175G with 75G sump DIY stand! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-19-2013, 01:09 AM Thread Starter
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175G with 75G sump DIY stand!

Hey everybody! A quick update for those who may remember me from a while back-- I quit my job, moved from Maryland to California, and went back to school. The DIY asian themed aquarium stand in my signature is unfortunately no longer with us. I have also been fishless for over a year. That is, with the exception of the tank I set up in my son's classroom.

Now... it's winter break. I have three weeks before winter semester starts, in which time I need to build a three foot tall stand for a 175 gallon tank. The height is so it will be seen over the top of the couch, and so I'll be able to fit my 75 gallon tank underneath it as a sump (sort of).

I also need to clean 20+ years of calcium off of the tank. I tried cleaning it with vinegar about a year ago, but it barely touched the calcium. This time, I'm going for the tactical nuke approach. C-L-R baby! I'm going to be spending a good deal of time cleaning all the CLR residue off the tank after I get the calcium off, but I don't see any other way to get all this junk off my tank.

I also need to set up a light system for it. I'm planning on using an array of LED flood lights. I've used the floods for my 75 gallon tank, as well as my son's class room's 20 gallon high, with great success. I'm thinking I'll use two 20W floods, four 10W floods, and ten 30W floods. I've used a 1W per gallon rule with these for the two tanks I mentioned above, and have kept low light plants very well. I'll have a great deal more than that, set up on separate switches, so if [read: when] I decide to go with high light requirement plants, and injected CO2, then I'll just flip a switch and have the lights ready.


As mentioned, this is a 175 gallon tank. It's six feet long, two feet wide, and two feet tall. I think it will look really cool if there isn't any kind of center brace whatsoever. Just four legs, and that's it. So I picked up some 6x6's, and 4x4's. The 6x6's will be what the tank actually sits on, and the four by fours will be used as legs. I want to have a slight arts and crafts feel to the stand, but I also need to keep it minimal, as my time requirements are very stringent. To see what I have planned, just check out the pictures.


1. My 175G has three holes drilled in the bottom. I'm having issues figuring out how I can use my 75G as a sump, since there's no overflow box. Also, the 175 will be visible from all sides (not against a wall or anything) so I don't want to hang a DIY overflow on the side or back, as long as I can avoid it. I was thinking about using a solenoid valve, as well as a relay and a float switch. If the water gets too high in the 75G, then power would be shut off (through a normally closed relay) to the canister filter, and power would also be shut off to a normally open solenoid valve, going from the 175G tank to the canister filter.

2. I don't want to have any upright pieces in the stand other than the four legs. So what I am planning is using four by fours for legs, and a six by six for the edges of the stand. Does anyone see any problems with this? Also, I think I could get away with using 4x4s, but I think the look of a big honkin 6x6 will be much cooler.

More pics to come as I work on the stand. I've spent all day sanding. The only four by fours around which were straight, were rough hewn redwood (for outdoor use). Which means I'm in the process of sanding everything down to smooth. What... a... pain!

Regardless, let me know what your thoughts are. Positive, negative, neutral, whatever. I value everyone's opinion, whether I end up using it or not.
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As a matter of fact, yes, I always post, or reply, in novels. I'm adding it to my signature because it seems like I say it in every post!
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-19-2013, 01:53 AM
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Looks like its overbuilt but better be overbuilt than under. Looks good though.
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-19-2013, 03:31 AM
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Why use a 75 gallon as a sump? I'm not saying you shouldn't, just wanting to know what the reasoning is.

I'm in the Saint Louis, MO area and always looking to connect with other planted tank enthusiasts.

75 Gallon low tech http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=480226
29 Gallon High Tech http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=96901
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-19-2013, 05:51 PM Thread Starter
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Deano85: Yeah, I think it's overbuilt, but I'm not sure. I know the legs are much stronger than they need to be, but that's just part of the look that I want. Although the 6x6 is part of the look that I want, I'm still wondering about it. I think the smallest board I could get away with would be a 4x6. I'm pretty sure a 4x4 would eventually bow. I would really like Hoppy's thoughts on this, as I believe he's an engineer.

Anastasisariel, I am planning on taking the step to discus, and would like to breed them. I'm assuming I'll have the same issues with discus as I did with my angels. Primarily, the eggs getting eaten by the other females once the lights are out. And, discus being what they are, I would like to be able to move the eggs, and parents, to some of the exact same water they were already in (but a different tank, where they can be alone) in order to limit stress.

It will also keep my water changes down, as I'm not prepared to give daily 50% water changes daily, as many discus owners suggest. I figure if I only keep six to eight discus, along with a few of my other favorites (german blue rams, kuhli loaches, etc.) then I won't have to worry about overstocking either, since I'll have 250 gallons to play with.

Oh, and I already have the 75G, unused, sitting in my garage

I'm not sure what else I'll use the 75G tank for in the mean time, but I'm sure I'll be able to come up with something fun.

Now for more questions:

I am planning on doing a red mahogany stain on the wood. The 6x6's are pine, and the 4x4's are redwood. In order to save time, I want to just hang a curtain/tablecloth material over the openings on the front and side, so here are my questions for all you personal designers out there:

1: What color should the fabric be? I was thinking an olive green.

2: Should I hang the fabric over the top and front of the 6x6's, and only allow the overhanging parts, and legs to show? Or should I hang the cloth from under the wood, allowing the entire 6x6 to show? Which would be more dramatic?

3: Should I have some sort of pattern on the fabric?

4: Are there any questions that I should be asking, but am not?

Thanks for your opinions, and thanks in advance for any help!

If anyone wants, I can take pictures of where the tank and stand are going, so y'all can see the layout and color scheme of our place.

As a matter of fact, yes, I always post, or reply, in novels. I'm adding it to my signature because it seems like I say it in every post!
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-19-2013, 07:06 PM
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You could laminate 2 2x8's together. It always amazes me how weak a store bought stand looks compared to our diy stands. I'm confident my 40g stand could hold a pickup.
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 03:47 PM
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It is called over engineering the stand, the wood they use can effectively hold the weight. In our eyes - The aquarium lovers - would not allow for the margin of error that is present with their "weak" looking stands. I built my own stand for my 75 gallon tank, made it out of 2x2s, 3/4" plywood, a decent amount of trim, and some glass inserts for the doors. It came out amazingly and cost half the price of any comparable stand and canopy! I am right there with every other over engineering DIYer, Keep up the good work!
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 05:00 PM
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For a 6' horizontal span with no center brace I believe you're supposed to use 2x8 (or 4x8) to support the tank. Vertical supports are less important and I believe 4x4 should suffice.

I just set up a 190 with a 75 gallon sump and I'm happy. If I was rich I probably would have built a custom sump but the $50 the tank cost was well worth it to me. Good luck!

Take a look at RocketEngineer's thread about recommendations for wood size: Link
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2014, 01:17 PM
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My 75 has 3-4 holes in the bottom. It is designed for a "standpipe" type overflow and water return. You just run a PVC pipe into the bulkhead and the height of the PVC is the water level of the tank.

Large lumber such as the 4x and 6x is more prone to cracking and checking. You'd be better off laminating (gluing up 2x material face to face) 2 x 6 for the horizontals and 2 x 4 for the legs.
Arts and craft style would have used a quarter sawn oak IIRC not a pine or redwood. The finish is generally an ammonia fume.

Rdmustang, you can get away with a 2 x 6 on a stand because you don't have any point load like in a floor situation. The weight is more on the corners and the middle is spread pretty evenly.

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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-14-2014, 01:05 AM
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++ on laminating vs. 4x lumber. And ++ on vertical support is not that important (relatively). IIRC the amount of weight a single 24" 2x4 can support is like 20k lbs.

I used 2x6 for my 125G (no centre brace) horizontal beams, but I believe the 2x8 statement is correct for your weight category.

75G sump will be excellent...I have 50G on the 125, almost too small sometimes...!

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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-11-2014, 03:56 PM Thread Starter
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Reviving this thread back from the dead. We had some family health trouble for a while, but everything is great now. On top of that, summer vacation has started for my son and I! So I'm spending this week (and looks like one more day) building this stand, building the lights, and setting up the sump. After that, I'll be doing some home schooling stuff with the boy, to get him a head start on next year.

I've changed the plans somewhat for the stand, and have a light system that's going to look out of this world. I'll post some pics tonight. Just as a teaser though, the entire look of the tank and lights is going to be a blend of mid century modern and modern industrial. The lights will be a mixture of 50W, 20W, and 10W LED flood lights. It will be built from conduit, and be mounted to the wall behind the tank, and will be able to swing up and out of my way when I work on the tank.

Again, pictures and plans to follow. I have some sanding to do!

As a matter of fact, yes, I always post, or reply, in novels. I'm adding it to my signature because it seems like I say it in every post!
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-12-2014, 03:39 PM Thread Starter
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Not at promised time, but some pics!

Just a shot of my back yard, and showing that I used the same piece of wood to mark lengths for all legs and leg parts.

I'm using four 50 watt LED flood lights, along with two 10 watt LED floods for accent lighting and two 20 watt floods as well. The 50 watt floods were about 30 bucks a piece from amazon. I've had good luck with these types of flood lights. All have performed well for me (worked great on my 75 gallon) and so far none have burnt out. In fact, the 20W and 10W floods are from my old 75 gallon setup.

Here's a stock 50W LED flood light (nearly a foot by 10 inches, these things are big!)

I took the bolts for all the lights' brackets to the home improvement store, and matched them up. It took about an hour to match three bolts up, due to the improvement store needing better management.

Here's the conduit hangers and longer bolts:

And the lights with the brackets:

From left to right: 10W, 20W, 50W. Tape measure for scale.

Here's a general layout of the light arrangement. Big doofus dog for scale.

And finally, this is the type of joint I'll be using for every joint in the stand:

The reason I spent the time on this one piece of wood which I'm not going to use is because I like to practice something once or twice before I do it. I also try to make as little waste and as much scrap as possible. This block is exactly 12 inches long to within a half of a mechanical 0.5 pencil lead. This one particular 4x4 scrap was also the exact height of my miter saw (all the other 4x4s were close, but this one was next to perfect) So now I have a block which I've practiced on. I've oiled it with the oil I plan to use for the stand, so I know how the wood will look when oiled. On top of all that, I have two miter saw blocks that won't get used for something else.

As a matter of fact, yes, I always post, or reply, in novels. I'm adding it to my signature because it seems like I say it in every post!
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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-12-2014, 03:56 PM
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Interesting stuff, looking forward to seeing it all come together.
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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-13-2014, 11:14 PM
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I realize I'm probably too late with this, but I saw this page a while back and it's just kind of always been stuck in the back of my head...

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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-16-2014, 05:20 PM Thread Starter
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Burr740: Thank you very much.

Bandit1200: That's a pretty sweet setup that guy did with his reef, but I'm not certain as to what you're trying pointing out with the link. Let me know.

Please check out anything written in bold, as that means I would like some advice or recommendations. Advice is always appreciated, as is criticism.

Some tips for folks who haven't done much DIYing, and a reminder for DIY veterans between the asterisks:


I haven't posted for a few days because I've been working like crazy on this thing, and have had a few other stresses which have slowed me down to crawl. Allow me to give a few points to others so they don't make these same mistakes:

1. Prior planning. I am normally VERY on top of my prior planning, but didn't take into account the fact that my brain was fried from finals, and I was therefore very unfocussed. Being unfocussed while planning is like precisely navigating a forest with a hand drawn map and home made compass, while carrying a beehive in your backpack. --It simply won't work.

1 a. Most DIYers are good at building things in their mind. That's great! But don't rely on your mind to remember multiple fractions down to 1/16th. That's silly. Why would anyone think they could remember every single tiny step of a big project?

1 b. Eat while you think. It literally makes you smarter (about 10 IQ point difference between being very hungry, and not hungry at all, IIRC)

2. If you're stressed about time, stop. Do whatever it is that needs your time and is distracting you. Don't assemble lights on fathers day. It's self centered. I didn't realize that until I went to bed last night, and I feel bad for not giving more of my time to my family.

3. Write down every single step of the process. If it takes two full hours to do, then you just wrote yourself an entire instruction manual, to the level of specificity which you desire.
---If I had done this, I would have realized I would first need to build the top, then the base, then the legs. I was originally planning on building the legs, then the base, then the top.

4. Sometimes you have a bad day. The more stressed you are, the slower you'll move. It's better to spend an hour hanging out and doing nothing, than an hour working and doing nothing.

And finally: Sometimes you hit snags. When you do, document them so you won't hit that snag again. Here's my biggest "Stop everything right now, and do not go another step" snag.

Part of the planning stage was deciding how my 6x6's will sit, and I realized that I turned a 6x6 which was meant to be the front 6 foot piece, and had cut it into the two 24 inch side pieces. This meant that a big knot was going to be nearly in the center of my wood, weakening it. Because of this, I had to do a bit of research which added a good hour or two to the whole process (I didn't want to work on a piece of wood which may fail, but I didn't have any other 6 seasoned 6x6's. Eventually I found a free manual on google books from the 1800s which gave me the info I needed. After all, how much have trees changed in 100 years?

Just so y'all know, there is a LOT that goes into grading lumber when figuring out it's ability to carry any sort of load whatsoever. Regardless, once I finished grading the wood by 120+ year old standards, I found that with a wedge placed in the center of my 6x6, providing it had a 7.5 foot span, it has a 1 ton breaking capacity. My 6x6 will have the load spread throughout it's length, is 6 feet long, and will hold ~1/3 of that weight. I spent a lot of time, but at least I won't ever have to worry about it again.


Now for the process/pictures!

First, notching out my 6x6's:

Starting from the outside in, cut a bunch of slots at an equal depth.


Chisel the remaining pieces away, then sand everything down smooth. I forgot to get good pictures of unsanded lap joints. Sorry.


Here's what the different stages look like.


Everything got a test fit, and some extra sanding and chiseling was done after this pic.


Everything was clamped together and squared, before drilling holes for the dowels. The dowels were inserted through the under lapping 6x6s so they won't be visible from above.

I figure if I ever get rid of this tank, then I will convert the stand into a table or work bench of some sort. There won't be a single nail, screw, or bolt in the entire stand. On top of that, there won't be any visible dowels. I wanted a really clean look.


The under side of all pieces were marked (not shown) because once dowels are drilled, placed, and glued, the pieces fit together like a puzzle. This is important to remember during the build process, as I accidentally ended up with two L shapes which went together the wrong way. So I drilled out the dowels, re-squared, and re-drilled. If anything is loose, then I'll do it one more time. The difference will be before re-drilling. I'll fill the holes up with some wood glue and saw dust mixture, and let it dry. It's a trick I learned a while ago for getting something that isn't quite wood putty, and isn't quite wood glue. It's good for pouring into places which need a less brittle spaced than store bought wood putty. Plus it will stain more evenly if you plan on staining.


Pictures of the completed lap joints for the top. So far everything is sanded to 80 grit. I still need to hit it with some 120, and I may get some 200 grit as well. This is the first time I've considered finish sanding less than 200. The finish is going to be unstained tongue oil (another first for me) What are your opinions?


Birds eye view of the lights so far.


Fish eye view of the lights so far.

Thank my wife for being willing to model in a bath robe.

My lights are about 70% complete. I still need to draw up the wire diagrams for it, string some moon lights, replace the thermal grease on all of them, and mount it. I think I'm going to order one of Hoppy's water proof PAR meters, so I can figure out the height I'll want my lights to be before I mount them to the wall.

A word on these LED flood lights:

On the Amazon reviews, people have had problems with the big LED lights going dead within a month or two. Allow me to explain why I got them anyway.

I have had the 10 watt (not pictured) and 20 watt lights in daily use for about three years now. Sometimes one light will dim for a few seconds, then pop right back to full brightness. Not sure what that's all about. Other than that, they have worked fine. However, upon reading the reviews, I realized that only people with lights larger than mine were having problems with them burning out.

I came across one review where the poster claims to be an electrical engineer. I don't really care whether he is or isn't, as he still uses pretty good logic. He said to simply tighten the emitter down and replace the thermal grease with better quality stuff. I already had some very high quality thermal grease which I've used on a couple macbooks, a PS3, and a tough book (which has no cooling fan, and MUST have very good heat transfer).

So I replaced the thermal grease on one of these big 50W LED lights last night. WOW! The grease which was on there was so thick that it absolutely must have worked against heat transfer rather than for it. Thermal grease goes from being great at transferring heat to an insulator VERY quickly. This stuff was so thick that the screws couldn't be tightened down all the way.

Unfortunately I didn't do a heat test on the light last night, but I will be doing a 60 minute before and after temperature check on a different light today.

In closing about the lights: They are pretty cheap at 32 bucks a piece. I get the driver, emitter, housing, heat sync, and shipping. The warranty is probably worthless, and that plays into the price I'm sure. My smaller lights have a great track record. Does anyone have any opinions on this?

All advice welcome, good advice preferred. Anything to add?

As a matter of fact, yes, I always post, or reply, in novels. I'm adding it to my signature because it seems like I say it in every post!
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DIY Asian themed aquarium stand
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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-18-2014, 08:20 PM
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Looks like fun!
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