Aquarium Professionals Group Article 
Custom Aquariums Done Wrong:

  When Things Go Wrong
In over thirty years in the aquarium business, David Hauser, president of Aquarium Professionals Group, has seen more than a few poorly designed or installed aquariums. APG has had to rework many aquariums which were not correctly designed. In some cases, the entire aquarium needed to be replaced and reinstalled due to a serious problems caused by poor design or installation.

To help others, we thought we'd pass on some examples of just what can go wrong to illustrate what happens when an aquarium company takes on a job which is beyond their capabilities.

  Will Any Aquarium Company Do?
Usually, the folks who own or work in aquarium stores or companies are avid lifelong hobbyists. They excel in their knowledge of aquarium life and care. So when it comes to advising other hobbyists or selling and installing most aquariums, they encounter few if any problems they can't solve. Even a large, 300 to 500 gallon aquarium is no challenge for most aquarium businesses provided it sits on an aquarium stand and all equipment can be housed beneath the tank in what we call a "standard" installation. Most aquariums are set up like this. The keywords in the previous sentence are "most aquariums." 

All the rules change when the aquarium is larger and/or the situation calls for custom work. Standard equipment may no longer suffice as larger tanks need mechanicals which won't fit below the tank. Equipment may have to be located in a basement or a dedicated room located one or more floors below the aquarium, or may need to fit in a room adjacent to the tank location. In some situations, the aquarium may need to be connected to aquarium mechanicals located in another building. All these situations require not only aquarium knowledge, but also some engineering skills, advanced math, a working knowledge of reading and comprehending blueprints, millwork, plumbing, electrical, HVAC and other construction trades. 

Most importantly, a company chosen to install large custom aquariums must possess the ability to recognize serious planning errors, which if not identified during design phase, will result in an aquarium which does not work well or may not even keep fish alive at all. In the many blueprints and drawings we've reviewed over the years, we have almost always found at least one issue that needed to be addressed.

  What Can Go Wrong?
Drain plumbing should always run downwards, never up and down. In a few installations we've encountered installed by other companies, horizontal drain piping from first floor to basement was installed over, then under, then back over several floor joists, lintels, and other "obstructions" so water in the pipes fell, then rose, then fell, over and over again. Needless to say, this produces a lot of noise.

Aquariums must have enough space above them for ongoing aquarium maintenance, typically at least half the height of the aquarium. Yet time and again, we've made house calls to investigate complaints that another aquarium company "isn't doing a good job" only to find the aquarium is four feet tall with only a foot of clearance above so the aquarium cannot possibly be properly cleaned. Obviously, this issue should have been addressed when the project was being designed, not months after the aquarium had been installed.

Aquariums built into any structure should never be standard glass tanks purchased from an aquarium store. Nor should tanks used in these applications be built by just any company. Such tanks must be engineered, then the tank should be built by a reputable company who follows those drawings to the letter and offers a good warranty. Yet we've seen built-in standard glass tanks not designed to be enclosed, which have come apart at the seams. We've seen glass and acrylic tanks installed which were built in someone's garage, simply burst because they were not built correctly. Both can and have caused millions of dollars in damage.

We've seen plenty of cases of aquarium pumps or other equipment sized too small for the application, leaking PVC plumbing, too much lighting installed so algae grows rampant, little or no ventilation supplied to expensive aquarium chillers which can produce tens of thousands of BTU, poorly-designed millwork which began to come apart after only a few months, open seawater filtration systems installed near expensive home mechanicals resulting in irreparable corrosion to HVAC systems, potential shock hazards from using non-GFI outlets, circuit beakers continually tripping due to inadequate electrical supply, extension cords used instead of specifying more outlets and many more problems, both minor and major.

  I'm in New York - Won't Aquarium Professionals Group Be More Expensive?
Yes and no. When you use any subcontractor located several states away, there will be charges for travel, meals and lodging you won't have if you use a local company. However, given the number of problems which could potentially have catastrophic results, using a company lacking in the necessary experience could wind up costing far more in property damage in the long run than the money you'd save up front. If you're a property owner, big mistakes will hurt your wallet; if you're an architect or contractor, those mistakes could cost your company's reputation.

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