How To Build An Acrylic Aquarium (A DIY Guide)

One of the most important things in fishkeeping is the fish tank or aquarium. It has to be the right one, size, and durable enough to house your fish.

If you’re a DIY fan, you may fancy building your aquarium from scratch using acrylic. This is not a new thing, and it’s completely safe for your fish.

How To Build An Acrylic Aquarium

Thankfully, this article is a complete guide on how to build an acrylic aquarium for your fish. Building things is fun, so you might enjoy the whole process.

Let’s get into it.

Best Acrylic For Building An Aquarium

Building your aquarium starts with choosing the best material for the tank. You can’t use just any type of acrylic for your aquarium; they have to be the right one.

Acrylic is usually in two forms; cast and extruded. However, cast acrylic is the most suitable one for the job because it is thicker, more durable, less likely to bend, melt or chip, and is suitable for heavy-duty work like an aquarium.

They also have clear transparency that will help you appreciate and vividly see what’s in the aquarium. Another good thing about them is that they are not heavy, so you don’t have to worry about weight when building.

Using any other type of acrylic could end up as a disaster. Therefore, you should confirm that is what you’re getting. The most suitable is the cell cast acrylic, even though plexiglass and clear cast are other options.

Materials Needed To Build An Acrylic Aquarium

To build your acrylic aquarium, you would need a lot of materials. You need to have them ready before you start building.

What do you need?

  1. Acrylic sheets, are the main body parts of the aquarium.
  2. Aquarium-safe silicone as extra protection for the edges seals.
  3. Small aluminum angle irons, serve as support rims for the top and bottom.
  4. Duct tape to help hold the aquarium frame in place as you build it to perfection.
  5. Solvent cement for sealing and joining panels ends together.
  6. Syringe for injecting solvent cement, so it doesn’t smear everywhere.
  7. Measuring tape to get the right measurement size for your acrylic aquarium
  8. Acrylic cutter to cut the acrylic sheets to the right sizes.
  9. Clamps and braces to help support the structure when building.
  10. Vinyl gloves for protecting your hand during construction.

Tips When Shopping For Acrylic

When you want to buy your acrylic sheet, the best option is probably to purchase it from a supplier. This will help save you some stress and skip some steps when building.

Follow these tips when at the supplier:

1. Let them cut it for you

When you know the right measurement you want to work with, you can ask them to cut the acrylic sheets for you into your desired sizes. If you didn’t plan for that ahead, you could ask for advice on the appropriate measurements to use for building your fish tank.

When placing your order, ask them if the price covers cutting as well. It’ll be good if they can help you cut it because it may be difficult for you to cut it right in a straight line. 

2. Ask them to route the edges

Ask the supplier if they can route the edges smoothly for you. This will save you some stress and make your job easier, leaving you with smooth edges to join together. 

3. Ask for scraps

While you’re there, ask them if they have scraps they can give out. If they do, you can collect them and use them to practice gluing and assembling.

This will help make assembling the real aquarium a whole lot easier for you and make it look better.

How Thick Does Acrylic Need To Be For An Aquarium?

The thickness of the aquarium depends on the size you plan to build and the height size of the tank. With that said, you can work around building your aquarium’s thickness around this guide:

  • ¼ inch thickness for a tank height between 0-12 inches.
  • ⅜ inch thickness for a tank height between 13 to 19 inches.
  • ½ inch thickness for a tank height between 20 to 24 inches. 

How To Build An Acrylic Aquarium

After determining the size and thickness of your aquarium, the next thing to do is to start building it. The following steps make it easy for you to do:

Step 1: Draw blueprint and plan

The first step to building something is drawing a plan and blueprint of what it will look like. When designing your aquarium, the important things to consider are the size and shape.

Choosing the size depends on the kind and number of fish you want to keep in the aquarium. You can decide on any gallon size you want as long as it can accommodate your fish.

Then the shape can be any you want, provided that it matches the tank’s volume. It can be L-shaped, rectangular, or trapezoid; your choice.

Step 2: Trace and cut panels

After determining the size, shape, dimension, and measurement while planning, the next thing to do is to trace it on the acrylic and cut the panels. Use your acrylic cutter to cut it into your desired size.

However, you should note that acrylic is harder to cut than glass, so you have to be careful, so you don’t make any mistakes. Otherwise, you can ask a local hardware store around you to help you with cutting.

Step 3: Arrange the panels

First, you need to label the panels, so you don’t misalign them when joining. After labeling, then you need to arrange them in the right order to avoid misfits. Then, double-check before continuing.

Step 4: Joining pieces and curing

After you’re sure you’ve set the panels in the right places, you need to join them. Here is what you should do:

  • Stick long pieces of duct tape on the panels to hold them together.
  • Place pins along the edges to get even gaps between them for the cement, starting with the largest panel. 

Step 5: Pour cement into the edges

Then you need to pour the cement into the syringe to help put it in the panel joints. Ensure you start applying to the panel parallel to the ground because the cement goes downward and can mess the tank up.

When you’re done with one side, lay other parts parallel to the ground before applying. Then pull out the pin as you apply the cement between 30 to 60 seconds.

Leave the cement to cure for four hours before moving to the edges.

Step 6: Finish edges with sealants

Apply aquarium-safe silicone sealants on the edges to ensure no leakages on the tank. After applying, ensure you smoothen it with a flat tool or your thumb, so nothing is poking out. Then, leave it for a while to cure.

Step 7: Inspect for leaks

Once you’re done setting up, you need to inspect the tank for leaks and ensure there are none. It’s easy. Fill up the tank to the maximum capacity and place it on a dry newspaper.

Then leave the tank for about 24 hours and check back for leaks. If it doesn’t, your aquarium is ready for use!


If you follow the guide on how to build an acrylic aquarium, you can have yours ready in no time. The most important thing is to use the right acrylic material, cast acrylic, and ensure you don’t remove the protective paper until you are done.

Also, you need to ensure you get the measurements right, and it’s even better if you let the supplier or a professional at a hardware store cut the sheets for you for accuracy. 

Good luck!

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