The following article outlines the construction of a dimensional lumber and plywood aquarium stand. I have used this design in two separate aquarium stand builds. The first was for a 55 gallon aquarium and the second was for a 120 gallon aquarium. This design could be easily modified to aquarium tanks from 30 to 180 gallons in size. In order to adjust the design for the aquarium size, you would simply have to adjust the length and width of the wooden pieces. The photos that show the progress of the aquarium stand build are from my 120 gallon aquarium, unless otherwise specified. This article assumes that you possess basic carpentry skills and that you know how to measure, use power tools and glue. Basic safety precautions must be practiced. If you not know proper safety precautions for working with power tools, you will need to consult a woodworking or carpentry book, or perhaps take carpentry classes. This project should take about 2-6 hours to complete depending on skill level and materials used. It will likely take a few days to complete with drying time.
The first step of construction is to build a frame using the 2x4s. The photo below shows the frame that is made up of two rectangles tied together with vertical posts. Crossbeams are added to ensure stability. The top and bottom rectangles should be the same size as your aquarium base with about 1/2" added for extra room when placing the aquarium. The cross braces should be added every two feet. Because this aquarium stand is only 4 feet in length, only one cross brace was used.
A vertical 2x4 post is used on each of the corners and every two feet where the cross braces are located. The height of the aquarium stand is up to you, but most commercial aquarium stands around 32 to 36 inches high. Make sure when designing your aquarium stand plan that it will not be too tall to fit in the area you have planned to place it. To determine total height, add the aquarium height to the stand height. The aquarium stand I built for this plan was higher than most because I wanted the tank to have a higher line of sight. The vertical posts I used were 40 inches tall.
Every joint in the frame is connected using the 2" wood screws and wood glue. When installing the screws, drill pilot holes and make sure to counter sink the screw heads. Use a drill or a screw gun for the screw installation. Using a screwdriver for 2" wood screws makes for one tired wrist.
After the basic frame is built, additional 2x4s are added to give a surface to nail the sheeting to. These additional 2x4s are used on each of the vertical supports to give the stand frame a flat surface. Attach these 2x4s with the 2" wood screws and wood glue. These 2x4s should be cut to fit snugly between the upper and lower rectangles of the aquarium stand. The photo below shows some of the modifications I had to make to ensure the doors fit the stand properly and that they had a sound location on which to attach the hinges. The doors will be discussed in further detail later on in this article.
Another item shown in the photo below is the bottom sheet of the aquarium stand. The sheet must be cut to the perfect size so it can drop right into the frame. This is one of the more difficult cuts that will have to be made for this project and this is where your coping saw will come in handy.
Covering up the Frame
The next phase of the construction of the aquarium stand is to cover it with the sheeting of your choice. The front of the stand and the sides need to be covered with the sheeting. Simply measure the aquarium stand frame and cut the sheeting to the apporpriate size. For the front of the stand, you will obviously need to cut holes for the doors. The rear of the stand does not need to be covered unless it is in view or if you are planning on storing a lot of items in the stand. If the plan is to use the bottom for storage, a rear panel will keep things from falling out. To attach the sheet material to the stand, use 3d finishing nails and wood glue. You can hide the nail heads by counter sinking them with a punch and filling the holes with wood putty.
The next step is the trim. Fit is very important here so make sure to measure precisely. If you have a miter box you can miter the trim. If you do not have a miter box or you are not comfortable with attempting a miter cut you can just use lap joints. If you choose to use lap joints, make sure to make the front piece of trim long enough to conceal the side trim. You can have the trim even with the top of the stand or have it protrude above the top of the stand to conceal the frame of the aquarium.
This is a photo of the unfinished aquarium stand with all of the trim on it.
Finishing the Job
After the aquarium stand is completely built, the finish work can begin. Make sure to sand all areas of the aquarium stand before applying the finish to get the best result. On this project, I used a polyurethane stain that is light oak in color. The finish used should be designed for use with the material used to build the aquarium stand. The photo below shows the aquarium stand after the first coat of stain. The pre fabricated doors are sitting on top of the stand to dry.
Make sure to follow the directions for the finish you are using. It will take between 1 to 3 coats to reach the desired finish. Once the finish is applied, the doors can be attached to the stand and the aquarium can be placed.
You can add other features such as shelves, lights or power strips to the inside of the stand to fit your needs. You you imagination here!
When I built my 55 gallon aquarium stand, I was a little concerned about it being top heavy. To take care of this concern, I added a layer of 2x4s to the bottom of the stand and clad them with the same sheeting used to build the stand. This is the end result: