Total panic -- Aquarium stand failure

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Forum topic by TheRealJobe posted 10-24-2014 12:38 PM 2049 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 732 days

10-24-2014 12:38 PM

Kind Lumber Jocks,

I find myself in a total panic, I purchased a 55gal tank, and received a used MDF stand that had been ‘used for 3 years without a problem’ and now less than a month later is collapsing.

I would like to reinforce the stand and planned to do so creating a simple box frame inside.

I know little of wood working.
I planned on getting 2×4s and creating a basic box on top and bottom and then putting vertical 2×4s on the interior corners in an L shape (so 2 2×4s per corner), I also planned on putting a vertical 2×6 in the middle on each side.

Will big-box store wood 2×4s be strong enough to do this (circa 600lbs+ of weight)?
My understanding is I will want to buy wood stamped as SYP?

*To add to the fun I live in an apartment, no garage, small patio, and the only power tools I have are drills and a compound miter saw.

13 replies so far

View TravisH's profile


438 posts in 1356 days

#1 posted 10-24-2014 12:56 PM

Box store 2×4 will work and is overkill for your application. Where it shines is that most with limited tools or skills can easily fashion a stand easily as joinery is much more forgiving with 2×4 construction. The 2×6 won’t be needed.

I would ditch the stand and build a new one to be honest. Typically once they start to fall apart they have been compromised due to water intrusion and start to crumble. Just follow the GARF stand stuff and all is good. Put your dimensions in and it will give a cut list. A lot of individuals that have never used a tool have followed those plans with no issues. Any of the usual fish sites have countless builds if you want to search them out. Another quick fix some do is buy a new metal stand and put a facade on it. The Brooklyn metal stand at Petco for example, then add panels made up of what ever veneer ply you like and trim work are held in place with rare earth magnets.

View bigblockyeti's profile


3573 posts in 1142 days

#2 posted 10-24-2014 01:16 PM

+1 to starting fresh, MDF and water don’t work well together. 2×4 lumber would be perfect for the application, inexpensive and strong. It doesn’t have to be southern yellow pine, any 2×4 carried at the home centers will suffice. The real issue is figuring out what to do with the tank as it’s transferred from the old to the new stand as few if any are designed to be lifted with any water in them without risking a major disaster.

View bondogaposis's profile


3969 posts in 1772 days

#3 posted 10-24-2014 02:10 PM

The construction you described will work but is way overkill to support only 600lbs.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View timbertailor's profile


1591 posts in 845 days

#4 posted 10-24-2014 02:23 PM

Just go down to the local pet supply and buy a metal stand.

You could not build one any cheaper and do it properly with the right materials.

MDF should not be anywhere near a water source.

Marine grade plywood, at a minimum.

-- Brad, Texas,

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2263 posts in 1791 days

#5 posted 10-24-2014 03:20 PM

Just go down to the local pet supply and buy a metal stand.

You could not build one any cheaper and do it properly with the right materials.

This is blasphemy, you’re on a woodworking site for the love of god!

But yea, I agree. Petco has a metal stand on their website for $60. If you’re not looking at building an entire replacement, just buy one and be done with it. Like others have said, once it starts to go, its going. And it’ll be an eyesore.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View timbertailor's profile


1591 posts in 845 days

#6 posted 10-24-2014 04:49 PM

Just go down to the local pet supply and buy a metal stand.

You could not build one any cheaper and do it properly with the right materials.

This is blasphemy, you re on a woodworking site for the love of god!

- BinghamtonEd

I agree, but he said he was on a budget. Heck, one sheet of 3/4” marine grade would cost more than the stand you referenced, and then he would have to know how to construct a proper carcass to hold all that weight without racking or bowing.

Too much to ask for someone on a budget and with limited woodworking skills.

-- Brad, Texas,

View gfadvm's profile


14929 posts in 2111 days

#7 posted 10-25-2014 12:33 AM

I had this problem when I was in college and had NO woodworking tools (and a 240 gal tank!). I laid 2×4s across concrete blocks stacked 3 high and skirted it with fabric. Not too elegant but cheap and lasted for years.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View distrbd's profile


2220 posts in 1867 days

#8 posted 10-25-2014 01:34 AM

I had 3 aquariums 100 gallons each,all 3 sat on metal stands,and yes they are cheap to buy but very sturdy,maybe later on you can build a wooden box around it with a sliding door and all.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View B4B's profile


126 posts in 779 days

#9 posted 10-25-2014 03:34 AM

I built a stand for our 30 gallon fish tank. I made a frame by screwing 1×3 and 1×2 pine from the box store to the height, width and depth I needed, then screwed 1×10s to the frame and added a door for storage. I also made a lip so the tank wouldn’t slide (not that it would) around. It took me a weekend to make.

Its solid. The nice thing is that the storage compartment underneath hides the wires, air pump, supplies, etc. I keep thinking to myself that I really should add a shelf. . . meh

Top left corner:


Someone with time, a hand saw and drill/driver could make this pretty easily. Cost-wise, it may be cheaper to buy something.

I did have a 50 gallon tank and the stand I had was basically a frame with one support in the middle from front to back with 1/2” plywood sides. the frame was 1x supports on the top and bottom. It looked pretty good, but I think it was a commercially available product (got 2 tanks, 2 stands, and supplies off CL for real cheap).

-- There's two routers in my vocab, one that moves data and one that removes wood, the latter being more relevant on this forum.

View Dreggy's profile


59 posts in 1026 days

#10 posted 10-25-2014 07:39 AM

I’ve built several large aquarium stands out of wood. One thing I was told was to never add a support to the middle of the stand. Aquariums have a natural sag in the middle, and a support there might cause enough stress to crack it. I never tested the theory and only supported the ends with no problems. My largest tank was 240 gallons, built out of plywood, then painted with marine epoxy, with glass installed over the cutouts (inside the tank) with silicone. I never had any issues with using the wood tanks or stands.

-- No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow your progress, you're still way ahead of everyone who isn't trying.

View TravisH's profile


438 posts in 1356 days

#11 posted 10-25-2014 01:24 PM

Natural sag in a glass aquarium equals a cracked tank. It is not a design feature. Plywood tanks a slightly different and not as critical but still should be avoided as bottom line it adds stresses to the system and stresses on taped joints and epoxy not ideal.

No matter the tank you want the stand to to be flat with no sag. Middle supports are typically avoided more because the need to easily access the bottom of the stand becomes more of an issue if you are doing a salt water as you end up with skimmer, sump, timers, automatic dossers, and other equipment under the tank you need to access frequently. Fresh water tanks aren’t usually as bad about needing to get under but still frequent if you utilize canister filters, a refugium, CO2 tank, etc…

View TheRealJobe's profile


2 posts in 732 days

#12 posted 10-26-2014 04:37 AM

Guys, tons of great ideas.
At the end of the day I went the cheap reliable route and got the metal stand.
The primary factor is there are just too many great wood stand ideas out there to not go all in.
So after I get a place to work I’m going to build my own.

Until then the metal will hold and is light and easy to move.

Thanks a ton everyone!

View Fettler's profile


200 posts in 1418 days

#13 posted 10-26-2014 05:40 AM

In all fairness water + wood is generally bad but more so with engineered products. The worst possibly being MSF rofl. Ideally you wouldn’t be getting it very wet or would use a marine finish.

Any basic cabinet construction would work. If you’re going to do, spend the time to do it right. Otherwise go to the fish store.

-- --Rob, Seattle, WA

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