Ticking time bombs in the living room: Is it time for kit aquarium manufactures to up their game?

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Aquarium Specialty - dry goods & marine livestock

DaddyFish

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I had some conversation with someone here on R2R probably a year or more ago, can't remember his name but he had a large rimless tank. You could just tell he was able to afford whatever tank he wanted and was kind enough to share some straight talk with me. He made several points about maintenance/husbandry issues unique to rimless tanks that made me rethink going rimless. I definitely love the look of rimless, but especially with a big tank, I'm not willing to risk it all on the integrity of silicone.

After all, how many tank manufacturers, custom or otherwise, do regular lab testing of the adhesives they are using in production. Not the published data sheets, but actual product inventory testing. I bet NONE!
There's a level of "production" in every tank build, albeit custom or otherwise.
 

Lowell Lemon

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My company fabricated acrylic aquariums for more than 25 years with only one failure. I also represented and sold glass aquariums from two other manufacturers during the early part of my career in the industry and experienced many glass tank failures during that period. It is one of the reasons I only fabricated acrylic aquariums after that time.

I would like to add that many tank failures in glass were traced to water damaged stands creating stress on the tanks. Both tank and stand construction depend on proper installation by the customer. Home made stands with some manufacturers tanks can contribute to failures. But improper materials and design also contribute to product failure in many of the rimless tank designs. Red Sea has provided a fix for some of their stand short comings with bracing after the fact. MDF and other particle board products should never be used for aquarium stands. But a majority of low cost tank and stand manufacturers still use it. This is a major problem.

Love the move to aluminum stands by several manufacturers to prevent failures in the future. It still requires the purchaser to properly level and support the tank before use....and that is another discussion altogether!
 
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Grill

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@Grill ^^^^ I really dig that frame and steel cable center braces are genius. Strong yet don’t get in the way or block a ton of light.
Thanks! So far no issues. I was a little worried about the tank being 7' long and leveling. I used liquid acrylic for the top of the stand and put the stand on leveling casters. Also went under the house and added a few floor joist.

IMG_20201205_072743.jpg
 
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kingjoe

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my personal advice, never buy a kit tank. I’m not saying they’re all bad, but they’re made for the average customer. This is a great thing, however you lose the ability to guarantee everything component by component. All of my builds I begin from the ground up, literally checking the floor, then building the stand from dimensional lumber and an oversized safety factor. Everything is furniture grade, no particle board, only stainless fasteners and traditional joints. Then thoroughly sealed. Then the tank, be it an old AGA or a new ADA or fully custom beauty is filled to test for level and adjustments can be made and additional support added (drain tank and modify stand in shop).

That’s all before the tank is plumbed! I’m also ignoring the actual tank design and engineering.

A major manufacturer is unable to do this, especially if they need to turn a profit.

I recently reviewed the water box systems in person. They’re great for what they are. They won’t last 40 years though. The stands are good enough, but are definitely not heirloom quality nor furniture grade.

Expecting heirloom grade or furniture grade construction for an inexpensive tank that if of a great value for the consumer is ignorant. It’s a lack of understanding, and it’s easy to learn about what you’re purchasing with a little bit of effort. When housing thousands of pounds of weight, most of water, one would expect a bit of extra scrutiny.

Custom tank costs can be very very reasonable, and you generally get a very high quality. The actual price may be higher than commercially available mass market units, but that’s what a one off creation entails. Obviously you are in charge of the design/engineering and what you purchase is on you. Of course not all tank builders are created equal, and mistakes happen. Going this way requires a bit of extra knowledge on your end.

I should state I have a mix of aquariums from big AGA ones older than me, to sexy rimless designer tanks, to custom 180g acrylics, to affordable $50 15” rimless cubes (aqueon) from Petco. They all have their own merits.

The liability discussion is a bit silly to me. I recommend insurance if the tank failing may cause damage of concern.

The discussion of vehicles in comparison to aquariums is silly. However I’ll join in. My daily driven vehicle is a 1987 Porsche 928s4, it’s old enough that is does not have airbags. At the time of manufacture it was the fastest production car, and I have met people who commuted to work over 100 miles each way in 45 minutes (it was an unusual situation, I can’t endorse regardless, it was essentially a private road that was built for them) I have been in three accidents, twice while parked. The third was on the highway. I’ve been safe each time, I knowingly purchased an old potentially extremely dangerous vehicle. Porsche isn’t liable for problems that happen. I am. If I drive recklessly and am I hired or die? That’s on me. Going 120mph is increased risk of major consequences just like placing a tank with lower tolerances on an improperly constructed stand in a space that may have more bumps and external forces.

Porsche has had issues in engineering that slips past them. Occasionally they do recall parts. IMS is a great example. The thing is, the risk is known and everyone purchasing those cars is advised to have it inspected prior to purchase.

Similarly, we need to be inspecting our tanks very carefully before accepting delivery/taking it home.

In short? Risks exist and you get what you ou for. Quick fixes incur greater risk than carefully calculated and constructed solutions. Insurance and floor drains are good investments for some people.

A great counter example to everything I just wrote would be the Visitherm Stealth heaters exploding. The manufacturer was quick to make things right with those who were affected. I know if tens of thousands of dollars being sent to affected customers. Granted, defective heaters are akin to pipe bombs...

-Andrew

PS. Reaching out calmly to the manufacturer, and their teams making the problem tanks with concern and questions and potential input is often well received. It can sometimes be difficult to get the right person on the phone, one it happens though, it usually is positive.
I agree with your assertion regarding custom tanks. While planning my current 180 build, I went round and round: Red Sea, Waterbox Fiji, Cade, Red Sea, etc. I'd make my decision then realize that there was something about each system that was unacceptable to me or demanded too much compromise on my part. At some point I realized that I could have a custom built tank for not a great deal more money. So I went with a Crystal Dynamic 180, and I'm very happy that I did. The top and bottom euro-bracing, corner reinforcements, and steel stand obviate any concerns I had regarding structural integrity. And, I could customize to my heart's content- 36" overflow, Trigger sump, Reef Octopus skimmer, and so on. While I think that, overall, the big aquarium manufacturers produce decent quality systems given the price, it is very much worth considering a custom option. For a few months' more saving an aquarist can get exactly what he wants and likely will be very happy with it.
I've often compared mainstream aquarium builders to the large optics companies. Most all of them make very good products, but the constraints of meeting a desirable consumer price point result in certain limitations. When I decided to upgrade my telescope I looked at offerings from the well known scope makers, but recognized that any build I purchased would leave me wanting in some way or perhaps require cumbersome add-ons and customization. I finally decided to save up a bit (quite a bit in this case) and go with a refractor from a master optician, and the result is simply amazing. Granted, one needs to put out more cash, but with both my aquarium and telescope the result has been well worth it. Its the difference between "pretty good," and "outta dis woild!"
 

Tamberav

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I bought an old school Oceanic 7'x2'x2' 210gal. from Craigslist for $200. It was in rough shape with the thick fake wood plastic trim and dried out silicone. I tore it down to just the panes of glass, cleaned all the seams, resealed with pencil glass on the bottom and sides for reinforcement, then framed. (bought a low iron front pane) It doesn't have the simplistic look of a rimless or the bulky glass braces of a Euro, more of a modern industrial look. Other than the endless nagging from the wife to get the tank out of the living room and garage (spent a couple months working on it) it came out extremely nice. Anything happens I can only blame myself. :eek:


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Stand Stages resized.jpg

Beautiful build! I would not hesitate to buy a braced tank if it looked as nice as this.
 

Tamberav

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So would you see a 180 marine land or aqueon has a less chance of failure then Red Sea/IM/water box, etc ?

They use thinner glass and sometimes the silicone is sloppy but it has that plastic brace. I have seen some old ones for sale where the plastic brace broke.

Are we sure these are any better?

I am shopping around for a new tank in 200g range so curious.
 

Devaji

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my 2 cents...

I had a RS 750XL right when it had all those issues with the stand. never filled it bought a house with a perfect spot for a peninsula tank. long story but traded it for a new RS 650P

I do wish the stand was better quality. was quite disappointed. I agree lets put gentel pressure on PnP builders to up there game. but in the end our $$ talks more than gripping. its nice to see the alu. stand coming out but dang that a lot of $$ not all of us can drop 5K on a tank.

if I was going to do it again I would have a custom tank from @joe@glasscages with a 80/20 stand.
IDK I just wanted the clean look of the nice white stand and rimless very modern.
so far it good but years to come?? I sure do hope so.
 
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PanchoG

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The Red Sea failures in the Reefer series was the first one I know of for them. Today those tanks have been replaced and their stands have been reinforced.

The new Reefer S-series is a step up and their Max S-series are much better tanks than a custom tank but of course they are expensive. If you want something sleek without wires in your living room, IMO this is a very good option.
 
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zoa what

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I would like to add that many tank failures in glass were traced to water damaged stands creating stress on the tanks.
EXACTLY!

Imo almost every tank failure can point back to improper installation where the tank was not balanced properly on the stand.

Water and water pressure will always WIN over time.

You can take the best built tank with seams and water/water pressure will always win EVENTUALLY by escaping through the weakest link
 

george7523

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I have read that black silicone are preferred over transparent silicone because clear silicone eventually would have purple algae start digging in underneath the silicone and compromise integrity of the tank. Black silicone prevents light from getting in the seam. Supposedly. I don't like the black silicone look but would hate to have leaky tank more. Anyone have experience with transparent silicone reef tanks like UNS tanks that can share some experience with it ?
 
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Forty-Two

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This is an interesting thread and has give me something to think about as I look to buy an aquarium for the first time in many years.

I had assumed (probably like many others) that rimless must be safe - and manufacturing had improved since I had last owned an aquarium. The logic being that companies have a reputation to protect, and of course don’t like being sued or damages so it must be safe.

That being said I am looking at a custom tank anyways because of various issues I saw with larger manufacturers. The only one that really appealed to me was the Nuvo 200 EXT due to the aluminum frame.

Now I’m wondering if I should ask for at least bottom Eurobracing lol
 
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