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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
hi folks,

i thought i would share my DIY canopy building experience with all of you. unfortunately there are no pictures of the actual build, as the ones we had taken during the process were accidentally deleted. so all you'll have are various shots of the near completed and completed canopy, and my awesome text description. the building process didn't go as smooth as the stand did. there were a lot of "D'OH!" moments. as a result, there are a few mistakes that i have to live with. they're not THAT noticeable, but once you do... c'est la vie.

you can view all the available pictures here: PICTURES <<<< CLICK ME FOR MORE PICTURES!!!!!!!!!! :p

  • 1/2" thick Birch plywood: remaining material from DIY stand
  • 2" wide birch trim
  • 1/4" square wood trim (hemlock???)
  • various pieces of wood strips
  • Hinges: 1 - 36" brass piano hinge
  • Brad nails
  • Wood glue

  • 6 - 39W Giesemann Powerchrome Midday T5 HO lamps (6000k) (two extra was purchased for replacements)
  • 3 Fulham Workhorse 5 ballasts
  • 6 - 36" Individual TEK T5 reflectors
  • 12 - TEK T5 lamp clips
  • 12 - T5 lamp end-caps
  • Wiring
  • 3 Power-cords and plugs
  • 3 Noma Digital timers c/w remote

Cost for this project was spent mainly on the lighting components, as the cost for the lumber and hardware were part of the stand, with the exception of the piano hinge. that cost about $3.00 CAD. I really don't want to think about the cost for the lighting components, but here is the (approx) cost breakdown for mental therapy purposes:

  • T5 lamps: $21.95/ea
  • Workhorse 5 ballasts: ~$35.00/ea
  • T5 Reflectors: $21.95/ea..* i had actually bought these reflectors a couple months before the stand had been built
  • Reflector clips: $1.59/ea x 12
  • T5 end-caps: ~$21.00
  • Digital Timers: ~30.00/ea
  • Power-cord and plugs: ~$20.00
  • Wiring: $0.00... on hand material

So... not including shipping and taxes, i spent ~$520.00... ouch! for that money i could have gotten a very good quality light fixture, but the ones sold in canada would be starting around the $700.00 mark. so if i purchased from the US.. factoring in US/Canadian exchange rates, shipping, taxes, and duty, going the DIY route was better. better in terms of having a canopy with lighting that fit exactly my needs, and giving me the control that works for me.

The Construction:

the build was actually very simple, as it was a basic box construction, with simple butt joints. the dimensions of the canopy: 36L x 20W x 7H. access into the tank was going to be similar to my canopy that i had built for my 20 gallon tank, which was through a flip front lid. the first thing was to cut things down to size, but extra care had to be taken to account for the table saw blade width.

this meant adding that loss to actual dimensions, because 3 inches would be cut off the top to make up the flip lid. we did have some play, as we were providing ~1/4" gap on the sides and front. this style of front access was decided upon because this meant i didn't lose any lighting when doing maintenance, and i didn't have to move the canopy. the canopy overlaps the tank by approximately 2 inches, so i still had 5 inch clearance (not counting the mounting depth of the lights), which in the end is about 3.5 inches in clearance. more than enough room.

but this time we went fancy with the lid, where it would only be the top and front lifting up. this meant on the sides, the wood trim would have to be notched slightly to allow it to fit over the side pieces easier without rubbing too much. the problem we found out afterwards was that these 3 inches flared out a bit. this caused a small gap and prevents the lid from closing completely. you are also able to see the edge of the side pieces when the lid is closed. it's fairly minor, but it keeps me from calling this is an "awesome" canopy.

we weren't worried about the butt joints showing, as we were going to be covering those up with the 2 inch wood trim. we also were going to be covering some of the edges with birch iron-on laminate. we also added the 1/4 wood trim along the bottom side edges, to give it a bit of extra character.

to finish off construction, two access holes were cut in the back for the plumbing. once everything was given a smooth sanding, things were moved to my apartment for the final construction and finishing. the first thing i did was paint the interior with white latex paint that was bacteria resistant. i applied approximately 3-5 coats. i'm not too sure because some areas received more paint than others.

after the paint was allowed to dry for a day, i then applied 3 coats of polyurethane satin finish to the exterior, with sandings between each coat. once this had dried, i attached the piano hinge to connect the flip lid to the main canopy. it looked sharp.

naturally i had to see how it looked on the tank, but wouldn't you know it, another " D'OH!". when installing the wooden tank supports, we took into consideration the tank braces that my tank builder added to the ends, so that the canopy overlaps to the desired depth. what we didn't consider or realize, that the tank braces were only on the short sides and not on the back. so the wooden supports on the back were 3/8" too high! D'OH! and since i had already painted the wooden supports, i didn't want to take them out, so i added a new wooden support in the middle at the proper height.

from here i had to wait for the T5 lamps to come in, which in it of itself, was a PITA. after having already waited 3 weeks for the lamps to come, i happened to look on the website, and saw that deliveries were going to be delayed until the following month. no freaking way am i waiting a month and a half for lamps. so i cancelled the order and got them from J & L Aquatics in BC. a little more money per lamp, but getting them in less than one week? i'll live.

once the lamps came in, it was wiring time. the hardest part was ensuring the lamps were evenly spaced, and there was sufficient space between each bulb for the reflectors. i had worked everything out on computer, so things should work out. this was also another reason why the width of the top piece for the flip lid was so thin. i wanted as much surface area for the lamps.

once the end-caps were attached, along with the ballast on the back of the canopy, i wired everything up. from here i installed the lamps/reflectors, and noticed that i was really close on my measurements, because the last lamp/reflector just barely fit. mainly because the bolt i used to attached one of the ballasts was a touch in the way. it took a bit of work, but i got it in.

the wiring took a bit of working out, mainly for light distribution. i used 3 ballasts because i wanted the lights to come on in three stages with two lamps at each stage. there would be early "morning" (78 watts @ 8 hours for 1.2 wpg), "normal" day (156 watts @ 6 hours for 2.4 wpg), and "noon-burst' (234 watts @ 2 hours for 3.6 wpg).

i'm still tweaking the lighting schedule, but this was the plan at the time. so i wired the lighting to have the outer two lamps to come on first, then the two inner-most lamps, then the final two lamps. each lamp is connected to their own timer to control the lighting.

the timers i got - NOMA digital timers, can also be bought with a packaged remote. i got two without the remote. the remote comes with a holster, which i installed inside the stand. so i can turn on/off whichever lamp set i want. geeky cool!

from here i set the canopy on top of the tank, and trust me when i tell you, since i can no longer put my hand inside the canopy, placing the canopy on top of the tank is REALLY awkward. but it looked good!

and of course i had to plug everything in, and man! this sucker put out a lot of light. those reflectors really improve the light output. to top it all off, i added a couple of clear rubber bumpers to the top of the flip lid so the lid doesn't bang onto the canopy when i open it.

this project took longer than i wanted, but in the end i'm still really pleased with how it turned out. it looks really good mainly because it matches the stand, so it doesn't stand out like an eye-sore.

again i want to thank Steveb for all his help, tools, garage, and woodworking skills. things have now been planted and growing nicely. some plants have taken off more so than others, so things are still filling in. i have some algae issues, but not too much. my biggest issue is cloudy water, which i'm attributing to overfeeding. it's just tough not to drop in some food, especially when all the fish crowd the front glass begging to be fed.

you can critique my scape, but i won't listen to suggestions for change. at least not yet :p

i hope you enjoyed reading this long winded story.

take care.

· Registered
2,074 Posts
Looks awesome, Freydo! And, it the color goes well with your scape! Very professional, very simple, and excellent craftmanship! Expensive, sure! But at least you have the satisfaction knowing that you did that by yourself. Fantastic!

BTW-you need to take those ludwigia out of their pots eventually! HA!

And-How much for the BK King bobblehead on top? I noticed that you didn't put that into your list of expenses! :)

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697 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Very impressive. I love the stem plant in back on right!
thanks :D

the plant in the back is Limnophila sessiliflora (Dwarf Ambulia). that sucker grows like a weed and super easy to grow. i trim it down to a 1/3 of the current height every two weeks. i'm going to be trimming it down to 1/4 of the height this weekend

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926 Posts
Good looking canopy & tank.

Could you post a pic of it opened up?

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926 Posts

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697 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
thanks for the suggestions for the magnetic catches, but they will not work. instead i might have to shave the wood trim a bit to allow it to close all the way. but it won't solve the problem of the wood flaring out, which is more to do with the humid summers and dry winters. another reason why the lid doesn't close all the way.

possible excuse to construct another canopy this summer :p

· Premium Member
151 Posts
possible excuse to construct another canopy this summer
I heard the way to go with Canopy and stand construction is to use the same material they utilize for flooring. I am considering this for when I break my 55 down and replace the top support rail, I madea stand 15 years ago out of Pine, over the years it has showed its characteristics of warp age :)
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