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sns26 04-27-2011 03:39 PM

DIY cherry cabinet, LEDs, etc. for 57g rimless (Many pictures)
4 Attachment(s)
Update: I finally planted this tank and got it going. If you're interested in seeking what it looks like, check out my tank journal.


Hi all,

I'm posting some pictures of my current project, built around a rimless 57 gallon Oceanic "Illuminata" tank. I've had enough success growing plants in a 20 high that I figured I'd try to set up a nice "show" tank for our living room.

I've always liked the look of the rimless tank/hanging fixture approach, and seeing a local club member's beautiful ADA 90p in February confirmed it. The Oceanic tank is not quite as nice as the ADA tanks, but I could get it pre-drilled through the tempered bottom. That was important to me because I wanted to hide the plumbing as much as possible.

The main DIY elements are the stand, the plumbing, and the LED fixture. I'll provide some more details about each in replies to this post.

Many thanks to all of you who helped me, either directly by providing advice in response to my questions or indirectly by posting your own experiences. I can post sketchup drawing files and more specific details if anyone wants them.

sns26 04-27-2011 03:43 PM

Cabinet Pictures
5 Attachment(s)
Cabinet: I wanted to try something other than the standard "2x4 frame plus plywood skin" approach. I used 3/4" cherry veneered plywood, solid cherry for the doors, base, and top, and curly maple for the trim. The beam across the top front is two pieces of 3/4" wood with a 1/8" steel bar sandwiched between them. This was utter overkill, but I didn't want the top beam to deflect downwards and interfere with the inset doors. And steel is way cheaper than cherry. The whole thing is a rat's nest of construction techniques--I used Kreg screws, glue, nails etc. depending on the day and my mood.

The cabinet sits on four heavy-duty leveling feet, which in turn will sit on 4"x4"x1/2" pieces of wood to distribute the load. I wanted to use leveling feet so that I could level the stand any time even after filling it. (I hate the look of an uneven water line in a rimless tank, and my floors are ancient and likely to sag and settle over time.) But leveling feet are ugly. So I built a false plinth subassembly that surrounds the base of the tank. The plinth hides the feet and makes the whole thing look a little nicer. It slides up and down over the cabinet with some coaxing.

Although the Oceanic tank has no top rim, it does have a bottom plastic rim. I didn't want to let that show, so I built a top frame subassembly to hide it. The top frame slides down over the tank once the tank is on the stand. I cut a profile into it to minimize the gap between the frame and the tank. I can remove it if necessary in case I get any major spills down the sides of the glass, but it's tight enough that I doubt that will be a big issue.

sns26 04-27-2011 03:45 PM

LED array
LED Array: The cosmetics aren't finished yet, but this is a 27-LED array based around Cree XP-G, XP-E, and XR-E stars. There are two strings of LEDs, one a mix of cool white and blue and the other a mix of warm and neutral white. Both are driven by dimmable Meanwell drivers. The heatsink is a 10" x 32" HeatsinkUSA purchase that I drilled and tapped for the LEDs. Again, time will tell how this thing performs. I'm still thinking about how to do a wood frame for this whole thing, and about whether I aim to hide the LEDs entirely from view or show them off. Many thanks to RedfishSC who gave me a lot of advice on this.

sns26 04-27-2011 03:45 PM

Plumbing: This is pretty basic stuff. The main thing was that I wanted to do everything inline and not go over the tank rim. So I'm using an inline Hydor, a PVC reactor, and a Odyssea canister filter to drive the works.

The inflow uses 1" PVC fittings and 1" flex tubing. The outflow uses 5/8" flex tubing and 3/4" PVC fittings for the most part. Time will tell how this all works out.

I'm also in the process of plumbing in hot and cold water supply into the tank. There's no easy way to plumb waste, though, so I think I'm going to be stuck with a hose to the toilet or lawn. Water supply is still worth it just for top-off purposes, though.

redfishsc 04-27-2011 04:18 PM

Stunning work, I LOVE the combination of cherry and curly maple! And nice work on the LEDs!

Gatekeeper 04-27-2011 04:37 PM

Did you drill the tank yourself?

JamesHockey 04-27-2011 05:21 PM

Came pre drilled

Sent from my iPod touch using Tapatalk

sns26 04-27-2011 05:25 PM

I didn't drill this myself. This was a "reef ready" tank that had two pre-drilled 1.75" holes; I just removed the big plastic overflow that was installed in front.

The trouble with drilling myself is that the standard version of this tank has a tempered bottom. (I don't know if the reef ready version is tempered too, but who cares--the holes were already there for me.)

If I had to do this all over, I probably would have bought a custom tank from glasscages or something and had them drill it exactly the way I wanted it. The cost would not have been that much more and I could have ended up with a larger tank. Lesson learned!

roybot73 04-27-2011 06:37 PM

Fantastic build & sweet shop.
Can't wait to see what this becomes.

sns26 04-27-2011 07:01 PM

The shop isn't mine - I pay to be a "member" of a local woodworking shop, which gives me access to a full range of nice tools (big table saws, planers, jointers, festool portable tools, etc.) that I couldn't justify owning myself. Woodworking is just a hobby for me.

Hoppy 04-27-2011 07:15 PM

That treatment of the top and bottom of the stand is something I haven't seen before. It looks like a great design. And, a beautiful stand too.

Why not consider a Cherry/Maple enclosure for the LED light, keeping it a hanging light? With that you can keep the glare from the side of the LEDs from being a problem. With your obvious design skills you should be able to make a very good looking light fixture that way.

sns26 04-28-2011 03:11 AM


Originally Posted by Hoppy (Post 1371745)
That treatment of the top and bottom of the stand is something I haven't seen before. It looks like a great design. And, a beautiful stand too.

Thanks. The top and bottom subassemblies required some thinking and some unsuccessful trial runs. The tolerances had to be pretty tight to make both assemblies free to move around the cabinet without being visibly loose. Again, I was pretty obsessed with using and hiding leveling feet and with hiding that ugly tank rim.


Originally Posted by Hoppy (Post 1371745)
Why not consider a Cherry/Maple enclosure for the LED light, keeping it a hanging light? With that you can keep the glare from the side of the LEDs from being a problem.

Well, that's certainly the basic plan. I just would prefer to have the slimmest enclosure possible--my goal is to minimize the fixture, not draw attention to it. That goal is in some tension with the goal of hiding the LED point light sources or the glare they throw off. I'm probably just going to use this setup for a while until inspiration strikes.

Hoppy 04-29-2011 02:10 AM

It helps a lot to hide the glare of LEDs if you put them on the inside of aluminum channels, as heat sinks. The sides of the channels do hide much of the glare, but not all of it.

TwoStrokeKing 05-02-2011 05:14 AM

NICE! i like how clean under ur tank is!

sns26 05-04-2011 12:27 AM

Light fixture is coming along...
1 Attachment(s)
I finally got around to doing the light fixture. My wife told me to lay off the curly maple for the light. But I couldn't help myself. She was right--I should have done it all out of cherry. Oh well.

I drilled and tapped the heatsink to allow me to bolt the end pieces directly to it. That's what the holes you see are for. (I'll plug them before I finish the thing.) The rest is just compound miters and glue. Plus I slipped a few Kreg screws in to help hold the thing together while the glue set...

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