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The Fascinating Physics Behind the Impossible Fish Tank

The technical term for this creation is a “vacuum suspended fish tank,” named so for the creative physics underlying the tank’s gravity-defying aesthetic.


Any proper aquarium-keeper would want their fish to live in comfort and style. But some, more innovative aquarists want their fish to have something even greater: a breathtaking view from what looks like a kind of water skyscraper.

Meet the “Impossible Fish Tank,” an architecturally astounding marine home that is actually not too hard to achieve on your own, Wired reports.

 

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The technical term for it, according to Rhett Allain, is a “vacuum suspended fish tank,” named so for the creative physics underlying the tank’s gravity-defying aesthetic.

These physics all have to do with the forces working on each part of the impossible aquarium, the force applied to the water’s surface, the force applied within the “floating” portion of the tank and the force applied directly below it. All of these forces work together to get the water within the glass.

 

Screenshot: YouTube/NightHawkInLight

 

Now, the logic of any contraption described as “vacuum suspended” may lead you to believe that the water is sucked into the glass like the forces of the vacuum. But instead of water getting sucked up, air pressure — which here is greater than water pressure — evacuates from within the glass.

And with air gone, what is left to replace it but water? Allain equates the process to something super familiar to humans:

“Incidentally, this is exactly how a straw works. You don’t suck water up a straw; you decrease the air pressure at the top of the straw (using your mouth) and atmospheric pressure pushes the water up. This is why you can’t suck liquid through a straw that is longer than 10 meters. Not even Superman could do it.”

Though this understanding of physics may be complicated, setting up your own impossible aquarium is remarkably easy. All you need is a tube to draw the air out from the upside-down glass, and some daring fish to test out the view.

 

Watch the video below for a step-by-step explanation for how to make your own aquarium impossible, too.

 

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Illustration by Fabio Manucci

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