Sometimes, a glass lid for your aquarium just doesn't cut it. Planted freshwater aquariums and marine reef tanks often need more than one light, and this can look cluttered. Building your own canopy can help conceal lighting equipment and give the aquarium's top a neat, organized look. Decorate your canopy with wood stain or laminate to match the look of your aquarium stand.
Measure your aquarium and plan your canopy to be 1/16-inch wider than the dimensions of the aquarium's top frame. Cut two pieces of 3/4-by-4-inch board to the length of the aquarium plus 1/16 inch, and two pieces the width of the aquarium plus 1/16 inch.
Attach the two width pieces to the two length pieces using two zip screws for each joint. Have the front and back pieces overlap the side pieces. When attaching them, run your screws through the front or back piece into the side pieces to create an open-top rectangular frame for the canopy.
Determine how high you want the canopy to sit on your aquarium by sliding the frame over the top of the aquarium. Mark the level of the aquarium's top with a Sharpie. You may need a friend to hold the canopy while you do this.
Line up the bottom of the Sharpie marks with the square wooden rods on the inside of the frame. Drill a zip screw through the square rod and into the frame to secure it. Repeat at least once per inside face of the canopy frame. The canopy will rest on the aquarium's top frame on these pieces of square rod.
Cut a piece of 5/8-inch plywood to the fit flush over the frame. This will form the lid of the canopy. The exact measurements will be determined by the size of your canopy frame, which in turn is determined by the size of your aquarium. Mark it off with a Sharpie before proceeding.
Attach the lid with hinges, so you can open and close the lid to feed the fish or replace lights. Run screws through the holes on the hinges to attach the lid. Make sure you line them up so they open outward, rather than inward. Position two hinges on the back of the canopy frame (incidentally, this step determines which side is the back, as up to this point the front and back are interchangeable). This will allow the canopy to open from the front for easy access during feeding.
Attach the molding around the lid. Different brands and models of molding can be attached with either wood glue or staples. You will have to do this part free hand. Line up the molding carefully so that it blocks out light along the edge where the frame meets the lid. This light-proofs the canopy, so you don't see the line between the frame and lid when the aquarium lights are on.
Mount your lights to the inside of the canopy. Different types of lighting have different mountings. Check the manufacturer's instructions for details.
Seal the wood with wood stain or glue laminate to the outside of the lid to achieve the aesthetic you want. This step is optional, and can vary wildly based on the look you want to achieve.
Items you will need
- 3/4-by-4-inch boards
- Small zip screws
- 5/8-inch plywood
- Three hinges, ideally waterproof
- Black sharpie
- Drill -- bit size will vary based on your equipment
- Wood glue
- 1-inch molding
- 3/4-by-3/4-inch square rods
- Wood stain or laminate (optional)
- 💡 Always drill pilot holes for your zip screws. A pilot hole consists of a hole with a smaller diameter than the screw. This helps guide the screw in and avoids cracking.
- 💡 If you have a sump filter, account for the lower water level when figuring out how high to mount your square rods.
- 💡 Consider leaving the back of the canopy open to dissipate heat.
- ⚠ Always use caution when using power tools.
- ⚠ Always wear eye protection when using power tools.
- ⚠ Make sure you give any kind of glue or sealant enough time to dry in a well-ventilated area; may of these products can release toxic chemicals when curing.
- ⚠ Some types of aquarium lighting can generate dangerous amounts of heat. Consider adding a fan or not using a canopy if you have any doubts about fire safety.
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