Upgrading my Aquarium Shelves and Wiring Lights

in diy •  7 months ago 

My aquarium shelves looked like a mess. I always wanted to do something about it because it bothered me. It turns out my compulsive nature got the best of me and I needed to do something about it. I decided on a DIY project. That would fix two problems at once. It would resolve my obsession with doing something about my shelf. And, it would meet my interest in getting things done myself.

Shelf Before.jpg
This looks awful right? Missing shelves and things all over the place.

The Problem Started Right Away

When I bought the 'shelving unit' as Costco calls it, it said it could handle loads of 800kg. No problem. My tanks don't even weigh close to one third that. The issue was they weren't straight forward about the shelve materials. All it said was 200kg per shelf. In the picture, it looked like coated MDF boards.

I place an order online because I didn't feel like driving to Costco to save 4$. A few days later it was delivered...to some random house on the opposite end of Seoul! The person who received the delivery kept on bothering me to do something about it. Not my problem I said. I called Costco to complain. Costco being Costco sent me a new shelf. They also told me to tell the other person to keep the other shelf. I followed this advice. The person who got a random shelf delivered didn't want it and kept calling me. Anyway, not my problem and not related to the DIY Project.

It's Delivered Not As Advertised

When I got the shelf, I discovered it was uncoated MDF. Nothing like the picture, but no problem. I varnished it with marine varnish. I like varnishing. It's a simple task with no attention to details required. And, the fumes make me feel nice. I applied 3 coats all over, which should make it water-resistant enough.

I also put down towels beside the tanks in case.

Old Light.jpg
The old light above the frog tank just looks awful. Perhaps, it is even dangerous for me and the frog.

The Problem Gets Worse

About a week later, I noticed sagging. I figured a crash would be a nightmare. I can deal with 100 litres of water all over the place. Whatever I rent. But, suffocating fish all over the place and a drying out frog would make me sad. Screw the people below me, I assume they take showers anyway. But I can't have any unnecessary harm come to my pets.

I thought I could have added 3 braces to each shelf to even it out, or even one thinner steel bar in the middle. In any case, I didn't have that. I was already stressed out with ordering this shelf and I didn't want to return it, not after that ordeal I had earlier.

But I did have 4 shelves and I only needed 2. I didn't keep much up top and had a smaller board that could give me some space up there and the bottom shelve is so close to the floor, I could use the floor.

So I did and that's how it lasted for about 2 years.

New Plywood.jpg
The wood I ordered arrived well packed and perfect 1 day later.

Time to Do Something.

The thought was always in the back of my mind that I would get two more selves and fix the whole mess. I want to buy a table saw and do it myself, but I live in an apartment and my neighbours wouldn't understand my decision to open a workshop. I decided the best course of action was to order precut boards from a lumber company.

I decided I had enough of MDF coated or not, so I went with plywood. It's somewhat water resistant anyway.

I was impressed with how the plywood was delivered. It was sent to my address. There was no damage or issue. Actually there were small pieces of foam taped to the corners of the box it came in. This protects the corners from damage. I appreciated this attention in packing (I'll use them again for my next DIY).

Shelf After.jpg
I think the shelves look alright now. The plastic sheets look okay and add some extra protection.

DIY Shelves

As mentioned, at first I assembled a kit. That's not DIY. I mean it's like Ikea, but easier. I did varnish so it kinda counted, but now I had a real project. I had to measure and the order and then place wood on a shelf. Tricky business.

Me being me, I made it a lot more difficult than it had to be. I decided that I wanted to put one MDF and one plywood sheet under each of the shelves holding tanks and one MDF each on the shelves that wouldn't be holding as much weight. The theory is that since plywood and MDF have different properties they would compliment each other to bear the load (I'm not an engineer but I work with some and asked, they had no idea). My theory is that plywood will have much more cross-section strength because the grains go in different ways for each layer and the width is much shorter. Makes sense. And moving boards sounds easy, right?

Well, moving boards is easy, but moving fish tanks filled with fish is a pain in the butt. I wanted to do a few more things, so I did this. First, you take everything out of the tank and off the shelf asides from the fish. Then you drain as much water as possible. Then you move it. I leave a couple of inches of water and place a table next to it. The fish don't like this, but they prefer it to being netted and chased around. Besides they are too stupid to understand this DIY project and what's driving me to get it done.

I got it done. One more thing I didn't mention. I put down plastic coating on top. I figured unlike marine varnish on MDF or treated plywood, plastic sheeting is definitely waterproof. It would also make cleaning and wiping spills a breeze. No more towels on the actual shelves.

It turned out alright. But wait there is more!

lights equal sign.jpg
These lights are quite bright. I light this shot. I used a flash with only those lights on in an otherwise pitch-black room.

Adding New Lights

No DIY project would be complete without adding electricity and power tools. I didn't use anything yet other than scissors, a box cutter and a stapler. I needed to man up and do something a little tougher with risk involved (okay I could have dropped a fishtank, but I don't want to think about that).

I decided to add new lights.

The lamp over the frog was 0K LED bulb in a shop lamp. The fish had a first-generation LED (those ones with DC power), but it had a very high K value (around 9000K) and looked crystal bright.

I decided to get 2 LED bar lights. 25 Watts each, Samsung LEDs, 6500k. I would like to go for more, but then you get into expensive stuff, these were only 5 dollars each. I figured I would just screw them into the top of the shelves.

Bare Wires.jpg
Connecting wires is easy, but not when you lack basic tools for working with wiring and the colours are different. Oh, well. Not gonna let a silly little thing like safety stop me.

There was one problem. They didn't have chords. The stupid supermarket wanted 8000 per chord, that's more than the lights, so I ordered some Chinese chords off the internet for 1.25$ each. I could have got them for 75cent, but I wanted ones with a switch, my pets deserve the best.

Connecting Lights to Plugs

Connecting wires is easy. You just twist them together and there you have it.

gluing wires together.jpg
Step one, twist and hot glue the wires together.

First, you need to make sure you are doing the wiring right. Korea follows the American Standard. Black is live and White is neutral. China follows whatever they feel like, especially when it's for cheap export. Actually, I was impressed the wires were different colours.

It's a 2 pronged plug (no neutral) so it doesn't really matter because I can plug it in either way so it will get switched up. I decided to go with blue as neutral and red as live and connected them accordingly.

taping wires.jpg
Step two, cover it in electrical tape.

The best way to connect wires is with a metal clamp and pliers or with a soldering iron. You then make it safe with electrical tape or shrink plastic.

I don't have a soldering iron (I want one but I'm afraid of what I will do with it), so I twisted the wires and used a glue gun. I don't have shrink plastic to wrap it, I used electric tape instead.

wiring finished.jpg
Step 3 make it look neat inside. Safety Warning: The bare live and neutral wires must not touch!

Actually, some dumb plastic connector socket came with the lights, but those things always fall out on me and glue gun is a very reliable method.

I went overboard and glued the separate wires against the walls of the light as far as I could. There is no way these are coming off.

mounted lights.jpg
I think they look nicer than the old ones. They are also out of the way where they will not likely fall or be knocked into the tank.

Mounting the Lights

To mount lights, you just put a screw or two in the wall or ceiling. Then connect the mounting plate (if it comes off - mine did). Finally, you attach the lights.

I would measure and mark things first to make sure you aren't screwing up your wall by putting screws in and out.

We've all used screws before, this is the easy part. I made sure I had screws that wouldn't be too long, I didn't want to screw into the board above (Screwing into the tank above would be funny though). It's easy, 15mm screws will easily hold a light plastic light. And, they cannot go through a 14.5mm board - remember screws have a base too (I don't know if that counts in the length). In any case, I had two boards and .5 mm is nothing.

Frog After.jpg
*I think he looks nice. This looks kinda awful because taking photos of aquariums is tough and I just changed the lighting and didn't clean it so relax. I didn't alter the colour in the photos either. *

Almost done...but wait.

My lovely wife lent out my power drill and my power screwdriver to her friend. She said her friend had to screw in some stuff. So why the drill to (I could have used it as a screwdriver). I wasn't about to sacrifice my manhood and use a hand screwdriver. I told her to get my tools back immediately. Women don't understand. You don't borrow my tools without asking. She would freak the hell out if I started borrowing her makeup and lending that out to friends or using it without asking.

The tools would be back in my toolbox a few days later. I pick and choose my fights smarter than this. Besides, I could wait. I got it done in the end.

Fish After.jpg
And here are the fist. Same issue, a very poor shot of the aquarium. I'll get better shots after I do some other things first.

Wrapping things Up

I spent the next few days (two weeks actually) making minor adjustments. I was especially concerned with where things are placed. With so many power chords and air hoses, etc, it's more effort than you think. It's even worse than the computer desk (you can't have wireless air hoses), or the TV from back in the day when people had VCRs and DVD players, cable boxes, Amplifiers, etc on their TV stand.

Also, there is water and gravity to consider. You want all air pumps above the tank, flooding may or may not happen otherwise. I had them on top before, no issue here.

I also decided to put the wires up for safety. The one is on top and the other is beside the fish tank because chords weren't long enough. Anyway, it looks a lot cleaner.


You may notice I moved my frog tank from the center...well guess what that means? There is something in the aquarium hobby called MTS. Not Malaysian trumpet snails (I don't have any of those yet).
I mean multiple-tank-syndrome. I have the space I'm putting in something else. More on that later. I also improved some of the filters, monitoring systems and automation as well, but more on that later too.

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Thank you~

That's a great project to undertake, and the finished result look fantastic! I certainly don't envy you having to move the fish tank though. I've done my share of that and it's not an easy thing to do. Kudos to taking care of the fish!

Thanks. The plastic is wavy so I'm tempted to pull out the staples in front where ai can see and glue it down instead.

Moving tanks is awful, especially planted ones. It will take a couple more weeks for them to recover and perhaps longer to adjust to the new lights. Not a hobby to be rushed.

i have always wanted to have an aquarium with beautiful fish, but you have to be very careful and very clean. i love goldfish and water transmits me a lot of peace.

I like the water too. My top tank makes water noises. Gold fish are great. They are also easy to take care of. Just make sure they have a lot of space ~ 30L to 50L each. My larger tank may be able to take 2.

Wait... why did the person on the other side of the city get your shelving? Do they have a street with a similar name?

I would be interested to see if you started using your wife's makeup.... but lol, quite possibly a fight that was the best one to pick!

I have no idea why the person on the other side of the city got my shelving. We don't have street names in Korea and the district name and postal code was completely different. Actually, come to think of it, the city and the province were different too because I ordered it to my new place (but I never lived in that district of Seoul either). I think the delivery guy messed up because my address, phone number and name were correct on the Costco label, but her info was on the shipping label.

My wife would probably make fun of me if I was using her makeup. I would need to use a lot before she got concerned. Men wearing some makeup isn't all that unusual in Korea.

I'm a bit at odds with this whole ordeal, is it not cheating ordering precut wood? You don't need a table saw, buy a handheld jigsaw with a guide. https://www.milescraft.com/product/sawguide/

Ordering pre-cut wood means that cutting the shelf wasn't DIY. However, deciding on the wood to get and measuring it to order was DIY. I guess I could say I modified the shelving unit.
That guide thing looks neat. I would like a house with a workshop because I like making stuff, but I don't want my neighbours to hate me. Living in apartments, you have to make sacrifices.

Good and this looks very beautiful

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Thank you ~