If you’ve always dreamed of having your very own aquarium at home, you’ve come to the right place. Building an at-home aquarium might sound complex, but with some time and patience, you can bring the beauty of the sea into your home.

Creating an aquarium is a rewarding task, and it provides a fun and exciting way to embark on your DIY journey. You can get creative and plan appropriately to ensure your aquarium breeds a thriving aquatic ecosystem.

Maintaining an aquarium takes just as much work as building it, but it’s absolutely worth it for the end result. There’s nothing better than relaxing at home in the company of incredible sea life. Not only is an aquarium aesthetically beautiful, but it also creates a calming environment that promotes relaxation. 

To help you get started with building a stunning and functional at-home aquarium, we have covered the seven key steps you need to take below. If you want more advice on building or maintaining your aquarium, keeping your fish healthy, and preventing common fish diseases, head to Aquanswers

Gather Your Supplies

If you’re going all out and building your aquarium from scratch, you’ll need to gather a range of essential supplies before you can get started. You’re going to need to choose the right type of glass. Ideally, it should be thick and sturdy, such as plexiglass or non-tempered glass.

The most suitable thickness of your glass depends on the total size of your aquarium. Generally, for smaller aquariums up to 18 inches tall, a thickness of up to 1 cm is ideal. For anything between 18 and 30 inches, you’ll need chunkier glass that is between 1.3 and 1.9 cm in thickness.

You’re also going to need some caulk or silicone to seal the edges of the glass panes together. You can find this at most DIY stores, and it’s not too expensive.

Build the Glass Structure of Your Aquarium

Once you’ve gathered all the pieces of glass that you need for your at-home aquarium, you can start building the glass frame. Grab a caulk gun and some silicone and apply a thin layer to the top edge of the first pane of glass. Try and keep the silicone at least 2 mm away from the edge of the pane.

Fix a second pane of glass to the first one at an adjacent angle, using the caulk to seal them together. Press it together firmly without damaging the glass, and make sure both panes are straight.

Continue the caulking and fixing process with the back and side panes until you’ve formed your full aquarium structure. The silicone will take between 24 and 48 hours to fully set, so store your newly built one somewhere safe in the meantime. Read the instructions on the packaging of the silicone that you’ve using for a more specific drying time.

Set Up the Filtering System and Substrate

So, you have successfully built the structure of your aquarium. Well done! Now you can start focusing your attention on the setup and substrate.

The best substrates for sea life are gravel or sand. Rinse the substrate with clean water to get rid of excess dirt, dust, and debris. Add a layer of substrate to the bottom of your freshly made aquarium.

You could create a slight slope so it has a thicker layer towards the back of the tank. Doing so adds depth to your aquarium. 

Next, install a filtration system. Having an ongoing filtration system also helps to maintain the natural nitrogen cycle within your aquarium by removing toxins and debris and allowing safe compounds to be produced in their place.

Decorate Your Aquarium

To make your aquarium look the part, consider adding various decorations. You might wish to add rocks, stones, coral, and sea-related ornaments. Decorations will enhance the aesthetic appearance of your aquarium and also emulates a natural environment for your fish.

Arrange Lighting and Heating

You’ll need to choose the type of lighting to use in your aquarium. You might prefer low-level lighting to create an ambient atmosphere or slighter, brighter lights.

Of course, you will need to consider the unique needs of your fish. Different species of fish require different levels and types of lighting.

Consider installing a timer on your aquarium lights to vary the levels of light according to the natural day-night cycle. This will reflect your fish’s natural environment and make them feel more comfortable in your aquarium.

Another key factor to consider when building your at-home aquarium is heating. Install a heating system that maintains a constant temperature for your fish, and add a thermometer to your tank so that you can keep an eye on this. 

Research online to check the ideal temperature for the species of fish you have chosen to have in your aquarium.

Fill the Tank with Water

You’re almost there! Your next step is to fill your fish tank with dechlorinated water all the way to the top (you might need to anchor down your decorations so they don’t float when you add the water into the tank).

Tap water can contain a lot of chemicals that have the potential to harm your fish. You can install a water conditioner to continually remove chlorine and similar toxic substances from the water and maintain a safe environment for your sea life.

Maintain the Water in Your Aquarium

Once everything has been set up, you must learn how to properly maintain the water inside your at-home aquarium. The key parameters to monitor and maintain are the temperature, pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and oxygen levels in your aquarium. You can get various devices that measure each of these parameters and adjust the water conditions accordingly.

Make sure to regularly change the water to keep it fresh and clean. When changing the water, perform partial changes so there is always a good level of water inside the tank for your fish to continue swimming around safely.