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How to make cheap custom DIY aquarium lids using twinwall polycarbonate greenhouse panels.
DIY Polycarbonate Aquarium Lid
DIY Polycarbonate Aquarium Lid

Why Use Polycarbonate for DIY Aquarium Lids

I've previously covered how to make DIY Aquarium Lids out of glass, but glass lids are less practical for larger tanks or configurations where you want a lid that has multiple cutouts for your equipment. I used a panel of twin-wall polycarbonate to make a custom lid for my 40 gallon breeder aquarium (shown above).

Twin-wall polycarbonate is used for roofing panels on greenhouses, so it is designed to allow good light penetration. It is also far more durable than glass. Polycarbonate sheets won't crack or shatter if they are dropped or bumped. They also will not bow or bend like sheets of acrylic, which makes them an ideal material for covering larger aquariums.

Constructing the DIY Aquarium Lids

Hacksaw
Hacksaw

I started with a 2' x 4' sheet of polycarbonate, and used a table saw to cut it down to the dimensions of the top lip of my 40 breeder aquarium: 35" x 17". Then I used a handheld hacksaw to make the cutouts for my incoming water line and my Aquaclear 70 HOB filter. Finally, I added "handles" to the front edge using clear Command hooks. The hooks allow the lid to be lifted off the tank easily for maintenance.

This video by Jadren Aquatics has more good information about making DIY aquarium lids out of polycarbonate panels:

The Marineland LED Light Hood for Aquariums, Day & Night Light is pretty popular as an affordable combination light/hood in aquarium starter kits. I have used the 20" x 10" size on a planted 10 gallon tank for several months. While the light is certainly not the brightest LED, it is just enough to grow some low light plants. In this review I will cover some of the pros and cons of this hood.

Planted 10 Gallon Lit by Marineland LED Hood
Planted 10 Gallon Lit by Marineland LED Hood

Pros:

  • Hinged hood design

The hinges that come with this hood allow it to be lifted up to feed your fish or maintain the aquarium without fully removing the lid. I use a small hook in the shelf above my tank to hold the lid open when I am working in the tank.

Marineland Hood Open
Marineland Hood Open

  • Low wattage LED

The integrated LED light bar uses about half the power of a traditional fluorescent tube light, and should have a much longer service life. This light puts out a natural color temperature (around 5500 K according to Marineland) that does a great job of showcasing fish.

Yellow Tiger Endlers under Marineland LED
Yellow Tiger Endlers under Marineland LED

  • Integrated light / hood combo

Having the light bar nested into the hood keeps light from escaping horizontally across the top of your aquarium. This gives it a nice sleek look as all of the light from the LEDs is directed down into the tank.

Planted 10 Gallon Lit by Marineland LED Hood
Planted 10 Gallon Lit by Marineland LED Hood

Cons:

  • Comparatively low light level

While the output on these Marineland LED hoods will keep low light plants alive, it is not anywhere near what you would get out of a more expensive LED fixture. I have been able to grow rotala rotundifolia, anubias nana, and cryptocoryne wendtii under this light, but everything grows very slowly. Since the LEDs are all concentrated in the center of the hood, the light level drops off significantly on the outsides edges of the aquarium.

  • Lack of customization

These hoods are difficult to cut or modify for different styles of filtration because they are made from a thick plastic. You also cannot swap out the light for one that stretches across the whole tank. In my opinion, this is the biggest drawback to their design.

Planted 10 Gallon with Marineland LED Hood
Planted 10 Gallon with Marineland LED Hood

Bottom Line

The Marineland LED Light Hood for Aquariums, Day & Night Light is a good affordable option for aquarists who are looking for an all-in-one light and canopy design. I would not recommend it if you are interested in growing high light plants; but if you want a light that will showcase your fish and keep some plants alive, it is a nice looking option.


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20 long with DIY glass lid
20 long with DIY glass lid

I have DIY glass aquariums lids on three of my planted tanks. They're cheaper to make than almost any lid you can buy commercially and, unlike lids with hinges, they allow a ton of light into the tank.

Each one of these lids cost less than $20 and required no tools to make

Pros & Cons to a DIY Glass Aquarium Lid

Above you can see a glass lid on my 20 gallon long planted tank. There are a lot of benefits to a solid glass lid like this:

  • It wont become cloudy or discolored over time like plastic lids
  • It wont bend or sag like plastic lids
  • It keeps moisture in the aquarium, and blocks almost no light
  • It is made custom for your application, so you can choose its dimensions

There are only a couple of reasons NOT to use a solid glass lid:

  • This design only works on aquariums with a rim on the top
  • They are breakable, and can cause injury to you or your fish if broken (I have broken one)

In my opinion the benefits definitely outweigh the risks. I have used these lids for years on different aquariums and only ever broken one. No glass actually got into my aquarium, I was moving the lid and not paying enough attention. If you're always careful when handling them, there's not much to worry about.

How to Make a DIY Glass Aquarium Lid

Making one of these lids is very simple. All you need to do is:

1. Measure your aquarium

You want the lid to rest on the ledge inside the plastic rim of the tank, so you'll measure from one inside edge to the other. Then, you have to decide how far across the aquarium you want the lid to extend.

measure top of aquarium
measure top of aquarium

In the photo above you can see my HOB filters extend about 2 inches into the aquarium. I had my lid cut to leave a little more than 2 inches of open space in the back, so that the filters don't contact or spray water onto the glass. This space on the back side is also handy for dropping food into the tank without moving the lid.

2. Have a piece of glass cut to your dimensions

I have always gone to a local hardware store to have pieces of glass cut, but you can also go to a specialty glass shop. I use Ace Hardware in the Denver area, but I have also heard that some Lowes locations will cut glass. You should be able to find a place that will cut glass in your area.

Since this is just a single pane of glass, it should be less than $20, even for a long cut like my 29" lid below. I paid about $10 for that piece of glass that is roughly 29" x 9".

this lid is 29" long
this lid is 29" long

3. Attach hooks for lifting and moving the lid

I use clear command mini hooks as handles for these lids. A pack of these hooks is enough for 4-5 DIY aquarium lids, and only adds a couple dollars to the cost of each one.

clear hooks
clear hooks

I like these because they blend in with the glass lid, and they stick on extremely well. Once they are attached, you can lift the lid off just using the two hooks as handles.

That's it. These lids are easy to clean using a damp paper towel, and the only maintenance they require is being wiped down once every month or so. As long as you're careful not to drop them, they will last as long as your aquarium.

glass lids on my two 10 gallon tanks
glass lids on my two 10 gallon tanks

If you are interested in other types of DIY aquarium lids, see my post on making lids out of Polycarbonate here.