Aquatic Turtle Tank With Underwater Tunnel




Introduction: Aquatic Turtle Tank With Underwater Tunnel

About: Passionate of DIY of any kind, I am not of the trade (I am developer in computing) but I am self-taught and I like to learn new things. I decided to share my creations with you through photos and videos. I do…

Minette is our pet, it's a 13 year old Pelomedusa subrufa.

Nearly 10 years ago, I made her a 100-liter aquarium, since she grew up well and she needs more space !

On the occasion of a visit to a landscaper, I found this abandoned 450-liter aquarium which was kindly given to me by the owner.

I transformed rustic into modern furniture to adapt to our decor and I turned the aquarium into a turtle aquaterrarium.

Furniture video:

Aquaterrarium video:


Step 1: Furniture: the Transformation

I dismantled all the elements that were too old: moldings, feet ...

I replaced the feet with wheels to make it easier to move.

I cut the 2 door jambs to move them to the center. The purpose is to replace the 3 doors, by 2 square doors and smooth.

Step 2: Furniture: Modernization

Sorry for those passionate about oak furniture!

I sanded the varnish so the glue adhered better, and then I cut panels in 10mm thick MDF. I put these boards with wood glue and I added nails with a pneumatic nailer.

I closed the groove of the molding and the nail holes with wood paste and I sanded the whole.

Step 3: Furniture : Painting and Finishes

To have a nice finish, I used a paint gun. I applied 3 layers of white and I painted the top border in black.

For doors, I used commercial models (Ikea) with its brake hinges.

Step 4: Aquaterrarium : Cleaning

In the past, the aquarium was used for reptiles.

I cleaned it all up and filled it with water to make sure it was waterproof.

The aquarium has a capacity of 450 L (150x60x50 cms) and the window are 13 mm thick. For the weight, I do not know but it is very heavy!l lol

Step 5: Aquaterrarium : the Underwater Tunnel

I wanted to make a decorative tour tunnel as we see in amusement parks.

I retrieved a neon outdoor lighting tube and cut it to keep only half. For the ground, I cut a transparent plexiglass strip.

I pasted small modelism characters and some phosphorescent stones for more realism.

I added 2 RGB LED strips and closed the tunnel with special silicone aquarium. It has the advantage of not being toxic to aquatic organisms.

I had several leaks, so I started laying the silicone several times...

Step 6: Aquaterrarium : Cave Lanterns

For the next step, I needed 2 small lanterns. So I modeled them in 3D with Fusion 360 and I printed it with my 3D printer won on Instructables! FlashForge Finder.

I had a lot of stringing because of a head temperature too high for PLA carbon.

I integrated 10mm RGB LEDs in the lamp before gluing the lid. I then glued small windows recovered in a package.

The 3D file is available for download.

Step 7: Aquaterrarium : Cave

Under the decoration, I created a cave, it only serves as decoration.

I used polystyrene that I stuck and reinforced with wooden picks.

I painted the decor in black and I added artificial plants, a dinosaur skull and 2 lanterns to the ceiling.

Step 8: Aquaterrarium : the Decor

The main decoration has a part out of the water and it is sloping so that the turtle can easily get out of the water.

It is cut in a large block of polystyrene with a saw handsaw. It is then heated with a heat gun to harden the surface before painting.

I also integrated a t-rex skull with expansive foam.

Step 9: Aquaterrarium : the Assembly

I started by sticking the cave and I locked it in a waterproof box. Even if the water should not come so far, it will protect the cave in case of leakage. We'll see later that it was not enough :(

I stuck the tunnel and used tile trim strips to hide the joints.

Then I installed the styrofoam block and filled all the tower with expansive foam.

Step 10: Aquaterrarium : Paint and Resin

I applied 2 coats of anthracite paint then I resinated to make the decorations waterproof and resistant.

I used R123 epoxy resin and R614 hardener (Soloplast). It is important to follow the instructions carefully so that the resin is not toxic to animals! I put 3 coats of resin with a brush, insisting on the edges and I did several cleanings. The treatment was spread over 1 month !

I finished with a silicone seal on the edges.

Step 11: Aquaterrarium : Last Details

In the background, I pasted a poster with spray glue and to hide the polystyrene, I stuck black vinyl on the windows.

For the filter, I kept the JBL CristalProfi of the previous aquarium

Step 12: Aquaterrarium : the Heat Lamp

I chose a Solar Raptor lamp, It is a 3 in 1 bulb that offer both heat, UVa + UVb and intense light, the ideal solution for turtles!

I installed it on a board on I covered black vinyl.

Step 13: It's Over !

It's over ! Minette can now enjoy a great space for swimming and a heated beach!

Step 14: Fail

I underestimated the power of water! Despite all the precautions, the water ended up under the decoration, began to flood the cave, and there is even a little water that entered the tunnel!

So I turned off the LEDs of the tunnel as a precaution, and for the cave, I leave the lanterns on but I monitor the water level...

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    1 year ago on Step 14

    LOVE IT!!! I have built my own aquariums and at one point built tunnels for the fish to swim from tank to tank via acrylic tube (cell cast acrylic).

    It is refreshing to see others do similar things.

    A couple of suggestions for you that may make things easier in the future. Things I picked up from having to make my own equipment and tanks that hopefully will be helpful.

    First off use what in fish keeping is called a drip loop. It is simple part of the electrical cords that is left below the bottom of the tank so that water will drip off the cord if there should be a leak. It also makes for peace of mind...

    Along those same lines I didn't see it mentioned so if you wrote it I missed it. Use a power strip and if possible a GFCI outlet so that water will NOT cause problems with household electrical. The three working together really cover your back side if something leaks.

    Even though this will change the appearance of the tank I suggest that you use acrylic tubes and fill the bottom portion rather than cutting something in half. If the tube has sufficient weight and you use substrate (rocks or sand on the bottom of the tank) then tube will not need to be cut lengthwise. Also if you do use silicone in the tank to hold the tube down remember that Silicone is used to hold pieces of glass together because it works best with some pressure. (I shuddered when I saw you cutting stuff in the tank. scratches on glass or acrylic inevitable lead to a crack. Might take years but it will happen with a light bump.)

    And regarding the tube and electronics - if you get a acrylic tube and use a piece of acrylic to seal the end you can 'weld' it together with something like Weldon 4. Weldon chemically bonds the two pieces making them one, but practice first because it takes time to set up. And use gloves. I tape my pieces together with painters tape, seal them and let them stand for a day or two. Takes more time but the results are outstanding especially if you learn to 'flame polish' your acrylic.

    The end piece for the tube could be square or rectangular giving you a way to keep the tube from rolling if the critter bumps it. It would also make it easier on you so you don't have to cut a round or half circle shape to seal the end. The end piece is easily hidden with rocks or decorations. Personally they don't bother me so I don't cover them.

    Also there is 1 inch rigid tubing called 'lift tubes' in the fish keeping world. They are used primarily with under gravel filters but with a bit of digging you can find them in varying lengths. These work great to run cords and if attached to your design can be water proofed as well.

    Like I said, LOVED IT!

    Just trying to pass on some things from my days of lots of fish keeping. Seems odd to be down to only one tank...


    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you for all this precious advice! It's really nice to have taken the time to explain all this to me, if I had known all this before, it would have avoided these mistakes!
    Thanks again !

    With such a big enclosure, I look forward to an updated photo in a couple of years - that little fella has so much space to grow now!


    Reply 3 years ago

    Yes I guess she will continue to grow!
    No problem, I'll make him a bigger space in a few years! lol

    Josehf Murchison
    Josehf Murchison

    3 years ago

    I kept live critters in my tank for my turtle to eat snappers like their food live. I would take my turtle for walks.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Not stupid to have living creatures to feed her! Locusts?
    I also let her go for a walk in the garden sometimes :)

    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    3 years ago

    That is really impressive! I hope your turtle likes it :)


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you ! Yes she likes it, she is more active than in her old aquarium