Building Acrylic Tank

dphood81

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Hi All,

I'm thinking of building an acrylic tank for the lounge (Just decorated) but realise that I will need practice. I'm slightly confused of the different variations of acrylic (I don't really want to order something that's not suitable, I was previously told to use polycarbonate). Has anybody got experience in building that can tell me where to buy the exact acrylic from and any guidance, tips on the build.

Thankyou
Daniel
 

foxfish

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There has been a few builds documented on here, you need precision cuts because the glue is not gap filling.
 

zozo

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Search his channel he has several builds recorded.

What you need is Cell Casted Acrylic
 

dphood81

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Hi,

@Barbara Turner - The reason for my choice of acylic over Glass is that acrylic has a higher impact strength over glass and seen I have 2 young children just trying to cover potentially any accidents happening. Also for my personal preference I like a challenge.

@foxfish - I will be getting pre-cut sheets as these will be machine cut & polished as these are more precise than me using a router or a circular saw with acrylic cutting blade. I know there's a few build topics but what i'm looking for is precise UK links not US links to order the right type of acrylic as US call it cell cast acrylic but you cannot find that in the UK and as my understanding this is just terminology.

@zozo - Cell cast acrylic is terminology used by the US. If someone can provide a link to UK source on a product they use to build there own acrylic tank then at least I wouldn't be wasting money in potentially picking up the wrong type of acrylic.
 

foxfish

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Well Perspex has always been the most common trade name for acrylic in the U.K.

Good on you for wanting a challenge all though keeping a planted tank is enough of a challenge for most of us!
I am also not convinced about your logic with kids and acrylic due to the ease of scratching.
However I believe acrylic has a few benefits like clarity and the ability to cut holes in it!

Have you seen this big one.... https://www.ukaps.org/forum/threads/2-000l-high-tech-beast-new-vid.53176/
 

dphood81

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@foxfish - Thanks Foxfish, I hadn't seen that thread, that's a beast of a tank, certainly a good read and very impressive. I maybe over thinking the kid thing but just wanted it to be strong as if something was thrown at glass, likely would weaken or pop the glass (depending on the object). Where as acrylic its tensile strength is apparently 17x stronger than glass (just what I have read, i'll put samples through a test of this). For the scratches looking at this processes again what I've read and seen people state that its easy to remove scratches (again something test make sure that i'm comfortable with it).
 

zozo

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I believe the European standard is XT for Extruded that you shouldn't use. And GS Cast is the one you need. It can be called Plexiglass®, Perspex® CRYLUX™, CRYLON® or Acrylic all ar the same - PMMA. It should have the prefix XT or GS.

Here is another one it also contains a few links to UK suppliers.
https://www.ukaps.org/forum/threads/diy-acrylic-tank-build-new-update.31622/
 
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foxfish

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That is a great thread and I still think that acrylic cement creates a chemical reaction that physically bonds or welds plastic!
 

zozo

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I still think that acrylic cement creates a chemical reaction that physically bonds or welds plastic!
In not really sure if it is.

I'm not a chemist and only researched the process in layman's terms. And i know the proper solvent/cement contains next to solvent also monomers. It seems to need these monomers to create the strongest bond possible. It helps to aline the molecular structure. Without adding the monomers the molecular alignment will be erratic and less strong. For example in the past acrylic was glued/welded only with Chloroform and these welds are less strong. The today's solvent is part Methylene chloride, part Chloroform and a small part Monomers.

If all evaporate and after curing the weld is 100% acrylic than it's not a chemical reaction by definition.
https://www.britannica.com/science/chemical-reaction

But as long as the weld is soft, it is something else :) and at that point it still is a chemical reaction.

Its a difficult one.
 

FatTony

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Hi another new member here,

just found this thread as I was about to post seeking advice on how to keep your plants alive when your tank breaks… your self-built acrylic tank. While your next acrylic aquarium project and MK1 tank replacement gushes water all over the deck on its first water test. A fail then.

I really love acrylic tanks for their light transmission, lightness, and the fact acrylic is more thermally efficient than glass so they hold on to the heat. I haven't found that it scratches that easily and if it does you can polish the scratches out - I've not had to do that, but it might be something to bear in mind if you're mixing an acrylic tank with small children.

Despite feeling a bit negative about the whole process right now I'd still have to say that I've enjoyed the process of making both the tanks I've built - even if I'm at some point (very soon) going to have to remake them. So if you are going to build in acrylic here's what I've learned - good and bad.

As other posters have pointed out you need to be building in Perspex (which is a brand name) or one of the many other cell cast acrylics available - there are plenty of suppliers that sell online - I used Cut Plastic Sheeting, they will cut to size and do the edge prep for you (another note on that in a bit).

Getting the right acrylic cement is harder, I tracked down some Weld On 4 as used by the King of DIY - from seemingly the only UK supplier. It wasn't that expensive, but you can only buy it by the pint and that's enough to make either one VERY large aquarium or a few hundred of the size you'd fit in your lounge. It's also quite noxious stuff - I'd worry about the King's future heath given that in some of his vids he's running it through his fingers and doesn't appear to use a mask - the technical sheet advises gloves, goggles, mask, the works. I togged up as much as I could which makes cementing the seams more awkward - if I was doing it again, I'd seriously consider wearing some sort of respirator. I built the first one outside and the fumes were still amazingly strong even with a mask on. Second one I built in a loft room with four windows all open, and I used a syringe for applying the cement (which did make things less fumey than applicator bottle and needle i used first time round).

Once you get on to the build here's what you need to consider…
1. Edge prep - even if you get the cut sides prepped by your acrylic supplier chances are they will still be a bit rougher than you want. Any saw mark or uneveness is a potential problem down the line. I think that's why the seam on Mk 1 just popped. If I was doing this again I would consider having all the edges polished by the supplier and then carefully re-roughening them (polished edged can't be cemented together) with something like a 240 grit paper or maybe even some wet and dry - that way you should get a flat smooth edge. I had to do that with two edges on the side panels of Mk2 and I noticed I got two really nice clear seams.
2. Always glue on the horizontal, start with the back or front pane lying flat and come off that. The first two panels are the most important, and gluing them at a perfect right angle is harder than it looks, so arm yourself with plenty of clamps and a form to hold them in place.
3. Use a gluing method appropriate to the size of sheet your using. I wanted a shallow tank with plants growing emergent so for a 600x260x40 I went with 8mm acrylic and the best gluing method for that (for me at least is the capillary method). Mk2's undoing was my foolish decision to switch gluing methods for the final panel - the base - to the pin method on the basis that I would be sure to get enough cement in. In reality the gap even using very fine fuse wire instead of pins was too big and in one small but crucial spot the cement flowed straight through. And it had all been going so well.
4. You'll need some clamps - at least six. If you're building a taller aquarium bear in mind that longer clamps can cost a lot of money.
5. Keep an eye on your seams, any whiteness/crazing is basically weakness - experience now tells me that even in a shallow aquarium it will pop.

I'd still like to have another go - maybe see if the base can be routed off Mk2 and then I can re-prep and glue, but if I was doing this again I'd start of with some very small projects to really master the prep and gluing techniques. When I build MK1 I asked my supplier if they could throw in some off-cuts that I could practice on and they did - it was very useful too, but really what I should have done was practice making some very small tanks. What would put me off is dealing with the acrylic cement - it really is horrible stuff.

In the meantime I've got my shrimp and java fern in an ikea plastic crate, and I'm off to borrow a friend's tank to put them in. Then I'm going to order an opti-white one from Charterhouse and bung in one of the Tunze RO stations so I can put it all on interest free credit and not think about how much I've spent on acrylic sheet and clamps (actually they didn't cost that much).
 

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dphood81

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Thankyou @zozo, @foxfish, @FatTony. I'm currently looking around to get some small pieces so I can practice the technics. I'ill definitely go for 10mm acrylic (@FatTony you've convinced me, more area for the weld the stronger it becomes), also I will be bracing at the top by the looks of the pics did you brace the top?. I've got the large clamps for other projects that I've done around the house. I'm sure this weld on 4 is quite toxic so I will take precautions as I use respirator for the other toxic chemicals that I have in the garage. I only really wanted to build a 1.2m x300mm h x 300mm w as that would fit into the alcove where the chimney breast is.
 

FatTony

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Yes, I'd definitely go the 10mm route - even if you're bracing it. I went for 8mm unbraced - all the calculators I could find reckoned that was well within the tolerance limit for a 260mm high tank, but I'm guessing they were assuming perfect seams. 10mm though may require you to go for the pin method rather than capillary gluing - I found that trickier than expected, but that was partly down to something I hadn't factored in - namely that the Weld-On 4 seemed to be very hard on the Hobbycraft syringe and applicator needles - the seal on the plunger went on my first syringe about a third of the way round, and the one of the needles failed too. Not sure why that was because it certainly seemed to be the sort of kit that other people use. So maybe the applicator bottle and needle is the way to go. You may well be able to by that as a combo with the Weld-On 4.
Having had a look at the side seams on my Mk2 tank I'd also suggest that getting all your edges polished and then re-roughening the ones you want to glue is the way to go - the seams I did that way are the best ones I've glued to date, by a long way
 

dean

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I make small acrylic tanks and I use Dichloromethane to weld the cast acrylic together

As a tip I’ve found easier to have the base inside the walls which makes it easier to get it square

For a supplier just google local plastic supplier
Ask them if they can supply cast acrylic and can they laser cut it to size


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ian_m

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zozo

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Aren't there issues welding laser cut acrylic in that it crazes due to stress when solvent welded ?
The article states Using.
solvent-based glues on laser-cut extruded acrylic can cause cracking due to the internal stresses from temperature differences in the acrylic
The overall internal stress in XT PMMA is the reason why it shouldn't be used for aquarium build. This internal stress also makes XT chip and crack easily with cutting it.

The casted GS does not have this internal stress and likely will not be affected by the temperature with laser cutting. I've seen some videos about rather odd vertical L- shaped acrylic tank builds that were laser cut. Panels in that shape can not be made with a saw.

As far as i know, polished sides cannot be welded it will leave crazing. The sides should be raw and saw marks need to be removed with a scraper or rather with a router to keep the edge 90° straight. That's more difficult with manual scraping and or sanding, it might cause gaps.

I once talked to my plastic provider and asked about Dichloromethane based solvent. And in my country it is about impossible to get it. They also did not sell it. Some strange security regulations i guess. And they glue all projects (also aquariums) with the UV type pmma glue, they also stated that this is much stronger than solvent welding. They have some projects displayed in the showroom that i scrutinized in detail and it all looked perfect.

Personally i'm not bold enough to build an acrylic aquarium. Since it's difficult for me to source the solvent. I ordered it from Rusia. And since it's a one-way ticket and no room for error. Then taking cost into account also the needed tools i do need to buy. Then i rather stick to the much more forgiving and cheaper Optiwhite glass. :rolleyes: Tho i made a number light stands and other acrylic gadgets, experiencing it all looks easier than it really is. You definitively need some practice and experience to pull it off.
 
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dean

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I have only built small tanks for bettas so 5mm thick is overkill but 2mm is a bit risky as only need one bubble and you have a leak

You can buy dichloromethane on eBay in uk
A reputable seller such as apc pure will ask for photo id before they send it out to you


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zozo

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You can buy dichloromethane on eBay in uk
That's nice, i knew that. Main Land Europe it seems to be rather difficult and only available in professional large canisters. At least that was the case a few years back, searched in Germany, France, Belgium and Netherlands. No go. Ordering from UK or USA the problem is shipping dangerous chemicals via Air Mail to private sellers. It needs to be packed in special safety box suitable for chemicals etc. Makes it too expensive 6 times the value of the product.

Funny is, if you search Ebay for Beauty products Acrilyc nail attributes you might find 100% dichloromethane as Acrylic Nail Brush cleaner. Then shipping beauty products overseas isn't an issue they even send it for free. But once it is flagged as Chemical Solvent it's in a different hazard category it seems. Crazy but true.

Few years ago found a Rusian seller via ebay selling small amounts in 100ml glass bottles. I was right on time ordering 2 bottles.. His ebay entry was deleted few days later because of a policy violation. Probably not allowed to offer chemicals of that kind as a private seller.
 

ian_m

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I have used Tensol 12 numerous times to make acrylic boxes.

This is the last I used. MSDS says methyl methacrylate (Perspex) dissolved in dichloromethane.
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/50ml-Ten...185541?hash=item5d5a22c0c5:g:Z9IAAOSwLVZVisr6

There is a two part Tensol 70, which though stronger than Tensol 12 is harder to use. It is meant to be used on very thick acrylic where capillary action may not draw the Tensol 12 across the full joint and where solvent evaporation in the middle of the joint might cause issues. You apply mixed Tensol 70 to the two surfaces to be bonded and place together to weld/glue.
 

zozo

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Here you have such an Ebay deal. :D
https://www.ebay.com/itm/3-in-1-KIT-75ml-ACRYLIC-LIQUID-REMOVER-BRUSH-CLEANER-NAIL-ART-TOOLS-SET/113811867666?_trkparms=aid=555018&algo=PL.SIM&ao=1&asc=61112&meid=171bf1d79d6b418aa5f45ef67be7a9d8&pid=100005&rk=5&rkt=12&mehot=pf&sd=372427425968&itm=113811867666&pmt=1&noa=0&pg=2047675&_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851

Look at the prices.. Some are rather mysterious about the contents. But all are developed to make the strongest and most beautiful acrylic nails. That don't chip, don't break and last ages. Make them and remove them. All about dissolving acrylics the very best way and bond them as strong as possible.

I guess to learn something about handling acrylic you all should (as a political correct present) take your misses out to an Acrilyc Nail Work Shop. Misses happy for your interest and participation and you learned a great deal about acrylic. Tho might be you come back home with more beautiful nails than she has. :nailbiting: So beware and go easy on that part :nurse:
:lol:
 

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