DIY Pirate Chest Aquarium

A fun DIY from Dream Jobbing finalist, Peter Wong


  • Table Saw (optional for wood cutting)
  • Circular Saw (optional for wood cutting)
  • Router (for tank platform bevel)
  • Nail Gun
  • Ogee Bit
  • T-Square
  • Pencil
  • Tape Measure
  • Sand Paper
  • Safety Goggles


3⁄4 in Plywood cut to sizes:


  • 22 1⁄4in wide x12 in. deep x 4 in. high

Cut horizontally into two 6 inch wide pieces and hinge together

  • 21 1⁄2 in wide x29 3⁄4 in highx 11 1/8 in deep


  • 22 1⁄2 in wide x13 in deep
  • 211⁄2inwidex3⁄4
  • 1x2x113⁄4in
  • Latex Paint (light gray and dark gray)
  • Paintbrush
  • Grain Squeegee (for faux wood grain effect)
  • Fish Tank (10 Gallon)
  • Adhesive Tile Sheets
  • Luan (to attach tile sheets and position behind fish tank)
  • LED Strip Lights to line inside lid
  • Hobnails (for leather strip decoration)
  • Leather Strips (for decoration)
  • Hasp (for decoration on lid)
  • Hinges (to open top for tank access)
  • Corner embellishments (for decoration)


1. Measure all your pieces and cut to size (or have lumber yard cut wood for you)

2. I’m using basic 3⁄4 inch Birch plywood.

3. It’s a good idea to cut large sheets on the ground because a big sheet can slip off table

4. Build the bottom cabinet – it’s an open, 3-sided box

5. Add 1x2 pieces around 3 sides of the bottom to trim it

6. The tank platform, is slightly larger to create a nice tray effect; I’ve beveled it

7. I use a Roman Ogee router bit to create this nicely molded effect on the edge

8. Then I start the Fish tank top

9. I add hinges so you can lift the top to feed the fish

10. I paint everything starting with a lighter gray using a dry brush technique

11. Then I go over it with a darker gray – painting a thicker layer

12. While still wet, I use this cool tool “Grain Squeegee” and pull and rock across the surface of the wet paint to create a faux wood grain effect.

13. I put this faux tile sheet on a thin piece of “Luan” and nailed it to the back so you can’t see through the fish tank. It gives it an intimate rocky look.

14. I taped the LED strip on the inside of the lid to light the tank from above

15. I adhered a sheet of faux tile to a thin piece of Luan and nailed it to the back of the tank lid so you can’t see through the tank and it looks like rocks or stones

16. NOTE: Once you’ve finished, put your tank in position and fill with water. Don’t move a fish tank full of water or it can crack.

DIY Finalist - Peter Wong’s DIY Pirate Chest Aquarium – Home & Family

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