Aquarium covers are an under-appreciated, yet essential, part of your tank setup. Perhaps you’ve heard the terms lid, hood, and canopy and wondered if they are all the same thing. Which do you need, and does it come with your aquarium? This list explains the differences and uses for each.
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Why You Need an Aquarium Cover
An aquarium cover or lid serves several key purposes. First and foremost, it prevents the fish from jumping out. It also prevents items from falling into the aquarium and keeps out other curious household pets. Lids reduce evaporation by sealing over the top of the aquarium. Without a lid, you have to top off the water much more frequently, and the evaporation contributes to humidity in the room's air. Finally, a lid usually includes a barrier between the light fixture and the water, which can be important for both safety and cleanliness.
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Glass lids are generally the most durable, effective, and versatile types of covers. They fit snugly to prevent evaporation, they're easy to clean, and they're more durable than plastic. Glass covers tend to be a bit more expensive than plastic hoods, but they are well worth the additional expense.
When purchasing a glass lid, make sure it comes with a back strip that allows you to make custom cutouts for adding a filter and other accessories. These are typically vinyl and can be cut with scissors or a utility knife.
Most glass lids consist of two glass panes connected in the middle by a plastic hinge. Typically they do not include lighting. Adding lighting requires a separate strip-light or other type of fixture that is compatible with the glass cover.
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A hood is typically the part that covers the lighting fixture. It may also incorporate a plastic lid to cover the top of the aquarium. A single hood that covers the aquarium and houses a light usually is less expensive than a separate lid and lighting unit.
Plastic lids come with a few drawbacks. They generally do not fit as tightly as glass lids, therefore allowing more evaporation of the tank water. Plastic lids also tend to become brittle over time and are not as durable as glass.
When purchasing a hood, pay close attention to the quality and specifications of the light fixture. Cheaper hoods often have low-quality lights. Make sure you are getting the light wattage and type you require before purchasing a hood.
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While some manufacturers and vendors refer to glass lids as canopies, most aquarium enthusiasts consider a canopy to be a decorative top that provides a cover for the tank as well as housing one or more lights.
Canopies often are made of wood that matches or complements the materials on the aquarium stand. They are not considered a necessity and can be expensive—often costing as much or more than the aquarium itself—but they can add a finished, built-in look that makes an aquarium blend well with the room decor or highlight the beautiful underwater world behind the glass.