There are a ton of old school TVs for sale now that flat screens TVs are a dime a dozen. What not repurpose that old TV in grandma’s house into an awesome fish tank. With some basic tools and some common sense you can be watching your own fish on the small screen. I'm a huge Seinfeld fan so turned the set into Jerry's living room complete with furniture and cast.
1. Find yourself an old TV. What you want is a nice cabinet with a sturdy construction. Think about your ideal sized aquarium and then find a TV with enough space to fit the tank and some accessories. I was able to get a TV on craigslist after a couple weeks of looking for about $30.
2. The first thing you want to do is remove the back of the TV and see what you are dealing with. Do NOT mess with the TV itself!!!! These old TVs have huge capacitors that can hold a charge for months, if not years. If you touch the capacitor with something metal you are risking electrocution. To make matters worse the cathode ray tube is under a vacuum and can explode if cracked. But don't worry too much, a great instructable can be found here that has some good tips on how to carefully take old TVs apart.
3. The goal is to remove all of the guts of the TV while leaving the cabinet intact. Whatever you do you do not want to open the TV itself up. Even after being unplugged for year they still have enough juice in them to kill you. Don’t mess around. Use insulated tools and gloves and wear safety glasses just in case. If you are unsure if you are doing the right thing or not just stop. You can take your TV to most TV repair places and they will remove the old Cathode Ray Tube for a few dollars. In my case I had to remove the front of the cabinet to get the TV out in one piece.
4. Once you have removed the guts and put the front of the cabinet back on, you will be left with a nice looking box.
5. Now remove the top of the TV. You will want to access the fish tank to feed you fish, teach them tricks etc. To do this we will put a piano hinge on the inside and a normal hinge on the back to support the weight of the lid. The piano hinges can be found at most hardware stores but you will need a special heavy duty extra long hinge to support the lid on the back. I bought mine online after installing a cheapo one from the hardware only to have it break in half a couple week later. Measure everything out first, then mark where you need to screw the hinges in. Finally get a friend to hold the lid in position and screw everything into place.
6. At this point your TV tank should look something like this. Now it is time to go buy a fish tank.
7. Now go get a fish tank with all the equipment you need. I don’t know much about fish so check the resources page for info on this. I went with a 20” tank, fluorescent light, filter, air pump and airstone and tank heater. Make sure this set up including will fit in your TV! You need to account for the things on top of the tank too, like your light. If possible leave some room to one side so you can keep all of your fish food, net and things like that out of sight. Now put your tank in and close the lid. Looks pretty cool huh?
8. Now comes the fun part, setting up the tank. I went to the fish store and bought everything I needed including fish. The list included, fish food flakes, gravel, a bucket, siphon for cleaning the tank and water conditioner I also splurged for a automatic fish feeder that holds enough food for 2-weeks so that I didn't have to worry about the little guys when traveling.
9. At this point I had to figure out how to turn the tank into the Seinfeld set. Luckily I found some images of the living room online and then amazingly found someone who had made an electronic 3-D model of the living room. He was kind enough to send me images of the living room without the furniture and a little photoshopping gave me some forced perspective images. I made an image for the back and both side walls. Next I went to a local printshop and had the images printed out and laminated to fit the tank. I carefully put the background images inside and filled the tank up with water.
10. Now for the fish. I went to Petsmart an chose out the perfect fish for each cast member. A couple fish died do to Ick so I got some replacements. Meet the cast.
11. Now for the furniture. This has been the hardest part. I have been scouring Ebay like a creep looking for 1:12 scale plastic doll house furniture. I have managed to find some great pieces, but not everything I needed exists. So I got some fish safe modeling clay and built a coffee table, side table and lamp. It has been holding up great and hasn't killed any fish so far! I also wanted to liven the place up. So I bought a "house plant". I went to Michael's and purchased a 1 3/4" clay pot so the scale works as if it were about 2 feet across.
12. Here is the finished tank in all its glory.
For a complete parts list including costs and where to buy everything you see in the tank click here