How To Build A Fish Tank Canopy: The Basic Guide

how to build a fish tank canopy

When your aquarium is in need of a fish tank canopy, there’s no doubt that the cost of these so-called canopies can be costly. How about this – let’s save your money and focus on building one!

Wait, what? 

How to build a fish tank canopy for your aquarium, you asked?

I don’t know how you found or discover this article, but I can assure you that you’re in the right place. Props to you for finding this!

Before we get started, here’s what you can expect in this article:

  • Basic information about aquarium canopies.
  • The supplies required before your build.
  • The steps to help you build your fish tank canopy.

For quicker navigation, you can find the table of content right below.


Why Do People Avoid Buying Fish Tank Canopies?

Aquarium canopies can be extremely pricey at times, but for just a few dollars you can build your own fully custom fish tank canopy.

To give you an idea, the value of fish tank canopies can range between $25 to even $500.

Still not sure what a fish tank canopy is?

What Is A Fish Tank Canopy?

A fish tank canopy is usually a box-like structure that is used to hold mechanicals and/or lighting.

People often get an aquarium canopy in order to give their fish tank a neat and more pleasant look.

Often, canopies are sold together with decorative gadgets, however, creating your own canopy will give you the advantage of making decorative gadgets to your own liking.


Common Designs and Size

When people make their own aquarium canopy it is generally a 2 by 2 design, however, this guide will help you with the simplest design.

You can find wood panels to your liking at any home center.

Get An Accurate Measurement Before You Build

When you’re building the canopy, it is very crucial that you get all the measurements and sizing right.

This is necessary because let’s say you finish your build, you can deal with the canopy not fitting the top of your aquarium. This will cause more problems in the long run.

This project will conclude with 1 x 4 lumber molding along the top and bottom. When all edges are screwed at butt joints, you can decorate the edges with moldings to your liking.

You can be creative all you want after you complete your canopy build! 🙂

Before I take you to the guide, below is the checklist for the items that can help improve your building experience. There’s no need to get everything. 

Since every canopy is different, it’s recommended that you should collect what item is best for your personalized canopy.


The Supplies Required Before Your Build

garden snail calcium list
Photo by 472301 on Pixabay

Reminder: Not all items are required! Every fish tank canopy build is different.

List of Tools

You’ll need a few tools on this checklist. Below is the list of tools necessary:

  • Painting Supplies – To give your canopy a nice and vibrant color.
  • Measuring Tape – To measure the size of your aquarium tank, so you can get an idea of how big your canopy should be.
  • Hammer – You already know! To hammer nails together, obviously!
  • Nail Set – Nails are required to piece materials together.
  • Framing Square – It’ll help you during the process, trust me. Although this is not mandatory and you can find other alternatives.
  • Power Saw – To saw pieces of materials into the appropriate size.
  • Power Drill – You won’t only be hammering nails, but a drill will help secure certain materials.
  • Miter Saw – This one is optional. If you think it’ll help ease the process, by all means, add this to your list.

Now – you will need to collect materials. This is now your quest to collecting materials resulting in the most beautiful fish tank canopy ever!

List of Materials

List of materials that you’ll need:

  • 2-inch wood screws
  • Paint (certain people prefer wood finish, but it all really depends on you)
  • Bar clamps, another essential item
  • Boards for trim according to the size of your fish tank canopy (make sure you plan this, so you can get the right amount)
  • Glue for wood
  • Plywood 3/4-inch or 5/8-inch – The quantity really depends on the size of your fish tank canopy
  • 8 pieces of 2-inch angle brackets with screws included
  • 2 pieces of 3-inch brass butt hinges – another alternative that you can use are butterfly hinges
  • 1 1/4-inch brad

As intimidating as it sounds to collect all of these items, you can likely find half of these at home. The rest of these materials can likely be found at stores like ‘Home Depot.’

You can use whichever tools that are necessary to help ease simplify your build.


Building Your Fish Tank Canopy

In this section, you will get the basic guide. Please note that the steps are made for future readers to easily understand the process.

Every fish tank canopies will be quite different – size, color, build, etc.

You can add your creativity during this process. There’s no need to follow all the steps! Every fish tank canopies are different.

Let’s get started!

Measure And Sketch

To get the process started you will need to take precise measurements and preferably make a sketch of how you want your canopy to look like and how the plywood pieces will be placed together.

Since the canopy must be placed directly on the glass side of your fish tank, measurements must be accurately the same as your fish tank.

If your measurement is inaccurate, it can cause long-term problems during your fish tank canopy build. Measure properly!

For the canopy to be a perfect fit, the front and back panels have to correspond exactly to the aquarium length, the side panels being between the front and back.

It ensures that the side panels would be significantly shorter than the aquarium width, by a sum equal to the front and back panel thicknesses.

Advice: The canopy’s height can be whatever you prefer, but for better results, it is ideal to scale it with the fish tank’s height. Most canopies are usually 1/4 of the aquarium’s height.

Placing Butt Hinges

Next, you will need to place the butt hinges (or butterfly hinges) along the back of the canopy in order to make it possible for the canopy to be open and shut. To make it open and shut easier, you can place a brass handle in front of the lid.

Advice: It would be an ideal time to decide how to install some lighting fixtures onto the underside of the lid. If the light is connected to the underside of the door, the LED lights may be safer.

Assembling The Pieces

To start assembling, you need to first trim and fasten the front, back and sides, then add the top and finally finish or paint the canopy.

What to do: Following the measurements on your sketch, use a framing square and pencil, map out the front, back, and side panels onto a plywood board.

Next, cut out the pieces, position all the panels together, make sure the corners are reinforced with angle brackets, then attach the lid.

You can continue on from there and add a little creativity to your canopy! 🙂


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