How Custom Aquariums Are Made – Factory Tour

In my last video, I announced that I was working
with Custom Aquariums on a new 300 gallon display tank. So last week, I flew up to Wisconsin to see
their operation firsthand. Their lobby is full of examples of their work,
like this beautiful reef tank, full of livestock and coral. A huge hexagonal south american tank, with some really nice discus. A big amphibious tank that’s basically an
aquarium and vivarium combined, and a really nice reptile enclosure. So they make a lot of different stuff, and it all starts in the glass shop. It’s a huge space where tanks go from large
sheets of glass to finished aquariums. First those sheets are moved from storage
to the CNC glass cutter. It’s can tilt up vertically to load the glass, and once it’s on there it’s basically like
a big air hockey table. All of the dimensions are programmed into
the computer, and the machine goes to work. This was pretty crazy to see in person. I mean, I knew machines like this existed,
but to watch it zip around like this and know that it’s making super precise cuts
was really cool. Once the whole sheet is cut, the pieces are snapped apart into their finished
sizes. Some of these are broken with the table, and
others with a clamp. The glass is then loaded onto a cart where
it moves to the next step in the process, the polisher. They actually polish all four sides of each
piece of glass, whereas most manufacturers only polish the
sides that you see. This gets rid of imperfections that can compromise
the integrity of the glass. So that’s one thing that sets these tanks
apart from mass produced tanks. For tanks that are predrilled, like mine, the glass moves on to a hole drilling machine that drills from the top and bottom simultaneously. I’ve drilled a bunch of tanks by hand and it’s not a lot of fun. Seeing how fast and easy this was, and how
nice the holes looked almost made me mad. Next, every piece of glass goes through a
washer that uses RODI water to get it super clean for assembly. It comes out and passes in front of a light
panel so that it can be inspected. Any piece of glass that doesn’t meet their
standards is replaced with a piece that does. Once all of the glass is ready, it’s time
for the assembly. The five pieces are carefully aligned and
clamped in place. They are then taped off in preparation for
the first seal. Another thing that sets these tanks apart
is the quality of the silcone. This stuff is much better than the GE stuff
you would buy at a store or even what is used on your average mass
produced tank. I’ve sealed a tank before, and it did not
go so well, so it was really fun to watch these guys work
and see it done right. Once the first seal has had some time to cure,
it’s time to do the second seal. This is a different day, and different tank,
but I wanted you to be able to see it. They really take their time with this and
even inspect each seam with a light after the silicone goes on, just to make sure
there aren’t any bubbles. Next up comes the frames, and this might be
the biggest difference between these tanks and others, and it was a huge selling point for me personnally. Instead of plastic frames, which I think we
all know can easily break, they use annodized aluminum. It’s much stronger and is held together with
rivets. The taller tanks get an even stronger version
with extra rivets. I got to see them frame this awesome 10 foot
tank, which started with them lifting the tank with
this crazy suction cup and pulley system. They scraped off all of the excess silicone
with the tank hanging in the air. All of the frames are custom cut so they did
a test fit to make sure it was exactly right. It wasn’t, so they took it back to the saw
to make some adjustments. The frame was then reassembled and test fit
again. This time it was perfect, so they removed
it again to add the silicone. Finally it was time to attach it permanently
and add clamps to ensure a tight fit. Fully assembled tanks are then left to cure
before being shipped to the customer. The other big part of their operation is the
cabinetry shop. They make stands and canopies from solid wood
and they look really nice. Very much like furniture. Even the paint is really well done. In this same building is where they put together
all of the plumbing for the tanks, which includes their Seamless Sump system. This was another huge draw for me and one
of the coolest things about these tanks. I’ll be showing these in depth once I get
mine, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but they’re these extremely customizable,
modular sumps made from polyethelyne. They’re all one piece which means there are
no seams to break apart and leak. Once the tank, stand, and plumbing are ready, the entire setup is crated for shipping to
the customer. They build what is essentially a custom pallet
for each crate, and then they put padded supports around it. Then the whole thing is encased in plywood. I didn’t make it up to Wisconsin in time to
see my own tank being built. But I was at least able to see it leave. Thanks to everyone at Custom Aquariums for
showing me around and letting me share this with you. And stay tuned for future videos where among other things I will show thes
crates arriving at my door. Thanks everyone for watching, and until next time, have a good one.

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