Inside Wall Aquarium Blog

Tips for DIY "Built in fish tanks".

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Wall trim options

First figure out which wall you want to use? Is the aquarium going to be viewable on one or both sides? Will you access the aquarium from the front or back?

With single-sided viewing and front access, typically you will have a picture frame style border with the top piece removable or hinged. With double sided viewing one or both sides will have trim with access under the top panel.

Baseboard trim, crown molding and wood boards all make good trim. Avoid MDF because it swells when wet. We sell pre made square and curved trim out of knotty pine here: http://www.walltanks.com/tank_4.php

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In-Wall Aquarium configurations.

There are a few different ways you can configure a built-in wall aquarium.  For clarity purposes I will refer to the 2 sides of the wall as side A and side B.  Let start with the best.  The ultimate in-wall aquarium will have side A and side B finished and trimmed out.  This tank sits flush on both sides of the wall so anyway you look at it, it’s a beautiful clean sharp feature of the house.  No wires can be seen and if you look through the tank you will see fish and another room.  For installs where the aquarium is wider than the wall you can have one or both sides overhanging.  This is not a problem as long as the tank is completely supported underneath with 1 1/2″ of plywood or solid wood screwed into the wall framing.  The tank should be boxed in with trim to finished the look.

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If side B is a closet or basement or you just don’t want to see through the tank only side A needs to be finished.  If possible the tank should be accessed from side B.  It will be easier for maintenance than one that is completely sealed in.  A backdrop will block anybody from seeing through the tank.

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When you look into a built in aquarium you will not be able to see any wires or wood inside the wall.  The ends inside the wall will reflect like a mirror.

Does a wall aquarium have to be in a wall?

IMG_3647No, any tank that is built-in is a wall aquarium.  I just finished my 250 gallon built-in tank.  This tank is 2’ deep so instead of dry walling it in, it makes more sense to have cabinets below and above for the filter, storage and ease of maintenance.  A second wall was opened for viewing from another room.  This adds a focal point to that room and visitors that see this end first are blown away by the depth of the tank.  This was a 8′ closest but makes a much better super tank!

How hard is it to build a fish tank into your wall?

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Quick answer, it’s not hard if you’re handy. Anyone who has experience with drywall and a basic understanding of how a stud wall is built can put a tank into their wall. The only other skill that’s helpful is knowledge of electrical wiring.

First you’re going to cut a hole. You need to know if that’s a load bearing wall or not. If it is you will have to brace it in such a fashion that you transfer the load around the tank. Next you going to finish the stud work and construct a nice flat base for the tank to sit on.

A GFI electrical outlet should be placed in the top corner at this point. If you do not know how to do this you might need to call a friend who does. Then the tank goes in the space, patch up your drywall and trim it out with some wood. Not a hard job if you know what you’re doing.

More detailed instructions: http://www.walltanks.com/picture_library/instruct_jumbo.pdf

 

Realistic 3d rock wall background

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Above is a picture of the background from my tank.  I love the realistic texture of the rocks and the fact that they stick out (some pretty far) into the tank.  There are also caves built into the background that smaller fish can swim through (covered in pic by my giant Oscar).

This background was made with 2″ sheets of white styrafoam insulation, silicone and cement.  First I carved up the styrafoam into rocky shapes and  bonded together with silicone.  I made it in sections so I could put them in the tank after.  Where there are caves I put 2 layers of styrafoam hollowing out the back layer.

Once the styrafoam was sculpted I started to paint/pour cement right on top.  I did 3 layers and I added black and white cement coloring to accent dark and light spots.  I tried to keep it wet with a spray bottle while I was making it so the cement will cure properly.

Then the panels went into the tank.  They were siliconed to the back and I rinsed 3 or 4 times over a week period until my ph levels dropped to a safe level.

It took around 2 weeks to make the background in my spare time and 1 week to rinse but looks awesome, well worth it.  There are a couple spots where the cement has eroded off, I plan on covering these with Java moss.

In-Walls VS Wall Mounts.

vs3Wall mount tanks and In-Wall aquariums are similar but very different.  Let’s examine.  Both look cool, have a nice viewing area, have light, filter and heater but that’s where the similarities end.  An In-wall aquarium gets built into your wall while a wall mount hangs more or less like a picture.  A fish tank built in can be much larger meaning much larger and more fish.  In fact since a wall mount hangs it does not have enough support to hold much water and therefore it’s extremely limited.  It may look cool but ultimately not be satisfying with your fish options.

Another major difference is the finished look or wow factor.  A built in tank with the front flush with the wall looks awesome!  Now finish both sides and peer through the aquarium between rooms.  This is the ultimate fish tank.  You can think of a wall mount as a toy compared to a flush see through in-wall tank.

Of course the wall mounts have some pros.  It’s much easier to install.  Typically you might be adding some screws or plywood to the wall and an electrical outlet but not much else.  A built in tank requires more labor, materials and know-how.  A typical built-in tank can take 2 days compared to 2 hours.  A built-in might cost more in the end but if you’re doing the work yourself it’s not much different.

Obviously I am recommending a built-in tank.  I have one, I love it!  But I am handy and have the experience to do all the work myself.  If you do not have the know-how or can’t be bothered to go through the work than an unsatisfying wall mount might be for you.