Why?There were several reasons for me choosing to make an aquarium PC. Firstly, as an experiment into long term heating effects on hardware. I have had several "always on" and gaming PCs in the past, and they only seem last a year or two before malfunctioning; whether it be the graphics card, memory or HDD at fault (despite having lots of cooling fans). I am hoping that the higher specific heat capacity of oil will facilitate a more consistent temperature throughout the PC, with the internal fans and air bubbler providing a "stirring" effect. If it turns out to be reliable and stable then I will look into building a gaming version!
And lastly, as a way for me to test out the difficulty in working with new materials and tools (specifically thick acrylic) so I can apply these to other projects in the future.
There are lots of other examples on YouTube that I encourage you to take a look at. There is also a commercial desktop aquarium PC that you can buy from Puget Systems that is designed for mineral oil.
The main 9 litre wall mounted aquarium was purchased from a website within the UK for £100. The tank is made from glass which has been stuck together in places using what appears to be a silicone based glue. The tank is encased in an MDF frame with a gloss finish to the forward facing areas. There are two supportive glass struts at the top of the tank, on to which a glass lid is normally placed. These struts now form the main supports to the custom acrylic motherboard mounts as described below.
Inside the Aquarium
I constructed the motherboard and accessory plates from 10mm thick acrylic. This thickness is extremely rigid and will not bend when loaded with hardware. I found it very difficult to work with; a jigsaw blade generates so much heat that the acrylic reseals itself. I had to use a milling machine to cut the two rectangles in the pictures below. Drilling and tapping holes is also "interesting"; I found using rubbing alcohol whilst drilling cooled down the drill bit enough as to not melt the acrylic.
|Motherboard and accessory panels|
|Completed motherboard panel (with some test memory)|
|Panel supporting USB Relay, Thermometer, TTL LED trigger and SSDs|
|Assembled panels ready to put inside aquarium|
|5L Silicone Oil|
This PC has to be energy efficient since it is always left on. I also wanted to avoid having to use an external radiator and so needed to opt for a processor with low heat output; I therefore settled on an Intel Atom based motherboard.
|All of the components ready for assembly|
The specifications are as follows:
- ASRock AD525PV3 Motherboard with built-in Intel Atom D525 processor
- 4GB 1333MHz Ballistix Tracer Memory
- 2x 64GB Samsung Solid State Drives
- 205W Power Supply
Here is a breakdown of the costs (including postage). Most items are from eBay and some items are second hand.
Wall mounted aquarium: £100
ASRock AD525PV3 Motherboard: £60
4GB Ballistix Tracer Memory: £30
Acrylic for motherboard base plate and I/O panel: £11.20
Shuttle Power Supply Unit: £22.81
USB Wifi Dongle: £3.78
SATA power splitter: £1.55
NM2 nylon standoff spacers: £1.67
MicroSATA to SATA adapters (x2) £1.67 x 2: £3.34
64GB solid state drives (x2) = £55.32 + £45.00: £100.32
RGB LED Tape: £10.79
80mm blue LED fan: £1.57
40mm blue LED fan: £4.95
Power switch: £2.16
10L Silicone-350 Oil: £78
Bio-orb aquarium pump: £8.49
Bio-orb extension cables: £11.98
Silicone hose: £2.34
Bubble bar: £3.19
Glass suckers: £1.98
4-channel usb relay: £22
Total Cost: £482.12
Please check back to get updates on performance metrics and reliability as I measure them in due course.