Fun With Physics: Bottomless Fish Tanks

Open Bottom Fish Tank

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Aquarists have a love-hate relationship with water. On the one hand, it’s the lifeblood of our hobby that helps us create beautiful aquascapes. On the other hand, it can be incredibly difficult to work with. Water has only one objective: to go down. Any hole, gap, or crack in your aquascape will transform your beautiful art piece into a gigantic puddle. Unlike architects, who can create truly bizarre shapes out of rock, stone, and wood, aquarists are seriously limited by water. Some ideas are practically impossible to implement because water just won’t do what you want it to do.

But there’s one exception. A unique quirk of physics allows you to suspend a container of water upside down inside of another container of water. I know that sounds a little bit complicated, but if you’ve ever seen one of those automatic pet water bottles you know what I’m talking about.

Gravity-Fed Water Feeder

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The big jug of water wants to empty all of its contents into the bowl below, but that’s not possible. Why? Well, it’s impossible for any air to enter to bottle to replace the water. It’s like when you block the top of a straw with your finger, pull the straw out of the drink, and then lift your finger to let all of the liquid spill back down into your drink. You can do the same thing with your aquarium to create a bottomless aquascape.

Bottomless Aquascape Illustration

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Well, I should be careful how I phrase it. Part of your aquascape can be bottomless, but it has to be suspended inside of a much larger tank. Here’s an example:

The large pillar of water in the center wants to spill downward because of gravity, but it can’t because of the air pressure. If you were to open up to the top of the aquarium, however, all of that water would suddenly spill down into the lower tank.

This opens up a whole new realm of creative potential for aquascapes. These bottomless aquascapes have two main appeals — the first is that these aquariums allow you to explore vertical space in a way that would otherwise be nearly impossible; the second is that these aquariums have a gravity-defying element that puts the viewer on edge and tickles his curiosity. More than likely, the first thing that somebody is going to think when they see one of these aquariums is, “How in the world did they do that?”

Bottomless Fish Tank

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These aquariums are truly unique, but you have to be careful and make sure that you watch the water levels closely. If the water level in the lower tank ever falls below the bottom of the pillar, air will get into the pillar and reduce the overall water level of your pillar. Refilling the top of the tank will be incredibly difficult, so it’s definitely something that you want to avoid. You also might need some high-tech gear to clean the inside of the pillar.

As long as you watch out for bubbles, you can create a stunning bottomless aquascape that will delight anyone who lays eyes on it.

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