• Looking to buy a cephalopod? Check out Tomh's Cephs Forum, and this post in particular shares important info about our policies as it relates to responsible ceph-keeping.

DIY aquarium


May 8, 2003
I didn't know where to put this and I have a confession :sad: . I didn't even bother to search for this on the site.
Enough of the formalities, as sip my drink, milk shaken not stirred, I contemplate building an aquarium. I would like something that I haven't been able to find on the market. The dimentions limited by GARF would be 36" wide 36" deep & 30" tall. According to http://www.garf.org 30" is the tallest I can bulid using acrylic. Along with this sage information, they suggested 1/2" thick. I have found up to and exceeding 1" thick, and would like to build something about 48" tall. Has anyone attemted such a feat, and has anyone constructed (with over whelming, or just whelming success) an aquarium taller than 30". Any and all inpt would be GREATLY appriciated, and a cigar my be shipped to them if I achieve success. BTW those dimensions achieve a 168 gallon aquarium, unsure what they would be at 48" tall.

Give me ambiguity, or give me something else!!!:biggrin2:
Sounds like someone is thinking about the chambered nautilus, dare I say?

48" is awfully tall! Then again 1" is pretty thick. 36x36x48 is going to be about 270 gallons. Make sure your floor is up to the task--you're talking about a very heavy tank on a small footprint. I think 330 lb/ft^2is above a typical floor spec. You should talk to an engineer (I assume--since you're talking about 4 panes of 1" acrylic 3'x4'--that money isn't a big deal!)

I don't have any other advice, really. The place to go for help with this is www.reefcentral.com, there are two useful forums for you there, the first Large Reef Tanks and the second, Do It Yourself. Make good use of the search tool at RC--they are so big you can pretty much assume any question that you can think of has already been asked and discussed to death. Problem is you pretty much need to be a paying member to use the search, but you can cheat by using Google and specifying "site:reefcentral.com".

How dare you read my mind! Did you see the 'spacefor rent' sign?:roflmao: Thanks for the advice! I was concerned about floor load specs, but I think I have that covered by making the tank stand with an extra foot in legnth and width. Hope it's enough. Money is a bit of a concern, but I think I have enough in savings, I just hope I have the patience. I will check them out, and run the question into the ground with the search tool. I once stumbled across the specs for lexan sheeting, but decided to go with cell cast acrylic. I don't remember where, though. It's been about two years, and the mention of the chambered naut was just the inspiration I needed to get off my lazy seat and make it happen.

'You can tune a piano, but you can't tunafish'
Bugs Bunny circa, my chidhood.
A nice thick pane of acrylic would also mean less work for the chiller. The other thing I would consider would be a plywood tank. There's a page about building a 1000g tank on the internet for not much more than $1000 (most of that being the big acrylic pane).

This will be an awfully expensive project, and the odds are against you actually succeeding :smile: Even though they won't sell you a nautilus, maybe the NRCC could give you some hints about how they keep them?

I should also warn you the people on Reef Central will likely think you're crazy.

If it were me I would definately get a professional "acrylic-er" to make it after buying the panes yourself. On something that big you want very good seals.
I was looking around for a calculator for wall thickness but couldnt find one - however I did find someone who built a 800g acrylic tank out of 1' acrylic and it broke. His tank was 45' high.

It sounds like your 1 inch thick 30' high tank is very possible - but like Dan said reefcentral.com is the place to get some professional advice.

Shopping around for acrylic is very important. $570 to $960 was the range that one guy experienced for the same size peice.

I have seen some discussions about the weight tanks put on the floor, and it seems that wooden floors are the ones you may have to look into - but generally I dont think many people have problems with this.

It will be very cool if you get a Nautalis :biggrin2:, does anyone else on here have one?
I was going to put one in my 120 but I heard many people think its cruel and not right to keep one, so I started a reef tank on my 120.
Well, personally I think it's acceptable given that the tank is properly designed for a nautilus. This includes keeping the temperature to around 60F if I remember correctly, with a change to a lower temp at night. Also lighting has to be minimal- red lights are acceptable I think.

I have read that they do well in a suitable tank - the reason they have a bad rap for dying probably comes from lack of good husbandry techniques due to a lack of knowlledge.
I have heard of people being told they make a great reef specimen for a 70G!!! - The most common mistake is the temperature one, followed by the small tank.

The taller the tank the better.
To be honest, I don't know if you can properly design any tank for a nautilus--even what I would consider a truly monster tall tank like this. The animal does naturally migrate up and down hundreds of feet each day, and there's just no way to simulate that, even for the pros.

Given that, from anecdotal evidence here and there on the web, it seems like a robust individual can do alright if given the right care, and a tank like this is certainly better than someone's 75!

I would like to hear Greg's input on this, because he has a lot of experience with cephs, the aquatic flesh trade and has very well-developed opinions on what is and isn't moral to keep. Would it be reasonable to try keeping a nautilus in a very tall custom tank, properly chilled, lit and calc'd?

I'm very interested in this project because I have experience working in a geology museum and my career path may end me up in a natural history museum. I've often daydreamed about doing a project like this with someone else's dough :smile:

What is supposedly the reccommended minimum size? I have heard that you are supposed to use mirrors on the walls, not sure why though.

From what I have heard the nautilus will live a long lifespan if correctly cared for, thats an indicator to me that its not causing undue stress on them. However vertical migration is an unusual situation for a pet :smile: - in this case I would assume that the difference in temperatures is the underlying cause of the migration in the first place.

I would geuss that the nautalis only travels as far as it does to get to areas on the reef that correspond to different temperature and feeding environments, and that the pressure difference is merely a side affect.

Meaning that if you cool the aquarium even lower at night this would replicate the vertical migration, at least thats my best geuss :biggrin2:, but yeah I wouldnt know if this is ethical either - but given that we are happy with keeping very intelligent octos in tanks, this seems on par with that!
When ive seen them theyre mostly standing still watching you, when I do get more cash ill have a custom tank ready for one. Preferably the tallest one i can get my hands on.
Feelers said:
What is supposedly the reccommended minimum size? I have heard that you are supposed to use mirrors on the walls, not sure why though.

I don't think there is a "recommended minimum size." There isn't a population of hobbyists that have kept the animal succesfully to be able to dictate that. Everything you've ever heard about keeping a nautilus in captivity is anecdotal and inherently suspect.

Feelers said:
Meaning that if you cool the aquarium even lower at night this would replicate the vertical migration, at least thats my best geuss :biggrin2:, but yeah I wouldnt know if this is ethical either - but given that we are happy with keeping very intelligent octos in tanks, this seems on par with that!

You might be able to remove the animal's reason to want to exhibit this behavior, but you have to remember the little guy's been hardwired over many, many millions of years :smile:

The main difference between the morality of keeping an octo, in my current opinion, is that there isn't an environmental crunch. All the bimacs are aquacultured, and this fall plenty of mercatorus sailed past me in New England, the gulf current lighting them their way to dusty death in the North Atlantic. The future of the nautilus, however, has yet to be truly ascertained.

I have put a lot of thought into this, and I believe I am able to give a naut a comfortable home. The research I have come across has been anecdotal, however I think it's fairly reliable. I think with enough planning, and preparation, it can be done. I am concerned about the environmental impact, however this little guy is already in captivity, and with the lack of a demand (at least from what I have observed) there shouldn't be a serious impact to breeding populations. The real culprits are those who would actively seek a stock for these beautiful creatures for sale to those who would put one in a 29 high, with non-iodized table slt, and a sponge filter. Those people make me want to throttle them until they go blind! All thinks considered, I am confident I can provide a good home, and have a healthy pet for many years to come.

I am looking for more facts, rumor, conjecture and anecdotal evidence so I can make an informed decision. So far I have collected a good deal so far, but there is always more. Thanks for all your replies, and keep 'em coming.


"Marge! Is this a boil or a gummy bear?!?"
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons.
I had a friend who kept two in a large tank (a 240, I believe) for quite a while...they were very small when purchased, and lived almost a year.
Unlike octos, though, they weren't all of that interested in interaction (whew...say that three times fast). But, they were impressive nontheless...

I must add that when i was in Barcelona last month there was a public aquarium and it had 2 tanks that had nauts in them. They looked to be in good health but from an aquarists point of view, they were basically floating shells. They didnt have any of the appeal that many other cephs have to me.

One thing that was very obvious, you could feel the chill coming off the glass without touching the tank!!!! I'd guess they were in the high 50s or low 60s

Shop Amazon

Shop Amazon
Shop Amazon; support TONMO!
Shop Amazon
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.