In the winter of 2005 – 2006 I was recovering from a broken ankle and dislocated shoulder and needed something to occupy my time around the house since I couldn’t enjoy the winter at all. My big hobby at the time was a saltwater tank I had set up in January of 2005 that had morphed from a fish-only tank into a soft-coral dominated tank and suffered from a sever lack of light.
I have had fish tanks since I was 10 years old, this however was my first saltwater tank, and I had no idea I was doing everything wrong when I started. I quickly realized that my canister filter wasn’t going to cut it so I upgraded to a sump setup with a refugium and as much live rock as I could feasibly afford at the time (close to 125 lbs.) I then started having an interest in corals, and the single 40W flourescent just wasn’t enough, so along came a Jebo with 4 X 55Watt Power Compact bulbs. That light was defintely betteer than my original, but it still wasn’t nearly enough light.
I looked online and in local shops for a light which looked good and contained at least 2 X 250 Watt Metal Halide bulbs. I couldn’t find anything for under $1200 so I decided it was time to put my limited woodworking skills to use and build one. I skected out some quick plans, decided on my lighting and ordered all my parts, within a week I was gathering the wood and beginning construction.
Here is a collection of pictures I took during the construction of a DIY Aquarium Canopy for my 75 gallon saltwater aquarium.
The canopy contained (2) 250 Watt Metal Halide lights and (2) 110 Watt VHO Actinic bulbs.
This is how my aquarium looked on January 1, 2006. It is a 75 gallon mixed reef with soft corals (leathers, shrooms, zoos) and lighting is provided by a Jebo 4X55W Power Compact Fixture. In this picture you will see that the tank has a very blue look, I was experimenting and I wanted to see what the blue bulbs which were included with the Jebo looked like, not that good, glad I swapped them out first thing.
DIY projects give me a chance to play with power tools. After spending all day staring at a computer screen I enjoy coming home to rip through some pine with a miter saw.
This is the plywood which will be used to “skin” my canopy. This is 1/4″ Red Oak plywood and it will be applied over a 1X2 Pine frame. Trim wood is regular Red Oak molding from Home Depot in various styles.
This is a mockup of one of the sides of the canopy, my plans can be seen on the right. These were more of general guidelines and ideas as I deviated from the plans slightly as I came up with ideas on how to make it better
Gluing the side frame together. Unfortunately my other 24″ clamp was being used so I had to make do with 2 12″ clamps. The entire frame is constructed with “butt joints” to increase strength and ease construction.
Every joint in the frame is glued and screwed for added strength. Here I am drilling the pilot hole for the 2 5/8″ deck screws I am using.
Countersinking the screw.
Driving the screw into the joint.
This is the front of the frame with the cutouts for the doors. I am gluing the center braces in at this point.
Closeup of the front frame showing the construction of the corners.
Attaching the side of the frame to the front. Using every clamp I had out at the time just because.
I have now built the lid and added the piano hinge for the lid.
This is the complete frame without the lid.
Frame with lid.
As I stood back admiring my creation it dawned on me to use some scrap 1X2 to provide a solid stop for the top lid. This will prevent the lid from falling through.
Day 3 was COLD! Luckily I had access to a 50,000 BTU heater (which is glowing in the background)
Figuring out where I should mount the reflectors for the Metal Halides.
Drilling pilot holes for the piano hinge in the frame.
Test fit of the reflectors and the lid. Everything works, hey I might as well make sure my ballasts work too right?
Before: 2 X 55W PC 10,000K & 2 X 55W PC 7100K Blue – Jebo fixture
After: 2 X 250W MH 10,000K – EVC Retro Kit
Moved the construction inside to the basement as it was too cold in the garage for gluing the skin on the frame. Cut all skin pieces and attached side panels.
The entire frame has been “skinned” in Oak plywood.
On the lid I wanted something a little different. I wanted the plywood lid to overlap with the top of the frame 1″ on the 3 non-hinged sides. To accomplish this I built attached a spacer layer to the top of the frame. I purposely left the back (hinge) side without a spacer to create a 10 square inch vent opening (not much really.) Another piece of plywood will be glued to the top of the spacers to make the lid.
This is the unfinished doors laying on the front of the canopy to check and see how things look.
This is the section between the front doors.
Day 7 was trim finishing day. Here you see the top lid with the trim added all the way around. One little design flaw here, I should have extended the side trim all the way back. You won’t see it though unless you are 7 feet tall.
Applying the trim to the front of the canopy. This is “Casing” molding on the top and bottom and just simple corner molding for the corners.
First coat of poly applied to the canopy.
And to the doors.
Days 8 – 10:
Days 8 – 10 were spent applying poly to the outside and painting the inside gloss white, then finally wiring up all the lights.
This is the canopy on the tank. It really makes the stand look small and cheap, so it will be replaced probably within the next year (and maybe a 90G tank upgrade as well) In this picture only the VHO lights are running, 1 Super Actinic, 1 50/50 both 110 Watts.
Another view of the canopy.