ok.. need second opinion here.. had to take care of some othr things, but now about ready to start finishing this project. im a little torn on how to finish the area in front of the tank. im down to 3 options. 1 is cheap and easy. 1 is easy but not so cheap. 1 is hard and eh, moderate cheapness.
first idea is to use drywall, painted to match the wall. cheapest and easiest, but i worry about damage from cats exploring or whatever. shouldnt get wet, as all access will be from back, but never know.
second is using 1/4" birch ply wood, maybe stained, then urathaned. probably look nicest i think and is what im leaning towards.
3rd is mirrored. yes, mirrors. top and bottom of the opening. i figure will give it depth. fairly cheap, as can just buy plate mirrors from lowes or something. but cutting around that stud would be hard, and also, although looked ok in practice and on paper, not sure how would look finished. might be over kill....
i personally, leaning towards option 2. lady of the house is option 3, wallet likes option 1. hmmm open to suggestions..