Alison Friedlander

Blog

I fixed an aquarium bulkhead with 3D printing...

… and also some random silicone I had lying around because I’m weird and crafty and I just have these things on hand…

I’m working on systematically drilling all my cherry shrimp tanks so they have overflow systems and water changes are easier/less time consuming. But I had a problem!

My bulkheads were leaking… It’s probably because I’m bad at drilling holes in glass without chipping the areas surrounding the hole… Like… REALLY bad…

Either way, I noticed the bulkheads seemed to work better with a rubber washer on the inside AND outside of the tank, instead of just on the inside of the tank. Unfortunately, each bulkhead only came with one little rubber thingy and, being the cheapo that I am, I didn’t want to pay an extra $20 for more washers that would only sort of fix the problem (the bulkheads still leaked, even with two washers after all). Then I had an idea!

What if I made my own washers out of some old body safe silicone I had lying around!

 

 This is the washer mold I made with the original bulkhead and gasket next to it.  I made it significantly wider than the original gasket (black ring at bottom of the image) in the hope that the extra rubber area would compensate for my terrible hole drilling skills and cover any chips that were left in the glass, thus preventing water from seeping under the gasket.

This is the washer mold I made with the original bulkhead and gasket next to it.

I made it significantly wider than the original gasket (black ring at bottom of the image) in the hope that the extra rubber area would compensate for my terrible hole drilling skills and cover any chips that were left in the glass, thus preventing water from seeping under the gasket.

 1 1/4" hole I drilled in the side of a 10 gal aquarium.

1 1/4" hole I drilled in the side of a 10 gal aquarium.

 Here’s one of the de-molded rubbers, as I’ve jokingly started calling them… It’s sexy and purple and fun to throw at people…

Here’s one of the de-molded rubbers, as I’ve jokingly started calling them… It’s sexy and purple and fun to throw at people…

Surprisingly, it seemed to work pretty well… It still leaked, but when I added another one to the outside of the tank, the leaking stopped.

Bulkhead with home made washers holding water on my mystery snail tank

It’s been 4 days since installing the DIY rubber washers on the tank and it’s still not leaking, so I’ve been systematically making more washers for my other tanks so I can restore the office to being an office instead of the place-where-I-store-fish-tanks-on-every-available-surface.

I’m not sure how long they’ll last, but if I ever need more I can always just make them I guess?

As a weird design note, I did 3D print some little plastic washers that are the same size as the purple rubbers. My thought was that they would help distribute the pressure of the bulkhead evenly across the rubber and make a more effective seal. I’m not sure if this actually worked or not, but there’s one of them on the inside and it’s gonna stay there until I need to redo the stupid bulkhead… I could rip it apart to test, but after 3 days of fighting with the stupid thing, I’m going to leave it be if it’s not leaking…

3D printed washer and silicone gasket cast in a 3d printed mold

I had one on the outside and it actually leaked pretty badly until I took it out, which leads me to think they may not be necessary at all? When I fill my next tanks, I’m going to test it without that extra giant plastic washer because a) I’m lazy and don’t want to make extra if I don’t have to and b) I hate wasting plastic…

In the end, my only regret is that my aquarium plumbing isn’t a uniform color – I have purple washers, and all the PVC stuff is either black, white, awkward beige or semi-translucent white… but I’m cheap so what the heck ever…