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Old 10-04-2016, 04:43 AM   #1
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DIY Flood Arrestor

Hey there! I'm a new face, but I already have an interesting DIY project I made for my fish tank! I live in an apartment complex which graciously allows aquariums up to 55g, even on upper level floors. Only problem is - all of the rooms are carpeted! As I'm sure you all know, working with a tank can be a messy, spill-prone business and every once in awhile one of them can actually break outright and dump water everywhere. Me being a somewhat paranoid mold-hating individual already and having had an apartment flooding experience in the past, I took one look at this:

Water under stand from capillary action off of incidental spills? NOPE.

and decided to drain the tank, dredge the substrate, and build a flood arrestor. A quick search on google suggested that not a whole lot of people do this! Of course, most people in this hobby are better able to put their tank in a place where flooding is not such a big deal - a basement with a concrete floor, for example, or even just a normal room with a water-repellent floor like linoleum. ANYWAY. I had none of those things, so I drew up plans for a flood arrestor which would hold approximately 40 gallons of water (my tank is rated for 50, but I don't fill it completely and the substrate and ornaments take some space as well. Plus, the odds of a failure so catastrophic that I'd ever need the full capacity are so tiny that it's not even remotely worth worrying about. The flood arrestory is basically just a short, wide, deep watertight box that catches the majority of any water which happens to leak or spill from the aquarium. It's great for protecting carpet from incidental spills during water changes, etc, particularly if your plumbing is too poorly sealed to support something like direct hookup to a Python. Anyway, all of this is to say, I spent the next available Saturday playing Camry plywood tetris:

Huh. I was wondering where that can of sunscreen went.

Yeah, I didn't think my choice of vehicle out too well when I went to buy this. As an added bonus, the Home Depot rep who made the two cuts necessary to fit these in my car managed to mis-position the saw by almost a half-inch. Nice. Actually, this wasn't all bad because it forced me to realize that one of the sides of the Flood Arrestor (the side not facing the wall) should have a lower edge than the other three anyway! This ensures that, in the cosmically small possibility that it ever actually fills up completely with water, the drainage is all directed in the direction that is most easily noticeable and accessible. So I incorporated that in to the design, bribed my awesome neighbor with some beer to let me use his table saw, got the pieces cut and slammed the whole thing together with wood screws:

Despite my shoddy handiwork, the thing actually turned out okay!

Note also that I have used 2x2 supports to connect the 3/4" plywood walls and base. I chose to do this rather than just attaching the plywood sheets because I suspect that 300lb+ of water would have no trouble ripping out a couple of wood screws without such reinforcement. Over-building a bit in this way also greatly simplifies assembly - it is much easier to get the panels aligned in this way. I also put a few extra screws through the base and into the side panels at their midsections to reinforce against bowing/buckling stresses - without these I suspect that the force of any significant amount of water could crack the Verathane seams at the midsection where flexion would be greatest. Once assembled, it also needed a waterproof coating. I selected Verathane Spar Urethane, since I expected this to come in contact with at least incidental water exposure weekly if not more often. I applied three coats per instructions, making sure to put extra in the seams between the panels. Once this had fully dried, I caulked the seams with silicone sealant and installed it:

Woohoo! Now I can spill tons of water guilt-free!

The finished product allows the doors of my stand to open with about a quarter-inch of clearance, and also affords me the opportunity to level the fish tank by placing wooden shims underneath the arrestor rather than the stand. This is nice, because it means the stand can stay in full contact with a flat surface and I don't need to worry about uneven stresses across the stand that it was never designed for. Will it actually protect me from a catastrophic panel failure in the aquarium that spills tens of gallons of water? Probably not. I'm sure at least one of the seams isn't quite up to the task - but at the very least, it will slow the egression of the water in that scenario, and guards completely against incidental spills during water changes, etc.

Anyway, I found this to be a super entertaining project and a great way to fix the leveling and water spillage problems associated with having a properly sized aquarium over carpet. It's not a perfect solution, but it implements well and without too much inconvenience/eyesore. Hopefully you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed building it!

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Old 10-04-2016, 07:14 AM   #2
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Nice handiwork and great solution. Look at that door clearance! I find that almost all of the spillage from water changes and other tank maintenance occurs right at the foot of the tank. Good job.

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Old 10-04-2016, 04:15 PM   #3
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Thanks! The only issue I have with it so far is that the large bottom panel can flex a little during shimming so a given shim doesn't have as much of an effect on leveling as you might expect. Perhaps I should have put more 2x2 reinforcements into it? Hmm . . . still, much better than nothing at all! I've been contemplating ways to get a perfectly level tank on carpet and drawing a bit of a blank, but as long as it's only 1/8" over four feet I'm not going to worry too much.

This thing has already kept about a cup of water from hitting the carpet while I was filling the tank, setting up the filter, positioning ornaments, etc. Might need to make a miniature for my quarantine tank next!
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