Replace my fireplace with a fish tank?

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an interest in aquariums or fish keeping!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.


Aquarium Advice Newbie
Sep 7, 2006

First off, for reference, here is a picture of the wall I am thinking about...


Ok, I live in Las Vegas, so with the heat and all the cableing in back of the tv setup, the fireplace is for decoration only...never gets used.

I have been thinking of getting a fish tank for quite awhile, but dont have any good space in my house for one. Recently it dawned on me that maybe I could yank out my fireplace and build in a fish tank.

The fireplace is a simple gas insert type sitting on the concrete slab foundation.

Some of the plusses with this is that theres already power in the dead space for the tv equipment.
Theres sufficient dead space for associated equipment behind the tank.
I could build a access panel from the wall behind into the working side of the setup for maintenance....also that panel would be next to an exterior door making water changes and such very easy...just run the hose outside...

One of my major concerns is that water evaporation will damage my electronics sitting above the tank. Some possible solutions would include building a vapor barrier above the tank/below the tv....maybe use the existing chimney stack as a vent tube for the vapor to exit the house.

Another possible option involves a product whereby you mount a sun collector on your roof and with sora fiber optic-ish tubing, create a natural light source inside your house....I could maybe mount the collector on top of my chimney and run the light down the chimney into the tank...possibly enough light for anemonies down the road?? Anyone tried that?

This is all in the pretty early planning stages and am looking for advice/feedback on my ideas...any and all info is appreciated.

TV electronics mounted above a SW tank is asking for trouble IMO. You'll have salt all over everything from evap.

Do not plan on the natural light source to supplement your tank. Algae problems with too much light for one (need to limit light to 10-12 hrs daily). And the natural/light definitely won't or shouldn't figure in on anenome acquisitions. That's going to be artificial, electrical, better spectrum lighting.

In the meantime, read Robert Fenner's "Conscientious Marine Aquarist" for a good starting reference (available from the Book Library at this site).

Good luck and welcome to AA!!! Stay in touch.
(fixed your image link for ya)

First, Welcome to AA!! :)

Looking at the picture I think the tv is far enough away from the fireplace that it shouldn't be affected by evaporation. I would say to be sure of this, mount a small fan at the base of the chimney and allow that to vent vapor from the fireplace up and out, like you had considered. That should be all that is needed. Judging by the space, are those 8 inch tiles? making that roughly a 3+ foot wide space. Not even enough room for a standard 55 gallon. You could get a custom tank made to fit the space a little better.

I would second Ray's comment on the natural light. It tends to cause more harm than good, mostly, from my own theories, due to the shallow nature of our tanks. The light is too yellow and supports more algae than sea life. This is why SW tanks do so much better with bright white and actinic lighting.

I think, if you take precautions to seal the area from water (you don't want salt creep and water vapor to seep into the surrounding walls etc) and make sure you'll be able to comfortably get into the space to work on the tank you might be able to pull it off. I think getting into the tank itself for maintainance would be my biggest concern. You'll need to be able to stick your arm in there and reach down to the front to get to things that fall, move LR, remove dead critters etc. The bigger the pain it is to work on your tank, the less you'll want to keep it up, the quicker it will decline and the less happy you'll be with the experience. Even if you go with the access panel in the rear for equipment access etc, I think I would also built the tank leaving a large enough gap at the top that you can reach in from the front to do what you need to do. You should be able to easily build a "flap" that covers the gap and hinges upward to allow access.... actually.. you'll need that space up there for lighting anyway so you sort of have to leave a bit of a space above the tank. :)
I think getting into the tank itself for maintainance would be my biggest concern

That's huge!! Access to the tank and components will be your biggest concern. BilliZ is so right in that if you can't service you tank properly by being able to reach all areas within it and components hooked to it, it'll get away from you fast.

And now that I see the pics of the TV, it does look far enuf above so that that distance and barriers and ventilation are do-able.

I would also consider a new circuit back there if you demo and have the opportunity to add one. Maybe a new strip behind the the service wall and reachable. A setup that will allow unusual sized plug ins. Think of the plug space a timer needs. May have 2 or 3 of those for the lighting. Also, lots of aquarium electronic stuff has those black box plugs that take can only be plugged ito the bottom outlet - and when plugged into the top outlet, take the space from the bottom plug. Plan slowly and thoughtfully, as you'll be happy for it later.

Thanks for the quick response...and thanks for fixing my link BillyZ.

Ok, ix-nay on the sunlight...thats fine.

I was planning on a little more than just yanking out the fireplace and putting a tank in the same hole. The wall in question is not load bearing for the house, and the tv setup is actually pretty light, plus, the shelf is also mounted to the studs on the wall behind as well. As I have never been a fan of those plain grey tiles, I sorta figured Id blow them out and make the hole bigger....maybe something in the 120 gal range...gonna go down to the fish store today and get some dimensions on various tanks.

Making it partially protruding for front access is easily done. Depending on how low I mount it I guess I could make it so I could get my upper body through the opening in front. How much space do you think I need? would getting one arm in say up to my elbow be enough?

Access from the back would be semi-limited...maybe a 3'X3' opening to kneel into..I figured on building shelves so everything was within easy reach.

I already have power back there for the tv...its a dedicated 15 amp circuit just for the tv and surround stuff so I should have the amperage to add stuff book recommended a gfi...that should be easy enough.

As for water protection for the interior, what do you think is necessary?

Lining it with the cement board used behind bathroom tiles in a option..would that be overkill? on the light weight side, just stapling up plastic vapor barrier tarps? Or is there a happy medium?

The fan on the chimney stack is a good idea..thanks :)

Thanks for all the input!

would getting one arm in say up to my elbow be enough?

Personally, I like to be able to reach the bottom of the tank. Elbow won't do it for me.

Also, sound like your heading in the right direction. Once you do this thing right and begin to enjoy it, you'd want a bigger tank anyway. 125 sounds about right to be able to do some serious stuff in.

Have fun!
You could use a paint like Duron's Duraclad, that will seal inside your chimmney and be SW proof (I believe they use that stuff on naval ships, but that could be a story my LPS told me...P stands for paint).
I also like to have access to all of my tank, but it sounds like you are thinking in the right direction! Pictures would be awesome!
So, you're considering more of a total tear out of the fireplace and putting in an in-wall tank basically. That would probably make things easier.

Getting some measurements I agree should be your first step. Once you know how much space the tank will take up then you can get a real idea on what you'll be able to accomplish.

In terms of the space above the tank, consider first lighting. A Metal Halide light should be a good 8-12 inches (IMO) to keep from overheating the tank and avoid shattering the bulb from splashes. That 8-12 inches should also give you enough room to reach into the tank. As Austinsdad mentioned, in to the elbows is probably not enough, especialy if you're thinking of a 100+ gallon tank. When you go to measure the tanks at the store, reach into the top of one (an empty one!) and get an idea of how much space you would need to reach in all the way. You could go with PC lights to save on some cash, but if you plan to house anenomes and corals in a 100+ then MH would really be the way to go.

Keep us up to speed!
maybe a 4x2x2 120 gal? that's one of my favorite sizes, and although they are not common, it is a stock size.

Sounds like a cool project...keep us updated!
I checked the store today...they had one of those 4x2x2 tanks....2

Certainly do-able, but man, it takes up some real estate.

gonna have to research some on refuges and sumps and whatnot...was planning on going the live rock/sand route for filtration. A tank that big would take up most of the space behind the wall where I was planning on putting that kind of stuff...the 90-100 gal range looked a little more managable.

Big is nice tho....

Well, this is all just brainstorming for the moment, so Ill keep my options open for now.

Thanks for the help, and keep it coming if you think of something else

yeah, the 120s are big.....but think of the aquascaping options!

A 90 might be good, I think they are the same footprint as a 75 (48x18) but are higher.
Thanks for all the advice.

Ive been reading a ton a visiting my LFS often.

One thought that had come up that is bothering me is that I may end up with a tank that is too low...

I would be considerably lower than the pre-built tank stands sold in stores.

One consideration is that the couches in the living room are 10+ feet the look down angle is reduced quite a bit...

Of course sitting on the floor with a few pillows for some close up watching sounds more comfortable than the hunching over thats required when standing next to a tank on a pre-made stand.

I have some latitude to raise the tank up a bit...however I will start encroaching on the space needed for a light source..especially if I end up wanting MH lights.

you can get durarock sheet rock that is used in showers 1/4 in thick- and do a re -title job on your existing fireplace . (inside and out ) just make a way to make a easy access panel in the front that you can get your self into to maintain you equipment. now you say you have another room behind - why not make a access panel you 'd only need to access the filter sysytem to change filters . Pretty simple just get a 1/4 inc pc of luan (sp?) ply and paint to match paint in closet - (if that is where it is And some molding to trim it out - Also it makes it easy to repair that access panel say if you decide to sell and move from that house.

The tank does seem very low .. also - from the video equipment (games) you have little ones? that would be a factor to worry about also .
thats what i was going to say. wouldnt the tank practically be sitting on the ground?
Top Bottom