Looking for some guidance on DIY aquarium stand project


Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
May 4, 2006
I plan on learning some of the tools in the shops here where I work over the winter break, and I wanted to build a stand for a future 65-90 gal tank. In the shops we can work with metal, wood, plastics, etc. There's a lot more available than I am able to use at the moment, but having something to build that *I* like is a great impetus to get me in there and train.

That said, how do I approach designing the tank? I was thinking of using a metal frame for rigidity and strength (1, 1.25, 1.5 or 2" square steel tubing) with a wood panel exterior. Maybe try to make it look like those nice ADA stands.

How best to approach the design? I was thinking that having leveling feet would be of great practical value (I see some on the Rockler site).

What I'm looking for is any input those who've made their own stands about what NOT to do. :)

I want to draw up the plans in SketchUp Pro (which I need to get back up to speed on anyway) and will post them here for comments. And when I get the chance to build the cabinet/stand, I'll photograph it and post that here as well.



Junior Poster
Dec 18, 2007
Syracuse, NY
This isn't what NOT to do, but I couldn't resist sharing my own DIY tank stand :)

I designed and built (over-engineered, most likely), a wooden stand using 4x4 legs with 2x4 supports and 3/4 ply surfaces set into the supports. The design allows for a 55g to sit on top and a 30g to sit underneath. Having spent the last several years in small apartments, and currently in a small house, it's a great space-saving design.

The disadvantage, however, is that I have no cabinet space to store my CO2 tank and to tuck away power cords, etc. I'm still looking for a satisfactory matching cabinet to sit next to the tank.

I like your idea of adjustable feet for leveling, something I considered but chose not to add...simply because it was too difficult for me at the time. It sounds like you have the necessary resources to do this though, and I think it is advisable. In hindsight, having lived in various old houses with uneven flooring, this would have been an invaluable feature. I've had to resort to shims in the past for leveling, which can leave imprints on some flooring surfaces (I guess using wood shims is something not to do). I'm currently using felt pads which seem to work well.

In the past I used corkboard between the tanks and the wood surface as cushioning...something for the tanks to settle into in case of any unevenness. The cork was fairly brittle though, and exposed edges would easily flake off if brushed or rubbed against. After the most recent move, I decided to try 1/2in polyethylene foam padding. It's tear resistant and water resistant.

I hope this helps. Good luck! It was fun for me, if not a little nerve-racking. It takes some guts, I think, to build a DIY stand that needs to support so much water.



Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 24, 2005
Sacramento, CA
Using steel tubing for the structure of a stand is overkill. A 90 gallon tank will weigh around 800 pounds when filled and with some rocks in it. Plywood or MDF, 3/4" thick will support that much weight if all of the load is directed along the length of the material. I don't know the dimensions of that tank, but assume it will be 4 feet long and about 20" front to back. If the weight is supported by the shell of the stand you would have about 48+20+48+20=136 linear inches of shell, or 136 X 3/4 =102 square inches. So, the compressive stress on the shell would be 800 divided by 102, or about 8 pounds per square inch. That is very low stress.

The biggest potential problem is racking of the stand - the stand collapsing from a side load when someone bumps it or an earthquake occurs. You have to have a solid back, 3/4" thick, and a header across the top where the door opening is, also made of 3/4" thick material. That header should be about 4 to 6" from top to bottom.

If you want to use leveling feet, read http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...32-another-simple-aquarium-stand-cabinet.html for one way to use leveling feet.


Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
May 4, 2006
I was considering metal mostly for the reason of a "simpler" design, from the standpoint of less material overall. That and there seems to be enough spare, or leftover material from the semester to use to cobble together a stand (or at least use as the base). I'm not particularly married to anything in particular.

Vaughn, I had not calculated out the distributed weights. I had been thinking about how best to approach levelling and securing a tank such that the floor both best supports and disributes the load, but also if the floor is not not stiff, that is if walking by can cause some movement (old house!), then rocking won't be a problem.

I've a lot more to consider, which is why I'm very keenly curious to see how others on barrreport.com here have approached designing stands. (Have been looking at as much as I can find via Google, but hard to judge just from photos or short writeup.)


Guru Class Expert
Jun 8, 2007
My husband made one for my 32g with mdf. It's simple, just a rectangular frame with a flat top and doors on the front. Tacked and screwed together but more importantly glued. The back is open for easy access for tubing or whatever with just one center support in the middle back. It's finished with several coats of a black glossy spray paint. If I had my time back I would have used flat cause the glossy shows the imperfections if you look hard. I do like the storage, co2 bottles, etc. nicely hidden. It probably cost $40 all together so it's an economical option too.


Prolific Poster
Nov 12, 2005
The most simple and effective design is ADA stands. It is brilliant!
There are no metal frame, just MDF panels 16-22mm (Medium-Density Fiberboard).
ADA uses veneered MDF (veneere inside - see photo 1, 2).
Tank sizes up to 180Lx120Bx60H (cm).
See article at my Amania– DIY ADA Stands.
Sorry, site is under construction (IE only!) and in Russian only, but you can find here drawings and links on another articles.

I have made this year three ADA stands - two 90cm, and one 60cm, both still not painted :-(
Here is my cutting from the shop-order for my 90cm and 60cm ADA-style stands.

MDF – waterproof from Fantoni (Italy).
primer - alkyd Tikkurila JEHU (PDF) color “N162” or “V500” – 0.9L USD10.
alkyd paint – full gloss Tikkurila MIRANOL (PDF) - 0.9L USD10
color by old Tikkurila Monicolor Nova - "N162", or "V500" by new Tikkurila Symphony
rapid filler - water-born Tikkurila PRESTO (amazingly good!) - 0.2L USD5.
Polyurethane Glue - “Titebond Polyurethane Liquid Glue” 237ml USD8.

Overall price was ~USD70 for 90cm stand and almost free 60cm stand :).
Sorry, I have no digital photo camera :-(

ADA-style stands drawings from 60 to 180cm – PDF 2.7Mb.
Attention! There are drawings for 16mm OR 18mm MDF panels!
This drawing is only shows that standard panel of MDF is enough, it is not for cutting! In the shop you need just dictate this sizes and how much of each details, and their computer program will place details in the most rational way.

Side hole drawing – PDF.

See what did Luis Moniz and PJAN.

Sorry for my English.
Hope this would help.