how to cut a small, clear, cover for my aquarium? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2010, 06:13 PM Thread Starter
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how to cut a small, clear, cover for my aquarium?

Hello all -

I am putting some lights in to light the rear of my 55 gallon corner tank - it gets a little dim back there. Unfortunately, the cover has a triangular plastic piece back there and it's totally opaque (black).

I just need to create a triangular piece about 9 inches long to fit perfectly back there, allow a few holes for filter tubes and a heater wire, then drop it into place underneath the lights. Obviously it needs to be able to withstand a bit of head (LED lights, but still warm) and let as much light through as possible.

What is the easiest way to do this? I don't have the skill to cut glass (I don't think). Can I just go to Home Depot and get a piece of acrylic or something like that? Can I score/break it like a tile?

Any advice appreciated

thanks!!
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2010, 06:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave-H View Post
Can I just go to Home Depot and get a piece of acrylic or something like that? Can I score/break it like a tile?
Exactly.

I recently did this for the first time, and it was easier than I thought. Scored it several times with a utility blade. Set the acrylic on the kitchen counter with the scored area just off the edge. A helper held a 2x4 securely on the acrylic, even with the edge of the counter, and I just slammed another 2x4 down on the part that was hanging off.

It's nice if you can get some cheap or free scrap pieces to practice on. My local Home Depot doesn't cut acrylic, so no scrap; but Lowe's does, and specialized plastic dealers often have a lot of it. Make sure you practice drilling holes on the scrap too.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2010, 07:04 PM
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It will work best if you use 1/4 inch thick acrylic instead of the 1/8 inch that is typical for hardware stores, and is sold for picture frames. It is much harder to score and break 1/4 inch material, but it saws very easily with even a hack saw, or a power jig saw. Just do any cutting before removing the protective paper. Drilling is also easy, but the cuttings tend to melt and jam the drill bit, so go slowly, or go fast, while making sure the bit cuts continuously and never just rubs.

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-06-2010, 03:41 AM
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May I submit a differing idea? I was always in the group that avoided cutting glass. Recently I got interested in stained glass and found out how easy it is ---if you know the tricks. Not to force an idea if someone doesn't want to but I recommend trying to cut glass before ditching the idea. Two or three things to keep in mind. Cut on a flat solid surface. Concrete won't do it. Cut with just enough pressure to make a light groove. If you hear crunching noise, you are pressing too hard. Very important-- only score it once and no more. Start at the near edge and run all the way across to the far side in one continuous motion. Use a pair of pliers designed for breaking stained glass. They are built with a curved jaw to snap the glass. (Hobby Lobby, Michael's, etc.) Wonderful! Now my wife breaks the glass for me.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-06-2010, 07:12 AM
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or just go to your local glass shop with exact measurements.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-06-2010, 02:10 PM
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While either way will get you a glass cover, I do recommend glass over plex. I have a few plex covers and they do tend to droop and discolor which glass doesn't. A little more trouble and expense up front but it seems to pay off over time.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-06-2010, 03:37 PM
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I have tried both methods and here's a few things I've leaned.
- Thin acrylic (around 1/8") will warp pretty quickly so i would go with thicker stuff
- Acrylic will start to melt if you are using a jig saw. I would use the scoring method or something like a table saw and cut it super fast.
- Acrylic is hard to file down if your edges aren't straight so try to get it straight the first time
- Glass isn't hard to cut at all as long as you make straight cuts. (although it can be a bit scary :P )
- Any place that will sell you glass will also cut it (probably for free)
- don't place lights or anything sort of heavy on a glass lid unless it is supported by the sides of the tank, it will break (learned the hard way)

Also keep in mind that you don't NEED a lid. I like them thou, they keep evaporation down to a minimum, stop random junk from falling in your tank and more importantly they keep your fish from jumping out. You can also try that plastic egg crate stuff if you don't care about evaporation.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-06-2010, 08:14 PM
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The real advantage of an acrylic cover is being able to drill holes for filter tubes, etc. easily. If you don't need any holes, glass makes far better sense.

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-06-2010, 08:47 PM
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When it comes time to redo some covers in the future, I will probably try cutting the glass to fit. For holes for filters, heaters and such, I plan to use overlapping layers of glass rather than cutting holes. By having two layers that slide over each other, most of the spaces can be found. It does make an awkward looking thing if a canopy doesn't cover it but it does have the advantage of being super flexible. I always hated to cut the plastic at the back of tank covers as next week I might need/want something a different shape or size. I have several small filters which I hang on the larger tanks for switching to grow out or QT tanks when needed. With sliding glass on glass panels, I can close or open holes easily.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-06-2010, 09:21 PM
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I just cut the corners off the back panels of the canopy so that there are triangle shaped holes in the 2 back corners because all I really have going into my tank is the intake and outtake of my canister. You could also just cut the back panel smaller then you need it width-wise so there is like a 2 inch gap at the back of your tank.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-06-2010, 09:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alan j t View Post
or just go to your local glass shop with exact measurements.
+1

Make an exact replica out of cardboard, including any holes etc. Take it to your local glass shop And tell them you want it in glass or acrylic. It should be cheap, most likely they can just use scrap and charge a few dollars for their time.
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