Buying a Custom Made Aquarium Or an Off The Shelf Model?

When you are in the process of looking for an aquarium for your needs and space available you have probably looked at what the major brands of aquarium builders such as Fluval, Aqua One and Juwel have to offer in their range however it might well be worth considering getting one custom built.

Instantly I am sure there is concerns about costs behind this however we want to look in to the pros and cons of going down this route of having an aquarium built for you.

The first thing to consider has to be the cost so we have done a bit of analysis comparing an off the shelf model with a custom built one.


Off the shelf glass aquarium with cabinet stand and hood – for this we decided to use the ever popular Fluval Roma 240 aquarium. As with most off the shelf aquariums this ships with all your filter, heater and other dry goods requirements so you can effectively plug and play with everything you need (except fish!). The RRP of this aquarium is £549.98 and includes the following:

  • Fluval Roma 240 Aquarium (120 x 40 x 55 cm)
  • Cabinet
  • Hood
  • Fluval GLO lighting unit
  • One Power-Glo Fluorescent Aquarium Tube 40W 106.68cm (42in) T8
  • One Aqua-Glo Fluorescent Aquarium Tube 40W 106.68cm (42in) T8
  • Filter Model Fluval 306 External Filter with Filter Media inside
  • Fluval Heater 300watt

Now if we take a look at the custom aquarium, we have picked what appears to be the most popular custom aquarium builder in the UK – ND Aquatics although similar options are available from Aquariums UK Ltd and Seashell Aquariums. They do not do an aquarium of the same size, the closest is a 120cm x 60cm x 45cm which is slightly larger than the Fluval Roma 240 and has a capacity of 295 litres compared to 240 litres. The price of this is £481.00, this does not include any filters, lighting or heating which would cost an additional:

Fluval 306 filter – £134.99 (SRP)
Fluval 300W heater – £42.99 (SRP)
Glo T8 Double Tube Light Starter Unit – £42.99 (SRP)
2x T8 light tubes – £30.00 (SRP approx.)

This would bring the total cost of the ND Aquatics aquarium to £731.97 (SRP) compared to £549.98 (SRP) for the Fluval equivalent. So cost wise the custom aquarium seems like a very expensive option, however, the situation is less black and white than this I think because with a custom aquarium you can get any shape and size, so if you were for example going to go for the ND Aquatics 120 x 60 x 60cm tank, cabinet and hood then the cost would be £541 plus the extras listed above however the tank would be a capacity of 396 litres – nearly twice that of the Fluval Roma 240 aquarium.


There are plenty of other options to consider too with a custom built aquarium, it can be the exact measurements you require, you can opt for optiwhite glass – giving a much clearer view of the contents of the aquarium. You can have sumps and weirs fitted where you require them as well as choosing where holes are drilled in the tank and stand. There is also the option of the colour and finish stand you want, open or closed hood, even having the tank back and/or sides painted.

It is often the case when you are going to get a larger aquarium you will look for a custom made one, you may also be thinking of doing this when you have been doing the hobby for some time so are likely to have all the equipment you require. You may also have your preference over which equipment you want to use too and it could be that if you bought an off the shelf solution, you may end up replacing and changing the dry goods such as filter, heater and lighting you get with it anyway.

As you can probably tell I am a huge fan of buying aquariums custom built for the reasons I have mentioned although if you are looking for a plug and play out of the box solution then go for the off the shelf option.

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