Cost Comparison: Building Your Own Aquarium vs. Buying – Which Saves You More?

Constructing an aquarium may seem daunting initially, but rest assured, it’s far more manageable than it appears. Perhaps you found yourself perusing countless pages of aquariums for sale before stumbling upon this guide. You’re likely surprised by the higher costs than anticipated. Given your budget constraints, you’re understandably hesitant to empty your wallet.

If you’re aiming to budget and construct your own aquarium, you’ll find the cost to be approximately half as much as purchasing a pre-made aquarium kit. Upon calculating the average expenses, the total cost for building a complete aquarium averages around $136.

In contrast, a comparable aquarium kit typically costs twice as much. Opting to build your own aquarium allows you to tailor the materials to fit within your budget.

However, it’s important to note that this approach requires careful planning and significant labor during the construction process.

Is It Cheaper To Build Your Own Aquarium?

The expenses for your DIY aquarium will largely depend on the dimensions and desired gallon capacity you aim to achieve.

Customizing your fish tank due to dissatisfaction with available online products can indeed be quite costly. Ultimately, the final expense is determined by the extent of your customization.

The downside is that you’ll need to invest in filters, heaters, and other essential products to maintain the life within your fish tank.

In this guide, I will provide you with a comprehensive list of essential tools for constructing an aquarium at home. I will assist you in selecting the appropriate materials for your desired dimensions, calculating costs, and offering various other tips and factors to ensure the success of your build.

Now that we’ve addressed that, are you prepared to absorb the information and embark on building your very first fish tank?

* This article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Constructing an Aquarium

Before beginning the construction of your aquarium, take time to visualize and sketch out its desired appearance.

If you’re working within a budget, consider opting for a simple rectangular tank.

For those prioritizing aesthetics and possessing a vivid imagination for their desired look, expect to invest additional effort and time.

Once your blueprint or idea is finalized, gather the necessary tools and aquarium materials to commence the project.

Below I compiled a list with some aquarium blueprints and some ideas from Pinterest:

Essential Tools for Aquarium Construction

Please keep in mind that not every tool is mandatory since not everyone has the same aquarium building idea or blueprint.

Here’s a list of tools that can facilitate your aquarium construction:

  1. Measuring tape for glass
  2. Duct tape
  3. Scissors for cutting duct tape
  4. Glass cleaning wipes for post-construction cleaning
  5. Glass-specific superglue
  6. Glass cutting tool
  7. Erasable marker for marking glass lengths
  8. Carpentry tools if constructing a wooden stand as well.

There could be other tools that will help improve your aquarium build not listed here. You can use whatever works for you!

Choosing the Right Glass Size for Your Aquarium Construction

The choice of glass size for your aquarium depends on its capacity, with larger tanks necessitating thicker glass.

Thinner glass is more fragile, with fish tank glasses categorized by size according to

  • 0.2 inches thick for tanks up to 12 inches high
  • 0.4 inches thick for tanks up to 24 inches high
  • 0.8 inches thick for tanks up to 32 inches high


Estimating the Cost of Building an Aquarium

As per, constructing a large aquarium can range from $200 to $6,000, depending on its size and construction method.

The inclusion of additional features will increase the cost of your custom-built aquarium.

Excluding tools, the overall cost of building an aquarium can vary significantly. Let’s delve into estimating the expenses.

5 pcs Glass$60
Oxygen Pump$16
Water Filter$25
Water Conditioner$8
Aquarium Heater$12


  • Glass: The cost of a single slab of glass typically ranges around $10. For a standard small rectangular aquarium, you’ll require approximately 5 pieces of glass, with an additional one for the top, totaling approximately $60. Consider Starphire glass for enhanced clarity.
  • Oxygen pump: Oxygen pumps, also known as air pumps, are priced between $8 to $30. For a small aquarium, a basic air pump can be purchased for around $16.
  • Water filter: Water filters are available in the price range of $20 to $100. For a small-sized aquarium, a decent water filter can be found for approximately $25.
  • Water conditioner: Essential for maintaining healthy water conditions for your aquarium fish, water conditioner typically costs around $8 per bottle.
  • Lighting: If you desire aesthetically pleasing lighting for your aquarium, expect to spend around $15, depending on your preferences.
  • Aquarium heater: A basic aquarium heater can be obtained for approximately $12, suitable for stabilizing the temperature in areas with fluctuating or cold climates. It’s advisable to accompany it with a thermometer to monitor the tank’s temperature accurately.

In summary, excluding the expenses for fish and fish food, the total estimated cost for constructing a small aquarium is approximately $136.

After conducting research and comparing aquarium kits containing similar products listed, the Fluval Vista Aquarium Kit 16-gallon emerges as the closest match, albeit at a significantly higher cost.

This kit includes an LED light, filter, water conditioner, and all essential items required to maintain life in your aquarium.


The cost of building an aquarium varies based on the owner’s preferences. Utilizing tools such as measuring tape, duct tape, scrapers, scissors, etc., can facilitate the construction process.

While building an aquarium may pose challenges, it offers valuable learning experiences.

Ultimately, if your budget allows, I recommend purchasing a pre-made aquarium. However, if budget constraints are a concern and you’re not seeking a unique design, then building one yourself could be a viable alternative.

This article is a guest post written by my friend Andy from If you want to, go and check a cool article he wrote about how to make a jarrarium at home.

Thanks for reading, tools owners!

Hi there! My name is Jack and I write for ToolsOwner. I have a passion for everything related to tools and DIY projects around the house. You often find me in my workshop working on new projects.