Building A Macquarium

The Macquarium.

I have never been a huge Mac fan, but I have always been fond of fish and older computer hardware.  As a result, ever since I was a teenager scouring the early days of the World Wide Web I have wanted to build my own Macquarium.  What is a Macquarium, you ask?  Simply put, it is a Mac which has been converted into a fish tank.  I have encountered many different types of Macquariums online, ranging from iMacs to Classics, but given that I am sentimental a Classic IIe has always been my preferred high tech fish bowl of choice.

Several years ago, my significant other and I decided to make this wet Mac dream a reality.  After locating a decent Macquarium shell in the form of a Classic IIe acquired from the Concordia University Journalism department, we then procrastinated for two years and two moves before actually putting our plan into action.  Actually, it wasn’t exactly our plan – we followed the time-honored steps laid out by Andy Ihnatko in his ‘The Original Macquarium Volume Four’ instructions.   All in all, the process took about three weeks from start to finish to complete, although things probably would have taken less time had we not run into a few stumbling blocks along the way.

Getting Started

The first part was the easiest – disassembling the Mac and taking out its digital guts and screen.  Our machine hadn’t been used in years, so there were no worries about charged capacitors lurking inside its silicon innards.  We had actually cleaned out the Mac just prior to our last move in a burst of inspiration that unfortunately didn’t last past the packing and unpacking phase.

With our computer free of actual computing components, we then moved on to shaving down the many mounting points found inside the computer case.  To do this, we used a Dremel tool, which kept snapping cutting discs but still managed to make short work of the old tan plastic.  The discs were especially effective at generating enough heat to create clouds of worrisomely toxic early-90’s plastic smoke, which most likely took a few years off of both of our lives.  We also had to cut an access port off in the top of the tank, and to do this we used a combination of the Dremel and a hacksaw blade.


I mentioned above that the Macquarium assembly process didn’t go quite as smooth as we had hoped.  The reason for this?  Glass.  In order to make a tank which fits flush against the case’s front opening, preserving the illusion that the computer screen still remains, it is necessary to custom build an angled glass tank that fits inside the unit.  At first, we went to Home Depot to have our glass cut, but while they were happy to do 90 degree corners for us, they refused to do any angled cuts.

This led my partner to buy a glass cutter and attempt to do the cuts on her own.  Given that the angles are shallow, the glass cutter was unable to provide the type of precision required to create the smooth lines needed to join up with the rest of the tank.  After going through several different pieces of glass that each ended up with small, leak-inducing chunks on their edges, we finally located a neighborhood glass and mirror shop.  We then discovered that glass is really cheap – even custom cut glass – and never looked back, having them cut the angles for us.  If anyone reading this is considering following in our footsteps, I cannot stress enough how inexpensive and easy it is to have a pro cut the glass for you.  Don’t do it yourself – it’s not worth it.

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