How to Make Your Own Aquarium Lighting for a Canopy

Written by amber decourcy
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How to Make Your Own Aquarium Lighting for a Canopy
Canopies with lights add an aesthetic appeal as well as help live plants thrive in your home aquarium. (Aquarium image by crossgolfing from

The addition of a light to any aquarium not only enhances the visual appeal, but can help live plants thrive. Building your own lighted canopy for your tank is a rewarding way to customise your fish keeping experience. The benefit of proper lighting in a tank with live plants is the reason many fish enthusiasts are building their own lighted canopies in lieu of buying manufactured ones. Not only can you design the canopy the way you want it to look, you can also make it in the exact size your tank requires.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 4 3/4-by-4-inch boards
  • 4 3/4-by-3/4-inch square wooden rods
  • Plywood (5/8-inch thick)
  • 9 locking bulb clips
  • 6 prewired bulb caps
  • 3 standard fluorescent aquarium light bulbs
  • 3 hinges with provided screws
  • 8 1/4-inch wood screws
  • 7 3/8-inch wood screws
  • Power drill
  • Measuring tape
  • Saw
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • White paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Wood stain or paint in desired colour

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  1. 1

    Measure the length and width of your aquarium, and write it down on a piece of paper, adding 3/4-inch onto both measurements. Cut the 3/4-by-4-inch boards and plywood to the final measurements. Cut one of the ends on each of the two 3/4-inch boards for the width measurement at a 1/4-inch angle, and both ends on one of the 3/4-inch boards for the length measurement at a 1/4-inch angle as well. When placed together, all three pieces should make a "U" shape.

  2. 2

    Screw the three angled boards together with four of the 1/4-inch wood screws. Take the fourth 3/4-inch board without the tapered ends, and lay it horizontally on top of the two width cut boards at the open end. Screw this board into place with the remaining four 1/4-inch wood screws. The open space below the board enables any filters and air pump lines to pass through uninhibited.

  3. 3

    Attach three of the 3/4-inch by 3/4-inch wooden square rods to the three tapered 3/4-inch by 4-inch boards on the inside of the box. Find the centre of each board by measuring the length and marking the centre off with the pencil. Using two of the 3/8-inch screws, screw the square rods into place on the boards with a screw on each end.

  4. 4

    Flip the box over, and measure the length of the horizontal top 3/4-inch by 4-inch board, marking off the centre with the pencil. Center the fourth square rod over the centre pencil mark, making the rod stick up vertically. While holding the rod in place, carefully turn the box over onto a side, and screw the rod into place with the last 3/8-inch screw.

  5. 5

    Cut the 5/8-inch plywood to the same length and width of the canopy box. Fasten the three hinges to the horizontal 3/4-by-4-inch board at the very edge outwards from the box. Paint the inside of the lid and box white so the reflection of your lights are maximised. Let paint dry up to four hours, then screw the plywood lid onto the top part of the hinges so the board lays flush to the top of the box.

  1. 1

    Attach the nine locking bulb clips to the inside of the hood at equal lengths apart, and in three rows of three clips. Keep the lights roughly 1-inch away from the edge of the box front and the edge of the horizontal 3/4-inch by 4-inch board. Use the tape measure and pencil to note the exact spots each clip will go so the clips are spaced out evenly.

  2. 2

    Slide the three fluorescent bulbs into place within the clips. Shut the lid and make sure the clips and bulbs are secured upon the lid. Reopen the lid, and attach the pre-wired waterproof end caps onto the light bulbs. Place the canopy onto the aquarium and plug in the lights to test out the new canopy.

  3. 3

    Remove the canopy from the tank, and remove the bulbs from the lid, setting them aside. Paint the outside of the lid and box in the stain or paint colour desired, and let dry four to six hours. Reattach the bulbs in the clips, and place the finished canopy onto the aquarium.

Tips and warnings

  • Prewired, waterproof end caps can be purchased at most local fish shops.
  • You may use as many or as few lights as needed.
  • Mirrored reflective material can be used in lieu of white paint.
  • Always use caution when using power tools and saws.
  • Wear protective gear when cutting, drilling and painting.

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