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Making Inexpensive Tank Covers

Making Inexpensive Tank Covers

Make four 10-gallon tank covers for under 5 bucks! 

With just a few tools, you can make durable and inexpensive tank covers using prismatic lens lighting panels. The material comes in 2 feet by 4 feet sheets are used as the lenses for fluorescent fixtures in drop ceilings. You can find it any hardware or home center store.

Before you get started…

  • Be safe! Wear safety goggles.
  • This projects involves the use of sharp tools. Be careful! This is not a project for kids.
Step Pictures

Tools Needed

a. Utility Knife 
— or — 
b. Acrylic cutter

c. Carpenters square

d. Fine-point marker

e. Cutting surface such as a sheet of plywood, not shown.

f. Fine Sandpaper, not shown.

g. Gorilla Glue (optional)

a.   b. 
c.   d. 
g.    
        

Materials

a. Purchase a 2' by 4' sheet ofStyrene Prismatic Clear Lighting Panel. The green labeled material at right is available from Home Depot. Expect to pay between $3 and $5.

This is the cheapest material and works better than more expensive acrylic sheets which warp.

b. Close up view of the material.

  a.   b.

Step 1

Measure the inside frame of your tank and subtract 1/8" from both the width and depth dimensions.

Step 2

Place the plastic sheet flat side up on a hard surface like a large piece of plywood.

Use the ruler to carefully measure across the shortest dimension of the sheet.

Mark a small line with the permanent marker.

Step 3

Lay the square on the sheet at the mark you made in Step 2.

Hold the square down firmly and score the sheet repeatedly with the utility knife (or acrylic cutter).

Continue scoring until you have cut through the material.

Step 4

Cut the corners to add access for airlines and heaters.

Simply score a corner and bend to snap.

    

Step 5

Smooth the edges with the fine sandpaper.

 

Optional Steps

Add a Knob

A knob makes it easy to remove the cover. Purchase the following:

  • Plastic knob
  • 1/2" Stainless steel screw to fit knob
  • 1" nylon washer

Drill a 3/16" hole about 1" from the front edge of the cover and install the knob.

   

Add a Feeding Hole

Use a 2" hole saw to add a feeding hole. A drill press gives the best results, but you can use a standard electric drill if you have a steady hand.

Use a backing board and work slowly through the material.

Add filter cut-outs

For outside filters, carefully measure from the edge of the tank to the furthest protruding edge of the filter.

Transfer these measurements to the tank cover and score the outline of the cutout.

Flex the cuts leading from the edge of the cover in first. Next, flex the cuts parallel to the edge and break out the piece.

You may need to reinforce the cover. See below.

Strengthen large covers

Large covers over 18" may need reinforcement. Some options:

a. Use Gorilla Glue (polyurethane glue) and plastic drywall corners. This is the easiest method. The glue hardens through the small holes adding strength.

b. Use clear corner protectors and stainless steel screws. You will also need to add a small nylon washer.

a. 
  

b. 

Photos by Rick Borstein.

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