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Building a Simple Aquarium Canopy


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This is a brief overview of the tools and techniques I've used to build three aquarium canopies this way. 

My intent with building a canopy is to block the glare from the lights and light spillage into the rooms. I also want enough room inside the canopy to be able to reach in the tanks if I have to without having to remove it.

I use 1/2" Sande Plywood for a nice paintable surface while still being lightweight enough to lift on and off. 

It does require a moderate set of wood working tools and the knowledge to use them. I used the following.

  • Tablesaw and Dado blade set
  • Miter saw
  • Kreg Pocket Screw Jig
  • Drill

To start I take measurements of the aquarium frame that'll determine the inside dimensions of the canopy. This is a 48x18, 90 gallon tank. I like the canopy to cover the black plastic frame of the tank. You could extend this lower to cover the water line as well. Once I determined the dimensions I use a tablesaw to rip the plywood to length.




I like to start by assembling the front of the canopy where the doors are. I found a 10" tall opening was good for fitting my arm in and out of easily. I assembly the entire canopy using pocket screws drilled with a jig. 




I then make the sides of the canopy. I use a stack of dado blades to cut a groove in the sides. The groove will hold a strip of wood the will sit on top of the aquarium frame, holding it up in place. 




I screw the sides into the inside of the canopy front so that the cut edge will be hidden from the front view.




I attach the back of the canopy the same way as the sides. I screwed the back panel on within the inside of the canopy so the side hides the edge of the back panel. At this time I glue in a strip of wood cut to a specific width to fit fully into the dado and extend out enough to sit on the rim of the aquarium frame. Take care not to make it too wide so you can get the glass lids on and off. 




Test fit confirms all is good to proceed. 




After that the top is the last major piece followed by fitting the doors. I found a 1/2" overlap on the doors is good.

These are the hinges I use.





Finally I attach some simple trim around the top to hide the edge of the top panel to give it a nice look. I painted with a semi-gloss black paint. 




I don't have any filter equipment running over the rim of this tank but you could trim out to allow access for filer tubes, HOBS, etc. I do plan on trimming a small access cutout on the back, for wires and airline, once I determine the light orientation. 

I'm no expert woodworker but I found this easy to make. May it serve as inspiration for you to design and build your own aquarium canopy instead of buying one. 

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Just now, Bill Smith said:

Did you have to cut holes or notches out of the back for cables and things that hang off the back?

I will once I settle on cord/airline locations. I'll use a hole saw then cut up from the bottom with a jigsaw, then touch up the paint.

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On 1/14/2021 at 11:51 AM, Bill Smith said:

Did you have to cut holes or notches out of the back for cables and things that hang off the back?

I only cut one notch for the Stringray power cords and an airline if I want to use one. I used a 1/2" spade bit and an oscillating tool with a wood blade to cut out the notch. 


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