DIY aquarium projects: 7 good reasons to make your own equipment

by Brian Blank

Anyone in the saltwater or freshwater aquarium hobby has probably seen the results of a Do It Yourself (DIY) project, whether online or on someone else’s tank.

Depending on the tools and materials you have at your disposal, you can come up with your own unique projects to add to your enjoyment of the hobby. DIY creations can range from simple MacGyver-type projects made with odds and ends from around the house to intricate projects using quality materials that give the aquarium industry’s best products a run for their money.

Either way, DIY projects can be cost-saving, fun and rewarding for hobbyists of all levels.

Here are my top 7 reasons to DIY.

1. Saves you money

Ever looked at an aquarium product and wondered why it cost so much for something that seems so basic? A little ingenuity and research can help you discover projects to help cut your costs down while adding a necessary or optional feature to your setup.

If I can save $50, that’s another piece of equipment I can buy or a few nice coral frags or fish I can add to my system.

2. Keeps you from being idle

I know I am constantly looking for ideas to do to make my system better and am always looking to do something with my tank. There are only so many times you can re-aquascape without causing stress to your tank’s inhabitants. DIY is a great way to add additional components to make your critters thrive.

3. Boost your pride

It’s a great feeling to know you accomplished something, and even better when you surprise yourself on how well the project came out. It’s also a great way to feel more in-tune with your system. There is nothing like sitting back and seeing just how your work has come together – something you just can’t get with a turnkey all-in-one set-up.

4. Expand your knowledge and skills

Researching how something works, what the benefits are and then building it expands both your knowledge and skill in the hobby.

I never had a protein skimmer before, but I decided the best way to get an effective skimmer on my budget was to make one. Boy did it take a lot of time, research and design before I even picked up a saw and acrylic, but I learned ever so much about skimmer design and function. (You can see my skimmer I modeled after the Deltec AP600 on my blog).

5. Simple solutions and problem solving

DIY often gives you the ability to fix or alter something on your setup with minimal effort. This is where having plenty of zip ties, acrylic scraps and glue and some spare PVC pipe and fittings come in handy.

For example, I bought a DIY automatic top-off kit with two float switches. The kit came with a great little bracket you can mold with hot water. It worked for a few days but I really wanted something beefier and more stable. A few cuts of acrylic, a few holes drilled and in less than an hour I had the EXACT bracket I needed!

6. It can be therapeutic

For some people, having something to do with their hands besides cleaning the house or doing yard work is a great therapy from the stressors in your life. I know there have been plenty of times where a few hours in the garage working on something was a great distraction, taking my mind off a tough day at work.

7. It’s fun!

Okay, there will be many times where you’ll get yourself stuck or make a bad cut and have to go out to the store and buy more materials, but DIY is more often something fun to do in your spare time. Grab a few hobbyist friends and a few cold beverages and have fun building something.

Getting started with DIY

There are probably plenty of other reasons to build a DIY aquarium project, but those are the top reasons why I do it.

If you’re looking for projects, take advantage of the plethora of online sites and forums out there. Find one that fits your niche in the hobby and start reading away and ask questions. I have found lots of great ideas this way, whether following someone else’s build exactly or combining many different ideas into my own unique project.

Check out local clubs, too. They’re a great way to meet new people in the hobby, as well as a chance to exchange ideas and get an extra set of hands to help you out.

Check out Katy's Tropical Fish Guide for more aquarium info.

This guest post is by Brian Blank

Brian Blank is a DIY nut and has three years in the reefkeeping hobby, building and maintaining his 75-gallon reef aquarium. You can follow his adventures on his Ocean@Home blog.

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