Table Top Aquarium




My wife has wanted a table top aquarium for a long time now. Then I remembered I love instructables and this would be a great idea to save money and build! total cost to build was $250 including tank and accessories.
Brand new just the table top tank without the pumps etc run over $700
We saved ourselves $450 and got it our way. Cant beat that!

If you are interested and are located near St Pete FL contact me at 415-935-9053 If you would like any tips or help building one.

Added notes:
WOW, did not expect such response. Let me answer some questions.

1. Goldfish
2. Table top is from a thrift store cost was $30 for the whole table threw out the table part LOL.
3. we currently feed the fish by spoon lol there is about 3/4" gap that we use.
4. I was going to add a removable part but for structural integrity for the glass top did not.
5. Other thoughts, were going to add rope light to the top and underneath thinking it will create a great ambience.

Step 1: Stuff I Needed

Ok... so this was not an exact science but i will list what I used to make it.

1. Tank ( We went to about 20 different pet stores and the most ideal we found was a 20 gallon tank that was 1 foot high)
2. Wood ( Home Depot was a great help, we mentioned what we wanted to do and the guy was so excited he didn't charge us for cuts ) Great time saver!
a. 1/2" MDF board base of the table
b. 2" x 2" x 8'. I needed about 3 of these
c. 2" x 4" x 12'. I needed only 1 of these
NOTE: Wood dimensions are stupid and are not exactly 2" x 2" just remember that for later
3. Wood Filler. This will make the appearance of 1 solid piece of wood.
4. Paint, Mini roller, edger
5. Drill
6. Screws 1 1/4" and 2 1/2"
7. Stuff i sure i missed like tank decor etc. That was the wife's dept lol

Step 2: The Base

The base is what everything is built off of.

1. 1/2" MDF board that I had cut to the exact base dimentions of the outside of the tank
2. 2" x 2" make a border on the inside of the base board, mark where they will be
3. 2" x 4" place them on the inside of the lines along the width and mark their location
4. PRE DRILL the mdf board where you have marked
5. Attach all boards making sure that the frame of the 2" x 2" boards fit evenly with the outside of the mdf, this will be important for the rest of the frame.
6. Base complete, take a look at the pics to see all the steps in order.

I added the 2 x 4 strips to give the table the appearence of floating. worked out well

Step 3: The Corners

Ok so the corners ended being a little tricky and if i was to do this again I would not put on the 2 x 4 legs untill after the frame was built.

1. take the 2 x 4 and 2 x 2 strips you should have 4 of each. the height of the tank was 12 " so i made the sides 15" to accomodate for mounting space.
2. PRE DRILL the 2 x 4 and attach the 2 x 2 creating an L shape as in the pictures below.

Step 4: Mount the Corners

Look at the pics to get a better view

1. Pre drill 1 hole at the bottom on each side to attach to the base made earlier
2. attach while holding even with the bottom of the base. ( again on hind sight i would not have put the feet on to make this easier

Step 5: Add the Top Frame

This will give everything structure and support

1. place the frame of 2 x 2 for the top structure on by pre drilling and mounting to the top of your frame i recommend doing this with the TANK IN. to make sure everything is aligned

2. look at the pictures

3. after the top frame is in then remove the tank.

Step 6: Wood Filler Time

Time to add the wood filler.

1. Find any gap hole where you put a nail and cover it.
2. along the sides where you joined any wood fill the gap with filler to give the appearence of no join
3. the more filler you use everywhere the neater it will look after.
4. Let the filler dry, then sand all spots smooth

Step 7: Paint, Paint, Paint

Ok this part needs no real detail, just make sure to get all corners with a corner brush so that no wood shows through.

We put on 3 coats to make sure it was nice and bold.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

Final things that we added on.

we placed little rubber cushions for the glas tops on the 4 corners, and also placed medallions on for a nice finishing touch.

I mounted a 6 outlet adaptor to one of the feet underneath to supply the pump and filter with power, we ran the wires out a corner at the top of the tank and hid it by running down the inside of one of the edges, running the cords under the table and plugging it in.

Place the glass on top and voila. table top tank.

Total cost $250. If bought new over $700. With the savings we went to the casino :)



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    40 Discussions


    5 years ago

    How do you clean the tank? And get the water out? Other than that cool idea :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Oh its deffinately populated with fish!! no other way to have it.. Im deff not one of those that have a tank for ornamental purposes lol

    what do you do when the fish die? 3/4 inch seems enough to feed them but i don't think you could navigate a net through it... also what about maintenance of the tank itself. ie, cleaning?

    1 reply

    well generally i try and keep them alive lol however once every two weeks i clean the glass and then of course clean any fish out if any that need help to the bathroom


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I dont like fish!!! So i keep meatballs in my aquarium. But fun aside. I would fill the tank with non rancid mineral oil. and sink a stripped pc and a screen in the brew, add a few lights and bubbels and u got a stunning mediacenter. The expected WAF factor (Wife Acceptance Factor) is pretty low, and is more a project for the boy in us all. But its sure to be a conversation piece. i just got offered 3 big tanks for free, so i might do a project like that in the future.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job! I really like the simplicity of it. I was cleaning my basement last week and found my old 10 gallon fish tank with all fish accessories needed, so I might start one of these in a week or so. I need to get one of those in-tank filters though, mine sits on the top side of the tank.

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Dude totally go for it There are so many suggestions were probably going to make 10 gallon side tables with asian bonsais and landscape


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Even if you don't fill it with water, it still looks cool. You could make a little landscape in their with little pagodas and bonsai trees if you wanted. Great instructable.

    2 replies

    Very nicely done. This same basic design with long bubbler stones could also be adapted for use as an algae scrubber. If LED strips were submerged into the algae to provide illumination I think a very interesting effect could be obtained.

    1 reply

    Love the Led Idea next time i do this im going to actually cut out the bottom center and will place a light under the tank so it will come through the gravel it will keep it cleaner


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Really like the design and the work you did looks really good. In my experience, a healthy and low maintenance aquariums really depend on very good filtration and good filtration takes space, there is no shortcut. A possible improvement could be to build an enclosure on one of the small sides to fit a larger external filter. I would also think you need a bit more space for an air draft between the wood frame and the glass or you might get condensation depending on the climatic conditions. But otherwise, really nice job! these things do cost a fortune in shops...

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    The filter i bought was rated for up to a 50 gal i already figured on not wanting to have too much maintenance lol. as far as the gap our house is kept at a cool 72 so condensation doesnt seem to be a problem so far


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    LOL while we were building it the wife kicked the corner and opened up her toe funny you say that.


    9 years ago on Step 8

    LOL did you win anything at the casino? ;] excellent idea, i might have to try this sometime.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Goldfish are little poop machines, as fish go. I would suggest instead a school of white cloud mountain minnows, or even a swarm of cherry shrimp.