DIY Aquarium Stand Plans

An Affordable, Functional, and Attractive "Do It Yourself" Aquarium Stand
This is how I built an aquarium stand that will accommodate multiple tanks for less than $25.00.  The project can be completed in one weekend and I did it in less than 8 hours total.  In these plans the stand is 36" tall, 15 3/4" deep, and 30 1/2" wide but the dimensions could be altered to accommodate other sized fish tanks. It is designed to accommodate a 29 gallon tank on the top and has room for two more 15 gallon tanks underneath, perfect for an expanding hobby.

Building this stand requires minimal woodworking skills and simple tools.  If you wish to build your own you will need;
Saw (miter/chop saw with a fine tooth blade recommended)
Tape measure
Carpenters square or speed square
Decking or wood screws
Wood glue (optional but I recommend it)
8 2x4" dimensional lumber studs
Stain of your choice
large L-brackets to tie the stand to the wall and prevent tipping over.

Why I Built My Own Stand
Having kept a single 75 Gallon tank for over a year, I decided it was time to expand my aquascaping hobby.  A friend had given me a 29 gallon tank that sat in my basement for a year and I already had an appropriately sized filter to use on it.  All I needed was a stand for displaying the tank.  I spent much time shopping online and cruising the local fish stores for an aquarium stand but all were FAR to expensive, FAR to elaborate, or FAR to ugly!  Ultimately I decided the most affordable and pleasing option was to build my own stand and by the end of this project I spent under $25.00 on this stand. 

How I Built My Own Stand
First I designed the stand using a 3D drawing software and considered including external lighting as part of the stand.  Ultimately this lighting option was left out of the design.  Next I determined the dimensions keeping in mind that dimensional lumber is not true to size (for example, a 2"x4" stud is really only 1 1/2" by 3 1/2").

Next, I cut all of the lumber to length.
The stand requires;
8 cuts at 15 3/4" (legs)
10 cuts at 8 3/4" (sides & bracing in each shelf)
6 cuts at 30 1/2" (front & back of each shelf)

It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that each piece be cut accurately.  A full 29 gallon tank weighs about 300 lbs. and any tilt in the stand to one side or the other could cause it to fall over (I had to tie the stand to my wall for just this reason as explained at the end of this page).  Eight pieces of dimensional lumber leaves about two and a half studs extra to allow for a mistake or two.  If the cut is within 1/16 of an inch it is probably okay, but any cut that is incorrect by more than 1/16 of an inch should be thrown out and re-cut.

Next I assembled each shelf using wood glue and wood screws.  I like to include wood glue between the pieces being screwed together to ensure strength and limit stress on the screws should a joint receive stress.  Don't underestimate the value of wood glue as it is incredibly strong, often holding together so tightly that the wood will break and split before the glue lets go!  If you use glue and plan to stain the wood with transparent stain, be sure to wipe any excess glue away with a damp cloth or it will not stain properly.

I also used a carpenters square to keep each shelf in proper form.  Countersinking each screw very slowly helped limit any splitting of the wood while ensuring a strong and cosmetically appealing joint.  Several pieces took a few tries to join as the screws either pulled them out of square or out of flush.  Each edge of the wood must be flush otherwise the aquarium sitting on the shelf will be uneven which could cause tipping or stress cracking in the glass.  In the picture below the shelves are arranged on the floor as they will be used in the stand from top to bottom.  The top shelf is the simple rectangle and the middle and bottom shelves are below respectively.  The shorter center braces in the middle and bottom shelf are mostly cosmetic, but also make the shelf functional for larger items such as potted plants.
Note:  I forgot to take a picture before starting to attach the legs to the bottom shelf.

Next I began attaching the "legs" to the bottom and middle shelves.  This makes them look like little upside down tables.  I had two pieces of extra wood in this picture.  I used wood clamps to help hold the wood in place while setting screws.
Once the stand was assembled I took it outdoors to apply wood putty over all the screws and seams.  Once dry this was sanded down.  My stand had a tendency to wobble slightly due to one piece of uneven wood in the bottom shelf.  I used a hand held planer to shave this down.

After sanding I added a dark stain.  In this photo the stain had still not completely set so I placed it on a garbage bag to protect the carpet.

I next checked the stand for level in all directions.  Either due to the floor or a flaw in my craftsmanship, the stand had a very slight tendency to lean forward.  This, coupled with the fact that it is tall and of shallow depth anyway made me very nervous that it might fall forwards with 300 lbs. of aquarium on top of it!  I simply could not feel comfortable with the results and I knew I had to find some method of preventing the stand from tipping forward and causing serious injury.

I thus devised a plan to tie the stand to a stud in the wall with an L bracket.  If you build this stand I recommend you also tie it to the wall to help avoid tipping over.  The bracket DOES NOT carry any weight, it instead prevents rocking back and forth, all of the weight is carried by the stand itself.  There is probably less than 10 lbs. of pressure on this L-bracket as I can easily rock the stand with one finger back towards the wall.

When placing the aquarium I was sure to center it and check for level before adding any weight.  When filling the aquarium I only added a few gallons at a time while periodically checking both the stand and tank for level after adding every two or three gallons.  I was also cautious to use both my eyes and ears to detect any stress to the wood.  If something began to go wrong I was prepared to stop and drain the tank before attempting to correct any problems before trying again.  Remember, a full 29 gallon tank weighs around 300 lbs. and poses a serious threat to safety if it tips or falls, especially to small children.