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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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    47 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 8

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


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    2 replies

    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.

    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.)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    10 years ago on Step 7

    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.

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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...


    10 years ago on Step 8

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


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    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.


    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


    10 years ago on Step 6

    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......

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

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