Mouser's Aquarium

So the idea of putting an aquarium inside a compact Mac has been around since about 1992, when Andy Ihnatko wrote about it in Byte magazine. Since then, lots of people have posted their variations on the theme to the web and a company has even formed to sell macquariums.

The best design I've come across so far is that of Jim Lower. He has an intelligent way to use the space within the oddly-shaped compact mac while keeping construction simple. This guy has a much less clever design but had the good idea to hide the pump mechanism inside an external floppy case.

I had some spare time and a Mac SE/30 sitting around, so I set out to create one of these using a design similar to Jim's. I field-stripped the box down to the case, saving the electronics for other projects. I meant to take pictures at each major step of the disassembley process, but I got overzealous and only ended up taking these two pictures:

The case removed.

The analog board and power supply gone.

Anyway, after all of the electronics and metal chassis were removed, I took a dremel to the inner plastic bits and smoothed down all of the interior surfaces. For reference, the best bits for doing this are the big cutting discs, the large cylindrical grinding stones and the rounded cone grinding stone for doing the corner stuff.

The next step was fabricating the actual tank. Now I could have used acrylic and cut it by hand with a jigsaw the way Jim did, but why not go totally overboard and make it out of bulletproof Lexan and use a 50,000 psi water jet machining center to make the ultra-acurate cuts? Why not indeed.

Cutting the Lexan.

A closeup.

The OMAX cut the Lexan exactly to specifications, which for one of the three pieces happened to be way off. So I had to cut another piece for the center section. Once I had the three pieces properly shaped (CAD images coming soon), I thermoformed the center section with a small propane torch.

Bending the Lexan.

I got ahold of a dead compact mac external floppy drive to use as an enclosure for the pump and assorted electronics. I gutted the drive, removing everything except the cable, the LED and pushbutton on the front panel, and the small PCB that includes the 15 pin D-sub connector on the back panel.

At the pet store I bought a pump for a 5-gallon tank, a couple air stones for the sides of the tank, and assorted other supplies. It turns out the pump is slightly too large to fit inside the drive enclosure. But the pump body is much larger than it needs to be, so I just cut it down to fit with my Dremel.

This is where the project currently stands. Remaining to do:
  1. Chop off the excess Lexan on the back face (it sticks up ~5" too far).
  2. Obtain methylene chloride (bonding solvent).
  3. Get an appropriate needle-point applicator.
  4. Assemble the Tank.
  5. Buy tank accessories (see below).

Shopping List:
  • pump
  • air hose
  • check valve
  • gang valve
  • undergravel filter
  • lift tube
  • air stones
  • gravel
  • 4W flourescent light
  • air hose suction cups
  • tank heater?
  • toy(s)?
  • plants
  • pH kit
  • siphon
  • net

Last Updated: 01.04.29
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