TV Terrarium Progress

After the dawn of flat-screen tv’s Cathode ray television sets became a rare sight in the American household, but a dime-a-dozen in the junkyard.  Despite how many of these tv’s began to make there way out of the living room and on to the curve, very few ended up in recycling centers.  This cathode ray tube itself contains powdered lead, and a few other “hazardous” chemicals which make recycling difficult.  A number of circuit elements within the tv can also retain a charge capable of causing injury.  Because of this, these tv’s have to be taken to designated electronics recycling centers in order to be appropriately disposed of.

I actually have a few of these tv’s that I use to play Super Smash Brothers on (CRT’s have very low input lag from non-HD input sources), so I wanted to use one for my project.  I decided on building a TV terrarium (I wanted to do a fish tank, but I don’t want fish so…).  For now I plan on filling the tv with some small, low-light plants, but I’m definitely considering adding a hermit crab to the mix.

My tv’s not quite as hip as the one in this picture, but it gives a pretty good idea for what I have in mind:

To begin, I had to hollow out the inside of the tv.  The body of the television comes apart with the removal of just a few screws.  On the inside there are a number of sub-assemblies: the cathode ray tube, the vhs player, and the sound system.  The tv hadn’t been connected to power in a while, so I wasn’t too worried about getting shocked, and since I didn’t plan on using any of the components in the future, I wasn’t too concerned with snipping wires.  The tube was anchored to the front chassis with screws and steel wire, but came off easily enough, as did the two main circuitboards and vhs hardware.

I was most concerned with keeping the front pane of glass intact (I hadn’t realized yet that it was attached to the entire tube) so I spent an hour trying to remove the screen housing and chip away at the soldering that ran around its circumference.  Eventually I realized it wasn’t coming off.  I did some research and discovered that there is a vacuum inside of display, so if I continued to chip away at the screen, the glass may shatter inward!

So I put the screen assembly in a box, covered it with an old t-shirt, and got out a hammer.  I broke the glass at the back of the assembly (in hind-sight I should have taken more pictures) and began chipping away at the glass, down the assembly, away from the screen.  All was going well until a scrack spread suddenly through to the front screen (I should have scored the edges).  Screen lost, I went and found some scrap acrylic to laser cut into a new screen.


For now, I’ve been experimenting with putting lights inside of the tv,and using the salvaged circuit hardware for decoration.  The soldering is all very well done, so it reflects the light well.  The straight construction lines of the circuitry should also add some nice contrast to the rounded edges of the plants that will eventually end up inside.  Should provide some good scenery for the hermit crab as well.


Related pics:


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5 Comments. Leave new

  • Joseph Yoshimura
    January 31, 2016 3:01 pm

    This sounds like such a cool and elaborate project! I was thinking about doing something like this after I read online that people can make aquariums out of their old TVs, but I didn’t feel like I had the technical expertise to take apart the TV while keeping the electrical components intact. I’m really glad that someone decided to do this and it looks like you were the right person for the job because it looks like you’ve been doing a real good job on it. You mentioned that you plan on playing with the lighting and circuitry of the old parts, do you think you can connect anything to the dials on the tv? I think that would be a really interesting addition to the terrarium!

  • I love Super Smash Bros! (I actually remember attending the SSB club they have here at CU and there were like 20 of these small older tvs set up in an entire classroom and it was awesome.)

    I really like the lighting in the last photo where it’s deflecting off circuitry. I’m curious to what you’re planning on using as the front panel in replacement of the original glass (maybe a piece of acrylic? I believe they’re like $10 or so for one that size from Home Depot.) Anyways, I’m stoked to see how it turns out!

  • Elizabeth Whitman
    January 31, 2016 12:29 pm

    This is a really great project idea! My parents have a bunch of old tv’s that Ive been wanting to do something with for a while. Maybe Ill something like this for fun. Excited to see how it turns out

  • Rachel Grosskrueger
    January 30, 2016 12:19 pm

    This is a really creative idea for recycling those old TVs! I see them abandoned on streets all the time but this is a great way to put that bulky thing into a new use! It would be very impressive if you were able to reuse the circuitry like you discussed and maybe be able to control the lighting inside with the old remote or a new one. Such a cool idea but how do you access the plants/crab once it has all been put together? Is there an opening in the back for that?

  • Brittany Warly
    January 29, 2016 3:55 pm

    This project is so unique and cool! I commend you for taking on an electrical challenge like this and it seems like you understand how to safely execute the process. I can’t wait to see your hermit crab tank!


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