This is a project converting an aquarium to sliding glass front vivarium. I had been wanting to attempt a conversion for a few months then thankfully Swords did it first and paved the way. See his initial post here: Aquarium to Vivarium Mod Project
The Guinea Pig: ~55 gallon rectangular aquarium (48" L x 12" W x 21" H)
I'll not undertake a full write up and will lessen the number of images since Swords post was quite thorough.
I picked up this tank on craigslist for $20 and I spent about $35 on glass, $25 for the plastic rails -though I purchased enough for around four conversions, and ~$10 on silicone.
The top and bottom rails are surprisingly strong but removal is not overly difficult, esp if you use a heat gun and a box cutter to get them started. A heavy knife, screwdriver or something similar aided in further removal. Just follow the heat w/ your chosen tool of persuasion.
I cut off much of the silicone w/ a razor blade on the inside and outside of the two vertical front panel seams. I messed around w/ a few different "tools" to cut the seal between the front and side panel, including guitar strings, fishing line, pocket knife, box cutter...in the end the knife in the image below worked great. I was able to get the thin, long blade between the panes and easily slice down the entire side w/ not much effort.
Once the seals on both sides were parted, I was able to pull the front panel down, and w/ a quick cut along the bottom seal it easily separated.
Using razor blades, I cleaned off as much of the residual silicone from the bottom and side panels. It does take some effort to remove it all but you want a clean surface to adhere the track and glass to. As I have no prior experience undertaking such a project, I had to guess on a few things. The first one was what size to make the upper and lower support panels. In the end I ordered 2 @ 3” x 48” x 3/16". I was concerned that only three inches would be holding this glass on at each end but I went heavy on the silicone so we’ll see. I also used the 3/16” glass to add some rigidity. I glued the bottom panel then the top, using packing tape to keep it in place a bit better.
As detailed in Swords post, I purchased the same plastic track and right angles as he did. I cut the L and E pieces to fit the opening of the top and bottom rails using a hacksaw then cleaned off the few burs w/ a blade. I then glued each L & E together. Paper towels or rags are good to keep close to clean up the inevitable mess.
Note: I used clear silicone to join the plastic strips together. In hindsight black silicone will be less visible at these seams.
The tracks were glued to the top and bottom glass panels then I began to ponder how I'd install the rear glass panel into the track. The track has two channels, one for each glass plane to slide along. The front channel extends past the plane of the two side panels so that one can just slide in from either end. The rear channel is recessed and this cannot be done. I reread Swords post and pm’ed him for input. If you cut the glass to w/in a certain tolerance you can get it into the rear track.
I decide that due to the long length of this tank and how much play there was w/ the top panel, I’d rather ensure a better fit of the front panes. I ordered the 1/8” glass to a size that would allow for both sliding sections to use up most of the space in the channel both at the top and bottom. This would ensure they’d not come out. Also, I had the glass shop slightly round the top and bottom edges of each pane to allow smoother travel on the plastic track, and I coated these surfaces w/ some beeswax as suggested by Swords.
Installing the rear pane involved some deconstruction. I ended up un-gluing one side of the top rail. This allowed me to insert the rear pain into the channel. The surfaces were cleaned then I re-glued the top rail back into place. Another example of poor planning….
Lastly I cut and glued on some addition right angles along each side for a cleaner look, and it prevents the front pain from sliding out.
Overall it's not a very difficult project. This tank is going to be high enough up on my rack where watering from the top would be a pain. The sliding front panels will allow for much easier access.