In the Beginning :

In my previous PetSolutions blog I wrote about my experiences making 220 gallon wooden tanks with glass windows. This time I want to talk about a tank one of my customers built that dwarfed those tanks. Somehow my business partner came across a piece of glass 4′ x 6′ that was 1″ thick. It had been part of the floor show at a local disco with colored lights underneath. Somehow even the BeeGee’s singing did not manage to crack the glass and there were no scuff marks from the high heels. What exactly my partner planned to do with it I am not sure, but it just seemed too good of a deal to pass up. Our store already had a 270 gallon wooden tank with glass front and a 4′ x 8′ x 2′ pond by the front door so we really did not have the space for another large tank. The glass sat in the back of the store until one day one of our customers expressed an interest in it.

Dawn of a Revolution :

This customer had been a very successful fish show hobbyist, growing up all types of freshwater fish and winning trophies at all the local shows. They finally made him a judge so he could no longer compete! As a consequence, he was planning on tearing down his existing fish room he had built in the back section of his garage he had converted to a family room. His fish room was set up only to house show fish, the tanks were jammed into the 10 x 10′ room and there was only about 4 sq ft of open space, with tanks suspended from the ceiling over this space! All of the aquarium supplies were jammed into a small file cabinet and cans of fish food sat on top of each tank. He wanted to clear out the entire space and make one really large aquarium and use our 4 x 6′ piece of glass for the viewing window. This sounded just crazy enough that we gave him the piece of glass. Because of the scale of the tank, he built it out of cinder blocks painted with two-part epoxy paint. He was a home builder so had access to the materials and the know how to do the work. Once the tank was blocked and painted, it was 8 x 8 x 5′, almost 2400 gallons. To mount the glass, he screwed in 1″ bolts and wrapped them with flexible hose to support the weight of the glass and to allow him to tighten lock nuts to hold the glass tight against the cinder blocks while the silicone cured. (I think he used 10 caulk gun size tubes of silicone!) While he was building, we found a huge tree stump that we figured would be great for this tank. Fortunately we delivered it before he put the glass in because if we hadn’t, the stump was too large to fit over the side of the tank between the top of the tank and the ceiling! This made the builder realize it would be a lot easier to “aquascape” before the glass was put in, he could send his son in through the window and arrange everything. (But this meant once the tank was up and running, any changes would be done with a swim suit and snorkel!!) He literally had a ton of pea gravel delivered to his house and used a wheelbarrow to load up the substrate. For the filter he had an old sand filter for an above ground  kiddy pool. The one thing I found fault with was his aquarium lighting system. He simply used 12 floodlights and circa 1983 there were no options for color temperature, they were 4-5000K, kind of yellow looking. All in all it took about 5 weeks to get this massive aquarium built and ready for water. How his family lived in the house while he was painting the cinder blocks with the epoxy paint I do not know.

The New Age Arrives :

Now it was time to fill the aquarium. I had hoped to be there when he filled it, but then we realized it would take 10-15 hours with the garden hose. He had planned to heat the tank by heating the room, but as he filled the tank with the cold outside faucet water, he also dumped in buckets of hot water from the house system. After half a day the tank was filled and there were no leaks! The filter was turned on and two days later, the temperature was stable at 76F. Now it was time to fill the aquarium with fish. He decided to go with Monos, Scats, Bala Sharks and a big school of Rainbowfish. Several synodontis catfish and plecostomus were added for clean up duties. Our local fish club had monthly meetings and rotated from member to member’s house. We managed to return to view the huge tank about every 4-5 months. I was standing there looking at the tank and wondering just what else was different, and it suddenly hit me. The Silver Scats were so large that they actually cast a shadow on the substrate as they swam by! After awhile, some Green Terrors and Managuense cichlids were added and the Managuense were always trying to defend a cloud of babies from the other fish in the tank. I think the plan was to grow the Scats large enough to get them to spawn in the aquarium, but no one ever caught them in the act. Despite the lack of change in the tank, every time I visited it was amazing to sit there and watch the fish cruise around the huge aquarium. So if you get the urge to really go big, this is one way to do it!

About The Author Don Roberts

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