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How to Build an Aquarium Canopy

| Updated September 26, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • Four wooden boards, at least 2 inches thick and 6 inches wide

  • Large sheet of plywood

  • Measuring tape

  • Saw

  • 1-by-1 inch wooden square rods (cubes)

  • Two metal hinges

  • White and black paint, if desired

  • Protective eye goggles

  • Paintbrushes/roller

  • Gloves

  • Rubber siding or molding

  • Screwdriver and screws

  • Hammer and nails, or nail gun

A canopy for a fish tank is important to the comfort and life of the fish, reptiles or marine life inside. It also provides some attractive decor and a place to anchor aquarium lights. Building a canopy without an electrical purpose is simple as long as you know the size of the aquarium you are building it for. A canopy can be constructed as a sturdy, painted wooden base that opens and shuts over the tank.

Measure the aquarium, which will determine the size of the wood pieces you buy to construct it. First, measure the tank's two sides that run vertically and then the two sides that run horizontally. For example, the sides that run vertically will be the smaller measurements, and the sides that run horizontally will measure larger. A typical 15-gallon tank measures about 12 inches by 24 inches. A usual canopy size has a wood lid at least 6 inches from the top of the water in the tank.

Build a box that is shaped like a rectangle, making it a little bit larger (about 1/2 inch to 1 inch) than the top of your aquarium. It should resemble a rectangular wooden box top that will just slip over the the top of tank. Do this by setting one of the two longer boards up on its edge. Nail each of the two smaller boards on either of its sides.

Place the other longer board opposite the first board, laying it down flat on the tops of the two smaller boards. Nail these boards securely. This board acts as the board over the aquarium's back, so it is attached differently. In the future, if you need a place for cords or tubes, keeping this board higher provides an opening for these to go through.

Attach the 1-by-1 inch square rods using a screwdriver or nail gun to the inside of each of the wooden planks. Secure them in the middle of each board, about 3/4 to 1 inch from the bottom edge of the boards.

Secure the square rods vertically from the board's middle on the board that will lay over the back of the tank. These rods will anchor the canopy around the tank.

Create the canopy lid. Trim the plywood and make sure it is 1 to 1 1/2 inches bigger around the wooden box's outside dimensions.

Paint the wooden canopy whatever color you desire, or you can leave it in the original color of the wood. Black is the most common to paint since many aquariums already use a black base. If you paint the inside of the lid, be careful of the color. It is most beneficial to use a white paint to maximize light reflection.

Use the screwdriver to attach the hinges to the back of the plywood lid. Attach the lid to the box. Set the canopy on top of the fishtank to make sure it fits correctly, and secure to the aquarium.


  • When attaching the square rods in Step 4, the distances may vary, and you may need to use larger rods or glass putty to secure the canopy.

    If desired in Step 6, attach rubber siding or molding around the edges of the lid to create a more airtight container and block light.

    If desired, you can add lighting to the inside of the canopy lid with a couple of extra steps.


  • Always be cautious when working with power tools or sharp objects.