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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. 


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.



Photos by Rick Borstein.


Some of you here have commented on the background I have started to use for my tanks…. and asked me to do a simple DIY for this easy to complete background that shows well, lasts well, and is much less work intensive than the DIY backgrounds using Great Stuff expandable foam, quickrete, and paint.

It’s very simple really, as a guy who is not a fan of the “Great Stuff Backgrounds” (although very cool, they interfere with my HOB filters and take away too much space from a thinner tank: i.e.: a 55 gallon is only 47” x 12” inside dimension). With the Central American Cichlids I have, they need every inch of space I can give them.

Basically I started to standard spray paint my tanks before installing them, well you know we are always looking for something different, so in a effort to “think outside of the box” I was perusing my local home center looking for paint for my 55, it was wintertime and I had to do it indoors, my garage was too cold (below 50 degrees) so I was going to do it in my basement, as I was looking for your standard gloss black/low VOC Latex, (I like the dark and the way my CA/SA Cichlids color up with the dark background and also use a dark substrate) and I came across a spray can of Rust-Oleum Stone Creations…… I tested it on my 20L and I could not be any happier.

I will say this; the Stone Coat is not something that you could do indoors. I took the tank over to my brother’s car dealership and painted it in the shop (weekend). It has high VOC’s! But the results speak for themselves. If you are able, do it during the spring or fall when the temperatures are not to cool and not too hot, that way the garage is a good place, and as soon as each coat is complete, ventilate your paint area, like I said HIGH VOC’s can kill you!

Stone Coat comes in a bunch of different colors: I am unsure of attaching a link to a Manufacturer, (I will provide the link if asked or you can PM me and Ill email it to you).

So I will just give a quick rundown of the colors I saw. (Percentages are just guesstimates on my part)

Black Granite (N7991) Black (70%) with shots of White (10%), Grey (10%) and Silver (10%) mixed in.

Bleached Stone (N7990) Tan (85%), with a Light Brown (15%).

Canyon Moss (N7987) Black (75%), Grey (12.5%), and a Moss Green (12.5%).

Granite Stone (N7989) Brown (75%), Black (12.5%), and a Grey (12.5%).

Grey Stone (N7992) Grey (75%), Black (10%), White (10%), Silver (5%).

Mineral Brown (N7988) Brown (85%), Tan (15%).

Sienna Stone (N7994) Brown (35%), Tan (35%), Natural Red (5%), Black (10%), White (15%).

Tuscan Rock (N7986) Mustard Yellow (75%), Brown (20%), Black (5%)

Other needed materials:

Clear Coat (V2102938) Fast Dry Hard Hat coating.

3M Blue Paint Masking Tape: (1”) Standard 3M Paint Masking Tape Model Number 2090

I don’t think you need me to tell you to tape off the edges of the tank, cover the top as well; I more or less wrap the entire tank with newspaper except for what I am painting.

This is a 3-4 coat process followed by a quick clear coat at the end to add strength to the back.

1) Using you painter’s tape, tape off entire tank more than 1 layer (newspaper, Chicago Sun-Times works great, I go with 3 layers, never have had a issue).

2) Clean and dry surface of glass (You have no idea how Windex F’s up a paint job should you start and forget/miss a 1”x2” area).

3) Break out your stone coat (I use Black Granite Rust-Oleum Model Number: N7991) and lightly coat glass covering all areas).

4) It is a textured spray paint, resist the urge to touch, (I could not) it will need overnight to dry. Do NOT overcoat, the more paint you lay on the more likely it will not be dry when you want to re coat (dries to the touch in 1-2 hours my ***!)

5) Ready for coat 2? Now try the touch. If it is dry, take a flashlight to the inside of the tank and look for weak coats. Reapply.

6) Retape you newspaper layers

7) Apply the test again for coat 3, and then apply the final coat of Stone Coat.

Cool Now that you have completed the Stone Coat, apply 1 thin but complete coat of clear (I use hard hat coating Rust-Oleum Model number: V2102938) Remember that the Stone Coat is a textured paint, and although you will not feel it yourself, it will chip easy if you do not apply a clear coat of some kind.

I am attaching the images from when I did the 20L. I will add more images to this if asked, as I will be doing this on a much larger scale with my new 110 and 150 in the next month or two.

(Images to follow)

Comments?? Opinions??  Huh?

Get a Buyer or Seller Number  Auction Rules   Auction Seller Sheet   How to Buy at an Auction

Different than a Swap Meet

An auction is different that a swap meet. Each bag of fish is sold individually, in order, by our auctioneer.

You need to Register

You will need to register to buy fish. On our calendar, the link to the Auction page contains instructions so you can register as a buyer, seller or both.

You may also register the day of the auction in person.

Checking In

When you arrive at the auction, check-in as a buyer. You will need to leave a major credit card or drivers license as collateral.

Viewing Fish for Sale

Bags of fish are placed on tables in the rear of the room. Take this opportunity to see what is available for sale.

Viewing is allowed during check-in. However, viewing will be closed for approximately 15 minutes prior to the auction to allow the bags to be moved to the auctioneer. Viewing will then be open during the entire auction.

The Auctioneer and Bidding

Have a seat and listen to the auctioneer. The auction starts at 10AM and goes until the last bag of fish is sold.

Our auctioneer will describe the bag of fish by the latin and and common name (if applicable). For example: "Here's an adult trio of the Lemon Yellow Cichlid, Labidochromis caereuleus, each about 3" long."

Next, the auctioneer will ask for a starting bid. "Who will start me off at five bucks for this bag of fish?"

To bid, raise your buyer number in the air. The auctioneer will recognize your bid. Keep bidding up until you've made your purchase. Bids must be proceed at minimum increments of $1.

If you win, keep your buyer card up and the auctioneer will recognize you. Your buyer number will be recorded. A runner will bring your fish to you and ask you to sign a buyer slip.

Bidding Stategy

Priority Bags
Did you find a bag of fish in the viewing area you really want to buy, but don't know when it will come up for sale? You can purchase ($3) a Priority Sticker for the bag you want. Our auction staff will bring up the priority bag for auction immediately. You will still need to bid against others to secure your purchase.

You can bid more if you really want the bag of fish. For example, if the current bid is $5, you could raise your bid card in the air and yell $10. This strategy may deter others from bidding against you.

Starting Price
You do not need to accept the auctioneers starting price. For example, let's say a group of adult discus comes up for sale. The auctioneer might ask for a starting bid of $50. You could raise your buyer card and shout "Twenty Dollars". The auctioneer will likely accept your bid and bidding will progress from that amount.

Checking out the Fish
If you're not sure about the fish that is up for bid, you can walk up to the front of the room to take a look. Move fast, though. We usually move through 100 bags of fish per hour.

Buyer Slips

For each purchase you make, you will receive a Buyer Slip. This slip documents:

  • Your buyer number
  • Amount paid
  • Seller Number
  • Seller Bag Number

Hold onto your buyer slips. you will need them to check out.

How do I check out and pay for my purchases?

You may check-out any time during the auction. If you decide not to purchase any items, you will still need to return your buyer card and number to the cashier to receive your collateral.

If you have purchase fish, bring your buyer slips with you.The cashier will ask and collect your buyer number, and confirm the amount owed with you.

After payment, your collateral (Drivers License) will be returned.

Accepted Forms of Payment for Purchases
Bring plenty of cash or your checkbook, since GCCA doesn't take credit cards.

Final Thoughts

Please remember all of the staff at the auction are volunteers. We want to make your auction experience a good one. Please treat everyone you meet with respect. Any conflicts will be handled by the Auction Chairman.