Plumbing your fish tank: all about those pipes

Whenever you decide to plumb your aquarium, there’s a lot of planning that needs to take place. Things like bulkhead fittings, flow rates and material types and sizes all need to be taken into consideration. 

Today, we’re going to focus on the various material types and sizes that you’ll need to consider before you begin your project. No matter your setup – fresh or salt water – you have to make sure your pipe and fittings are meant for potable water (can safely handle drinking water) and that it’s resistant to corrosion and scaling. 

Long story, short – we’ve narrowed things down to the following four types of piping. Let’s jump right in:

ABS (acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

Quite the mouthful, right? Well, ABS is only used for drainage in homes and can’t really take too much in the way of pressure or heat. While you can use this material (it’s very cheap and affordable) – you need to keep in mind that it should only be used for drain lines. Any kind of pressure is an absolute no-go. 


Everyone knows PVC and knows that it can handle a fairly substantial range of pressure and heat. It can be used for water supply, but it’s going to have to be cold water only. If you’re looking for an economical choice for your aquarium, PVC will certainly do the trick. You also have the luxury of using both rigid and flexible piping, which can be helpful; although you do need to be a little bit more cautious with flexible piping as it can’t take the kind of pressure that its rigid counterpart is capable of. 


CPVC is basically a souped-up version of PVC piping in that it uses chlorine as a coat. Because of that, it allows for both hot and cold drinking water. And just like PVC piping, it comes in flexible and rigid applications. The major difference here however, is that CPVC piping is far, far more expensive than PVC piping, so if you’re on a budget, this might not be the call for you. However, it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for and CPVC will last a long time and give you a wide range of options in terms of what you can do with it. 

PEX (Cross-Linked Polyethylene) 

Ask most plumbers today, and they’d probably tell you that PEX is the most commonly used form of piping that they use in new construction and buildings. It comes with all the bells and whistles that you get with PVC and CPVC piping, but also comes with the added aesthetic bonus of a whiter, almost transparent color. It also can go flex or rigid and still maintain the same amount of pressure for both. Long story, short – this is the Cadillac of pipes. And oh boy, you’ll pay Cadillac prices, too. But also – you’ll get a fantastic product. That being said, part of the reason isn’t just the bells and whistles it provides its users, but also that it needs specific tools to connect them. So keep that in mind. However, if money isn’t an object – this might be your best option. 

Creating your dream aquarium takes careful thought, planning and preparation. Hopefully this mini-guide helped you sort through one of the more important steps in the process. If you still have questions or would like to learn more about bulkhead fittings and plumbing your tank, give us a call today and we’ll be happy to provide you with a free consultation. Good luck!

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