Keep That Saltwater Fish Safe: Containing What’s Inside Your Saltwater Tank

As much time and effort saltwater tank hobbyists put into their tank, they often overlook a vital detail of their tank build: fish containment.  In this video I discuss 3 containment methods including a tip for those of you with a canopy.

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Comments for this article (38)

  • Reggie says:

    I have the same screentop. I was lucky that my LFS had the hard-to-find plastic screen on sale. The frame, corner connectors, spline, and spline tool you can get from Lowes/Home Depot.

    FYI, pulling the screen real tight will deform the frame, so pull them enough to be flat but not too much that there is tension.

  • Matt says:

    Damn … no uk suppliers for this kit 🙁

  • BUG says:

    Egg crate also blocks an extreme amount of light!
    I had a tile fish jump to his death through 1/2″ mesh screen, so I would highly suggest 1/4″ mesh. Also, local hardware stores are much cheaper than BRS and sell the same items. The screen can be purchases in Home and Garden section as pigeon netting.

  • Steve Dodd says:

    Hi Mark, good lesson , but why not use glass on top. most people in the U.K. do
    I would have thought you would get massive evaporation with mesh. Even with glass over I lose around a gallon a week.also keeps the tempreture up as well and stops your heaters working all the time

  • BUG…I had zero luck finding clear screen at any home improvement stores. They had plenty of black netting which I avoided as I wanted maximum light into my tank.

  • Steve…glass tops work ok, but can block the amount of light getting into the tank and they can contain a considerable amount of heat. Given that heat isn’t much of an issue with those of you in the UK, anyone in a more temperate climate might run into the issue.

  • Jason Reynolds says:

    I was thinking about alternate solutions for those of use with rimless tanks as I didn’t want to have to put a lip inside my tank and I came across this:

    With this you could place it on top of your tank without having to stick anything inside your tank to mount it on.

  • Leslie says:

    What would you recommend for a bow front tank?

  • Reggie says:

    Steve, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a glass top as long as you clean them often — we all know how hard it is to clean dried saltwater from glass. Saltwater splash can also decrease light intensity in just a few days.

    My ~200g system evaporates about 3-4 gallons a day. Just always make sure your top-off is stocked. Also, get some type of exhaust fan/dehumidifier that will keep the humidity down in the room.

  • Anyone in the UK selling this kit Mark?

  • Don…no one I know of. You could try piecing the kit together yourself as the framing material, splining and splining tool are easy to find. It’s the clear mesh that can be a booger to find.

  • Reggie says:

    If you get several folks together, maybe you can contact a supplier from here:

  • Lisa says:

    Wait, what?! No LED shimmer with the diffuser?! This could be the answer to my problems!!! Can you show me how it looks with the diffuser? Please? I know most people like the shimmer. I don’t. Partly because of my autism, I HATE the shimmer in tanks (not so much in nature because of the bigger waves.) That was the major problem keeping me from using LEDs, so I would really appreciate seeing if that would do the trick. 🙂

  • Michael Horton says:

    @Steve Dodd – Until recently, I used a glass top with the plastic strip cut to size for my HOB overflow and returns. The problem was the salt creep and mineral build up on the underside of the glass and cutting down on light penetration. A hard scrub with vinegar could get it off, but I didn’t want to spend all the time cleaning a top. IMO, the screen top looks far better, and I have less salt creep. Evaporation isn’t always a bad thing either. Some reefers struggle to keep temps down, and the evaporation is a natural way to help cool the tank. The more open top of a mesh screen also promotes gas exchange.

  • Stephanie says:

    Yes, what about bowfront tanks?

  • kevin says:

    I’m still looking for the clear netting. Can’t find it in the netherlands.

    Now i got an open tank. And i used aquascape and the finest bird netting there is to cover it. It’s not 100% safe but at least a bit safer.

    Also with my pervious tank i got a cannopy. And it got braces, now my fish jumped at least twice. Proberbly against the cannopy. and it fell on the glass braces. Nothing blocking it’s path to get back into the tank, but for some reason i found it on the glass beam dried out…

  • Buddy says:

    I have glass on the top of my tank, it came with the tank, 116-gallon corner unit. It was nice that the top glass was in 2 sections so I could remove the 8-inch section and leave the other section covering the tank (Less evaporation). I made my own LED lights using the Markers kit (Less money more versatility) so the lights fit perfectly over the area that has no glass. It still alows for heat and gas exchange and the use of fans to cool the tank. and of course I used the small tank screen kit I got from BRS to cover the open section. Where there’s a will there’s a way.. 🙂

  • John says:

    Had 55gal about 30 yrs ago and my blue ribbon ele got out twice from the heater opening. Yes twice and the 2nd time dry and dead. Great tip and will use it on the 180 semi-reef I want to set up

  • Tony says:

    Here’s a simple question…. For those of us using regular power heads with a/c cords as opposed to the vortech or wireless, how do you route them out of the tank if the screen is on top without having the screen lifted up or bending it? Ideas?

  • rewster79 says:

    I too am curious about solutions for bowfronts?

  • Craghopper says:

    Found this on Amazon UK. Is this maybe what you guys are looking for ?

  • Forrest says:

    I actually got to watch a pearl jawfish go through my eggcrate one time. It was interesting. The fish swam to the surface, poked it’s head out of the water, found a spot and deliberately lept out of the tank into one of the holes. It only made it about 1/3 of the way through, but it then wriggled it’s body like it was swimming, and “swam” through the hole onto the floor. Fortunately this was a coffee table tank I had a long time ago and the fish didn’t hurt itself.

    I got one of those kits about a year ago and made three tops for my 135g AGA tank. One tip you might add is that when running the netting across the first frame piece, try to keep the same row / column of squares going into the spline hole. This will help make it straight. Also, work on one side, then do the opposite side pulling the screen tight as you go. This will give you a very nice straight screen. I like to leave a little wiggle on the edges for the 2 other sides.

    Also, when I made my screen tops, I added some “inside corners” to go around some returns that I have coming over the back of my tank. This is was not easy because the screen top corners are “outside corners”, and you have to flip them upside down to make them inside corners and now your spline cannot go around the corner. You have to either cut and start fresh on the other side of the corner or leave it sloppy. In addition, the framing and corners are “keyed” so they only fit one way. I had to use a mallet to force the corners in upside down which bent the framing.

    I took a close look at your example of an “inside corner” from your follower and it looks like he flipped the corners over, but I don’t see how he got them into the framing w/out bending it. Did he cut the key off the corners to make them universal? He did a really good job btw.

    Also, I’d redo your screen top.

  • fishyjoe24(joey) says:

    glass can block light, and also does properly give the gas extange.
    me I used a lid made for reptile tanks and it works great.

  • Nicholas Lippolis says:

    Forrest, the best way to make a clean inside corner is to invert the outside corner piece then prior to inserting it into the metal frame you carefully trim off the excess “inner” plastic with a sharp blade or such. Also don’t use the plastic furniture pads inside the tank, they loose there stickiness after a while; Use clear plastic self adhesive hooks available at Home Depot. Good luck, you can do it!!

  • Nicholas Lippolis says:

    I have found it important to add a temporary cross brace to the assembled frame (using some excess metal framing) prior to pulling the screen taught, to avoid distortorting the frame.

  • Darren says:

    im almost positive ive seen that kind of mesh in arts and crafts stores. also i remember seeing some of the forums where people were making algae turf scrubbers that used the same material.

  • Nicholas Lippolis says:

    Tony, for a custom fitting internal mesh lid, have your wires etc., exit the rear of the tank. Then measure the frame 1/4-1/2″ smaller in diameter than the tank. This thin sliver of space should alow you to pass or hang whatever you need to off the rear. It’s not perfect but it works for me!

  • Kirk says:

    On the tank with the BRS kit mounted on the corner overflow tank (5:10 into the video), what is he using to hold up his lights? They look like Ecotech Radions and I am looking for some way to mount 2 lights (for now) over my 120g. I’ve read that 2 lights over a 120 need to be 12″ from the water line and the hanging kit is not an option for me. Also, what distances would you want between the sides of the tank and in between lights for that same 48x24x24 120g w/center overflow. The only thing keeping me from getting these lights is the mounting solution. My wife likes the open top look so a canopy is out. And im getting that netting kit. Looks nice and ez. Thanks for the info!

  • Kurt says:

    After much frustration trying to keep the screen tight as I pushed the web into the slot on the frame here is what I did to solve the problem. Cut the screen over size . Place the frame on flat smooth surface. (kitchen floor worked great) Lay the screen over the top of the frame and use the wide painters tape to to stick it to the under laying smooth surface. As the web web pulls the screen into place it pulls out from under the tape and keeps it tight .

  • Mike Gosselin says:

    what size of holes did u get in your screen top kit 1/2″ or 1/4″ netting.

  • Nicholas Lippolis says:

    Kirk… The lights you see are Radions. The brackets are custom made by Dutch Aquarium Systems. The brackets clip/slide directly onto the rear glass & are designed to flip up and out of the way for easy tank access. I don’t know if they can be made for a different tank brand. Good luck bracket hunting!!

  • Nicholas Lippolis says:

    Mike…. if you have smaller (narrow body) fish, get the 1/4″ netting. If you have mostly larger (wide body) fish, get the 1/2″ netting. The 1/4″ netting is best for assured jumper protection but may block a tad more light than the 1/2″. Hope this helps, good luck with your custom top build!!!

  • Kirk says:

    Hey thanks Nicholas. The search is continues. You light mounts are amazing and look very clean and look ez to service. A question about the netting. If the 1/4 filters out more light then the 1/2. Is it enough to make a difference? To the eye or the corals? How are you liking your Radions?

  • Nicholas Lippolis says:

    Kirk… How do I like the Radians? Love them! Quiet, cool, easy to program, excellent coral growth thus far & more light than I need! As far as the netting goes: little difference between the 1/4″ and 1/2″ as far as light filtering but noticeable. The Radions can easily compensate with programing up the intensity a few percent. I tried both the 1/4″ & 1/2″ netting, laid them on top & compared the two. I ultimately went with the 1/2″. One fairy wrasse got through, found her (crispy as a chip) laying on top of the net, none since. As in my previous post the 1/4″ gives better jumper protection esp. in you have jumpers or smaller fish.

  • Scott says:

    Hi Mark, I’m not sure whether to use the 1/4″ of 1/2″ grid. What do you have on your tank?

  • Scott…I got the 1/4″ grid

  • Mark says:

    We could use mosquito netting to the same effect. It’s fine enough to stop even the smallest of gobies however I’m not sure how much light it would block?

  • anthony says:

    read all the forums and tried to make my own and failed. but i found this and it really does work great and doesnt make the tank look bad

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