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How to Build a Screen Top For Your Tank.

Posted on Friday, November 20th, 2009 at 7:46 am by

There is a long list of desirable reef fish that are considered jumpers. Now, why a fish would jump out of an aquarium is beyond me (not really, but let’s let it go).

Often, a “tight lid” is recommended when housing these species. Unfortunately, adding a lid to a reef aquarium has several downfalls. First, it would quickly get covered with salt creepand block a significant amount of the aquarium light. Next, it would not allow heat to escape, and therefore could cause serious heat issues.

One option a hobbyist has, is to place a sheet of eggcrate atop their tank, and by so doing prevent any jumpers from getting out. Another popular option, is a DIY screen top for your reef tank. We put together a quick tutorial as to how this can easily and inexpensively be accomplished.

List of tools and materials:

  • Aluminum screen framing material – You can get this at Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) You will need enough to construct a frame 🙂
  • hacksaw – or miter saw
  • 4 screen frame corners
  • a spline roller
  • a roll of spline
  • some screening material – there are several options available. For the purpose on this tutorial, we chose deer netting from Home Depot. It was found in the gardening section. You can also use a clear or white netting material.

Begin by measuring your tank and choosing dimensions for your frame. Next, determine the lengths of each side, making sure to subtract the length of the corner pieces from each side (in this case 3/4 inch each). Use the saw and cut the pieces to size. Next, attach the corner pieces to the each end and assemble the frame. Once completed, your corners should look like this.


Here is a photo on the completed frame.


Now, take the mesh material and stretch it over the frame. Take the roll of spline, and starting in one corner, slide it into the groove:


Using the spline roller, push the spline deeper into the groove. It is best to start at one corner of the frame, and then slowly working your way around. It is important to note, that you want to pull the screening material so that it is taut, but not to hard to where it pulls the spline out.


Once you are finished, go around and cut the excess screening material, and you are done.


This is a very easy diy project and it so worth it in the long run. Many times, the screen will fit inside of the aquarium frame and will be almost invisible when looking at the tank. Again, this solution allows for oxygen exchange, allows heat to escape and light to penetrate. It is also easily removable, when any reef tank maintenance is needed. We hope you find this Reef Tools tutorial helpful. Please let us know what you think.

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4 Responses to “How to Build a Screen Top For Your Tank.”

  1. DEEREG says:

    Minus the tools…how much money should a person expect to spend a screen like that? Looks like cheap insurance for some of these fish we spend so much money on.

  2. greyatnight says:

    This project is a great idea, but I started trip to my local hardware store to pick up the stuff I needed when it hit me that I have a lot of stuff hanging into the aquarium, eg.g., cords for the heaters and powerheads, the overflow tank, inputs from the filters, etc. If I size the screen to allow these objects to exit in peace, it leaves a gap that fish can use to escape, especially if I make the screen taut as instructed and holes aren’t cut that would affect the tautness. Yes, I understand that the probability of a jumper is lowered, that the existing aquarium “lid(s)” have the same problem, etc., but I wondered if you ha a magic bullet to fix this issue.

    Thanks for the idea in any case!


    • ReefTools says:

      You could always create a “corner hole” in the frame with a few small pieces and pass all your cords through it.

      Let me know if that doesn’t make sense

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