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I am attempting to build a wooden aquarium, using 1/4" x 60" x 18" Lexan polycarbonate for the viewing side, and 3/4" plywood for the main body construction.

I plan on using 1"x 2" furring strips along the seams, secured with a combination of external screws and glue, as well as around the top as bracing and for future lid/cover support.

The face frame will be 1" x 4" poplar, again secured with wood glue and screws. All screws will be countersunk and puttied over for a paint finish. The interior will be waterproofed with a two part marine safe epoxy paint (Such as those available from Sweetwater or Pentair), but I am unsure of how to secure the polycarbonate .

I don't know if should route the inside of the frame (Possible weakness when filled with water), or secure with mirror mounting type brackets or make an interior routed frame to fit around the polycarbonate ? Also unsure if I would mount the polycarbonate and then paint/epoxy the edges, or paint first and then epoxy/mount?

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    I think is a great question, I am however concerned with the forces involved and the suggested materials. Even a reasonably small 10 gallon tank will be holding a constant 80+ lbs of water and other materials.How large a tank are you intending to building in overall dimensions? – BrownRedHawk Mar 17 '15 at 17:06
  • @BrownRedHawk - A typical 10 gallon tank will have ~90-95 lbs of materials. 8.8 lbs per gallon of water, + rocks and aquascaping. As long as the floor is supported evenly, the wall stress is much less. For example, most 10 gallon aquariums are 1/4" glass held together solely (well, mostly) with clear caulk sealant. Wall pressure is less, and more dispersed. It's also less the higher on the tank you go. I would possibly need a thicker front piece if I was using tempered glass, or going higher than 20". Overall dimensions are 62" x 20" x 20", or ~ 107 gallons. Well within limits for material. – JohnP Mar 17 '15 at 17:11
  • 1/4" of glass will resist considerably more force without deflecting than lexan. of the same thickness. This deflection will cause you more issues with mounting. Perhaps a simple friction fit to mechanically support and encase all sides will be considerably more stable and supportive than attempting anchors or brackets. – BrownRedHawk Mar 17 '15 at 17:18
  • @BrownRedHawk - True. If I were going higher than 18", I would need to up the thickness of the lexan. For up to 18", 1/4" is considered safe. I suppose for some extra security, I could beef up the lexan to 3/8". - Added: I see what you are saying. Make the interior dimensions to fit the exterior of the lexan, finish and then just lay/caulk the lexan flat against the interior of the face frame. – JohnP Mar 17 '15 at 17:21
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    Would it be acceptable to simply build a box around a commercially available aquarium? Then you can be sure of its integrity. – Brad P. Mar 18 '15 at 13:37
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I think I would try cutting a groove into the inside edge of each frame member, maybe 3/8 deep, so that the edge of the Lexan is completely captured, front and back, on all four sides. You could do this at the router table; I'd do it in a couple of shallow passes. For the two pieces of your face frame that have exposed end grain, the grooves will need to be stopped, so the end of the groove isn't exposed. In all I think this is the most secure way to hold that Lexan in place. And it gives you a natural place to run a bead of sealant around the perimeter to fight leaks. The only real drawback is that you can't easily replace the Lexan once the frame is glued up. I don't know if that's a consideration. Also, I would definitely apply your finish to the frame before installing the Lexan. Much simpler than masking the whole thing off, it seems to me. Lastly, if you have any real concern about the rigidity of the Lexan, you might redesign your face frame to include a central, vertical divider from that same 1x4 stock, and use two smaller panes instead.

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