Advanced Engineering

How Aquariums Are Made

“How an aquarium is made! Today, I give a world exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at how Custom Aquariums builds their fish tanks.” — The King of DIY.

None of Custom Aquariums’ systems is a one size fits all approach. We can build many sizes, shapes, and configurations with our systems-to-order depending on every unique circumstance. When we finished designing, re-designing, testing, and perfecting these systems for our service business, they were too good not to share with everyone else. Thus, Custom Aquariums was born as a way to sell our products to other end-user customers and other service companies outside of our own. Now, you can have the same high-quality, best-in-class aquarium systems in your own home or office that we use every day in our high-end commercial aquarium service business.

Adjusting A Siphon Stopper Emitter

The level of the cap of a Siphon Stopper Emitter is easy to adjust.

  • Patent Pending air intake cap automatically breaks a back siphon should the water flow stop
  • Minimizes flood risk and volume of a back siphon during a power outage or pump failure
  • Works great with the Seamless Sump® system!
  • Does not rely on check valves with failure-prone gaskets or springs
  • Loc-Line knuckle allows many output positions and nozzle options
  • Siphon Stopper® cap allows surface circulation and aeration
  • The siphon stopping cap is above the waterline yet below the lids to minimize evaporation
  • It can be manipulated in multiple positions to control water circulation easily
  • Easy installation, all that is needed is one hole drilled for a 1/2″ bulkhead
  • Order the aquarium from us, and we can drill holes for your overflow and returns for you!
  • Hole drilling kits available for easy DIY installation on existing aquariums
  • Fixed drill position reduces the probability of human error
  • Installs out of your line of sight, minimal visual impact on the look of your aquascape
  • Clean, professional look – no “sloppy tank” syndrome

H2Overflow Stealthbox Instructional Video

The H2Overflow Stealthbox is an external overflow box and manifold that will allow you to manage the flow from up to three H2Overflow screens efficiently and silently. Read more and purchase the Stealthbox here! For more information, don’t hesitate to contact Custom Aquariums today!

Lifetime Aquariums® – Cosmetic Appeal

Lifetime Aquariums® are engineered to be safe, strong, dependable, and to last a lifetime. In addition, Lifetime Aquariums® are designed to be beautiful and keep their cosmetic appeal.

We choose to build all Lifetime Aquariums® out of glass so that your aquarium will stay beautiful for a lifetime.

Acrylic is very prone to scratching and will absorb chemicals over time that can compromise its clarity by turning it yellow. Acrylic is also flexible, resulting in a bowing out of the panes that causes visual distortion.

Glass does not have these problems and is a lot less expensive than acrylic. So the choice is clear. Clear as glass!

We can build Lifetime Aquariums® with standard clarity glass or Ultra Clear low iron glass. You can cut costs by ordering Ultra Clear glass for the main viewing panels and standard glass for the sides where clarity is unimportant.

Every edge of all the glass in a Lifetime Aquarium® is precision beveled and polished so that it is perfectly smooth and flat, even the edges you will not see under the aquarium frame. This production step makes the aquarium look incredible and makes the aquarium stronger by eliminating micro-fractures and providing a consistent surface and joint thickness for the silicone sealant.

The silicone sealant used in Lifetime Aquariums® is five times stronger than the standard clear silicone used by other manufacturers and will not be discolored by algae or medications over time. As a result, the clean, black-framed professional appearance of the aquarium will last a lifetime.

Lifetime Aquariums® have stylish, black, marine-grade, anodized aluminum frames that impart additional, unmatched safety and strength to the aquarium.

The patented frame system has removable braces, which permit large decoration pieces to be set into the tank before it is filled with water, allowing decoration options that are not possible with molded plastic frames or glued-in glass braces.

Because of this revolutionary frame system, we can build aquariums of virtually any size.

We can also build beautiful large hexagon and pentagon aquariums that are just as safe, dependable, and long-lasting as our rectangular aquariums. Finally, our amphibious enclosures combine the best of aquariums and terrariums.

The cosmetic appeal of a Lifetime Aquarium® is just as important as safety, strength, and dependability. When an aquarium lasts a lifetime, it should always look great.

Lifetime Aquariums® – Engineering

The Lifetime Aquariums® design started as an exercise in solving problems. Serenity Aquarium and Aviary Services (one of the largest aquarium leasing and maintenance companies in the United States) needed a new aquarium system that would be safe in areas with many people, dependable during the weeks between services, and continue to look as good as it did on the day it is installed.

Poorly engineered aquarium filter systems will result in problems that require immediate attention to prevent water damage to property and may pose a risk to people around the aquarium. So we took on the challenge to engineer a complete aquarium system that eliminated those potential problems.

The Custom Aquariums’ H2Overflow® screen, Siphon Stopper® emitter, and Seamless Sump filter system solve all operational issues, providing a safe, worry-free filtration system that can operate for weeks between services flawlessly.

The Custom Aquariums engineering team searched the country for the perfect aquarium to pair with the revolutionary filter system and could not find a manufacturer that could build an aquarium that offers the dependability and safety needed. The only way to get the perfect aquarium was to design one ourselves; thus, the Lifetime Aquarium® was born.

Lifetime Aquariums® are designed by professional engineers using state-of-the-art 3D computer modeling and rendering techniques. There is no room for guesswork when the goal is a glass box that needs to hold hundreds, even thousands, of gallons of water.

Custom Aquariums has fourteen patents on the unique technologies our engineers have developed while inventing the Lifetime Aquarium® and filter systems, with even more patent-worthy advancements on the way.

All Lifetime Aquariums® are built-to-order, and each tank’s specifications are reviewed and approved by design engineers before construction can begin. The revolutionary framing system and superior materials make building a glass aquarium of almost any size and dimension possible, but there are limits. We will not sell an aquarium that we cannot construct to be safe and dependable. No exceptions!

An aquarium is only as strong as the glass in it, and quality glass in the correct thickness is essential to ensure the tank will be safe.

Tempered glass may be required or desired on some aquariums, and Custom Aquariums can temper any piece of glass after it has been cut, polished, and drilled.

Aquarium stresses magnify any imperfection in the glass, so precise measurement and cutting are required to ensure that the tank will not have a weak point.

Any uneven, unpolished edge has micro-fractures that can grow into cracks and conchoidal fractures. Those slight imperfections compromise the structural integrity of the seal between panes of glass and create a weak point in the tank that may eventually leak or break.

The precise engineering of a Lifetime Aquarium® requires the edges to be perfectly smooth and square, so we precision bevel and polish every edge of every pane in a Lifetime Aquarium®, even those hidden under a frame, which ensures a flawless, perfectly flat surface.

The polishing step is essential for the sealing process, ensuring that the silicone adheres to a perfectly flat, clean surface.

Precision in measurement, cutting, polishing, and sealing is necessary for rimless tanks that will not have the structural support of an upper frame to help contain the fluid pressure pushing against the sides of the aquarium.

The amount of physical stress a joint between two panes of glass can withstand limits the size and shape of a rimless tank. So Custom Aquariums’ engineers use complicated mathematics to design rimless tanks, considering all of the factors that strengthen an aquarium.

The result is that Custom Aquariums can build a broader range of rimless sizes and shapes with complete confidence that the tank will have the strength and dependability we require.

Larger aquariums need a frame, and the revolutionary patented framing system on Lifetime Aquariums® is unmatched for strength, dependability, and versatility.

Unlike plastic, the Lifetime Aquarium® frame uses marine-grade anodized aluminum that will not corrode or weaken with age.

Some manufacturers do not use a frame at all, choosing instead to use glass glued into the top of the aquarium as the only structural support. Unfortunately, these so-called ‘Euro rim’ braces are only as strong as the silicone seal between the panes of glass and the braces, which is not as strong as it needs to be to ensure that the tank will never leak or fall apart under the water’s pressure.

Each Lifetime Aquarium® frame is precisely measured and created for each tank and held together by hardware that is infinitely stronger than plastic or silicone.

Custom Aquariums manufactures the frame’s supporting crossbars with the same precision as the frame. Powerful hardware connects the crossbars to the frame, and that hardware is removable, permitting the installation of large decoration pieces before filling the tank with water.

The Lifetime Aquariums®’ frame system also makes it possible to produce amphibious tanks – enclosures with an aquarium on the bottom and a vivarium above it. In addition, the frame lets Custom Aquariums install sliding doors on the front of an amphibious tank with glass or perforated aluminum on top. It’s the perfect solution for a display featuring aquatic and arboreal animals!

The engineering that has created Lifetime Aquariums® is so advanced that it has enabled us to reinvent hexagon and pentagon aquariums. Unfortunately, most manufacturers have abandoned these beautiful tank shapes in large sizes because their designs failed, resulting in many leaking and broken aquariums.

A Lifetime Aquarium® hexagon or pentagon tank is built to be as strong, last as long, and be just as dependable as a rectangular aquarium.

Custom Aquariums bevels and polishes the glass edges in hexagon and pentagon aquariums so that the surfaces between the silicone seals are parallel, flat, and incredibly strong.

The frame system for a hexagon and pentagon tank has the same materials and hardware as the frame on a rectangular tank, except the top network of supports provides unilateral support across every pressure line in the tank.

Custom Aquariums engineers hexagon and pentagon tanks so well that we can build huge tanks that are just as safe and dependable as any Lifetime Aquarium®.

The engineering in a Lifetime Aquarium® is so advanced that we are confident in our guarantee that your custom aquarium will last a lifetime.

The best choice for an aquarium with unmatched safety, strength, integrity, and cosmetic appeal is a Lifetime Aquarium®.

Lifetime Aquariums® – Fabrication Techniques

Custom Aquariums’ superior engineering and the highest-quality materials set the stage for the safest, strongest, and most dependable aquarium available. Superior fabrication techniques that pull them together to make a Lifetime Aquarium®.

Your custom aquarium begins when professional engineers critically review the specifications for your tank to ensure that the size, shape, and material options you want will build an aquarium as safe, strong, and dependable as we require all Lifetime Aquariums® to be.

The glass for your aquarium is then precision measured and scored by a computer-controlled CNC cutter, ensuring that the aquarium will be perfectly square.

All glass panels pass through an 11-spindle glass polisher that corrects all the imperfections and bevels the cut edges of the glass.

Custom Aquariums polishes all of the edges, even those hidden under a frame, because unpolished edges will contain micro-fractures that jeopardize the panel’s integrity.

We drill all of the filtration holes in a Lifetime Aquarium® with an automated machine that eliminates small mistakes that can occur from the hand-drilling of glass. The precision machine drills the hole from both sides of the glass pane, preventing any cracks or conchoidal fractures around the hole’s edge.

A local company specializes in tempering any thick glass that’s been drilled and polished. Access to custom glass tempering allows Custom Aquariums to provide the tempered option on aquarium panels with holes.

The last step before constructing the aquarium is to thoroughly clean the glass in a six-brush washer that uses deionized reverse osmosis water, leaving a spotless surface for optimal adhesion to the silicone sealant.

Until the tank is sealed, the glass is never touched by an un-gloved hand because the oils from human skin can keep the silicone from adhering to the glass as completely as possible.

Custom Aquariums assembles and seals Lifetime Aquariums® with a procedure that applies a uniform thickness of 540 psi silicone between the panes of glass. The advanced silicone sealant is five times stronger than the industry standard clear silicone.

The Custom Aquariums system ensures that the bond between the glass panels and the glass and the frames is as strong as possible. The silicone sealant in Lifetime Aquariums® is just as crucial to the structural integrity as the glass and frame are.

Custom Aquariums’ patented anodized aluminum frame system is custom-built for each aquarium, ensuring a tight fit and providing the best possible support.

This revolutionary frame technology is precision machined and assembled by hand. Next, we glue the frame to the aquarium with the same advanced silicone sealant, which we apply with a generous bead that fills any gaps between the glass and frame, eliminating the chance of a leak from under the rim of the aquarium.

Custom Aquariums builds every tank with careful attention to detail and superior fabrication techniques. As a result, a Lifetime Aquarium® is not an off-the-shelf tank, mass-produced in a production line using the cheapest materials possible. Instead, a Lifetime Aquarium® is engineered and built to last a lifetime!

Lifetime Aquariums® – Materials

Custom Aquariums’ secret ingredients to building the safest, strongest, and most dependable aquarium are the highest quality materials that go into all of the tanks we produce.

The structural integrity of an aquarium is only as strong as the materials it contains. A Lifetime Aquarium® is born from superior engineering paired with unmatched quality of materials.

Custom Aquariums uses high-quality glass with the correct thickness suited to the specific size tank for all Lifetime Aquariums®.

Glass has many advantages over acrylic. For example, glass will not scratch easily, turn yellow over time, absorb chemicals, or be easily damaged during manufacturing and transport. In addition, acrylic has higher visual distortion and costs a LOT more than glass.

Acrylic’s only advantages are that it’s lighter and can be formed more easily into curved shapes.

However, the overall weight of an aquarium with water negates any difference in the weight of the material. The structural integrity of a flat-panel aquarium, especially with the Lifetime Aquarium®’s patented frame system, makes using glass a much safer choice.

Custom Aquariums can build an aquarium with standard clarity or Ultra Clear glass, and you can choose the glass type you want for each side of the tank.

Any glass panel can be tempered, improving its strength and safety. We can even temper the glass after all the filtration holes are drilled, and the edges are beveled and polished.

The glass panels are held together by silicone that is five times stronger than the industry standard. This material is more expensive than the thin, clear silicone sealant other manufacturers use, but the cost is negligible compared to the damage caused by a failed seal.

Lifetime Aquarium®’s patented frame system is a revolutionary advancement in aquarium technology. The frames are marine-grade anodized aluminum, the same material used in structural projects subjected to constant exposure to the ocean.

The anodized aluminum frame is much stronger than a plastic molded frame and will never rust, chip, or corrode. And the frame’s superior engineering and precise manufacturing complete the strongest, most dependable, and versatile aquarium framing system available today.

Silicone sealant adheres to aluminum more strongly than it does to plastic. Combining our extremely strong aluminum frame system with the advanced silicone gives a Lifetime Aquarium® an unmatched level of security against the incredible amount of pressure imposed on the seals by water inside a tank.

The quality of the materials going into a Lifetime Aquarium® is second to none. Custom Aquariums will continue to use the best materials available, so we can honestly say that a Lifetime Aquarium® is the safest, strongest, most dependable, and best-engineered aquarium you can buy.

Aquarium Frame System

Let’s talk about aquarium frames!

To understand the importance of an aquarium frame, we must understand its purpose. Glass can bend, but it can break if it bends too much. Any flaw in the surface or edge of the glass will cause the glass to break, which is why Custom Aquariums polishes every edge to remove potential weaknesses that can result in a crack. But that is a topic for a different video. This video is about frames.

An aquarium full of water is under intense pressure from gravity pulling on the water in the tank. The greater the volume of water, the greater the pressure. The larger the pane of glass, the more the pane will bow out from the stress. Tall aquariums are especially susceptible to bowing. A rimless aquarium can only be as large and tall as the amount of water and glass permits it to be. Most rimless tanks are relatively small with thicker glass. If a tank is too large or tall to be rimless, the upper rim must have a frame to brace against the pressure.

Most glass aquariums are braced in one of two ways. The most common is to use a solid frame that fits over the rim of the tank. Most of these frames are one-piece molded plastic. A less common method is to use pieces of glass spanning the top of the tank and glue it in place with silicone, which is sometimes called euro-bracing and has been used for years. But it is not the best idea for huge aquariums.

The weakest point in the tank structure becomes the silicone between the brace and the pane of glass. Do we want to trust a thin layer of silicone to hold back thousands of pounds of pressure forever?

Plastic frames are better than glued glass braces, but plastic also has some problems:

  1. Plastic is a relatively weak material. Some frames are thick with reinforced sections engineered where they are needed most. Most mass-produced aquarium frames are not.
  2. Plastic degrades over time due to reactions with water, air, temperature, and light. As the material degrades, it can stretch, and it may eventually break. Once a plastic frame fails, the structural integrity of the frame is lost forever.
  3. Silicon does not adhere to plastic very well at all.

Therefore, the bond between the glass, silicon sealant, and plastic frame is not as strong as if the frame material was something that silicon adheres to well.

For these reasons, the frame supporting a Custom Aquariums tank is not a single piece of plastic nor a glued-in glass brace. Instead, we use the strongest marine-grade anodized aluminum as the primary structural support (a material used in construction projects near saltwater all over the world).

Each frame is custom-fitted to each aquarium. The number and type of cross braces are determined by what is needed to support each tank. All cross braces are held in place by hardware that is significantly stronger than the material by itself and a whole lot stronger than silicon (even the silicon Custom Aquariums uses, which is five times stronger than the typical mass-produced aquarium sealant).

There is virtually no chance that the braces across a Custom Aquariums frame will ever pull apart like a plastic rim or glued glass plate can. And the hardware permits the braces to be removed when the tank is empty so that you can place large hardscape pieces in the tank. Just be sure to replace the braces before filling the tank with water!

The final difference between a Custom Aquariums frame and all other bracing methods is that the adhesive bond between the glass, silicone sealant, and anodized aluminum is collectively stronger, making the frame part of the whole system counteracting the pressure in the aquarium. The entire framing system is engineered to be an integral part of a Custom Aquariums tank’s structural integrity. This enhanced structural integrity is one of the main reasons Custom Aquariums builds aquariums that are safe, strong, dependable, and engineered to last a lifetime.