1. Find an old wooden TV console.
2. Open the wooden television console. Console televisions usually have a removable back, but you may have to go in through the side.
3. Remove all electrical components.
Be especially careful not to shatter the tube, as the older models can be very dangerous. See Warnings for additional information.
4. If necessary, remove any internal dividing panels. Unless you plan to integrate them into the design, remove interior compartments to free up space.
5. Consider whether or not to remove any control knobs. The knobs on the television may jut into the body of the wooden console depending on your television’s model. Since the goal is to empty the console to make room for a fish tank, you may have to remove a knob or two; however, if they are all to one side, consider leaving them in place and devoting that cramped end of the box to any ugly, external pieces of the aquarium that need to be included in the setup (ex. the air pump).
6. Measure the usable interior of the television.
If necessary, measure the spaces for the actual aquarium and its out-of-water components separately.
7. Buy the necessary aquarium components. Using the TVs internal measurements, buy an aquarium and any additional components necessary including a filter, air pump, overhead light, and tubing. Make sure the tank that is wider and slightly taller than the screen. Be especially careful to leave room between the top of the aquarium and the lid of the console for an overhead light, which your fish and plants will need if they’re going to be enclosed in a dark box.
Place the air pump inside the cabinet to suppress the noise. However, it can be mounted outside if there is not enough room.
If you don’t have space to fit an overhead light inside the console, consider getting a remote ballast light instead.
If your TV console won’t fit a standard tank size, you can have one custom-built to fit.
8. Test-fit the aquarium inside the empty television. Arrange them inside the TV console and make sure there is room for everything. Don’t fill the aquarium yet.
9. Drill cord and/or tube holes through the back panel of the console if necessary. If possible, cut out an additional discrete hole to encourage ventilation and discourage condensation.
10. Create a lid on the top. The most elegant way of approaching this is to cut the entire existing lid off at the seams.
Attach hinges, and turn it into a flip lid. Alternatively, you can remove the existing top and replace it with a flip lid made from a new piece of wood stained to match the old paneling.
Replace the back of the TV.
11. Reinforce the bottom of the console if necessary. If the bottom doesn’t look capable of holding up gallons and gallons of water, you can either replace it with a stronger piece of wood or reinforce it with underneath with wood or metal.
12. Weatherproof all surfaces multiple times. Use a water-resistant finish such as polyurethane to protect the enclosed space from becoming water-damaged.
13. Mount a surge protector to the outside of the back of the cabinet if necessary. If you need to run a cord from inside the tank to a power source and it won’t reach the wall, attach a surge protector with a long cord directly to the dry back of the aquarium to bridge the distance while keeping the area relatively tidy.
14. Assemble the tank inside the console. Attach the pump, filter, and hoses, then set up the aquarium itself. Use these guides to set up either a freshwater or a saltwater aquarium.
Cycle the tank before adding fish. This is an absolute must if you want your fish to live for more than a week or two. To humanely cycle the tank, do a fishless cycle.