A while back I decided to try out a metal halide system for my 46 gallon bowfront reef tank to replace my existing PC lighting. This new lighting system was equipped with a 175 watt metal halide light right in the center of it, which was right over my aquarium’s center brace. The new metal halide system was working perfectly and I decided to go to work for a few hours. When I got home the metal halide had been turned off by my lighting timers and after a brief tank inspection I decided to go to bed.
The next morning I woke up and saw that my center brace was warped and stretched and the front of the tank was bowing (more then the bowfront already does!). I wanted to see if the center brace would hold for a while so I touched it to see how brittle it had become; it fell apart in my fingers. I suspected that my new lights heated the plastic center brace and melted it, although it could have been a manufacture defect in the center brace, ether way my center brace was compromised. During this whole time there where other things going on that took precedence over my reef tank, so I looked for a quick fix.
What I ended up doing is supporting the top of the aquarium with 18” nylon wood clamps and I clamped the front and the back of the aquarium so that the front would not bow out any further. I cut the warped piece of center brace back to where it wasn’t cracked and heated and drilled a hole on both the sides of the center brace. I then took some Plexiglas and cut it so that I could bridge the both sides of the center brace. I then bought some nylon bolts and nuts and attached the Plexiglas to the remaining ends of the center brace. When all was done I removed the clamps and the quick fix held the tank together. This was no the best job I have done but I was confident enough that the tank would hold until I could get a new one.
This worked for about three weeks then I noticed that the front trim was starting to drip water from the top brace. I quickly made the change over to a new tank and now my old 46gallon sits in my basement until I can fully replace the top brace and fix all the damage.
If I had to do it over and if I had more time I would have taken more time cutting the Plexiglas and I would have removed all of the center brace. I would have bridged the Plexiglas from the front part of the top brace to the back part of the top brace. I would have also used two nylon bolts on both sides instead of one, doing this would have given my tank more support and me, more piece of mind.
Why Keep the Center Brace?
A hot topic on a lot of online reef forums is if you can cut out your center brace so that it does not mess with your lighting scheme. Unless you have a solid plan and are very confident in your abilities I do not suggest doing it. The center brace in an aquarium is there for a reason, it supports the front and the back panels of glass from bowing and the top brace from cracking and breaking away from the sealant. If you feel that you need an aquarium without a center brace then a Euro Brace is the way to go.Brett is the creator of Brett's Reef, a blog with reef aquarium articles, posts, pictures, and information about the saltwater aquarium hobby.