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DIY Tank Stand

by Gareth (Gdominy)

This was my first solo attempt at creating an aquarium stand. In the end it worked out fairly well and I have learned enough that I feel I can tackle a stand for the 135 Gallon tank that we will be purchasing shortly.

In total this project cost approximately $85 Canadian for the Stand, Canopy and all the electronics (light fixture and bulbs).

Parts required:

  • 4 x 8 Sheet of plywood. I would recommend using at least one side sanded plywood or cabinet grade for this project. It only costs a little more, and looks much better in the end.
  • 2 x 2 or a 2 x 4. This will be used for the kickplate, and can be skipped.
  • 1 Ύ” Wood screws. You will need lots of these so don’t cheap out here
  • Wood glue
  • 48” Kitchen/Bathroom Double strip fluorescent light fixture
  • Power Cord (you can buy one or cannibalize one from an appliance, I used an extra power cord I had for a computer)
  • Fluorescent bulbs
  • Wood Stain (your choice)
  • 36” Piano Hinge
  • Brass finishing screws
  • Brass handle for cabinetry
  • 1 ½” Finishing Nails

That’s about it, I purchased all of my parts from Home Depot and even had them cut the wood for me. This makes it easier if you don’t have a large vehicle to move a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood around.

The Aquarium Stand

Step 1 – Measure the aquarium

I don’t feel I need to stress the old carpenters adage “measure twice, cut once” so we’ll skip the preamble. When measuring the 45 Gallon aquarium used for this stand I allowed for Ό” of “play” around the tank. Even with this, it turned out to be a close fit.

You’re typical aquarium may not be the actual dimensions they list. For instance, a local company here in Victoria manufactures high quality aquariums. They use the standard 1 foot width for tanks and various standard lengths (20” 24” 30” 36” 48” 72” etc). What we discovered (as many other DIY’s have before) was the listed dimensions were actually the dimensions of the GLASS not the actual black plastic trim around the bottom.

So now we have a tank that is actually 12 ½“ by 48 ½”.

Step 2 – Plan your cuts

As mentioned above, you only get one real shot at this, this design really used most of the wood and leaves little room for error. This is why I got Home Depot to cut these for me.

I managed to get the single sheet cut into the following pieces (roughly):

  • Two 13” by 48 ½” planks
  • One 48” by 16” plank
  • Four 12” by 16” pieces
  • One 50” by 3” strip
  • Two 13” by 3” strips
  • One 5” by 50” strip
  • Two 5” by 13” strips
  • One 6” by 50” plank
  • One 8” by 50” plank
  • Two 6” by 5” pieces

Keep in mind that a saw blade takes off an eighth of an inch with each cut.

Step 3 – Assembly

Glue is your friend. People often times neglect to use wood glue when building something for home, it is however incredibly strong, and should never be forgotten. Another important consideration is the need to pre-drill the holes for your woodscrews. As a screw twists into the wood, it will try to separate the layers and can quickly ruin any hope of a strong joint.

Before you start to screw or glue anything together you need to figure out where you want your vertical supports to be. The two outside supports will obviously be on the outside of the “box” that will support your stand. The middle two boards are up to you for spacing. I chose to leave a larger cavity in the center of my design to allow for larger objects to be stored under it.

Start the assembly by running a bead of glue up the 16” edge of one of the 16” x 12” pieces. Affix this to the 16” x 48” board

Any professional carpenter would probably look at you and “Ewwww… a butt joint”. But hey, if you’re reading how to build one of “my” stands, you’re certainly not a professional carpenter!

Once the boards are attached you should pre-drill a hole at the top and bottom of the joint and screw it together. It is best to do this while the glue is still wet, so any excess can “bleed” out as the wood tightens together.

Continue this process for all four boards until it looks like this. This will form the back of the stand and the vertical risers to support the aquarium.

DIY Stand

Let the glue dry, then sand the edges. Run a bead of glue along the top edges of the structure and place one of the 48.5” x 13” boards on top. This will become the top of the stand. Predrill the holes for your screws and then screw the whole thing together.

Once the glue has dried, flip the structure over and repeat for the bottom. Your stand should now appear as follows:

DIY Stand

At this point you can install a kick plate if you want, I chose to leave this out (out of laziness more then anything). If you wanted, simply build a rectangle out of a 2x4 or a 2x2 and attach it to the bottom (leaving a few inches gap from the edge).

You can now add the trim that masks the black plastic edge of the tank bottom. Run a bead of glue along the top, front edge of the stand. Once that is complete, attach the 50” x 3” strip to this. Make sure that the strip is flush with the bottom of the top piece of wood and that you have allowed Ύ” on each end for the end guards. Use finishing nails to tack it into place.

Next, run a bead of glue along the ends of the box and attach the end guards (these are the 13” x 3” strips). Tack into place using finishing nails. You’re stand (when looking from the top down should now look like this

DIY Stand

And from the front:

DIY Stand

The Aquarium Canopy

The canopy isn’t too difficult. In fact it’s fairly simple. Very few screws are required for the construction; however glue and finishing nails will be required.

Since we already know the dimensions of the aquarium from the previous steps, and our wood is already cut, we can skip straight to the assembly.

Step 1 – Assembly

Run a bead of glue along one edge of the 50” x 5” plank. Attach this to the 50” x 6” plank as follows:

DIY Stand

You will want to use a few screws (4?) to secure this joint. This structure is going to become the opening portion of the lid and needs to be strong and rigid.

Now, Glue the 5” x 13” and 5” x 6” pieces together as follows (tack together using finishing nails):

DIY Stand

You will need two of these, as they will make up the back corners of the canopy (make sure that you second one is a mirror of this one)

Run a bead of glue along the 6” pieces and up 8”’s of the 13” pieces, DO NOT RUN GLUE ALONG THE WHOLE LENGTH OF THE PIECE. Attach the 8” x 50” plank to these corners so it appears as follows:

DIY Stand

Allow the glue to set completely before continuing. Once the glue has set, take the opening portion of the canopy we created early and place it so the 5” plank portion is hanging over the side boards, and the 6” plank is on the top edge to edge with the 8” plank.

Take your 36” piano hinge and center it on the joint between the 6” and 8” planks. Once centered, use your brass finishing screws to attach it to the wood. Once complete it should look like this:

DIY Stand

Now, flip the canopy over so it is top down. We have to attach the fluorescent fixture. Make sure before you buy your fixture that you have one that will fit, not all fixtures are created equal. Screw your fixture in place, and follow directions for wiring it.

In my case I had purchased a fixture that needed to have its ballast wired to a 110V power source. This is a regular kitchen fixture, and came with ballast covers to prevent moisture from entering.

Never attempt to do any electrical wiring while the circuit is hot.

I will not be providing details on wiring here, as no two fixtures are created equal. Consult with an electrician before attempting anything like this on your own.

You will need to attach a “runner” to keep the canopy from sliding down the tank. I used some of the leftover scrap to create 2, 1” strips that run along the 13” end pieces. This allowed the canopy to slip over the top of tank just enough to cover the black plastic trim.


You can finish this stand in any way you like. Typically a basic wood stain will look quite nice, and will draw out the natural patterns of the wood.


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