(Small Tank) Tank Building: Glass Vs. Everything Else


New Member
Mar 19, 2014
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Hey fish people!
I'm new to fish forums, so hello!!
I love fish, and I'm trying to get into tank building and the world of DIY! I love building things myself, and building my own fish tank would just be awesome!!!!
I'm not at all experienced in glass work though. It seems kind of difficult to work with as you can't drill into it without special tools and then you can still crack it, and basically all around you have to have special tools. It's a fragile medium, but with patience, effort, and perserverence you can get anything done if you want to.
But it's hard. Glass is fragile, water is heavy, so they're like two things that aren't meant to go together LOL
Anyway...to the point here.
I have read up on all the types of glass that are popular for making tanks: glass, tempered glass, annealed, etc. I have also read about acrylic and how it's often welded rather than just calked together. So far I have found a glass supplier in my area and I've looked pretty hard for an acrylic supplier but am having quite a bit of trouble.
Glass is quite a bit cheaper too which is nice, but there's a problem with it not being quite strong enough.
Anyway, I was thinking about making a 5 gallon for my first tank, as it's small and wouldn't be too hard to keep together when drying. I think it'd be a good size for my first tank. This would be an experiment to see how much difficulty I have with tank building and what I'll need to improve on.
I'd like to build a fifteen gallon and I already have specs.
It would be a square (or maybe you'd like to call it a cube tank), so it'd be equal height, length, and width, on front and back and each of the sides.
The size for the 15 gallon I have in mind is: 15" L x 15" H x 15" W
Using a tank water weight calculator precise weight really is 14.61 gallons (which is basically 15 gallons). The thickness of the glass according to a fishtank glass thickness calculator is 1/4".
My question is at how many gallons would I have to move to acrylic or tempered glass or annealed?
I believe I can make a 20 gallon out of glass I'd probably just have to move up in thickness, maybe not even. But tempered glass is expensive, and acrylic is hard to find so far, and at 1/2" it's gets expensive. But obviously making a massive tank is no where near as expensive as buying one.
If you'll go to Petsmart, you can analyze the large tanks there, the ones that arent bow fronts and see that they seem quite glassy. They don't have any plasticy quality so they seem as if they're made of glass, but they're also quite thin at the same time. I would think a 50 gallon tank made of glass would be quite thick.
I'm quite clueless as to glass or acrylic. I know the advantages of both, but I don't know the limits of glasses power lol So my knowledge is only theory.
So, how far can you go, before glass can go no more?
Thank you so much
Note: I really am pretty educated on pros and cons. I have problems with acrylic due to the scratching problem and price and tempered glass seems great but it is also expensive and annealed glass seems to have the best of both worlds: it's hard and it's glass not acrylic, but unlike tempered glass, if it breaks it won't shatter in the million pieces that tempered glass does. But again my knowledge is only read knowledge


Mostly New Member
Mar 18, 2014
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Hello Brad,
Welcome to the fish world. Although I just joined this forum a few hours ago but I am already lovin it.
I have a 5 gallon tank as my first tank too however, I am not as talented as you in DIY. I bought it for $40 from my LFS.
Can't wait to see your journey to your first tank.


Moderating Moderator
Staff member
Global Moderator
Jul 16, 2013
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Sounds like a good project to do.
Personally, I'd go with glass, you can easily go to a glass cutter company and get them to cut glass to your dimensions and they can drill holes of any size if required. Not all that expensive but not that cheap either! lol
Would not go with tempered or toughened glass as that would probably shatter completely if broken accidentally... I think.
Acrylic is not a bad idea, stronger and tougher in some cases than glass, but  as long as you're aware that acrylic does scratch so easily.
Even cleaning during routine maintenance can scratch the surface of acrylic quite easily. Glass does not scratch as easily.
Pros and cons with both really.