When building aquarium tanks, there are limited materials you could use, unlike with the tank’s accessories. For instance, aquarium lighting has many varieties, including LED strips, bulbs, tubes, halogen, incandescent, and more. For filtration, you can choose among regular under gravel, box type, sponge canister, triple layer trickle overhead, internal canister filter, and sump.

The major material for aquarium tanks is glass. Glass is excellent for tanks because they allow see-through viewing and are strong enough to withhold the weight of water. However, its downside is that it’s brittle.

Acrylics have become an alternative to glass, but not only is it expensive, but it’s also prone to scratches.

Both acrylic and glass are hard to drill holes into as they are prone to breaking.


This tank that I am designing is more complicated and expensive than my other designs, such as the ponds and play pens. The usual materials I digitally design would not work well for this project, because of the additional details, such as the lights, filters, background and fittings. Therefore, I had to make a small prototype before commiting to the real thing.

These are the details of creating what I would call the “designer’s tank.”


The prototype I made was 10% smaller in size compared to my target size. The target size is 47x18x55 inches with the sump. The tank alone will approximately be 47x18x24 inches, with a capacity of about 90 gallons of water.

After making many adjustments, I managed to hit my target size.
I assembled the tank, then I made further modifications. I painted the interior black and the exterior red. I liked the contrast of both colors.


Common aquarium hobbyists usually use a three-dimensional background made from painted styrofoam and fiberglass. I designed the tank with slots at the back so that I could slip a digitally printed acrylic plastic in.

It works well, even if immersed in water. The printed acrylic provides a wide range of designs, though my main purpose is for it to contain a corporate name and logo for advertising and promotion purposes.


The whole tank can be painted, because they are made from fiberglass sheets. The tank is structurally designed as one piece so that one can easily paint it as a whole, whether it’s with a single color or with different concepts, such as themes inspired from movies.

Stickers can also be added for a fancier look.


Nothing beats a sump system for filtration because of its versatility, easy maintenance, and effectiveness in filtering water. While one disadvantage is the occurrence of accidents from pipe leaks, the Designer’s Tank used the pipe to become the attachment of the submersible pump toward the built-in fiberglass water passage, all the way to the main tank and back to the filter.


My first setup has community Fishes consisting of Platies, Gourami, Danios, Corydoras, and live plants. After a few months, I decided to recreate my theme, from a bare tank with its original black interior to an all-white aquarium.

I then put in Matte Oranda Goldfish, Albino, and Platinum Angelfish with Albino and White Peppered Corydoras as the bottom dwellers. I was fully content with the output, as it was serene and peaceful.

Having spent all the time and money to create this tank, I wondered if it was worth it. The answer was an absolute yes, because it filled me with satisfaction. At first, it was hard, but it was worth seeing through to the end.

Graphics and photos by Vanessa Estarija. For questions, please email [email protected].

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:5 ESV