Play Video

Is A Custom Aquarium Worth The Extra Money? Why Do They Cost More? Tank Talk Live Clip

By KG Tropicals on

John: What I thought would be fun, you've already announced that you are in the market for a large aquarium, which I think is awesome. That's why this is happening right now, folks. Rack did not drive to Virginia just to see me.

Rack: I would have.

John: You contacted me a couple of months ago. I was painting these walls when he called. I had my earbuds in. I'm not highfalutin enough to have the air pods. I have the wires hanging from me.

I'm sitting there talking to Rack while I'm painting these walls. Because he called me interested in a large aquarium like this. I didn't even have this one yet. There was no fish tanks out here at all. We were just getting started in this whole project. If you're interested in a tank like this, then email me. [email protected] and we can talk about it. We're going to talk about a lot of the things that you and I talked about in that phone conversation and put it out there for people.

I think what the vision that I saw for this conversation was, why would you go either way if you're going to buy one off the shelf like those that are behind you or you're going to buy custom pros and cons all that kind of stuff?

I just thought we would have some fun talking about that, but again it's not going to be an advertisement even though I really want you to buy a tank from me. Everybody watching here right now. Because kid's getting ready to go to college. Anyway, real life.


The first question is to anybody. Why would you even be considering custom, not custom aquariums, but a custom fish tank? Why would you be doing that as opposed to buying one right off the shelf like you see behind you there?

Rack: For me it was size. I've never seen for sale 125-gallon aquarium in my area. I know they're available to stock item but I had an opportunity to measure my space. I can have an aquarium here and I can call a company and say, can-- That was why I called you and I said, "John, if I measure the space and I have these dimensions, can we get an aquarium to those dimensions?" You said, "Absolutely." Not only that, that's what we do. That's the specialty of the company. You can get a glass aquarium to your specs blown away. I thought only acrylic was available for that. No. All glass. I was so over the top impressed I didn't do any more research. I haven't looked around, but I can tell you every question that I asked-- I'm pretty thorough. You can tell by our conversation. You painted the whole garage while we talked about it.

John: I did. I'm not kidding either. I painted the entire garage in our conversation.

Rack: I had some questions. They weren't difficult questions but they were, needed to check all these boxes before I invest in something that isn't going to be moved very regularly. It was the size. It was an opportunity to get a very large tank and it would fit my space. I can have it delivered nearby arranged for, people can watch your video on what happens when they ship and then you set it up in your space.

John: Let me interrupt you there. Because that might not have to happen that way. Are you talking about getting something eight feet or larger?

Rack: Is River wife still in here?

John: Let's make sure.

Lisa: Yes.

Rack: Yes? Well, size is flexible, we haven't really landed on a size.

John: Because you might not heard that part in the video. If your aquarium is shorter than eight feet, they can take it straight to your house. They're not going to carry it in the house. They're going to drop it on your driveway.

Rack: Is it eight feet they can do it or 7'11'' they can do it?

John: 7'11''?

Rack: Seven feet 11 inches.

John: That part I don't know. This is a six-foot tank they dropped this off in our driveway. This is an eight-feet tank and they couldn't. I'm going to explain why. It's the width of a box truck. Box trucks are seven feet wide or whatever. The width isn't the issue because they could put it in their longways, but they can't get it on the liftgate because the lift gates are only like four feet long. They have to be able to get the tank out on the liftgate and then turn it, so that they can lower it down on the liftgate. They can't do that with an eight-foot.

Rack: Preliminary measurements, we close on our house this week. We're brand new homeowners. Preliminary measurements indicate that the space will allow an eight-foot tank.

John: If that's the case, then you would indeed need to have it delivered to a terminal closest to you. Ours was 45 minutes away. You're in Tennessee, you live in the country too. It might be the same for you, I don't know. When I say terminal, people automatically think airport. It's not airport, it's a shipper. If you have an Estes near you. I don't know who's out in Tennessee. They're not going to ship it to a UPS place but a shipper terminal is what they'll ship it to. It'll just be there waiting for you on a loading dock, and then you'd have to get it. Of course, you could pay people to take it to your house for you if you want to do that.

Rack: Lots of options at that point but anyway-

John: You have plenty of time to figure that out.

Rack: Because you documented your experience, we can all know what it's like if you get a super monster tank.

John: That was a fun video.

Lisa: I was scared to death driving behind that.

John: It was terrifying.

Lisa: I was so sure that that tank was going to just come right off the back, and we were going to hit it.

Rack: When you loaded the one piece that was all-inclusive. That was a little circus acting. Oh my god, no, don't do that.

John: The guy on the forklift was like, "It's a dodge. No problem." I am like, "What?"

Rack: You've got to hear me.

John: If I lived around the corner from that place, I wouldn't have driven it like that. It would have been bouncing. I'd looked like Cheech and Chong driving down the road. There's no way I would have done that. Absolutely not, I love Cheech and Chong though. That was interesting, but we broke it apart.

Rack: Back to our conversation. We didn't talk anything about accessories for three hours. That's a whole other conversation. I understand that's an investment and it's semi-permanent. You need to have clarity on that. To have the ability to talk to a friend to get that list check-marked rather than an unknown operator on the end of a telephone line meant a lot.

John: Let me run through here with you. Let me do something with you and with the viewers. Let me share my chihuahua barking in the background. What I want to do is-- Did you have anything to say or you are all right?

Lisa: I am jut listening.

John: I don't want to be accused of ignoring you.

Lisa: Patiently, quietly.

John: I want to go through the differences. The difference is like that tank versus this one. Let's act like they're the same size. The tanks that are behind Rack there are both one hundred and 125-gallon tanks. The one that's immediately behind you might be 128, I don't know. It's like an inch and a half taller than the other one. These are both tanks that are marketed as 125-gallon tanks which are 18 inches deep, 72 inches long and 24-- No, they're not 24. Those are 22. Anyway, we're going to talk about 125-gallon tanks.

That tank that you see behind you right there, Petco has a special on. I've talked about Petco a lot lately, haven't I? Where you can get the tank and the stand and it's like 450, I think. Now that's a tank, that's a stand and nothing else. I don't even think that that's lids but that's a good price. You get a 125-gallon aquarium for 450 whatever, it might even before hundred I don't know. When you go custom, that is a major jump. It's just like anything else. You attach the word custom to anything and the price is going to go way up.

I don't know if you know this about me. I'm a furniture maker. I haven't shown you the furniture in my house that I've made. There's a lot of furniture in this house that I made before all of my tools got stolen. That's a long story. We'll talk about that tomorrow. It used to be my livelihood and it was also my-- I was passionate about nothing more than that. I would have people, family, friends. People would come up to me all the time and they'd be like, "I was at Value City the other day." You have Value City in Tennessee?

Rack: We don't have those.

John: It's an affordable furniture store.

Lisa: That's a really nice store.

John: We were at Value City furniture and we saw this awesome dining table. It was six feet long but we really want one seven feet long. This one was $1,500. We figured we would come to you because maybe you could make one a foot longer and a little cheaper. I'd be like, "I'm not going to touch it for under $3,500." They'd be like, "What?" When you attach custom to something, it's going to take me 100 hours to make a table like that, where it takes these factories 20 minutes to make them.

I've got a hand finish it. I've got to do all-- It's labor-intensive. The materials are going to cost me $500. I lost friendships over stuff like that because people were like, "Can't you help me up?" I'm like, "By working for a hundred hours for free, no. I'm sorry. I can't. I've got mouths to feed." Anyway, when you attach the word custom to something the price goes way up. When I tell you what a 125 gallon or so, it's 18 x 72 x 24, so it's probably 135 gallon, I don't know. It's $1,236 from custom aquariums.

Now you hear that, the viewers, and chat's probably freaking out, you're thinking, "Wait a minute. Let's just say $1,250 versus a 125 from Petco with a stand for 450, what's the deal? That's what I'd like to talk about is what that deal is because-- I'm going make it quick. Yes, right.

Rack: I'm interested. Go on.

John: This isn't a sales pitch to you. You're already in, but I'm talking about for anybody that's interested in something like this. The first thing to talk about is-- Take a tape measure. If you don't believe me, it's right behind you. The glass on that-- Let me check here. I'll make sure I'm not doing it wrong. It's 5/16 of an inch thick, which is not bad. That's not like, "Oh, my god. It's breaking all the rules." No. 5/16 is fine. That's no big deal. They wouldn't make it if they knew it was going to blow up. 5/16 of an inch thick glass is more than acceptable. With custom aquariums, you're going to get half-inch thick glass. Now, that's 3/16 of an inch different.

If you look at a tape measure, you might be thinking "3/16 of an inch? That's not that much," but it is when you're talking about glass because if you add that extra 3/16 of an inch, that's a massive difference between 5/16 and half inch. Now, one of the things I wanted to mention is most windows are 3/16 inch glass. There might be two panes, but most-- Especially in your older houses, 3/16 of an inch glass. What you're doing is, you're taking that, and you're adding another layer to it. Okay? The glass is substantially thicker.

Also, something that that tank and that tank do not have, when Custom Aquariums cuts their glass for every single aquarium-- Every single tank is built to order. They don't pull them off of a shelf. Every single one of them, the edges are shade, are straightened, polished, and beveled, every single one of them. Even the lids that I got today, you should check them out, the edges are beveled. Now in the woodworking world, we call that a chamfer, but in the glass world, they call that beveled, where they just cut the corner off, just a little bit. What that does is allows-- If you were to rub up against with keys in your pocket, you people in Tennessee wear those key rings, and you walk by and you hit it with-- [chuckles]

Lisa: He says, "Those people in Tennessee."

Rack: I did mention I was a native Virginian.

John: Yes, I forgot, but you were on the border of Tennessee, so it's the same, but you walk by with your keys in your pocket, you're not going to take a giant chip out of it because it's got that nice little bevel. You can feel it if you want to. They do that on every single edge of the aquarium. Even the ones that you don't see, the ones that are buried in the frame, they are polishing and beveling the glass, which makes them perfectly straight, no imperfections and all that kind of stuff. Again, kind of a quality-control thing.

The next thing, I'm not a silicon expert. I don't claim to be, but what they say is that their silicon that they use, their industrial grade silicon is five times stronger than the industry standard.

Rack: That sounds good.

John: If you look at the silicon beads in the corner of that tank behind you, and you look at this one, you can't really tell from looking in the front, but if you get in there and look at it, it is night and day the difference between the silicon in there and the silicon in there. You know as well as I do. Silicon is what's holding all this stuff together.

Rack: Exactly. That's where the problems going to occur.

John: Right. If you have a blowout, it's not going to be because the tank exploded. It's going to be because the seam came apart. To have thicker glass that is perfectly straight and polished and has that nice big thick blob of silicon on there, it's kind of a good feeling. Then the last thing-- Well, there's two more things, the frames. You haven't even looked at the frames yet. It insults me, if I'm being honest with you, because they're right here in front of you. The frames on Custom Aquariums' tanks are the most impressive thing of the whole deal because these are made of anodized aluminum, and they're custom cut and fit to each tank.

I really do sound like a salesperson, don't I? But I'm trying to make a point here of the difference between the two. They're custom cut and custom fit for every single tank. They don't pull stuff off the shelves. Even if it's a standard size listed on their website, 125-gallon, they still cut the frames for each individual tank. It's made specifically for that. They are bolted together. The anodized aluminum which is black, which is awesome, that's never going to go anywhere. It's never going to rust. It's never going deteriorate. It's never going to fall. Not in our lifetimes, it won't.

I have personally experienced the plastic frames break. I've had it happen to my own tanks. I no longer own the tank but that was scary. It was my fault that it broke, but the reality of the plastic frames, they're fine, but through time, they get brittle. They get caked with calcium, and they just get all fragile, and you could walk up and flick them and break those little corner, [sic] not corner, but the middle braces, you can-- I mean you don't have to be Daniel Larusso. You can just walk up there and put your hand right through those things.

Rack: They're designed to take the pressure off of the front and back walls when they're cross-braced like that.

John: That's exactly right. Yes. To have those be metal with bolts, there's a good feeling with that. Also, it's a little thing, just a little thing, but because they're held in there with bolts, you can take them out. If you say, "If that was a real piece of wood right there, which it's not, it's rubber and you can move it all around, but if that was a real piece of wood, you're not going to fit that through a little 20-inch opening. You could take that out, or if you had one of those big giant artificial reefs or something, you could take those out empty, of course, no water in it, take those out, put your piece in there, and then put them back on no big deal.

Lisa: This is your space. This is my space.

John: You've known me for 10 years. This is how I talk. I'm sorry. I can't help it. That is another huge thing for me. Then the last thing is what you alluded to earlier, and that's customization. If you go to a store that-- We're going go to a store called House of Tropicals on Saturday. It's my favorite fish store on the planet. I think you're going to love it. It's amazing.

Rack: I'm sure I will.

John: They have large tanks there. I think the biggest one, they're going to probably have is going to be like 150 gallon, which is that tank just taller, but what are you going to do if you want to have it drilled for your overflows? What are you going to buy that tank and put two Marineland Emperors on there? No. You're going to want some kind of a sump or canister filters, but most people that have these giant tanks are going to have sumps, which you can't see because I have the camera pointed in a way so that I can get Lisa on it, but most people are going to use sumps.

If you're going to use the sump, you're going to want it drilled for the overflows and for the returned, so you don't have all this big piping going through there. Are you going to buy a $600, 150-gallon tank and take it home and drill that glass? Because I'm not, and I'm not going to be there the day that you do it either because I've seen too many of them break. If you buy a 10-gallon tank, and you want to cut a little half-inch hole in it and it breaks, no big deal, you throw it away, but a $600, good luck with that.

Rack: I'm not going to drill it. No.

John: It's not impossible to drill glass. I'm not trying to act like it is. It's not rocket science, but you do have that risk of breaking. I've known way too many people to break glass.

Rack: Well, and that has a value. Not only your time in doing that but the security and the insurer-

John: Absolutely.

Rack: -if somebody else causes a problem, you don't know about. They replace the problem before it gets to you.

John: Wouldn't it be nice to just have it show up to you with the holes already in it?

Rack: Yes. Tremendous value in there.

John: Yes. Customization is critical if you want. I've got two overflows in here. I've got one in here and two in here. You could have four of them if you wanted. However you want to customize it, you can do that. You're only going to be able to do that with a custom tank. From any custom manufacturer, you're not going to be able to do that with your tank that you buy off the shelf somewhere.

Rack: Then that gets into your personal maintenance routine. You can customize your maintenance routine and without the customization package, you're kind of off the shelf.

John: Now, all of that costs more money, of course. If you're going to start adding overflows and getting holes drilled, then all of that kind of stuff, of course, it adds to the price which is already way more than a regular aquarium. For me, I like the security. You and I are close in age. You're a little older than me.

Rack: You're being kind. I'll take that. Thank you. He's lying but he's being nice.

John: We're both old guys. I call myself old all the time. I don't know about you, I worry about stuff all the time. I lay awake at night worried. The cat's going to fall in the tank or whatever. I don't worry about that anymore because we got the lids today.

Rack: You're not as old as I am. You don't have energy for that, do you?


John: I worry about stuff all the time and it's nice to have that peace of mind. I don't care how much you pay for an aquarium, it can blow up. I mean, it doesn't matter if it's custom. It doesn't matter what size it is. Any aquarium can blow up. There's no guarantees of anything but I like starting off with an advantage. I feel like with the metal frames and with the thicker glass and the bigger, more strong silicone. I feel like we're starting at a better place and it's one that I don't have to worry about as much. That's my spiel on custom versus off-the-shelf. Again, you're not going to buy an off-the-shelf tank because they don't make them the size you want. I'm not poo-pooing off-the-shelf tanks. All of the tanks we have in here except for two are off-the-shelf tanks. It's not like I'm against them. Not at all. I'm just giving the obvious reasons between them.

Rack: I certainly would not have graduated to a custom monster tank without lots of off-the-shelf tanks. Yes.

John: Right. I mean, nobody's going to buy a tank like this as their first tank.

Rack: I'm not above off-the-shelf tanks either. As a matter of fact, I'm privileged to have been able now to consider a custom tank. Every piece of that customization that you mentioned has a value to me and I'm interested in it.

About KG Tropicals

There are many aspects to keeping an aquarium. Many newcomers to the hobby can be quickly overwhelmed. The KGTropicals YouTube channel was created to be a place for no nonsense information about the hobby, a place where the information is delivered in a way that even the most inexperienced fish keeper could understand. Whether you want to breed aquarium fish, heal a sick or injured fish or you just want to know how to set up your first tank, KGTropicals has you covered.

View More

Connect with KG Tropicals