How To Build A Do It Yourself Aquarium Stand

do it yourself aquarium stand

The fish hobbyist world is full of countless DIY project ideas and the space as a whole is often quite creative. Enthusiasts take on these builds for a variety of reasons, finding ways to make their own canister filters, protein skimmers, and even the tanks themselves. There is however one project that hobbyists take on more than any other, and that is building a do it yourself aquarium stand.

Building a do it yourself aquarium stand can be broken down into a simple 3 step process.

  • Step 1: Consider why you want to build a stand in the first place; your reasoning will dictate the materials.
  • Step 2: Plan out the construction of the aquarium stand and purchase required materials.
  • Step 3: Build your DIY aquarium stand and enjoy!

Throughout this article I will cover specific considerations for each step in this process, as well as include a simple example of how you can build your own stand at home. Let’s get started!

What To Consider Before You Build?

Before you even begin to plan out your build you first need to consider why you want to build the stand in the first place. This is no small undertaking and if done poorly can lead to some pretty terrible outcomes for both you and your fish.

Things like cost, the size of your tank, and location should all be considered before you start your DIY project.

Why Do You Want To Build It?

It is important to understand why you want to build an aquarium stand. This is what will guide your decisions throughout the course of this project. I Find that most hobbyists fall in one of two categories, price or function.

Price is an obvious one, a store bought pre-fab aquarium stands can cost a pretty penny, often priced similarly to the aquariums themselves. I’ll address this topic in detail in the next section.

Now function really encompasses a bunch of things that will depend on your unique tank setup. I find that this is usually only a consideration for avid fishkeepers. Those that have the need for fish tank racks or expansive organization may find it easier to build their own custom aquarium stands. This can play back into cost but as fishkeepers know, cost is often secondary to our fish.

Whatever your reasoning is, just make sure you have a plan.

How Much Does It Cost To Build An Aquarium Stand?

The cost of building a do it yourself aquarium stand depends on the size of your fish tank and your desired quality of the stand. A high quality stand built for a 100+ gallon aquarium could be pricey, whereas an unfinished 2×4 constructed stand for a 20 gallon tank could come out to less than $50.

Regardless of the price, I can almost guarantee you that whatever you build will be far cheaper than a store bought stand. I have included some cost estimates below based on the quality and size of your tank.

Aquarium SizeUnfinished Stand CostFinished Stand Cost
20 Gallon$50 – $80$100 – $225
55 Gallon$65 – $100$125 – $275
180 Gallon$80 – $125$200 – $350

Plan Out Your Aquarium Stand Build Requirements?

So now that we have established why you want to take on this do it yourself aquarium stand build, let’s talk about how to plan out your design.

When designing an aquarium stand you must first know how much weight you will be putting on it in the first place. This should be your combined weight of the fish tank itself and the water required to fill it. The total will be the live weight of your tank and is the number that dictates how to go about designing your stand.

The live weight of your stand is your reference point to determine the required safety factor of your build. A safety factor expresses how much stronger your stand needs to be in comparison to the minimum requirements to support the intended load. I recommend a safety factor of 4 or greater for any and all DIY stands.

For example, the total live weight of a 10 gallon aquarium is 111 lbs, with a safety factor of 4 a stand built for this aquarium needs to be able to support a minimum of 444 lbs. I have included specs on some of the more common aquarium sizes below for reference.

Tank Size Empty WeightLive WeightRequired Stand Support
20 Gallon25 lbs225 lbs900 lbs
40 Gallon55 lbs455 lbs1820 lbs
55 Gallon78 lbs625 lbs2500 lbs
75 Gallon140 lbs850 lbs3400 lbs
180 Gallon400 lbs1900+ lbs7600+ lbs
225 Gallon400 lbs2160+ lbs8640+ lbs

I can’t stress enough the importance of building a robust aquarium stand. The results of a stand failure can be catastrophic so it’s best to overbuild if you can.

Outside of the frame design and safety requirements, now is also when you should be considering whether or not you want a finished or unfinished stand, as well as the storage requirements that you need to account for. This part of your planning process is entirely up to you, just know that this is where your cost can jump up quickly.

What Materials Do You Need To Build An Aquarium Stand?

We will be using a 55 gallon fish tank as an example throughout the build recommendations. The specifics of what you will need depends on the size of your tank and the desired design. Please use the information above to determine your requirements.

Now that we got that little announcement out of the way let’s get into the details of building your own aquarium stand from scratch. For the sake of this build we will be using 2x4s, and plywood to construct the entire stand. I personally like to keep things as simple as possible both for time and cost. For a more detailed do it yourself aquarium stand build I recommend checking out Woodshop Diaries article. Below you will find a list of materials and equipment for this project.

  • (7) 2x4x8
  • 3/4″ Plywood Half Sheet
  • Wood Screws
  • Wood Priming Paint
  • Latex or Oil Based Paint
  • Tape Measure
  • Drill
  • Drill Bit
  • Circular Saw
  • Paint Brush
  • Paint Roller

For this particular DIY aquarium stand we will need our 2x4s cut into 3 different lengths. The plywood will be used as the top of the stand to create a level surface for the tank to sit on.

  • 8 x 46″ 2×4 – Shelf
  • 4 x 30″ 2×4 – Leg
  • 4 x 16″ 2×4 – Crossbar
  • 50″ x 16″ sheet of 3/4″ plywood

Step By Step Process For A DIY Fish Tank Stand

It’s time! Now let’s go step by step through the process of building this stand from scratch. This design can be applied to tanks of various sizes from 10 gallon to 75 gallon. Once a tank exceeds 75+ gallons in size I prefer to use a different design to safely handle the weight.

Now let’s begin…

1. Prepare materials

Measure and cut all of the lumber to the required sizes. Follow the measure twice cut once principle for this one. It is important that each piece is precisely cut to the correct measurement, especially the leg pieces.

Next you will need to sand each piece to prepare for paint. You do not have to paint the stand but I recommend it if your aquarium stand will be visibly displayed in your home.

2. Assemble the legs of your stand

Start by laying out the 4 leg pieces and 4 crossbar pieces that you’ve previously cut. Place 2 of the leg pieces parallel to one another and set the 2 crossbars running perpendicular on top of the legs. The top crossbar will need to be set 2 inches from the top of the leg piece so that the shelf lumbar can lay even with the top of the leg when installed. The bottom crossbar should be at a height that is going to be most beneficial to you.

Now that everything is in place it’s time to drill! Drill your crossbars to the leg pieces underneath, making sure that the final result is level. Repeat this same process for the other set of legs and we are good to go. All of this should not realistically take much time.

3. Install shelf pieces and plywood top sheet

So by now you should have the 2 sides of your do it yourself aquarium stand completed and ready to hold some weight. This next step is best done with a partner to assist you in installing the shelf pieces, and by assist I mean stand there and hold the lumber.

Stand your legs up and make sure the top and bottom are where they are supposed to be. From there, begin drilling in the 4 shelf pieces (46″) on that side. It is important here that you leave little space between each board because the top shelf will also have a layer of plywood on top of it. Repeat this same process for the bottom shelf.

Now we have one side completely finished and all we have to do is pop the other side on there and drill it into place. The current version of this DIY aquarium stand should look something like the diagram illustrated above. The final step in this process is to drill the 3/4″ plywood piece on to the top shelf of the stand. The plywood will serve as a flat surface for the fish tank to rest on, which will help to evenly distribute the weight.

4. Paint your aquarium stand

Now you could stop here, but your stand won’t look the best. So let’s dress this thing up a bit and make it presentable to the world… AKA paint it.

You can go about this final step in a lot of ways so feel free to get creative. I personally will prime and paint a stand like this to my desired color and call it a day. For a more finished aquarium stand project I would recommend staining the wood.

Our DIY Aquarium Stand Is Done!

We are finished! If you followed along you should be looking at homemade stand right now. For those of you just looking for some information and tips, I hope you found this article useful. If you have any specific questions you can ask them here.

Good luck with your fish! Talk soon.


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