Introduction: Glow Tank Coffee Table

Picture of Glow Tank Coffee Table

This is an easy modern cube coffee table. You will feel green after you have completed this project. Also the light from the cube will give you an "under 25" look.

Step 1: Find a Fish Tank.

Picture of Find a Fish Tank.

This is the easiest, or hardest step. If you need to find a tank, I recommend apartment complexes. Your best odds are at the end of the month. People will usually leave them outside of the dumpsters.

(Note: The term "Dumpster Diving" is offensive. We now use the term "Being green").

Now use cleaner and get all the crud out of the tank.

Step 2: Paint the Top.

Picture of Paint the Top.

I can't stand fake wood finish, so I used plain Acrylic Craft Paint. Use Painters Tape to keep the glass clean if you choose to do this highly recommend step.

There is usually two of these plastic straps. One at the top, and bottom. On this model, the bottom was cracked, so I ripped it off.

Step 3: Make a Top.

Picture of Make a Top.

Use a bored of some kind to seal the top. I had good luck with an old Cork Board I "Greened" from an office remodel.

Measure twice, cut once. Or... just lay it across the top, and cut it to fit.

Note: Leave enough material so that the board will sit on the flange of the fish tank, and not fall through.

This will eventually be the back of the table.

Step 4: More Materials.

Picture of More Materials.

Now you will need some Tissue Paper, and White Glue.

Classic white was the way I went, But use your imagination, Any color will work, and mixing them will give you some cool rainbows.

The amount of paper depends on the size of the tank. Don't be stingy. You will need to cover the entire tank at least 3 times.

If you get presents, save the paper. rips, and wrinkles wont hurt.

Step 5: Paste Time.

Picture of Paste Time.

Mix the White Glue, and Hot Tap Water.

The recommended Mixture is 40% Glue to 60% Hot Water.

Now you don't have to boil the water, just hot water from the tap will do.

Mix the two together in a Jar or Glass.

Use a Paint Brush to mix, and apply the paste in the next step.

Step 6: Paper Your Heart Out.

Picture of Paper Your Heart Out.

Now its time to paper.

Use the Tissue Paper to line the INSIDE of the Tank. Use whole pieces, then tear some up. There is no wrong way to do this.

Pour the Glue / Water mixture first. Spread it all around. Then toss the paper on top. It will soak up the mixture. tap it down with the brush. and layer more paper on top of that. Layer at least 3 of these. use the brush to get in all the corners.

Let it dry for about 1 hour. then do the next side.

Step 7: Bright Idea!

Picture of Bright Idea!

Now its time to install the Light.

Any Cold Light will work.

DON"T USE AN INCONDESSENT BULB. It will get hot, and you are asking for a fire.

I used a Floressent Bulb. 22 for this sized tank.

Use double sided Tape or Hot Glue to mount the light to the center of bottom of the board that you cut earlier.

Turn the light on. After the board is installed you will not be able to flip the switch. Better yet, find a light with a rotating switch on the cord.

Run the cord out of the tank, and close it up.

Step 8: All Done.

Picture of All Done.

Set the tank on its side.

If You would like, set the tank on a stand of some kind, but it is not necessary. I made a simple stand out of scrap plywood, and some feet from an old chair. This gives it a floating effect.

Plug it in and let the cool-ness flow.


dmb321 (author)2011-05-29

clever I am going to the salvation army right noe and get a fish tank!

bagshotrow (author)2010-03-11

oh wow, that's gorgeous. I think it'd be cool to use black contact paper and inlay a design on the surface that becomes the top. You could do it on the inside of the tank before you apply the white paper, that way the table remains glassy smooth.

blindboxx2334 (author)bagshotrow2011-03-24

Dumb ?... if you went glass, black contact paper, then white tissue paper, wouldn’t it be black?? And how would that make it glass smooth? care to go more in depth? thanks.

bagshotrow (author)blindboxx23342011-03-27

Layer 1: Glass
Layer 2: Design in black contact paper--you don't cover the whole tank, you just cut out shapes or lettering and stick them on.
Layer 3: White paper to diffuse light.

It doesn't make the glass smoother, just smoother than the way some people would try to do it (applying paint/contact paper to the finished tabletop, which is silly.)

rrobinson-1 (author)2011-03-08

this is an epic table i LOVE it

DIY-Guy (author)2010-10-15

Neat idea for a broken aquarium. Looks pretty.

Although, after thinking about it awhile...
Wouldn't it be cool to have an aquarium coffee table? :)
Or would that make us look like we are not under 25 years old?
Fish inside a lighted coffee table could be an awesome variation of your design!

mytechuniverse (author)2009-03-22

I think fluorescent bulbs get hot too. I say this because I built a shop lighting rig with fluorescent bulbs, and when the bulb was on it did get hot. However, I could be wrong.

mikev88 (author)mytechuniverse2009-03-30

The BULBS do not get hot, the BALLAST used to light the lights gets HOT...

Konnrade (author)mikev882009-04-01

no, believe me, flourescents get hot as well. A stick flourescent bulb will still get hot enough to be uncomfortable to touch. However the major difference is that an incandescent can get hot enough to give serious burns if left on for long enough, or start fires. An incandescent bulb's filament can get hotter than the surface of the sun and over time the bulb slowly builds up more and more heat from the radiance of it. Flourescents don't get to quite that hot a temperature so are much less of a fire hazard.

BSligh (author)Konnrade2009-11-01

Here is an idea that i'm stealing from someone else. USE LED's!! As said before, they are very cool and very fun. No worries about them getting hot, you getting burned, or them burning out often.

Remeber, only you can prevent house fires.... or something like that...

pblock (author)2009-05-02

That is straight ballin' It is what hippies would do if they laid the bong down for a bit lol. Nice idea.

FeedTheGrid (author)2009-04-24

Awesome! I want one, too. Maybe I could use lots of LED's. What do you think? FTG

leggett_jr (author)FeedTheGrid2009-04-25

LED's... Genious! As long as you choose a "Cold Light" source youll be rocking. Also with the led source, you can do so wicked color changing effects.. You'll be the talk of the party! P.S. I added some retro legs to the cube, I'll post them soon for ya!

javajunkie1976 (author)2009-03-28

Nice job. I built something similar but on mine, I combined this type of project with another one (found here on this site), where I cultured biolumenscent bacteria and used that as my glow.

xCoolYourJetsx (author)2009-03-26

totally rad. I'm about to move to my first apartment (probably a loft) and I'm looking for some neat ideas for furniture and such. could you use those rope lights? or would that get hot...never had one so I wouldn't know

mikev88 (author)2009-03-21

IF you are going to paint the entire inside with the glue, why not just paint the entire inside with some left over colored latex paint - you will be saving the environment from the leftover paint being dumped somewhere!! Let the kids next door help with the project to improve your status with the neighbors!! Just remember to spread it thin and there is no need to water it down......

Karikaru (author)mikev882009-03-24

I'd like to see this done with paint. it might make the end result look more solid and uniform without the paper texture.

maxstevenson (author)2009-03-11

What is the creature in the intro picture? A cat?

Actually, I think it's a ferret.

leggett_jr (author)maxstevenson2009-03-12

Nope, its a ferrit. Rosko to be speffic. he gets hypnotized easily.

it looks like a farrett

Phoghat (author)2009-03-20

Instead of the fluorescents you could use cold cathodes (UV might be interesting) or LED strips from

captaincoolness55 (author)2009-03-20

lol, you're right about finding them at apartment buildings. theres a fish/lizard tank that someone left in the halway last month and people filled it up with old shoes and lost clothes. :P

papier_kari (author)2009-03-19

This is awesome! I wish I had the patience to fabricate this work of art! :-)

illdoyourdrugs (author)2009-03-18

Dude this is awesome. Easy and effective. Nice job.

pojken (author)2009-03-15

Ummm, not to rain on your parade, but aquariums use relatively thing glass - at least ones that size. They're not made of tempered glass either, meaning that they will shatter in shards, which could be very dangerous. One heavy bang of a glass by someone's heel or a mug and there goes the table... and maybe a few sliced arteries. - as an example

It was a good idea, though. Maybe if you use a sheet of plexiglass on top to protect it or use some kind of frosted film (available at Home Depot - called window privacy film or at sign stores). That way, if it does break, the film will hold the shards together and won't cause major damage.

Once had a a glass cupboard and banged it shut which broke the glass sending a large sharp piece into the top of my hand - hurt, bled, etc... Not fun.

pojken (author)pojken2009-03-15

Oh, and yes, some larger and more expensive tanks are tempered (which makes the glass stronger and safer), but likely NOT the ones that you buy at a regular store and certainly not ones that people will toss out. They are a bit more expensive (brother used to have several tanks). - likely NOT what you will find in the dumpster. Again, just be very careful, yeah?

snarfnugget (author)2009-03-12

nice...the final product looks AWESOME. Without changing the feel of the table, how about applying the paper to the inside? That way you have the durability of the glass. It can be cleaned easier. and you get that sweet second surface depth out of it. Nice idea tho..I may even try it on some glass table tops I have. And instead of a color wheel, try one of those LED night lights that can be white or color shifting.

nachobobs (author)snarfnugget2009-03-12

The paper IS on the inside of the glass.

nachobobs (author)2009-03-11

The side with the board would be best pushed up against a wall. These would also be cool in a scaled down version attached to internal "floating" brackets and a series of them on a wall.

Twlight (author)2009-03-11

You could stencil the around the bottom with a flat black to give it a cool shadow effect. I think a bamboo stencil would look pretty sweet.

also a color changing led light bulb would give it a cool effect and make it more efficient

thekanester (author)2009-03-10

Very nice. You could also use glass frosting spray, instead of tissue paper, if you prefer a smoother and more professional finish. It would also be less likely to dry out and crack over time. It's also easy to insert a colour-wheel-fan mounted above the bulb, so that when the hottish air of the bulb rises it causes the fan to spin around slowly casting nice shadows on the inside of the table. Hey - you've got me thinking about all these ideas! There's nothing better than an instructable that inspires others!

you could etch the glass that would look awesome

Shut Up Now (author)thekanester2009-03-10

if you use the frosting spray on the inside it could give you a very clean finish look. depends on the quality of the tank.

leggett_jr (author)thekanester2009-03-10

You are a genius! The colour wheel sounds like fun!

finfan7 (author)2009-03-10

This is cool but this has no under table space for your feet. Maybe as an end table...

leggett_jr (author)finfan72009-03-10

Who puts their feet under a coffee table? Doesn't everybody put them on top? Haha-- Thanks for the comment!

finfan7 (author)leggett_jr2009-03-10

Seems like putting your feet on this table might be dangerous if you don't think about how you go about it.

tchiseen (author)2009-03-10

No offense, but your paper job is pretty, uh, 'green'. I would have just picked up a spray-can of glass-frosting, it probably would have cost the same as your glue/paper, and would have looked a bit better.

leggett_jr (author)tchiseen2009-03-10

thank you for the comment. I prefer the paper look, however, the frosting would look fantastic. Good thinking!

CaVeFaIrY (author)2009-03-10

Now this is fantastic but then again your a heck of a lot more creative than people on the Top Design reality show. I do agree that it would be fun to see in a different color such as..... yellow and a giant red star on it. :)

PKM (author)2009-03-10

Yay, paper-diffused light! I really want to see a set of chairs to go with this.. not sure how that would work because the fishtank probably isn't the most comfortable to sit on, but it would look so cool in the dark. I wonder if you can get totally transparent beanbags?

golddigger1559 (author)2009-03-10

your right diving is green

jessyratfink (author)2009-03-10

This is very neat! Does it get very warm?

leggett_jr (author)jessyratfink2009-03-10

No, not at all. as long as you use a cold light, like a fluorescent, or led bulb.

gmjhowe (author)2009-03-10

Great idea! The final effect you get with the light shining through is great. This is a simple idea that could also be easily used on a glass top table also.

ncmorone (author)2009-03-10

wow! that is cool! you always did have a knack for making furniture...i still remember the lounge chair you made and covered with fabric for your room in Virden :-D oh and who could forget the push cart we made out of those cool logs in riverton...those were the good 'ol days!!! i miss being around you.

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