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B]Building a 1700 gallon Shark Tank[/B]
by Joe Salvatori

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Photograph Building Door Wood Window

The next day, I sanded down all imperfections, and roughed up the resin. I used a DA sander with 120 grit to knock down any high spots, and then used sanding blocks with 220 by hand. The final coat was sanded with 400 and 600 grit by hand.This is an important step, and must not be overlooked. After laying each layer, and the resin has dried you must rough up the smooth/glossy finish so the next layer will adhere properly. I then shop vac'd all the dust up (I did this after every sanding) and began on the walls. The cloth was only 36" wide, so I would have to lay two overlapping layers to cover the surface of the walls.

For the first layer, I cut pieces to the length of each wall before application. The process for the walls was identical to the corners, but tested my patience much more. First I'd roll a layer of resin, allow it to tack up, apply the cloth, roll out the bubbles/creases, and then roll on another layer of resin. The learning curve for the walls was not much fun. One wrong move, and 30 minutes work is ruined. The best advice I can give for glassing the walls is #1 have a helper, and #2 be patient.

I finished all of the walls, and then did the floor working my way out of the tank. 24 hours later I sanded everything down, and started the whole process over again. Corners, cure, sand, walls, cure, sand. I repeated this process three times, and then changed my methods. For the final two layers, I did not use corner tape. Instead, I laid 1 piece sheets along all three walls, and then down the walls and across the floor. I hoped this would give a smoother appearance when finished by hiding the small ridges left at the seams.

Building Window Lighting Wood Tripod

The front wall of the tank, where the window would mount was also treated to five layers of fiberglass during the process. I used the 6" tape on this surface, and paid special attention to bubbles/creases when glassing. Since this would be the mounting surface for the glass, it needed to be extra smooth and flat. I sanded out any imperfections, and even spread a thin layer of thickened resin (using cabosil) on the surface to fill any tiny holes/gaps. I spent alot of time making sure this surface was as close to perfect as possible.

The whole fiber glassing process took me roughly 2 months. Much longer than I had anticipated. I'm sure a professional could have done it MUCH faster, but I really took my time and did it the best I could.

Fiberglass itself is not 100% waterproof in long term immersion, and I certainly didn't like the color of the tank. So next I contacted Aquatic Ecosystems. In my opinion, anyone serious about DIY aquaria needs to know about Aquatic Ecosystems. Their staff is very knowledgeable, and they carry just about anything you may need. They sold me a product called Sweetwater Epoxy Paint. This is a 2 part epoxy which is EPA approved and non toxic, even for drinking water. They assured me that this is a very tough paint, and would easily withstand the tests of long term immersion in a marine application.

I applied a total of 3 coats of epoxy, each a different color starting with white. Its very important to follow the instructions for this epoxy. Its also worth noting that this stuff is very toxic, its even considered HAZMAT. The room must be well ventilated, and you must wear a mask while in the room. Over the course of 2 days, I rolled/brushed on the three coats. One coat was also applied to all external surfaces of the tank. I gave the epoxy about 2 weeks to cure before working on the tank anymore.

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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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