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Building a 1700 gallon Shark Tank
by Joe Salvatori

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Making the decision to build the tank, was the easiest part of the whole process. I really had no idea what I was getting into, because there's not much information on building a tank of this scale out there. I was able to find some info on plywood tanks, such as the plans on GARF's (Geothermal Aquaculture Research Foundation) website. I found even less on building concrete tanks.

Water Organism Fin Underwater Fish
Water Underwater Fin Fish Marine biology

My dilemma was this. Although I knew it would be the easier route to build a concrete tank, I didn't want anything that permanent. I knew I wouldn't tire of the tank, but what if I sold the house? What would it do to my resale value? I came to the realization that not everyone wants a 1700 gallon shark tank in their basement, and tearing out concrete would be a nightmare. I would have to make it removable, this meant building it from a material that would lend itself easily to disassembly.

Wood Window Building Flooring Hardwood

The obvious choice was wood. The plans on garf were great, but simply would not be practical on a tank this long, and deep and BIG. With depth and length, comes pressure. Without some additional support and structural rigidity, a plywood tank would literally blow apart. The challenge with any aquarium whether it be glass, acrylic, wood or cement, is building the walls to withstand forces generated by the water pressure. The deeper the water, the higher the pressure per square inch. Dealing with this pressure means preventing warpage/bowing. In smaller tanks, this can be accomplished by increasing the thickness of the glass/acrylic, and adding support (cross bracing) to the top of the tank. Cross bracing alone, would not solve all of my problems I had to find other means to help prevent bowing and flex.

I knew that the garf plans had worked for many, as long as they were sealed properly. I knew plywood walls coated in epoxy would work. The way I saw it, I had two obstacles to overcome.

  1. Supporting the entire tank so it wouldn't unfold like a cardboard box when full.
  2. Sealing the seams, and preventing them from splitting/leaking under pressure.

My basic plan, was to build a boat, but inside out.

Building Wood Fixture House Door

Support: I decided the best way to prevent bowing, would be to support the tank from the outside, using interlocking 4x4's as support bands. Basically, the tank would be encased in a wood skeleton, adding strength and support in all the high stress areas. So the tank would still be a plywood tank, with regular plywood walls, but reinforced from top to bottom, with the most reinforcement at the top. To do this, I would need to build the frame first, and in a sense, install the tank last.

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Disclaimer: By building this DIY project you agree not to hold the author or the owners of this Web site responsible for any injury or bodily harm you may cause to yourself or others. Always wear safety glasses when working with tools and keep chemicals and power tools away from children. Read and understand all safety instructions pertaining to equipment prior to use.
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