My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

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Viktor Jarikov
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My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Viktor Jarikov » Sat Sep 10, 2011 2:36 am

Hi All,

I am starting to put together the beginnings of my Public Aquarium. I've spent a lot of time over the last year reading everything that I could possibly find about big tanks or ponds with windows. The stickiest point is, of course, the window. I think I've more or less carefully considered and consulted, where I could, with professionals on the fish tanks made of fiberglass (mass produced and custom), acrylic, glass, concrete, stainless steel, aluminum, rubber liner, PE, plywood/wood, etc.

For the sake of a convenient (but limited) comparison, let us mostly focus on a roughly 700 US gal tank, something like 8’x4’x3’ of water. I aim this to be my smallest exhibit size.

(1) Glass: very expensive, around $3500-$4000, and very heavy. Breakable and breakable in an unsafe manner, unless tempered. Tempered glass is usually 30%-50% more expensive.

(2) Acrylic: even more expensive, $4000-$4500, up to $6000 (seen the show “Tanked”? – sure they can do anything for you if you are made of money). See the on-line price lists of companies like Fintastic (GA) and Tyde Pool (CA). Acrylic has the advantage of having the best and strongest seams - if properly made and maintained, the seams are never expected to leak.

(2a) Polycarbonate can be mentioned here but I know of no polycarbonate tanks. Only windows. From what I was told, these windows are approx. functionally the same as acrylic. Although some claim they are more scratchable than acrylic, others say they are not.

(3) Stainless steel+window: cannot find a precedent of a large tank described on the net and having a window. Projected to be as expensive as acrylic or even more – problem is not only the high price of the SS but also the length of time and the high labor intensity of the very slow welding process of SS. Do not have even a rough estimate though yet. Working with Al’s Custom Fab of Naples, FL on it.

(4) Concrete+window: this is a popular choice and, of course, a permanent and immobile construction. Examples: 2500 gal, 2 windows http://www.anythingfish.com/Todds%20ray ... shTank.htm
5000 gal, 2 windows http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forum ... by-JohnPTC
2600 gal, our own ElTofi http://www.planetcatfish.com/forum/view ... =5&t=32680

So, this has been done and more or less well described but only (in my search) by DIY-ers in US as well as by several UK companies (google “koi ponds with windows” – some of them are out of business already but all of them, strangely, are in UK). Waterproofed by epoxy, fiberglass, pool-type waterproof concrete, and other coatings, which I do not know what they contain, e.g., used by ElTofi. This option may come out to be less expensive, especially if I do it myself, perhaps, $1000-$1500 in materials and zero for my labor.

Yet, there is no assurance whatsoever that my constructions won't leak sooner or later – it’s likely too risky to be learning as you go, in my circumstance. On the other hand, I cannot find any professional who knows exactly how to and has experience in building above-ground ponds/pools with windows (apart from those who build for millionaires and even those are very rare).

I have to find someone who built local “real” Public Aquaria and/or underwater Zoo exhibits, I examined how they are put together but I don’t know what that thick rubber stuff is in which windows are usually embedded on both sides and I never spoke to anyone who built those exhibits. Big Public Aquaria usually have very thick concrete walls, like a foot or two thick. It’d be nice to find someone locally but even nationally may be acceptable.

As said, there are some in UK but that's no help - I don't think flying and hosting them here would be financially feasible; and the US materials differ from UK materials.

(5) Precast concrete+window: here are some quotes from OldCastle Precast: “... The 8'x4'x3'bottom and walls only would be $1000. The stainless steel frame, epoxy coating, bottom drain would be something we could fabricate in the structure but will require more time to get those prices. … 10'x5'x3' (1100 US gal) would be priced at $1844…. the 20'x10'x3' (6000 US gal) would be $5703 and would weigh ~22 tons.”

The problems are the same as with item 4 above. I’d have to waterproof and install the window. Learning as you go may not be good here.

(6) Plywood+window: been done, examples: 1700 gal one window http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/d ... tank_1.php
2400 gal one window and 8000 gal 2 windows : Ted built plywood tropical tanks in his backyard in Seattle http://www.anythingfish.com/images/Ted/ ... rIndex.htm
600 gal, one window, exceptionally well described http://www.jonolavsakvarium.com/eng_diy ... itres.html

Well, again, DIY. Not good for me right now. Besides, the longevity may not be there.

(7) Rubber liner+window: I’ve seen the pics of such pond-aquarium hybrids on the net but never came across how the liner+window seam is made waterproof. I can imagine a few options. But out of all ponds, I have the most experience with rubber liner ponds and I do not want to deal with them anymore. They are unsightly. Big fish puncture them and some chew them. The liner would have to be under a protective layer of something, e.g. concrete or acrylic sheeting, etc. I do not like it.

(8) Polyethylene or polypropelene, etc (PE): relatively cheap, big, fish-friendly tubs are available, e.g., $800 for 1000 US gal water storage tanks. Never found anyone putting a window in one of those. Strongest, least buckle-prone, and cheapest are the cylindrical tubs, which means the window will have to be curved. That’s a con. Would need a strong frame for the window and would have to be DIY/learn from your mistakes kind of a deal again. Not good.

(9) Aluminum: as discussed here and other i-net places, can be toxic to fish, not good. http://www.planetcatfish.com/forum/view ... =+aluminum

(10) Finally, Fiberglass tubs+window: these are the front runners for my smallest exhibits -
Aquaticeco.com, near Orlando FL - only two sizes suitable for me, 8’x4’x3’, $2000, 8’x4’x2.5’ $1600

(EDIT Feb 24 2015, new URL http://pentairaes.com/tanks/show/all )

(EDIT Feb 8 2016: an informative new thread from MFK on these tanks http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forum ... ws.646391/ )

These are mass-produced I think in Malaysia or Indonesia.

Interesting that others sell them 50% more expensive, e.g., the same 8’x4’x3’ is $3200 here http://www.fishfarmsupply.ca/mm5/mercha ... fiberglass

Dolphin Fiberglass Products, Homestead, FL - - http://www.aquaculturetanks.com/
Nice Company and nice owner, Jack Broyl. Spent a few hours with him. They cannot beat the above $2000 price for a 8’x4’x3’, the closest would be $2500-$3000 but can make any size and have the molds for many bigger tanks but they are all exponentially more expensive – see their nice on-line collections of photos and the price list.

That’s where we stand, folks. Does anybody have a time-tested experience with those fiberglass tubs+windows (front runners)? Also, please share grounded, helpful opinions and suggestions on anything foregoing.

Thanks much in advance.

Viktor
Last edited by Viktor Jarikov on Tue Feb 09, 2016 12:56 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by MatsP » Sat Sep 10, 2011 8:54 am

The public aquaria in England certainly use concrete + window.

I wouldn't worry too much about "glass breakable". As long as the tank is well set up, glass is a very strong material. Ask TP how easy it is to break 15mm (approx 5/8") glass - he had a 6ft tank to take apart, and the only way he could figure was to break it in pieces. And it took a huge amount of force to break the glass. I have broken a large sheet of 8mm (5/16"), and just as a loose sheet, it takes heavy blows with a 16oz hammer. It is very unlikely that a glass tank will "explode" (despite what they show in films), much more likely that it will gently crack and the water comes out like a fountain [which is of course bad!]

See if you can find a couple of 100+ gal tank, and try to break them by different means. I think you'll find that it takes quite a bit to break the tank. [Make sure you set up a video camera and put it on youtube for our enjoyment as well]

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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Viktor Jarikov » Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:15 pm

bump
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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Suckermouth » Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:26 pm

I don't know much about construction, but I'm curious if are you legitimately setting up an aquarium open to the public, or do you just want a tank as big as one?
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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by crkinney » Mon Sep 12, 2011 7:40 pm

HEY we are in America WHAT A COUNTRY! ^:)^
mule

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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Viktor Jarikov » Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:06 pm

Yes, I intend to attempt to make a living out of it. My wife and I formed a C-Corporation for that purpose last Spring. We invested both of our entire pension plans into it. We moved to FL, for that reason, to build it in a more or less stable tropical climate and avoid having to build a building and the heating costs. I am up to my ears in expenses trying to get the needed permits to open my business by Feb next year (IRS demanded time line). So, yes, it is a serious effort and we have abandoned our relatively cushy Rochester, NY life and put everything we've earned so far on the stake.
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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by 2wheelsx2 » Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:12 pm

I have no input other than to say Bravo! for chasing your dream. Please keep us updated on the progress of this. Are you on Monsterfishkeepers? There must be lots of people with experience with this sort of thing. One guy there has a 10000 (something like that size) gallon Arapaima tank.

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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Viktor Jarikov » Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:58 pm

Thanks. As I said about this endeavor before: fool's dreams usually die with their owner.

Yes, I am there but barely active. MFK is a great resource but of DIY-type constructions, unless you are made of money, which I am not.

If you are referring to Arapaimag, aka Micheal Bryce, your fellow Canadian, with a 15,000 gal and 50,000 gal tanks, then yes, I am in contact with him. He posts on PC sometimes.
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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by 2wheelsx2 » Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:21 pm

Yeah, some of those guys are loaded. I have followed Bryce's threads, but there was another guy in California I think, that even had webcams set up so that he could see his tank 24/7 from anywhere. I'll have to try and dig that up.

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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Viktor Jarikov » Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:59 pm

Then, I am rather sure you are talking about JohnPTC (from LA) and his 5000 gal, 12'x10'x6' arapaima tank. The MFK thread about that is linked above in my examples of the concrete+window structures.
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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Suckermouth » Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:09 pm

Viktor Jarikov wrote:Yes, I intend to attempt to make a living out of it. My wife and I formed a C-Corporation for that purpose last Spring. We invested both of our entire pension plans into it. We moved to FL, for that reason, to build it in a more or less stable tropical climate and avoid having to build a building and the heating costs. I am up to my ears in expenses trying to get the needed permits to open my business by Feb next year (IRS demanded time line). So, yes, it is a serious effort and we have abandoned our relatively cushy Rochester, NY life and put everything we've earned so far on the stake.
Hi, I wish you luck. I don't know how much of a businessperson you are, but you shouldn't have to do this simply on your own money. A public aquarium can be a tourist and educational attraction. The local government, businesses, and universities may be able to provide you support for an aquarium. Expect to really sell this idea to people so that they can support you. Money is not an easy thing to come by, but you won't get any money if you don't look for it.
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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by 2wheelsx2 » Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:24 pm

Viktor Jarikov wrote:Then, I am rather sure you are talking about JohnPTC (from LA) and his 5000 gal, 12'x10'x6' arapaima tank. The MFK thread about that is linked above in my examples of the concrete+window structures.
Yep, that's him. :D Love that setup.

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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Jools » Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:45 am

Viktor Jarikov wrote:If you are referring to Arapaimag, aka Micheal Bryce, your fellow Canadian, with a 15,000 gal and 50,000 gal tanks, then yes, I am in contact with him. He posts on PC sometimes.
He's also a really nice guy and one of those I think of when I say flippantly "I know about five people that properly look after big fish". :-) Should be a help.

Good luck with this endevour Viktor, I am sure we can put some customers your way. Will you blog construction and plans as you can?

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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by RickE » Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:40 pm

Viktor I'm no expert and have certainly never constructed tanks of this size, but reading through all this carefully and looking at all the links you included, I think you would need a pretty strong argument NOT to go with concrete with windows.

I guess you like the look of JohnPTC's tank from your comments (I certainly do). His thread describes in some detail what he used and how he did it and you could probably get more information from him if you needed it.

It's adaptable- you can build the tanks to suit the enclosure they are in rather than having to make the enclosure suit the tanks and it is also cheap. As you say, you could provide most of the labour.

I can tell you that when I worked at Waterlife http://www.waterlife.co.uk/waterlife/history.htm back in the 80's, we had a small public aquarium on the site which is not there any more. The main exhibit was a 'reef' tank which (from memory) must have been something like 30' long by 20' wide by 10' deep. It could have been bigger. It was constructed from blocks and concrete waterproofed with a layer of fiberglass and had acrylic windows which I think were 3" thick. They had to be cleaned of algae regularly and were pretty badly scratched after a few years.

The filtration was a 'deep bed' at the back of the main tank which we believed offered denitrification through anaerobic activity. Heating was via a stainless steel heat-exchanger and gas boiler.

Good luck, whatever you decide.
Rick

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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Viktor Jarikov » Thu Sep 15, 2011 1:29 pm

Thanks guys for the feedback and well-wishes. One correction already. Compliments of Greg - the master tank builder and the owner of Fintastic (GA), now I know that the mentioned aquatic-eco fiberglass tubs with windows do not look like that pictured on their website. The one pictured is probably a small(er) tank.

The 600 US gal, 8'x4'x30", $1630 tank (product # FT523W2) has a 69"x17" window.

The 720 US gal, 8'x4'x3', $2005 tank (product # FT632W2) has a 63"x15.5" window (yes, even smaller).

The website pic is, therefore, quite misleading. Bummer. The aquatic-eco tanks are not my front runners anymore and hardly are in consideration.

The acrylic windows are pretty thin too at only 1/4".

Jools, I will do the best I can, of course.

RickE, scratches on acrylic are easily polished out, even under water, I am told and I read over and over. Never done that myself though. Scratches under water should be, by very far and large, less visible versus scratches at the acrylic-air interface. The underwater scratches are, of course, filled with water and water has a refractive index (1.3330) close to that of acrylic 1.4910 (versus the refractive index of air, which is 1.0003 at the wavelength of 589 nm and standard pressure and composition). (I know you are fond of higher mathematics but not sure if you like physics/optics :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_refractive_indices
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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by RickE » Thu Sep 15, 2011 1:40 pm

Viktor Jarikov wrote:Scratches under water should be, by very far and large, less visible versus scratches at the acrylic-air interface. The underwater scratches are, of course, filled with water and water has a refractive index (1.3330) close to that of acrylic 1.4910 (versus the refractive index of air, which is 1.0003 at the wavelength of 589 nm and standard pressure and composition). (I know you are fond of higher mathematics but not sure if you like physics/optics :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_refractive_indices
Heh, too long ago for me Viktor, I haven't done anything with optics since high school some 33 years ago :ymblushing:.

All I know is the scratches were quite visible from outside and polishing several windows of that size (I guess 5' x 3' or thereabouts)and in that volume of water would be a fairly demanding task!

Thinking about it, I think it is more a case of the light catching the edges of the scratches and glinting than anything else.
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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by MatsP » Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:36 pm

If the scratch is a "clean cuts", where a "jagged edge" scratch will be much more noticable, because the edge itself will refract the light and cause aberrations. I know you can polish out the scratches, and possibly even under water.

Glass will also be scratched eventually, but it is a lot harder surface, so it won't scratch quite as easily.

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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Narwhal72 » Thu Sep 15, 2011 4:14 pm

I used to be a diver at the National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB). We would only use a soft cloth (cut up tshirts) on the acrylic panels to clean them (every day) to prevent scratching.

Acrylic can be polished underwater but it is a very laborous task of sanding the area around the scratch to remove acrylic in the surrounding area down to the same depth as the scratch and then polishing it out. It will take hours to polish one small area.

Better to prevent the scratches as best as possible.

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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Viktor Jarikov » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:46 am

Thanks all.

Anyone knows if Aquatic Exhibit Group is still in business? http://www.aquaticexhibit.com/

They are not answering phones, voice mails, and emails.
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Re: My Public Aquarium: exhibit blues - how to make them?

Post by Viktor Jarikov » Tue Oct 11, 2011 2:42 am

RickE wrote:Viktor I'm no expert and have certainly never constructed tanks of this size, but reading through all this carefully and looking at all the links you included, I think you would need a pretty strong argument NOT to go with concrete with windows.
Hi Rick and all, just have had a long conversation with John Polk, owner-operator of Tydepoolmarine (CA). He professes that all concrete tanks leak. Even the best built Public Aquaria tanks will start leaking after a year or so. No matter how well waterproofed, concrete can not hold water. Even the shallow ones, just like my targeted tanks of the 2.5'-3' depth.

The only leak-proof, big tank options are full acrylic or FRP(fiber reinforced plastic) with acrylic/glass windows.

Experiences? Thoughts?
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