We all know the problems associated with choosing glass or acrylic when designing a large tank. The benefits of acrylic are the inherent light weight and ease of drilling, for including those all-important closed loops. The down side is that acrylic is easily scratched, both by ourselves and by many of the tanks future inhabitants. The alternative, glass, makes a large tank extremely heavy and difficult to move as well as being very difficult to modify. The main advantage of glass though is that it is relatively impermeable to scratching. Having owned a large acrylic tank I vowed never to own another, but wasn’t truly willing to forego the ability to drill and modify the tank at will. So, with this in mind and a new tank design in the works I consulted with Tom Hudson of Acrylic and Glass Exhibits (A.G.E.) based in Dallas to see what he would suggest as a workable alternative. The end result was a new line of A.G.E acrylic and glass “hybrid” tanks that encompass the best of both worlds.
The premise is simple, build an all acrylic tank, then remove the majority of the front panel, leaving an almost “picture frame” flange all around the front. Then, seal a sheet of starfire glass, inside the tank, to the inner face of the acrylic flange. The result is a lightweight, easily modified body with a crystal clear, scratch resistant front panel, but more than that- this tank looks like a work of art. The cut front panel, being black in my case, showcases the tank view and looks extremely slick. Typical of Tom’s work, the black silicone gasket sealing the glass to the acrylic flange is expertly done and almost invisible on the tank. The polished lip of the acrylic flange draws the eye inward, into the all important view of the tank contents.
This original A.G.E hybrid was built in mid 2008 and installed December 2008. The tank measures 96x 48x 30 and the construction is a 1 inch base with ¾ inch acrylic all round. The back panel is black and sides, top and bottom are clear. The flanged front is also black and retains the ½ inch thick starfire panel. The tank also incorporates two external overflows, the strainer comb is machined from the back panel, making a very clean final look. During installation I was impressed by how light this beast was. The tank itself was easily lifted onto the steel stand by four guys, and slid into its final position with minimal effort. With a silicone seal between the acrylic and glass, I had expected there to be a slight flexibility to the tank, to my surprise, the tank proved to be absolutely solid with no discernible flex during transport and seating. The top panel is cut from a single acrylic sheet and is eurobraced. Though not recommended, I have found this to be strong enough to help my support my substantial weight while leaning over and into the tank to aquascape. From the inside the silicone-gasketted starfire panel is nicely done and cleaned to a perfect finish with Tom’s trademark attention to detail. The panel is a perfect fit with no rough edge and a silicon seal to the front and along the edge of the starfire. The second detail I really noticed was how absolutely transparent the front panel is. So much so that once water was in, it became impossible to gauge where the air ends and the glass begins. While certainly not a problem, this has resulted in numerous stubbed fingers and bumped foreheads, but being glass, these are easily cleaned. Having clear acrylic sides, you may imagine the silcone/glass junction is clearly seen, this is however not true. The joint is perfect and the black line of the silicone looks to be a simple extension of the black front acrylic.
Over the last year Tom has built several more hybrids, including one with viewing panels front and back (ed. note: and another one with glass front, acrylic sides and PVC bottom).
My A.G.E hybrid tank has now been running for a year and I am pleased to say that I have had no issues whatsoever with it, in fact i would say it is the best tank I have ever owned. Every few days I run my Mag-Float scraper across the front panel to keep the starfire clear. I would like to say that I miss the hours of painstakingly scraping my older acrylic tank and checking for scratches, but i would be lying.
This display was specially custom built to have starphire glass on both sides of the hybrid tank.
here is a loot at the seamwork from the inside of the tank.