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After researching the best method to build an approximately 500 litre tank my son used 6mm glass and these dimensions: 200mm x 60mm x 40mm (40 mm being the height) and had a 2mm angle iron frame constructed to use on the top and bottom of the tank.

We initially placed the tank on the floor of our lounge area as we did not yet have a stand to put it onto. The tank was first placed on top of a blanket and at this stage I did not appreciate the relevance (or importance) of this.



Allowing the water to reach the desired temperature.


The sticks started oozing resin (obviously not poisonous as none of the fish died) so we used older branches once we moved the tank to its stand.


The original plan was to have the stand made from solid wood but this was taking too long (my son was only here for two weeks and wanted the job done before he left) so we opted for pan bricks for the legs and a large teak plank for the top. We found the plank lying around in our yard.

We took the plank to the local woodwork shop and unfortunately it was too large for them to fit into the planer, so we cut it into two pieces and had it planed that way.


You can see here that the two pieces were not level (the one at the back is slightly higher than the one at the front). My son implored us to wait - let’s rather do it properly and avoid any disaster but we were far too impatient and persuaded him to continue. I really regret that! He suggested that we wait until the morning when we could at least buy a piece of foam rubber mattress to put under the tank to accommodate the bumps and lumps but again we persuaded him to carry on.



We temporarily wedged small pieces of wood under the planks to try to level them out.


We collected the sand from an island in the Zambezi River, not far from our house - an adventure on it’s own!



That’s the sand in.


The water is pumped directly from the Zambezi River so there is no need to allow it to stand - we literally filled the tank and put the fish in (after adjusting the temperature a little to reduce shock).


Two of the squeakers - I have three and they are all different types. Of course we cleaned the outside of the glass later but unfortunately things went wrong before I could get any clearer photos.

The tank survived the night in one piece but in the morning while we were adding rocks and logs we heard an ominous cracking noise and within a few minutes water started dripping onto the floor, getting faster and faster as time went on. The fish were quickly removed to a temporary ‘tank’ (a large cooler box) and we drained the tank to find a large crack had formed in one corner, with a smaller one starting across the bottom pane of glass. Despite trying to patch them up with silicone the cracks just grew and grew until the entire base was a criss cross of cracks.

By now my son had one day left of his holiday and there was no time left to put things right. We were all very disappointed and angry with ourselves for being so impatient. There was no doubt that the initial engineering was sound - the tank had stood on the floor (relatively level and on the blanket) for over a week, full of water, sand, stones and logs and no cracks had appeared. It was placing it on the uneven logs (with no cushion underneath) which had caused the strain on the glass and the subsequent cracks.

After he had gone I started taking the tank apart in order to rebuild it (after ordering a level piece of wood for the stand!) and in the process - probably due to being too hasty - I managed to break two further panes!

I salvaged what glass I could and built a smaller tank with that to put the fish into while I was trying to make a plan to fully rebuild the 500 litre tank - by now I had released the tiger fish and the barbel into our garden pond. The tiger fish were struggling in such a small space and the barbel was bullying the squeakers and cichlids.

I have learned a few valuable lessons from this disaster:

* Always use a level base to stand your tank on. Make sure the base is not warped;

* Always place something with ‘give’ between the tank and the base (foam rubber, a carpet, blanket) to take up any inconsistencies and to avoid strain being put on the glass

* Always listen to my son!

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a


  • Denise: YES- Always (almost) listen to your son! ha ha ha ha
  • johnarthur: I’ve been to three county fairs, two hog callings, an egg sucking contest, a cat show, traffic court and Ney York City, but that is by far the saddest, most heart wrenching story I have ever heard, bar none. Well, maybe not. My 55 gallon tank emptied with one big crack. It didn’t wrench my heart or even rend it, but it sure was wet and inconvenient.
  • mommomkris: i just had a dream about a leaky tank! yeah when one becaome impatient things happen! As they say "haste makes waste" and "Patience is a virtue!"...unfortuantly many people are not virtueous!:)
  • Zimzamzim: Thank you for your kind commiserations. And sorry for your emptied tank. I guess one good thing is that our house is an open plan, outdoorsy type of house, any leakages can simply be swept onto the deck, the rest just soaks into the floor and pretty quickly everything is dry again.
    I have had some pretty bizarre dreams about that leaky tank too!

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