Aquarium hoods sit on top of the fish tank as a separate part from the stand or underneath cabinet. They serve a number of purposes but are non essential to many
Most commercial aquarium hoods are made from a pine frame with plywood panels. The top panel should be hinged so that it can be opened for feeding and maintenance. The base of the hood should fit snugly so it does not rattle when opened.
Creating a place to affix lights is the primary reason why people use hoods on their fish tank. Aquarium lights are often mounted using screws or bolts. Here they are held high above the water in a dry position. The hood also blocks any unappealing horizontal light spill. The light is reflected so that fish can be easily seen and aquatic plants can grow to their full potential. You may have to choose a light half to one foot shorter than your aquarium to ensure it will fit inside the hood.
The hood also acts as a barrier between the glass and any object that may fall on top of the aquarium. It also catches any dust, being a lot easier to wipe over than the series of glass lids beneath.
Hoods are also decorative. They finish of an aquarium as a piece of living furniture. They can be stained to match your taste but coating with paint or varnish will increase the lifespan of the aquarium hood. Ornate handles are sometimes attached to the top of the hood that can further increase the decorative characteristics.
When you own other pets such as cats a hood is a must. The curious nature of cats often makes them inquisitive of the fish and bubbles. A hood will stop your cat walking on and shifting the glass lids or upsetting other part of your aquarium.
It is not to hard to make your own if you have some skill working with wood. If you would like a cheap aquarium hood there are these and plans available in the resources below.
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Aquariums are created for different purposes & built using various materials
Support the weight of an aquarium using a purpose built stand.
Simple Aquarium Hood Plan
If you are going to make your own hood this is a good starting place.