DIY Collapsible tank cover - Tell me why I'm wrong! - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-04-2018, 12:16 PM Thread Starter
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DIY Collapsible tank cover - Tell me why I'm wrong!

Quick disclaimer - I am not at all a handy person, having been taught to cook and sew instead. Nevertheless, custom equipment is expensive, and I'm young, broke, and don't have space in my flat for bulky things, so let's give this a whirl.

What am I even trying to do?
The aim is to produce a semi-presentable, collapsible tank cover that can be continuously modified to suit one's needs. Lots of people (myself included) are moving over to rimless tanks, often with emergent growth and hardscape, neither of which lend themselves well to covers. I've seen plenty of DIY aquarium guards, but have never seen one that allows for anything to rest on the glass (e.g. HOB filters, tubing, lights) or allow for emergent growth without looking terrible or seeming really inconvenient. If I ever decide to move away from emergent & keep jumping livestock like killifish, I can just cover the entire frame in netting.

Frame
Using 40cmx1cm lengths of laser-cut black acrylic, my plan is the make a frame that can be easily clipped together and taken apart, to cover an 80cmx40cm tank with HOB, clip on lights, and emergent growth. As seen in the (terribly inaccurate) post its attached below, I'll need 2x 3 different cuts of acrylic totaling 6 pieces. As the cuts will all be accurately and identically cut by a laser cutter, they can be flipped around and used as needed, and hopefully still fit together.

This frame will enable me to cover a portion of my tank with netting, keeping it taut and hiding rough edges. The frame will fit under all equipment attached to the glass and should require minimal effort to remove for maintenance etc. thanks to the detachable components. As seen in the sketch of my tank below, it should be as simple as removing the top right portion by unclipping and sliding out from under the light clip. The left-hand light would probably have to be removed, but after that, the entire frame should come right off, the right-hand side portion just sliding out from under the HOB.

Netting
Ideally using a fairly stiff black mesh, I'd cover the portions of the tank shown in the post it below, while keeping emergent sides uncovered. Once I'm happy with the cut of the netting, I can silicone it in places to the frame, keeping it nice and taught. The black acrylic will hide rough edges, and the netting can be removed with a razor blade if it needs modifying.

Keeping it in place
To stop it from rattling around and falling apart when on the tank, I'll be utilising the power of magnets stuck to the end of every length of acrylic, and also to relevant points on the tank. The ones here https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00TACFT...v_ov_lig_dp_it are self-adhesive so should come off relatively easily should they need removing. Only thing I'm really worried about with these is the potential for rust.

Acrylic
The only reason I'm even able to consider this is that I have a good friend who speicalises in laser-cut acrylic, who should be able to make this out of either off-cuts or at cost. A lot of this is actually based off a table-top game board that he made recently, particularly the joins.

Now for the best bit; Where and why am I wrong? As previously stated, I have no DIY experience so am bound to have made mistakes. I'm constantly blown away by the amazing skills shown on this forum, so would love any constructive criticism or guidance that you might have.

Thanks!!
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Last edited by Thelongsnail; 11-04-2018 at 04:06 PM. Reason: technical issues
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-04-2018, 01:17 PM
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No thoughts on the mechanical but some experience with the jumpers? I find they can find even the most odd, small space and wind up in the floor! Things like the space left in the cover when a heater is removed can still let a fish out!!! Making it nearly airtight seems to be the only real solution but not one that I've worked out, even now.
So the point might be to keep in mind that fish jump for odd reasons and without any real plan for where they will land. I would not want to combine the emergent plants and opening with fish who jump and many fish will, even though they are not known for it in nature. Sometimes just walking into the room suddenly spooks my fish. I suspect too many might take the leap and go into the floor or on top of the netting? Both the opening and the netted portion look good but maybe not on the same tank as the fish will certainly be prone to hiding in amongst the plant stems and, if spooked, that puts them very close to the danger.
I like to see active minds working on things like this. Extra credit available to those who actually build and try some of their ideas!!
Don't let naysayers like myself put you off for too long!
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-04-2018, 01:32 PM Thread Starter
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@PlantedRich I absolutely agree! If I were to keep jumpers, I wouldn't bother with emergent plants, HOB, etc. and would have the entire tank/frame netted over.

This semi-cover is more of an experiment/fail-safe with my current stock of endlers. I've never had issues with them jumping & keep the water-line low, but wanted to try this out anyway. You've made a very good point about them landing on top of the net though, hadn't even thought of that! I'll attach my most recent photo of the top of the tank below - the water lettuce has filled in considerably since this was taken and I'm planning on planting in some dwarf lilies, but I must admit that I hadn't thought about fish lurking underneath.

You're not a nay-sayer at all - I posted this here for members such as yourself to critique, hopefully minimizing the number of issues I have to fix when I eventually make it!
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-04-2018, 02:08 PM
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Sometimes, I feel like I have let so many fish die on the floor that I must be a total dummy! I let a ropefish get out of the hole where I removed a heater and I'm not sure I could have stuffed him through! Don't they almost always hide at the bottom!!! The last fish I lost was found by my wife in my shirt pocket! The big escape in "Finding Nemo" is not totally beyond my imagination!
Do you have the means to get the laser-cut acrylic done? That sounds like it would be a really neat way to solve some things.
I've cut and fastened a number of covers using the light diffuser panels we call eggcrate but they also look like something I cut with a pair of snips. Definitely something to keep in the back room.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-04-2018, 02:20 PM Thread Starter
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Oh no! How do they manage it?? I haven't lost any for a few years now, but once came home from a holiday to find a "crispy" betta on the floor that my roommate had very kindly covered in a tissue for me.

A good friend of mine designs and makes laser-cut acrylic products, so I'm very fortunate there. This will probably have to wait until the new year though as his workplace is already busy in the run up to Christmas. I've spent so much time/effort/money on making this tank worthy of the living room, I can't bear the thought of covering it in eggcrate now!

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-04-2018, 09:01 PM
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I've a similar layout with rimless tank HOB, lights, emergent growth etc. that is currently covered in a selection of scrap pieces of clear acrylic sheet whilst I work on a solution to the problem.

Have you looked at the reef tank covers made in a similar way with window screen fittings and net? Might be a good source of inspiration. There doesn't seem much in the way of fittings available in the UK though.

I would guess that you'll find your mesh sags at the centre point over time if not straight away. How much will be the question though - you don't want it to hit the water.

Any reason for the choice of black acrylic/net rather than clear? I think with clear net a smoked or clear acrylic would look less imposing that black.

On magnets.. I would pre-seal them with varnish or similar. Just needs something to keep the moisture off and the magnet will still work.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-05-2018, 05:24 PM Thread Starter
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@tamsin Glad to know it's not just me with this problem then!

Those are what I was looking at originally, but had no idea how to get them to fit around all the equipment and decor. That and a lot of them seem to need a fair amount of tools that I don't have.

That's a very good point, I was hoping I could get it taut enough not to sag, but it'll probably sag over time anyway due to all the water.

I originally chose black acrylic because I could only find black mesh, however, I stumbled across some affordable clear fly screen mesh after posting this, so will probably go with clear instead!

Great tip with the magnets, will definitely do that

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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-08-2018, 02:10 AM
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I agree with others regarding jumpers. I had a 10O gallon all covered with lids. They jumped from the ultra small space from the over the box filter...

The sad thing is my cat was at my desk (my aquariums were in my bedroom where my computer desk was. This fish (which could survive a bit out of water) was as it turned out, stuck in my cats tail!!! (furry long hair). I had no idea. Later I found this dried up "leaf" looking thing. My poor boy!

All from a 1/2 of space from an over the back filter!!! Who knew. Later I added layers of fake plants around that outlet!
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-09-2018, 08:53 PM
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Neat idea, I am interested in seeing how this turns out.

In regards to the jumpers I almost lost a fish last week to this. I also have a very small open spot in the corner of a 135 Gallon. Last week in the living room I heard a sound over by the aquarium and went over to find out what it was but I could not track down what caused the sound. Looked all over. Almost 3 minutes passed when I stepped on Jack Dempsey covered in dust balls, and spider web. He had got out and jumped behind the tank. He flipped around and managed to get to the front of the tank in front of my foot. Was so worried I tossed him right into the tank without even cleaning him off as I was not aware how much was on him until I saw it all in the aquarium. Got it all cleaned out and him cleaned up and no problem for the past week. Hardy guy.
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