TV fish tank

Television to Fish Tank, All the Details

by laura.johnson

Television fish tank

Now I know gutting a old television is no easy task, mostly because if done wrong it will blow up in your hot little hands.  However, since this all happened pre-Laura life I’m a little foggy on the details but I’ll try my best to guide you through the process.

  1. Cody used a routing tool to cut along the top of the cabinet allowing him to remove the lid and remove the inner workings of this beast.
  2. He removed the television guts, tubes, cables and cleared a space for a tank that was slightly wider and deeper than the screen size.
  3. He reinforced the cabinet to withstand the added weight of 35 gallons of water, which is roughly 280 lb.
  4. He dropped in a conveniently sized ready-made tank. Once again, we got very lucky here, with such tight clearances on both the sides and the top, most of time people will have to order or make a custom tank, which of course adds some major $$ to the project
  5. We added some lights and a water filter.

After all that (which mind you is over simplified) he was ready for some fish. Like I mentioned yesterday, the tank was great, and Cody enjoyed it while living in Des Moines.  However, once we had the tank back in Michigan and were starting to set it up again, there were a few things he wanted to change.

For instance the two small fluorescent bulbs that were on a 60-minute, wind-up  timer just wasn’t cutting it for a lighting situation. They weren’t bright enough, over time developed major rust issues, and worst of all because of the nuance timer, they were never turned on.

The other major issue Cody wanted to remedy was the aeration and filtration system—correction—the lack of filtration system and the very loud, annoying aerator the provided a low constant background noise buzz.  Both of these issues were extra tricky because the lip of the tank was less than 2 inches from the lid.

After a little bit of trial and error, we swapped out the old rusty shop lights for low-profile, plastic-encased, (anti-rust) undercabinet lights, much like the one above.  We mounted 2 that ran the length of lid of the tank and mounted another in back to light up the background  image. Then we replaced the annoying 60 minute timer with an automated timers often used for Christmas lights. We have it set so the tank is on when we are around in the morning and evening, then shuts off when we are about to go the bed.  Perfection!

For a filter, we inserted a traditional submerged waterfall filter, like the one below.  These are great because they not only filter but also, the waterfall motion breaks the water tension enough to give the fish adequate oxygen on a day-to-day basis. And on the rare occasion we notice our fish getting a little lethargic or coming to the top for extra air, we simply plug in our old-fashioned loud aerator for a few minutes and that seems to put a little perk in their swim. This particular model has several adjustments for different water levels, But needing as much room as we could spare we almost submerged the unit allowing for just a little water movement.

Those are the major changes Cody wanted to make our tank more functional and useful, but as you know that’s only half of the battle!  At the time we were completing the logistics portion of the tank Cody had recently started ogling steampunk projects online and fell in love with the beauty of gears and the complexity of the inner workings of our everyday items. Before we knew it, our steampunk fixation had worked it’s way into our tank design too. Cody found several steampunk themed wallpaper backgrounds online, we narrowed down our selection and the sent it off the the printer to get cropped and laminated.

Then the real fun began, Cody sat me down with the empty tank and the decorations we already owned, rocks, a few plants, a section of drift wood, and said ‘go to town’.  Heaven!  I played and played adding and subtracting, tucking plants alongside the drift wood, adding our thrift store cut out clock, a few more plants for color and finally water, lots of water and even a few fishes.

We haven’t changed much since we originally placed everything, but we have immensely enjoyed adding fish to our tank, watching them grow, and trying to prevent them from eating each other! What can I say, it’s all part of nature! And as it turns out, we aren’t the only ones that enjoy our fine finned friends. Cody and I routinely babysit two little girls, 7 & 9, and every time they come over they look at us with a glint in their eye and ask if they can stay up late watching TV. Of course we spoil them!


Image Sources 1, 2, 3, 4

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  1. I LOVE this!!! We have 3 fish tanks, and I would absolutely love to do this with one of them. Just curious, do you know what size your tank is? We have a 20, 29, and 55 gallon.

  2. If you don’t have a perfect TV / Tank fit there are two options. 1 build a tank (this is difficult and can be expensive). 2 build a faux TV around a tank.

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