"Turn Your Dead PC Into an Aquarium"




Introduction: "Turn Your Dead PC Into an Aquarium"

What to do with a dead outdated PC??? Turn it into an Aquarium!

I had an old outdated dead PC laying around and seeing how I wasn't using it for anything I decided to turn it into an aquarium. For a long time now I always wanted to somehow get a real aquarium into a  PC.  It all started when I found a glass block called the 'Krafty Block' at a local Hobby Lobby. It was small enough to fit in my dead PC, hollow, and water tight.  And so the project began working everything around this block. During the build I replaced the power supply to power up the Neon Light and Air pump and to my surprise the PC booted up!!! Sweet!!! A  PC and Aquarium in one.  The PC is too old to really do anything with but I have a Web cam hooked to it that sits behind the fish tank looking out at people looking in. Want to build one? Here is how I did it.

Special Note: No fish were harmed in the making and use of this instructable. The PC is on during display purposes only and is otherwise turned off . The water stays a steady 78.4 deg. when "ON" and Bettas are a tropical fish and thrive on heat. My fish has been living in the PC for a while now.  Also note that the PC doesnt vibrate much at all when "ON". I encourage you to please make sure you do your research if using any live animal in your project. Thanks


This instructable deals with water and electricity of up to 110V AC being in very close proximity to each other. I made sure that my aquarium was well sealed in case of the PC was bumped causing the water to slosh around. Please exercise extreme caution when attempting to put any type of conductive liquid near high voltage/high current devices. Also note that before beginning this project I let my aquarium, block filled with water, sit in the PC with the PC turned on for 24 hours to see if the block would build up any moisture. Mine did not but that's not to say that yours will not due to certain geographical areas or conditions. Please be careful and if there is any sign of moisture build up disconnect power and do not continue this project. By building this project your assume all liability.

Step 1: Parts and Tools List

Here the Parts/Tool list I used. Amazing how much stuff when you write it all down.

Qty Part Source


4 Zinc Bolts (Will cut to size) (Lowes)
1 1in Hose Clamp (Lowes)
2 1/4in Wing Nut (Lowes)
1 2ft Long 1/4in wide course threaded rod (Lowes)
2 1/4 Washers (Lowes)
4 1/4 Nuts (Lowes)
2 1/4 lock washers (Lowes)


1 Satin Green Spray Paint
1 Satin Purple Spray Paint
1 Satin Black Spray Paint
2 Multi Purpose Primer Spray Paint

Building Material:

1 2ft x 2 ft 1/4in expanded PVC ex. Sintra (I got some free scrap from a local source)
1 2ft x 2ft 3/4 MDF Wood (Does not have to be MDF) (Lowes)


1 1' ft long 3/4"in width PVC Pipe (Lowes)
1 3/4" in PVC Pipe Coupler (Lowes)
1 11/4" in PVC Cap (Lowes)


1 Krafty Block (Hobby Lobby)
1 5-15Gallon Air Pump (Walmart)
1 Air Pump Air Line (Walmart)
1 Check Valve (Should come with pump) (Local Pet Store)
1 5in Bubble Stone (Walmart)
1 Bag of aquarium rocks (Walmart)


2 Wire Caps (Lowes)
1 110V Lighted SPST switch (Radio Shack)
2 Insulated Female Disconnect Connector (14-16Gauge) (Lowes)
1 15in 12V Black Neon (Automotive style) (Local surplus electronic store)
1 Standard 6ft Extension Cable (Walgreens)
1 "Female" PC Power Supply connector (Pulled from scrap equipment)


Safety Glasses
Dust Mask
Drill Press
1/4in Wrench ( Will need two)
Bench Grinder (May not be needed but makes life easier)
Brad Nailer
1in and 5/8in Brad Nails
3/4 in Hole Saw
1 1/8 in Hole Saw
2 in Hole Saw
2 1/2 in Hole Saw
400 Grit Sand Paper
120 Grit Sand Paper
Sanding Block
Metal File (Can use sand paper)
1/4in Drill Bit
3/8in Drill Bit
5/16 in Straight Bit for Router
3/8 in Round over Router Bit
Router Circle Jig
Hot Glue Gun
Tape Measure
Air Compressor
Air Nozzle
Soldering Iron
Compass (Kind you use to draw a circle)
Straight Edge
Miter Saw


Misc size Zip Ties (Lowes)
Bag of 1in x 1in Mounting Bases for Zip Ties (Lowes)
Roll of cork (Local Hardware store)
Weather stripping (Lowes or Automotive Store)
Double sided mounting tape (Lowes)

Step 2: Side Panel Cut

The first thing you need to do is determine exactly where your tank is going to be placed. Once you find this out mark the center of your tank. Measure the distance from the bottom of the PC case to the middle of the tank. Then measure the distance from the back of the PC case to the middle of the tank. Transfer that measurement to the side panel to determine where the center of the tank will be. Determine the circumference of the tank. Use a compass to draw your circle on the cover.

Once you have your circle drawn its time to cut the circle out. Using a drill press or drill with a 3/8 in drill bit, drill a pilot hole within the circle as close to the line as possible. With the cover securely clamped down to a sturdy surface cut out your circle. The hole doesn't have to be perfect as the trim will cover the cut. Once your circle is cut use some 120 grit sand paper to knock the burr off on the edges.

I made some trim to make it look like a port hole on a boat  but you could use anything like some car door trim or leave it as is.

Step 3: Build the Tank Stand

Now that we have the hole cut out on the cover we can build our tank stand. Its better to cut the hole on the cover first so we can properly line up our tank.

I used some plastic scrap thrown away by a local plastics company to build the tank stand and lid. I used sintra because its moisture resistance.

I found that my tank need to be raise up by 2 1/8 inches to line up properly with the hole on the cover.

Here are the measurements of the pieces used for my tank.

8 1/4 x 2 3/8
3 1/4 x 2 3/8 (need two)
7 1/2 x 3 1/4

I used a miter saw for all the cuts.

You can see how I nailed everything together using 5/8 inch brad nails with a brad nailer in the picture.

Don't forget to notch out the bottom front of your stand so it will clear the lip of your PC case. This will insure a flush fit against your side cover.

Step 4: Build the Tank Lid

Now that we have our stand built we need to build the tank lid.

Here are the measurements for the lid.

9 1/4" x 3 1/4"
1/2" x 3 1/4" (need two)
1/2" x 7 1/2"

Check out the picture to see how its all nailed together.

Step 5: Finishing the Lid

Once the top is put together its time to drill a hole for the air line, mounting holes, and air/food hole.

I drilled a 3/4" in hole directly in the center of the lid for the air/food hole. Then with some more scrap plastic I cut a circle using a 2 1/2" in hole saw. I then re-cut the circle using a 1 1/8" in hole saw using the original pilot hole from the 2 1/2" in hole saw as a starting point. The end result gave me a perfect ring that I could mount over the 3/4" in hole in the lid. This allows the PVC pipe to lay on top of the lid without going into the tank and using the ring as a collar to keep the pipe from sliding from side to side. I made one more smaller ring using the same method with a 2" in hole saw and 1 1/8" in hole saw. Stack it on top of the first ring, line it up, and nail it to the lid over the 3/4" in hole.

For mounting holes drill a 1/4" in hole in the middle from top to bottom and 3/8" from the side. Repeat on the opposite side. Then drill another 1/4" hole for the Air Line drilled in the center from top to bottom 3 5/8" from the left side. Note this is a picture from the back of the lid.

Last thing to do is line the inside if the lid with some weatherstripping. I used some I had leftover when I replaced my tail lights on my car.

You can see the end result in the last picture.

Step 6: Mount Tank

Now that we have the Tank Lid and Stand built we need to secure it so that it doesn't shift.

We are going to use two 10 5/8" in threaded rods 1/4" wide along with 2 two 1/4" in wing nuts, four 1/4" in nuts, and two lock washers.

First we need to mark our holes to mount the rods to the bottom of the PC.The best way I found to do this is mark the center front of the tank base. Transfer that mark the the lip of the bottom of the PC case. Then mark the center of the tank lid. Remove the tank base and replace it with the lid. Mark where the 1/4 in holes are on the lid to the bottom of the PC case. Using a drill with a 1/4 bit drill your holes. Run your rod through the bottom if the PC and attach a 1/4" nut. Then on the inside of the PC attach a lock washer and then another 1/4" nut. Tighten it up and repeat for the other side. Once you have your tank in and lid on install a 1/4: in washer and screw on the wing nut. Repeat for the other side and tighten lid down. See pictures for reference.

Step 7: Air/Food Tube

We need to drill a hole in the top of the PC to insert an Air/Food tube. You can mark your hole by taking the tank lid and laying it on top of the PC. Using the same method that we used to mark the mounting hole for the bottom the the Aquarium lid, mark the center hold for the air/food line. I used a 11/8" in Bi/Metal hole saw to make the cut. Your tube needs to line up exactly with the hole you cut in your lid.

After you cut the hole in the top of the PC cut your 3/4" in PVC pipe down to 7 3/4" in to use as the Air/Food Tube

After paint cap it off with a 3/4 " in coupler and 1 1/4" in cap with a 3/4" in hole cut into it.

Step 8: Paint

At this point we are ready for paint. Sand all your parts you plan on painting with some 220 grit sand paper. Blow all parts off with your air compressor. Tape off the inside of your PC. Follow the directions on spray paint cans as this will give you the best end result. I put about 3-4 coats of primer on all the parts followed by 3-4 coats of my primary paint.

Step 9: Adding Some Light

To make the interior of the PC "POP" I added a 15in black neon automotive style light. I mounted it to a hole I cut in the replacement power supply. For power hook up I cut the automotive cigarette style connector off and wired on a female PC power supply connector. The black light turns on as soon as you turn the PC on.

Step 10: Adding the Air Pump

I didn't want to cut up the power cord on the air pump so I installed a regular extension cable tapped in from the Power Supply to the front of the PC where my Air Pump was going. Its important to ohm out the cable to know where to tap into the power supply. Improperly hooking this up may cause the air pump to suck in water rather then blow out air. This may lead to a short as water will get to the electrical pump in the air pump. Check the wiring diagram for proper hook up.

I ran one leg of the power cord through an illuminated switch mounted to a blank plate under the CD Rom. Measure the middle of the blank plate, cut hole in proportion to the diameter of the switch your using. Secure the switch and reference the wiring diagram and pictures for hook up.

Step 11: Assemble and Your Done!!!

Now all the pieces are done and you can assemble your PC Aquarium. I added some silicate packs in the PC for an added moisture barrier. Hope you enjoyed this instructable as much as I did making it. Look for more instructables coming soon.

If you have any questions about this build please feel free to ask and dont forget to vote for me for the "Dead Computer Contest".   :-)


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    4 years ago

    Great fun for the whole family, including the CAT!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    no offense but that tank is disgustingly small for that poor fish!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    beta fish prefer really small tanks actually his is bigger than what i had for mine


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Its actually a myth that bettas prefer small tanks. They love to swim from one side of a large tank to the other side. They go great in a community aquarium as long as you don't put 2 or more males together. I know, I am a major tropical fish hobbiest.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Why would any fish, that comes from outside originally ever want to live in a tiny space? Doesn't make any sense to me. That can only be a myth.
    No personal ofense intended.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    That tank is definitely bigger than most bettas get access to. Great project.

    mike patterson
    mike patterson

    11 years ago on Step 11

    This is GREAT! Although in one picture it looks more like a Cat TV set.....lol


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 11

    dude yeah! haaha that pic is hilarious! lol


    11 years ago on Introduction

    How do you clean the tank and change the water? I would be worried about splashing the computer.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    The tank is sealed via weather stripping attached under the lid and is screwed down via wing nuts. You can slosh the tank back and forth without any water being spilled. And yes, the PC does work despite what cdousley stated. You simply shut the PC down normally, remove power, open the cover, remove wing buts, remove lid, and remove the tank. The whole process takes less then 5 minutes. Thanks, Patrick


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Poor fish will get so much RF and other EMF noise :( I bet it will die much faster than ordinary aquarium fishes.. animal rights protectors? anyone?


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Please note that this PC is used for display purposes only and is usually turned "OFF".  Your more then welcome to check the health of my fish by checking out fishy cam www.ustream.tv/channel/pc-aquarium-by-patrick-becker . As far as  EMF/RF I wonder how much is coming off of the UV/Incad lights, water heater, and water filter that are on most of the time on normal aquariums.



    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    The ordinary aquarium appliances don't emit much noise. What you can't really say about the memory and peripheral bus of a PC. The power lines must be really noisy too ;) especially those connected to the hard drive and cd.

    Not that I care much - but fish doesn't talk, so we can't really say how it feels. And not that it needs it's brain undamaged for some hard work - so we won't notice a thing ;)

    But if it (and it's successors) do die faster than average - you may publish a research article or smth.. "Dependence of goldfish lifetime length upon power line noise induced by hard drive activity in a home PC" ;)


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

     Well, first off all, many people live next to cell phone towers that transmit in the kilowatts, and there isn't a scientifically identifiable difference in their lifespans, plus there's the fact that water absorbs a huge percentage of high-frequency radiation. I'd say that the fish has bigger things to worry about, such as the fact that the tank is completely sealed.