The 3D-Printed Aquarium Hood, 2½ Years Later

by Octapoo

Saturday, July 9, 2022 at 05:12:58 UTC

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So 2½ years ago I made a 3D-printed aquarium hood. I think it's time to throw it away, so I thought I'd show what it looks like now and talk about what I would do differently if I cared to make another one.

You might want to check out what it looked like when it was new but then come back and continue reading this article to see what it looks like now and learn what I would do differently if you want to make your own.

Outside, it still looks fine and remains in fairly good shape.

Inside, where it was exposed to constant humidity and heat, it hasn't done very well.

It has generally become brittle, but mostly at the bottom edges where it would have been in more constant contact with water. You can see that pieces have broken off. Many of them ended up in the aquarium itself but didn't seem to have any ill effects on anything in it.

It's also growing mold, or at least was until I removed it about a week ago and so it has dried out.

One of the first things to go bad on it was the hardware, which rusted within a year. In this image is a very rusty bolt and nut, now exposed since the plastic became brittle and broke away from it.

The system with the peanut butter jars that screw in worked fairly well, but about a year ago this one failed, as I guess the heat from the bulb made the plastic brittle enough that the threads broke free and so it no longer held the jar over the bulb, and so it just fell into the aquarium. I operated it for a while without it, which eventually allowed the moisture into the electrical area, at which point I removed the bulb for a while and hot-glued a plastic bag over it. Later that plastic fell off, so I tried putting a bulb in it again and just never turning it off. I only used it for a few days that way but it seemed like, as long as the bulb was never turned off, it would be fine since it would always be too warm for the water to condense on it.

Also interesting to note though is that even the part that was protected from water has become brittle. So the dry parts exposed only to heat, and the wettest parts at the base, are the most degraded. The rest, even though it was constantly exposed to condensation, seems to have held up better.

The purple panel was made later so as to have a gap to run the electrical wire for the heater and an air hose through. I would have liked to add more panels later, in particular a door panel for adding food, but the screws rusted to the point that none could be removed, leaving me stuck with this design for the rest of it's life. This was particularly annoying at the end since I wanted to have an overflow siphon at the side of the tank, but couldn't make room for it, so for the last year or more the hood has been slightly off the side of the tank to allow that siphon to exist on the other side.

So, what would I do differently?

1. Make it out of PET, not PLA. I guess I should have known, since people think PLA is biodegradable, that it might not hold up well to a moist environment. Somehow I wasn't expecting it would all want to fall apart, but it makes sense I guess. PET is the stuff used for soda bottles so I think it would hold up better to the constant exposure to water.

2. Provide better ventilation for the light bulbs. I had originally thought about either forced air with a small fan or just adding chimneys to one of each of the two ventilation ports I had made for each bulb. However, I did neither, and it looks like I should have done something because the parts most exposed to heat from the bulbs has become very brittle.

3. Assemble with tiny zip ties, not bolts and nuts. Not only did they all rust quickly, but I've also found getting new ones to be prohibitively expensive since I basically have to order them from China because we don't have metric bolts in the U.S. and standard bolts are larger. Zip ties won't rust and I can just clip them out and replace them with new ones, so I would always be able to replace the individual panels.

I don't think I'm going to make another one though because, over the past 2½ years, I've realized I just don't care enough about aquariums to invest what limited energy I have into them. I'd rather do other things like electronics, programming, RC airplanes, etc. I'm basically just waiting for everything that's in the tank to die and then I'm going to throw it all away.

I might not even wait actually. This all started with large flower vase I put some moss and water into and then bought some ghost shrimp to put in, and that was fine because I could play with it when I wanted to, ignore it when I didn't, and pick it up and move it if it was in the way. Then I got an aquarium and it turned into this algae-growing plant-killing machine that would occupy my counter space from that day forward until the end of time. So I'm thinking... I have this nice jar that's like 1 to 2 gallons, which I could put some dirt in, add some plants, catch all the ghost shrimp and put them in there too, and then throw everything else away and be done with it. Then I can put that thing in a corner and it won't be in my way, and when I want to I can look at it, and if I look at it and everything is dead because a 1½ gallon jar isn't big enough, then good riddance.

So I guess the biggest thing I would do differently is just not get an aquarium.


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