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How Custom Aquariums Are Made – Full Factory Tour (Plus New Tank!)

By Cichlid Bros on

0:00:00.0 Speaker 1: Hey, guys. Welcome back to another video. Today, we're here at Custom Aquariums in Wisconsin, as Quinn's getting a brand new custom aquarium for his classroom. We're also gonna do a full factory tour and show how aquariums are made.

0:00:11.4 Quinn: So guys, if you've not done that already, please hit that subscribe button. We really appreciate your support, amped. Let's dive right in.


0:00:27.3 Speaker 1: So Quinn and I made the three hour drive up from Chicago, and we are very excited to check out Custom Aquariums. Some other great channels have done tour videos here, but there were some new pieces to the process in the last year or so, and we wanted to pick up Quinn's big new tank, so it was a great opportunity to show the full tour. We started off checking on a few of their display tanks in their lobby, which started with an awesome reef tank with some beautiful corals, and then a big, mostly African Cichlid tank. Everyone at Custom Aquariums was extremely nice, and our main guide, Mark, explained most of the process to us, starting with the wood shop where they produce the custom-made stands.

0:01:09.5 S1: The factory was a bit noisy, so I'll mostly do a voiceover with all the great details that Mark had provided. We're going to spend the majority of the time in the glass shop, but this space was really cool, just to see the scope and the detail that goes into the stands and the canopies. There were a ton of stands in production, and Custom Aquariums has plans of expanding the space even further. Once the stand or the canopy is built, it goes to get painted in one of their variety of colors. They have a ton of materials and storage here stacked high across the building, which was an area they just recently expanded and filled out really quickly. Next, we're going to walk across the street to see where the really cool stuff happens, the actual aquariums being built.


0:02:09.9 S1: So the glass shop is set up in multiple stations, so each worker can focus on a specific area or two in a given day. The process starts with a huge piece of glass being pulled from the storage rack. They used to have this whole panel free-fall onto the table, and the air displacement would keep it from breaking. However, they recently changed this process with a machine suctioning the panel, and lightly bringing it over to the table here. Once the worker enters all the dimensions needed for the aquarium, the machine here does the rest. It automatically calculates the cuts needed to get the most panels out of each piece of glass. The machine kicks on, and it's pretty incredible to watch. It makes precise cuts, scoring each piece accurately and quickly. The cutting wheel of the machine is scoring the glass, which can then be separated with just light pressure from the worker or the table. This table has air pushing upwards, so the worker can easily push around this heavy glass panel with ease.


0:03:14.7 S1: Some of the larger pieces slide over a piece on the table, and with a light push on the glass, the panel cleanly separates in two. It was one of the coolest things I've seen, just given the precision and the ease in this process. The machine automatically calculates the cuts it needs to make to maximize the amount of panels that it can pull from one glass piece. Some of the smaller panels can even be separated just by a little tap on the glass. Once the panels are cut, it's time for the next step in the process with the polisher and the edging machine. This smooths out any rigidity on the edges, which as you can see isn't a perfect line as glass doesn't cut in perfect angles. They have different options for low iron or normal panes of glass, but I'm gonna kick it over to Mark to explain a little bit more about the polishing machine.


0:04:07.2 Mark: Once it gets to the center, those rubber pads actually grab it and suspend it above all the different cutting wheels in there. You got, of course, kind of finer and finer, and those are putting the actual chamfers on the edge of the glass. So we can program in how hard we want those wheels to take off, how fast they can go, thickness of the glass. So you can actually see, this is actually squeezing together. So then it'll come off of this trolley or this conveyor, get pinched in between. There's two sets of those black belts.

0:04:40.8 S1: The machine kicked on and it was pretty loud. So I'll just recap here that the machine floats the glass over the wheels, so that they can precisely figure out how much to take off to get to the final spec. They do this on every panel of glass, whether it's visible or not, and this is one of the more time intensive parts of the build. Once the polishing is complete and all edges are smooth, it's time to drill any holes requested on the custom aquarium. Not all tanks go through this step, depending on the customer's order. But again, the efficiency and precision of the cuts amazed me. I'll let Mark explain a bit more here.

0:05:14.9 Mark: We actually have five drills, one back over there, four here. With our typical sizes, these are two-sided drills, so it'll drill half way up from the bottom, then it'll drill the remainder from the top. What that gets you is a real nice clean hole. No blowouts when you're going through. I don't know if you're familiar with cutting glass.

0:05:31.5 S1: Yeah, yup.

0:05:34.5 Mark: When we first started the shop, we were actually doing single-sided drilling. Basically, just a diamond blade with a hole through the center of it that pumps in your water, there's little relief cuts that allow that water to go out, and just a smooth diamond blade that cuts through the glass, then you actually have one from above and one below like we discussed.

0:05:51.2 S1: Gotcha.

0:05:52.7 S1: The glass panel can easily slide across these wheels here and into place, so they can drill each subsequent hole. Once it's in place, they put a splatter guard around, and then the drill does the work. And it just amazed me to see how quick and clean these cuts were made in the glass. As you can see, the holes are drilled cleanly, and ready for any bulkheads or plumbing or whatever the customer needs. And this machine makes the process of drilling the tank just look so quick and easy.

0:06:31.2 S1: After all holes are drilled, the panels are washed here with RODI water to make sure all debris, oil, etcetera, are wiped away, and then the panels are thoroughly inspected for imperfections. Checking the glass for any tiny imperfection or scratch is actually something done throughout multiple steps in this process, but the light in here gives a really clear view. If there are any issues, the panel is replaced with a brand new one. Just seeing all the steps that they took to make this such a quality tank made me really excited to see what Quinn's aquarium was gonna look like.

0:07:05.9 S1: Next, the panels are lined with tape to prepare for silicone, and the bottom panel is placed on the mat. Each side panel is lined with silicone spacers, as you don't want glass directly touching other glass. Next, they line up the panels, putting corner clamps on to keep in place. Because each tank is handled individually like this, there's a very close attention to detail and meticulous examination of the glass in each step. And as always, if they find any imperfections here, they'll start the process over and make a replacement panel.

0:07:42.3 S1: One thing Mark said that stuck with me is that the best part about the company is everything is custom, and the worst part about the company is everything is custom. The best part being that it's great quality and built specifically for the customer's needs, and the challenge being that they need to adjust their process slightly for each individual tank, which requires more time, labor and coordination, but they clearly have made the process as efficient and as smooth as possible.


0:08:14.1 S1: Once the clamps are in place, it's time to start the silicone. For each tank, they do two coats, one from the outside in, like you're seeing here, which they let cure for about 24 hours, and then from the inside of the tank, followed by another curing period. This part was really eye-opening to me as a lot of mass-produced tanks out there definitely aren't as thorough and well-done as this. And I didn't realize how much this step can protect you from leaks or seams busting, just another reason to spend a little extra for the quality and peace of mind with your tank. They have a mindset of "the more silicon, the better", especially when it's the bottom seams which have the most pressure on them, and the thick silicone on the bottom is covered up by substrate most times anyway. They can make tanks specifically for bare bottoms if requested, which is a bit lighter on the silicone.


0:09:16.3 S1: Once everything cures for both coats of silicone, it's time to add the framing to the top and the bottom. Custom Aquariums' frames are another part that stand out. This aluminum bracing provides a ton of structural support, and the middle bars are removable if needed for aquascaping. The anodized aluminum framing is patented with Custom Aquariums, and it provides much more support and durability than the typical plastic bracing. The framing is dry fit to make sure the custom dimensions are correct, and then they apply the silicone to the framing slowly lowering the tank and connecting the framing to the tank. The larger tanks are maneuvered with this suction and pulley machine to lower the tank onto the frame, which they then add clamps, and wait for this all to set.

0:10:06.2 S1: At this point, more inspection of the tanks happen. And once the tank is ready to go, a full close examination takes place to make sure everything is spotless and up to their standards, since these tanks do have a lifetime warranty. They have quite a few big tanks ready to be shipped out, as you can see here. The last step is marrying the tank with a stand, canopy and custom sump, depending on the order. A crate is built around each tank to avoid issues when shipping, along with a plywood casing for each tank. They ship nationwide in the US and to a few other locations. I'll leave a link in the description below to Custom Aquariums' website. Now, let's go check out the brand new tank for Quinn's classroom.

0:10:52.7 Mark: Take a good peek at her. Make sure she's everything you hoped and dreamed for.

0:10:56.5 Quinn: It looks great. It's even bigger than I thought. I love it.

0:11:04.1 S1: This is roughly a 112-gallon tank, which is custom made, obviously, to be the largest tank to fit on Quinn's biology table in his classroom. The tank looks even better than expected, and the quality of the glass, silicone and frame really shines through. It was time to load the tank into the car for the drive home. We can't thank Custom Aquariums enough for showing us their facility and process. They were awesome hosts, very knowledgeable, enthusiastic about their jobs, and just great people to talk to. They made the day very enjoyable and interesting for us, and let us bring some very cool content to our viewers.

0:11:43.8 Quinn: Alright, guys, so we're finally home. We got the aquarium in the back here. Cannot wait to get this thing set up in the classroom. We're gonna be making tons of future videos on this aquarium, so please hit that subscribe button. You do not wanna miss out.

0:11:56.5 S1: And there was also a very big aquarium being made throughout the video, which we didn't say was specifically ours, but it is, and we will be setting it up in the very near future. So make sure to go ahead and hit that subscribe button, like Quinn said, because we have a lot of awesome content coming very soon that we're really excited about.

0:12:12.4 Quinn: Thanks again for watching, and we'll see you next week.


About Cichlid Bros

Meet the Cichlid Bros - Alec, Quinn, and Troy - three passionate individuals who specialize in aquariums and freshwater fishkeeping.

They focus on South American, Central American, and African Cichlids, and offer a wide range of content. From complete setup videos to product reviews and specific help on fish species, they've got it all.

With multiple Custom Aquariums tanks and sumps, their tanks range from 75G -220G with a variety of inhabitants. They also provide full tutorials on how to use their sumps and set up their tanks.

Check them out and be amazed and entertained by their expertise!

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