Micro photo tanks

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Conecuh's picture
Micro photo tanks

I'm looking to make a micro photo tank, but don't want to "reinvent the wheel".What are some good designs?


Jknuth's picture
what size are you thinking? I

what size are you thinking? I may have a very easy solution for you.

They are 6" long and about 1" wide inside. 
I have made a mold and can cast more. I was debating selling a few.

Gunnar's picture
Could you engineer a set of

Could you engineer a set of grooves near the back of the side walls so a piece of painted plexi could slide down and make the background lighter? If it was removable, the photographer could experiment with different colored backgrounds and even have several on hand for different needs.

I've seen pics taken in dark colored photo tanks where the darkness showing through transparent fins (and bodies) caused things like dark spots on clear fins (or light spots on dark fins) to disappear, yellow to become dark orange, etc.

I like how sturdy this looks and I like that it's fewer pieces than most tanks I've seen. I wonder if the lack of light coming from the ends will be a problem, though.


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

Jknuth's picture
What I have and isnt in the

What I have and isnt in the pictures is a removable plastic "push plate" One side is gray the other is white. 
You could also draw on a grid for measurement.
This is used to push the fish to the foreground. 
I can also cast them in an ivory color. My first ones were darker mainly due to the left over gray tinted resin I had. 
As far as the lack of lighting.

I prefer it blocked out on the sides and back mainly to prevent light from shining through the fish. I would rather control the lighting through the front. 
Them lil minnows can be very translucent.
I could also cast it in a translucent resin, but it would be more difficult to cast. 

One Idea I had was to sink a threaded bolt in the bottom allowing it to be attached to a camera tripod. 
This would allow you to have the fish at a more comfortable level for photographs.
Finding a flat place on the stream bank was always tricky.
Sturdy was the main Idea here. I have made several other tanks and they have all kerploaded on me. 
This bugger can be tossed in a backpack with no issue. 

perkinsdonald's picture

Very cool jknuth! What type of resin do you use?



The gods do not subtract the alotted span in men's lives the hours spent in fishing.

Jknuth's picture
Its a two part urethane resin

Its a two part urethane resin.

Gunnar's picture
I was going to ask what you

I was going to ask what you do for a push plate. I like the idea of a grid for dimensions, though I wouldn't personally use it.

I think the idea of a tripod-able female thread on the bottom is brilliant. How thick is the bottom? Even if it couldn't be embedded in the resin, there are many tripod attachment devices that could be epoxied or screwed to the bottom to make it easy to mount.

If you ever do cast one in an ivory, I'd love to see it. For me, a gray between 25% and 50% is ideal. I like it as a background for fish photos: easier to remove in Photoshop, and doesn't falsely color the fish (either by reflection or by showing through). Can ivory and the gray above be mixed to a lighter gray?

If you sell these, I'll buy one (even if it's the dark resin--in fact I think I'd like the dark better than ivory). I'll make a tripod mount for it, and I'll make a few different colored push plates and a protective bag for them and the tank. THEN I'll drink the micro-kool-aid! (Maybe right from the photo tank.)


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

Deftik's picture
I would buy 2 if you're

I would buy 2 if you're willing to ship to Pa!

Your momma fishes for lifers with Eagle Claws.
Jknuth's picture
Gunnar, I could make a much

Gunnar, I could make a much lighter gray like you are talking about. 
The bottom is about 1/4" thick thick, I can also add another 1/2 to the mold to make a thicker bottom.

I want to play with them a bit yet but once I get all the ducks lined up Ill let you guys know. 

Gunnar's picture
If you need field testers, I

If you need field testers, I'm sure you'll have no trouble finding volunteers.

Another question: how much bigger could you realistically and efficiently make these before they got too heavy or the resin involved was too expensive? Could you mold one (pulling dimensions out of thin air) 15" wide, 3" front-to-back and 8" tall (inside dimensions)?

The more I think about this, the more I want one.


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

Jknuth's picture
At that size I think pure

At that size I think pure construction is a better method. It can be done, I have made much much larger and more complex molds, but it gets Pricy. The silicone alone to make the mold would be about $100-150 and the resin would be about $20 

The nice thing with the solid resin is overall strength. 

Gunnar's picture
That's about what I was

That's about what I was guessing.


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

kernel j


Good on you, Mr. Knuth!  Catch-Photo-Release (ALIVE!), a rule for any species at any size.  Realistically speaking, some of these species may only be ID'd with certainty when the natural and relative fin positions can be ascertained, ray counts are much easier this way as well.  Those attributes are often observable only when they are in water.


You guys are going to like using boxes like this, especially for the Silver/Emerald/Rosyface business.  Those two nasal crescents that ID the Silver Shiner?  Real easy to shoot when you can be directly above and the fish is in water chillin' out.    This is the way to go, it minimizes slime coat/scale damage and virtually eliminates the lethal "focus lag" associated with flippy micros and successive photos.  TOW (time outta water) is almost nil and thus leaves plenty of time for photography without undue harm to the specimen.  Makes the whole process guilt-free and much more enjoyable, some pictures are literally killers without a box.


Mine hangs from belt/pack straps with a cheap carabiner, an easy grab when needed.  When we develop the habits of ethical handling practices on common species, they function as second nature even in the excitment of rare or threatened species.  


Yours is a righteous application of talent, sir.  

Eli's picture
I cut mine out of a single

I cut mine out of a single sheet of 4mm plexiglass and seeled the endges with Marine Goop. All but ine side were painted white. 




atenkley's picture

I made mine from 3/32" Lexan bought at the local ACE hardware - 5"long, 4" high, and 1 1/2" deep.  I tried to find some acetone around the house when I made it to weld the edges, but used  superglue instead.  Next time I'll use the appropriate welding method....  I like the size for micros, its light, but scratches quite easily.  I'd like to make one a bit larger as well that would allow this one to nest inside for transport.  I'll also probably build a lightweight wood case for transport security.


I like it being clear as I can use any type of background I want, or none at all if desired.  During  a recent micro contest, I just printed the Contest identifier Logo on paper and glued it to a piece of foam board cut to a reasonable size.  That way I could easily take a contest picture showing the logo and then reverse it for generic file photos.  For what I do, I'm finding I prefer a white background as opposed to a dark one....YMMV.


I cut a piece of left over flooring and glued a 1/4-20 Tee-nut in a center hole to thread onto my tripod, as was mentioned above.  Works well in those cases you want to set up in a single area.... ...works better if you level it!

Here is it's maiden voyage last April:

Phioto tank


....visit  .....those other fish

Conecuh's picture
Some good info

JKnuth, those look pretty sturdy. I'd be interested when you get things ironed out.

It appears background is somewhat a matter of preference.

I've got a few pieces of polycarbonate around I'll try making one out of for now.

TheHugbot's picture
just found this on the sagumo

just found this on the sagumo japan website, designed for photographing tanago I think.



$24 US dollars (before