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Old 01-25-2020, 05:08 PM
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Default Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

2 tanks: Each are 26"x21"x34" (w,d,h)

I always wish I'd taken more pictures of the process once I'm finished with a build, but I'm not the greatest multi-tasker.

I've been out of the hobby for a few years but am looking to stick my toes back in with a couple of display vivaria for the living room.

I have a modest wood shop and very modest woodworking skills. I have built a couple of plywood tanks in the past and decided to go that route again. I have to say, from a practical point of view, it's really not worth it. The amount of time sunk into all the steps to get a wooden tank to reliably hold water/withstand moisture, and also look good, is huge compared to the time to silicone glass tanks together. However, I've never actually built a fully glass tank and for my first try in a while I decided to stick with what I'm familiar with.

The benefits of plywood are weight and cost savings. At these size tanks though, the cost savings is negligible. If I were going to build a 150 gallon or larger tank I would seriously consider plywood. For this size again, I would probably go glass. Having said that, it is nice to be able to pick tanks this size up by myself (even with background and hardscaping included) and move them around or put them on their cabinets. I don't think I could do it with glass - or at least I wouldn't try.

So... I started out with 3/4" (23/32) plywood. I use the sanded pine plywood from the orange box. It's not near the quality of baltic birch but comes in at around $30 for a 4'x8' sheet. Compare that to $60 for 5'x5' sheet for baltic birch and a 3 hour round trip drive to the closest place to me that sales it. This plywood has some voids and isn't usually perfectly flat but it does have a nice thick veneer. I believe it is a good value.

Here is a very basic sketch of the major components and their approximate dimensions:
IMAG0388 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

All of the joinery was done with pocket screws and Titebond II or III wood glue. Pocket screws aren't neccessarily the best method for this but they are easy, relatively quick, and more than strong enough.

Here is an image of the back of one of the tanks with all pocket holes drilled:
IMAG0297 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

The side pieces that will hold the side glass in place:
IMAG0299 by Josh Yates, on Flickr
If I didn't want these to have views from the sides or if I were doing full three sided backgrounds, I could have just made the sides of solid wood and saved a lot of time and more weight/money.

I used a router to make a 1/4" x approx 3/4" ledge in the side pieces. This will give the glass a place to rest during installation and plenty of surface area for silicone to stick to:
IMAG0300 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

Also, the router was used to create the ventilation along the top edge of the front piece of the tanks:
IMAG0301 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

This will not be as effective as euro style tanks where the ventilation is oriented horizontally so that the air can freely flow up into the vivarium. But I believe it will do.

Closeup of the inside of the previous piece. The 1/2" wide ledge will provide a place for the sliding door track to rest and be siliconed into place but still be hidden behind the wood when viewed from the front. The indention on the left (and right but not in the image) will allow the side glass to slide up flush with the sliding glass doors.
IMAG0303 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

All for now. If you read this much and found something helpful, then cool! I will get around to posting more very soon.
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Old 01-26-2020, 12:06 AM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

I didn't mean to come off so negative on building these tanks in my first post. While it probably doesn't make sense in terms of time or cost to build tanks this size from plywood, it has been an interesting project and the result will be something unique, and hopefully nice to look at.

After the back, bottom, sides and front of the tank were cut out and assembled, the next step was the top. The idea was to build a wooden frame that the top glass would set into. I also needed to include top ventilation and a groove for the top track for the sliding glass door.

IMAG0305 by Josh Yates, on Flickr





I needed to cut a lot of grooves into this piece for both the top glass, the side glass, and the top sliding glass track. Because of this I wanted to avoid any kind of hardware (screws) when putting this frame together. I did this by cutting the pieces with a 45 degree miter angle, gluing them together and then reinforcing with a 1/8" spline.

IMAG0309 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

Slot cut for the reinforcing splines:
IMAG0310 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

I sliced a piece of plywood down to near 1/8", then ran it through the drum sander until it was a nice fit in the slots I'd cut in the frame joints above:
IMAG0311 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

Glued it all up and then trimmed and sanded the splines off flush.
IMAG0312 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

Then I used the router to cut in the same pattern of vent holes as I did on the front bottom. I also cut a shallow inset all around the top to set the glass into. The back of the frame sits directly on top of the vertical back piece of the tank and is fully supported by it. The sides sit on top of and are supported by the side glass. But the top front wouldn't be supported by anything and I didn't want it to possibly sag under the weight of the top glass. I cut an extra 1/8" deep slot across the top front of the frame in order to attach a piece of 1/8" x 3/4" aluminum angle. It should lend rigidity to this piece of wood.

Also, though I don't have a picture, I cut slots about 5/16" wide and 1/2" deep into the bottom of the frame. These slots will accept the 1/4" pieces of side glass.
IMAG0314 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

This is skipping a some steps (I'd already applied the epoxy) but this image shows the aluminum angle screwed and epoxied to the front top frame piece:
IMAG0347 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

The top frame was then attached to the back and sides, again using pocket screws and glue.

Then, in preparation for the water proofing epoxy, I plugged all of the exposed pocket screw holes with dowels cut off at an angle and then sanded flush. Also, any major cracks, splits, or knot holes in the interior were filled with a sandable epoxy wood filler. I wanted as smooth a surface as possible to work with the pond shield epoxy.

IMAG0317 by Josh Yates, on Flickr
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Old 01-26-2020, 07:00 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

I decided to go with Pond Shield Pond Armor Epoxy for sealing the inside of the tanks. There may be other epoxy that works just as well and is cheaper if you need a larger volume. The 1.5 quarts of Pond Armor worked out to be exactly what I needed for this project and I had used it before so that's what I went with.

Before applying, I followed the directions and sanded everything to be coated with 60 grit sand paper and then vacuumed and wiped down all the dust as best as I could.

Here is one of the tanks ready for epoxy:

IMAG0316 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

The first coat was thinned with denatured alcohol. The 2nd coat, I also thinned but not as much. I then did a 3rd touch up coat to any thin spots I saw.

This is where I really started slacking off on photos.

For aesthetics, I cut the veneer from strips of plywood and glued these to all the exposed edges of the plywood in the builds. This gives a bit of an illusion of solid wood, or at least doesn't bring plywood to mind as soon as someone sees them. I also built a pair of cabinet carcasses to the same footprint dimensions as the tanks. Then all the wood was finished with a coat of oak stain and several coats of polyurethane.

Tanks with epoxy coating on cabinets but before stain and polyurethane:
IMAG0343 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

Here I'm about to silicone the lower sliding glass track into place. The epoxy surface and underside of the plastic track was sanded to give more grip for the silicone.
IMAG0352 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

I then put the doors in the track and used them to properly align the side glass pieces. This took a while and was really tedious. I wanted to get the glass siliconed in as squarely as possible to the glass doors. My goal was to avoid using glass track vertically for the outdoor door edges to mate into. I just want a flush glass to glass edge on the front of the tanks.
IMAG0353 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

I'm pretty satisfied with the results. I may have to lay a thin bead of silicone in one edge out of the two tanks, just to make sure there are no fruit fly escapes. This photo shows the side glass in place. I've also siliconed egg crate to the back to give the great stuff background more surface area to hold onto.

IMAG0359 by Josh Yates, on Flickr
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Old 01-26-2020, 07:38 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Wow, those look amazing!


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Old 01-26-2020, 08:56 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Looks amazing, good job!
And as you say, it might not be the most work or money efficient way for that size but it's not always about the end goal it's how you get there. My signature quote holds some weight lol.
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Old 01-26-2020, 10:13 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Thanks guys.

Kalle, how's the tree buttress build going? I was silently following along on that one with great interest.
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Old 02-04-2020, 03:09 AM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Continuing along-

I had some leftover matala from an old build. It wasn't enough to do the drainage for both tanks so I chopped it up and used it as support for some egg crate:

IMAG0365 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

I then places some fiberglass screen over the egg crate and attached that to the inside of the tank with a beed of silicone.

There's a lot of other little tedious steps that I'm leaving out here. Most are obvious but hardly worth mentioning. (silconing screen into the ventilation slots, drilling top glass for misting nozzles, setting up hoses for drainage from the bulkheads, etc)

Of course the big thing at this stage is getting the hardscape and background in place. I'm a long way from an artist when it comes to this stuff. It's definitely a big part of what separates most vivs from great and legendary vivs. I got a bulk box of cork flats and ghost wood on cyber Monday and took an embarrassing amount of time staring into the tanks holding sticks in different positions.

This image shows me experimenting with wood placement and also shows (in the form of a cardboard cutout) where I'm thinking of putting a partial backgroud/sideground? on the sides of the tanks facing one another.
IMAG0361 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

I finally committed to the major pieces:
IMAG0381 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

At this point I really abandoned any further photography. I great stuffed some other ghost wood pieces into place and great stuffed some cork slabs onto the background.

I then scuffed up all the slick great stuff surface before laying down a coat of Drylok. I used the grey Drylok and added charcoal cement tint to it. It's not bad but it turned out a very cool grey, not a more organic warm grey that I would have preferred. After a couple of coats had dried and I couldn't see anymore great stuff showing through, I added a final coat and pressed a combination of peat and tree fern fiber into the still wet Drylok.

Every time I turned the tank in a different orientation I would see more spots that I had missed so there were several touch up sessions to get everything covered but the end result isn't bad:
IMAG0385 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

Next was attaching the Mistking nozzles and setting up all the plumbing for that system. Also I covered my pair of fans in fiberglass screen and drilled a little slot to run the fan cords between the top frame and top glass. A couple of neodymium magnets keep them attached to the top and allow for adjustment. An inch or so of turface brings me to my present position on this project. Ready to plant.

Here it is pre vegetation:
IMAG0408 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

IMAG0405 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

IMAG0402 by Josh Yates, on Flickr
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Old 02-04-2020, 03:30 AM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

This is looking great. I really wish I had more knowledge on woodworking (or access to the tools) to make something like this. Love it!

Can you give a close-up of how you're handling the magnets/fans? Did you have to fasten/glue one magnet to the end or are they metal and are just held in place via the magnets?
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Old 02-04-2020, 03:39 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Thanks for the interest. Here's a short video detailing the fans:

VIDEO0018 by Josh Yates, on Flickr
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Old 02-04-2020, 04:34 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Those are some really, really nice looking tanks. Awesome job!
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Old 02-04-2020, 04:59 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Thank you! Hopefully they will get some plants in them over the next few days.
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Old 02-04-2020, 05:30 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Another important step that I failed to mention:

The combination of white egg crate and bright yellow great stuff showing through the glass sides when looking at the outside of the tanks was not very aesthetically pleasing.

I got a little 8 oz. can of Krylon acrylic latex paint in satin black (I didn't see a matte option) and rolled it onto the sides of the tank with a small 4" roller. I then cleaned up the edge with a razor blade to match the curves of the edge of the background.
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Old 02-04-2020, 06:16 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Thanks for that video, incredibly helpful!
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Old 02-05-2020, 12:18 AM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Nice builds! One question re this:

Quote:
I've also siliconed egg crate to the back to give the great stuff background more surface area to hold onto.
How well do you think the silicone adhered to the Pond Shield? I've never used that particular epoxy. The two I have used quite a bit in viv builds (Polygem 307 Lite and Habitat Cast n Coat) both resist adhesion by silicone. Once cured, anyway - it would be worth trying before full cure.

Did you do any destructive testing before full commitment?

Thanks! I'm always looking for a better epoxy!
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Old 02-05-2020, 12:53 AM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

I've never used either of those other epoxies. Silicone does seem to adhere very well to the pond armor though - I would say similar adherence as to glass, at least for the functional purposes of a project like this. But, I have no proof of that. To be safer I did hit all the spots I would be applying any silicone with some 60 grit sandpaper to hopefully increase surface area for adhesion.

I haven't done any kind of objective testing of the adhesion. I will say it is very difficult to scrape any silicone off the surface of the epoxy. Also, I would hate to have to remove these panes of glass from the sides of my tanks now that they are siliconed into place. As far as the background, the egg crate will pull away from the silicone long before the silicone would pull away from the epoxy.

I built a tank with basically this same design for a friend a little over two years ago. It also has size-able pieces of wood attached to the background. It's still up and running with no problems.

Those are my experiences but definitely do your own testing before making any kind of critical structural decisions depending on silicone sticking to this particular epoxy.

Oh, also you might check on some of the forums where people are building large plywood aquariums. They use various epoxies and, I'm assuming, count on silicone for some parts of those builds as well.
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Old 02-06-2020, 09:46 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Thanks very much for the info. I will need to get some Pond Armor and play with it, once my current 2-g kit of 307 putty is all gone. To use a term like "epoxy" is a slippery thing - there's a zillion different ones, all with different properties. I can easily see an aquaculture outfit coming up with a formulation that plays well with silicone.

One thing I've learned about the 307 - Gorilla Glue doesn't stick to it, either. Not once the epoxy is cured, even if I scuff the hell out of it. One build, I tried using GG to put up some perches; they came down quick, just with gravity. Now I always screw & glue my perches, using epoxy putty as my adhesive/filler and still using a good scuff of the cured side. And of course, the screw on each end helps overcome gravity.

thanks again
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Old 02-22-2020, 01:23 AM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

I finally got the tanks about 80-90% planted. I still have a couple of bromeliads and slow growing philodendrons I will probably put in to give the background some better cover. I also will be adding another half dozen or so miniature orchids when an order comes in from Ecuagenera.

DSC06899 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

It's cool to see the visual difference just from getting the wood and background wet. Looks much more alive even with minimal plant growth.

DSC06904 by Josh Yates, on Flickr
(extremely warm room light contrasting with leds)

It's coming along.

I'm going to make a batch of calcium clay substrate to add on top of the minimal layer of turface that I currently have. And of course copious leaf litter.

I'm open to all suggestions on possible inhabitants in a month or two! I'm thinking either some Ranitomeya that do well in groups or maybe some locale of pumilio - or some of each. If I come into some inheritance or a winning lottery ticket maybe even a large obligate.
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Last edited by athiker04; 02-22-2020 at 02:14 AM.
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Old 02-23-2020, 02:06 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Quote:
Originally Posted by athiker04 View Post
I finally got the tanks about 80-90% planted. I still have a couple of bromeliads and slow growing philodendrons I will probably put in to give the background some better cover. I also will be adding another half dozen or so miniature orchids when an order comes in from Ecuagenera.

DSC06899 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

It's cool to see the visual difference just from getting the wood and background wet. Looks much more alive even with minimal plant growth.

DSC06904 by Josh Yates, on Flickr
(extremely warm room light contrasting with leds)

It's coming along.

I'm going to make a batch of calcium clay substrate to add on top of the minimal layer of turface that I currently have. And of course copious leaf litter.

I'm open to all suggestions on possible inhabitants in a month or two! I'm thinking either some Ranitomeya that do well in groups or maybe some locale of pumilio - or some of each. If I come into some inheritance or a winning lottery ticket maybe even a large obligate.
I'm really excited for this project. Good work!
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Old 03-02-2020, 03:04 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Small update. I've gotten some more bromeliads and a couple more philodendrons planted on the background. I'll get some full tank shots later.

In the mean time, here are a couple of orchids that I found blooming:

Pleurothallis allenii:
DSC06917 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

and
Pleurothallis ornata:
DSC06879 by Josh Yates, on Flickr

The ornata blooms are pretty tiny. Several would fit on a dime.
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Old 03-31-2020, 03:06 AM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Quote:
Originally Posted by athiker04 View Post
Pocket screws aren't neccessarily the best method for this
Out of curiosity, what is the best method?
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Old 03-31-2020, 03:04 PM
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Default Re: Pair Of 80 Gallon Plywood Builds

Really pocket screws are totally sufficient for this. I guess I was just saying if you were coming from a woodworking / cabinet making background or something you might think of better joinery techniques since you are essentially constructing a modified cabinet carcass. Maybe some kind of dado or spline joint - but again, not really necessary and more work, requiring more specialized tools, than pocket holes.

I was just covering my bases in case there was a cabinet maker reading this thread. Haha

Also update on this project coming soon if I can get some pictures made!
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