variety of other custom colors as well. The picture here with some blue panels is an accurate representation of the blue we use, which matches the blue acrylic used on the interior of the tank. Other pictures throughout this website may look like different blues but it is all the same color. It looks different as the pictures are all taken in different camera light or with different cameras.
Rounded Vertical Corners.
Unless specified differently, you should expect standard square vertical corners. On some tanks or in some areas it may be desirable to radius the vertical front (or other) corners of the aquarium for a better look, or to eliminate sharp corners. But this also makes it harder to fit nicely to a stand or canopy as there will be a small void where the corner of the tank had been taken away, unless the stand and canopy are custom built to accept the tank this way. One way of avoiding the (ugly) void space or having the cabinetry corners radiused as well is to have the rounded corner of the aquarium stopped short. This leaves the very top and bottom of the aquarium corner square so it fits into the cabinetry nicely. The picture here is an example of that.
This can mean different things to different people. To some it means no top bracing at all (wrong). Some believe it is a tank with no cross bracing. To us it is a top which has both narrower perimeter and cross bracing, or no cross bracing at all. It will still have bracing around the outer perimeter. Either way, some people prefer to have smaller, slimmer, bracing on the top of the aquarium for a variety of reasons. Keep in mind that reducing the normal size bracing will most often mean that the body, top, or both will need to be built out of thicker material than it normally would to compensate. Two examples are given, one with no cross bracing and the other with reduced bracing on top.
Although is usually best for a system to operate without lids as there is better gas exchange and cooling, some systems with a lot of evaporation or the worry of jumping fish might be better off with them. Acrylic lids are made from the opening cutouts. Braces are added to allow them to sit down in place. There will be a ½” gap in the areas that do not have the bracing. Acrylic lids are relatively inexpensive to add to your tank. Since they are made from the tank cutouts, they can get quite heavy if they are very large or are from tanks with thick tops. If this is the case you may want to consider polycarbonate tops.
Another option is polycarbonate lids. They are typically 3/8” thick. They fit snug and are about flush with the tank top. They require no bracing, resist warping, are typically lighter, and are extremely impact resistant. The top of the tank will have recesses machined into it to accept the precisely machined lids. They will cost a bit more than acrylic lids.
Available on most overflow styles, a dry chamber is a sealed section inside the overflow that allows you to run light cords and other necessities back up through the aquarium unseen. It is only needed on installations where there is no other way to run cords back up to the top of the aquarium for lighting, fans, etc, as would be the case on an island setup with 360 degree viewing and no electric available above the tank. Also for tanks that need to be pushed up tight to a wall so no cords can be ran behind it. Dry chambers are usually not necessary though, as an extra bulkhead can be placed inside the overflow that you can glue a length of PVC pipe into. This will give you a dry chase to run things through as well. Which works best depends on the size of what you want to bring up through it.
On occasion it is desirable to have corners bent on an aquarium versus seamed. Keep in mind that the total length of the panels between bends has to come from the same piece. Sheets are limited in size so the bending option is limited to the length of available sheets. This usually limits bends to the smaller tanks. Though thicker materials can be bent, the increased width of distortion surrounding the bend can be undesirable to some. The pic here is of ½” thick material.
Magnetic Wavemaker Pockets.
Many of the wavemaking devices today feature a magnetic pump whereas the motor/cord is on the outside of the tank and the impellor/blades are on the inside of the tank. The strength of the magnets that allow them to work efficiently is limited. By machining pockets in the side or back panels to accommodate, the thickness is reduced and the strength of the device is improved.
Museum Quality Seams
Standard seams on our aquariums are butt joints, and, unless very thick or angled/mitered, are standard chemical bonds. These bonds can form tiny microbubbles as well as a faint glue line on the inside edge of the joint. Although we are very good at them, in general they will not look quite as good as a museum quality seam. A “Museum Quality” seam is a loosely used term that really has no definition and can mean different things to different people and manufacturers. In general it is a seam that simply looks better than standard. To us it would be a seam bonded with a 2–part adhesive either mitered or butt joined and then sanded and hand polished to a high luster. Typically reserved for higher end showpieces or on tanks where the vertical corners are prominent. It should be noted that it is our belief that the 2-part seams are not as strong as a properly done chemical bond. For this reason we will often use thicker material for our tank ends to get a wider bond width as an added safety margin. Museum quality seams are significantly more labor and will come at additional cost. It should also be noted that if you are not looking for it, the difference between the two is not substantial. A couple examples below.