Using aquariums to decorate your home is one of the most rewarding decors you could use. Not only do they offer a calming and relaxing live visage to gaze upon, they also allow us to care for plants and fish within our own living space.
But did you know that you are not just limited to the traditional free standing aquariums that are displayed at chest height, and designed to be viewed from the side. Or the more expensive designs that are built directly into the wall?
With a little ingenuity, and creative thinking, you can turn a humble coffee table into a stunning aquarium that can be view from above.
This style of aquarium can be built in one of two main ways:
- Aquarium tanks underneath a coffee table with a clear, see through top.
- Aquariums built into the coffee table.
What Is Needed to Make an Aquarium Coffee Table
Just like with any other aquarium, an aquarium coffee table of any design needs the adequate volume of water for your fish population, and a means to maintain a clean and healthy environment for your fish and/or plants.
We recommend using the aquarium stocking calculator tool Aqadvisor to calculate the appropriate species and population density (stocking level) for the tank setup you have in mind. If you are unsure as to how to use the Aqadvisor tool, please feel free to have a read of our How to Use Aqadvisor Users Guide.
Once you know the species of fish you intend to include, and how many, you’ll need to make sure that their environmental needs are met. This may mean that you might require the following:
- A filter
- An air pump
- A heater
For more information on how to setup an aquarium, please have a read of our Beginners Guide to Setting Up an Aquarium.
If you are looking to heavily populate your aquarium with plants, you may wish to have a read of our article on How to Setup an Aquatic Plant Environment. It covers topics relating to carbon.
One of the most important things to take into consideration when setting up your tank, is how you intend to decorate your aquarium. Whether it’s an Aquascape, or a Hardscape, there are several basic fundamentals that need to be used when designing the layout of your aquarium.
Here are a few articles that may help to give you some ideas for designing the layout of your aquarium. They cover topics ranging from how to design an aquascape, to hardscape choices, and the types of plants that you could consider using in your design.
- Designing an Aquascape
- Different Types of Aquarium Driftwood
- Aquarium Wood – A Complete Guide to Preparing and Installing Driftwood
- Live Aquarium Plants for Your Betta Fish
- Our Top 15 Picks For Low Light Aquarium Plants
Pointers to Be Mindful Of
As decorative and impressive looking as an aquarium coffee table can be, they can have their own unique problems.
- While most designs do allow for viewing to be achieved from both sides and the top, you could choose to limit the viewing angle to just the top down if you so desired.
- When using lighting, you could consider lighting the aquarium from the bottom, the sides, or the top.
- How ever you choose to light the aquarium, the best layouts are designed to be hidden.
- Being lower to the ground, there is a greater risk of the tank being broken by loose objects.
- Condensation could cause the coffee table glass to become cloudy.
- If there is not enough air flow under the coffee table, mold and mildew could become a problem.
- If an appropriate base is not used, this type of aquarium setup could damage your flooring.
Aquariums Underneath the Coffee Table
The easiest and arguably the most common form of aquarium coffee tables. These designs are achieved by taking an existing coffee table with a glass or clear acrylic top, and simply placing a tank underneath it.
Some tables already have an existing magazine shelf, others have no lower supports. In either case, whether a shelf is used or not, this type of aquarium table takes a tank without a lid and puts it together with a coffee table, making for some stunning aquariums.
Coffee Table Standing Over the Aquarium Design
We would not recommend having your aquarium sit directly on the floor, as it could lead to dampness issues, or damage to your carpet; not to mention that the vibrations caused by people walking around could upset your fish.
So if you are looking to use a design that requires the tank to sit on the floor; we would suggest using a base board of some description for the tank to rest upon, and to have the floor changed to suit the tank itself.
Keeping the Aquarium separate from the table, allows you to utilize a larger volume tank. You may get lucky and find a coffee table and tank combo that fit perfectly together with minimum modifying. Otherwise, you may need to have one or the other, custom made to fit together.
Setting up an aquarium where the coffee table sits over the aquarium, will require you to first place the tank in the desired position, and to test its placement by putting the coffee table in place.
Once satisfied, remove the coffee table and begin to fill and decorate your aquarium. Remember that the aquascape will be viewed from above, as well as from the sides, so decorate accordingly.
With this sort of design, when you need to feed your fish, clean your aquarium, or change your water, you would need to move the coffee table out of the way, so look at how you would do this. Do you want to lift the table, or would you rather just slid/pull it away from the aquarium.
Aquarium on the Coffee Table Shelf Design
Be it a new shelf, or an existing shelf, it is advisable to make sure that a shelf is made in such a way that it can support the weight of the full aquarium. Larger tanks need a more sturdy shelf, otherwise you run the risk of the shelf giving way, which could cause the tank to break.
For best results, you are better off using a coffee table that can have its top removed. If the glass top on the coffee table can’t be removed, assembling your aquascape can be difficult to do when the tank is put is place.
If you are using a coffee table with a permanently attached top, try setting up your aquascape before, placing the tank on the shelf.
Most tanks used in these sort of designs, tend to be on the smaller size, of 10-15 gallons. Finding a tank that has the right dimensions to fit comfortably on the shelf of the coffee table can be hard to achieve. If you don’t like the way your tank is positioned, you may need to consider having the tank custom made.
Also, as you are using yet another pre-existing tank, designing the aquascape will need to take into consideration that it can be viewed from the sides as well as from above.
Aquariums Built Into the Coffee Table
There are some pre-made coffee tables that can be bought with a tank already built into the frame work of the table. Some of these designs may use pipes or narrow tanks to form the frame of the table. Others may simply be a table lid placed over an aquarium.
When it comes to the design of these aquariums, it ultimately comes down to personal tastes in decor. Whether you like the rustic look with timber encasing your aquarium. The industrial look where pipes, or metal are used in the design. Or you simply like the look of a aquarium with an oversized lid that doubles as a table top. The choice is yours.
Here are a few aquarium coffee table designs that have the tank and coffee table built into a single unit.
Using aquariums as a coffee table not only makes for a nice focal point and talking topic; they can also bring life to any room. Not only that, where space is at a premium, utilizing the aquarium as a coffee table can also help to cut down on clutter; allowing those who live in confined living conditions, a way to also enjoy their own aquarium.
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