Fishkeeping Tips 14: Building Tank Stands




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      After keeping fishrooms for 30 years, I tried a wide variety of aquarium stands - generally the metal
     put-together stands from Home Improvement Stores that run about $80 and rust out in about 7-10 years.
     I am getting to where I would like my fishroom stands to be more permanent than that, and needed
     stands that were:

     - Heavy wood that would be stable and that could be painted to waterproof them.
     - That you could make at home with a cheap saw, electric drill and tape measure, ideally
       in just a couple hours, without need for a shop to do cut-outs, etc.
     - That would be incredibly strong and stable, able to hold 2 rows of 55 gallon tanks easily.
     - And that were made of only 2x4s, 3/4' plywood for the shelves under the tanks, some 4" x 1/2" panels,
      some screws and maybe a bolt or two. Cost must be minimal.

     I did find that stand, and here is how you make it.  If you have any questions about anything here that
     does not seem clear, please email, and I will get right back to you!    

      Lastly since this involves power tools and a period of sobriety I am aware may be challenging for some
     fishkeepers I know, you will need to set aside a weekend to do this properly. I have made 10 of these
     racks so far, and found that spending the first day cutting the wood, then painting it, then putting
     the rack together the next day worked best. These racks have worked well for me. Study the
     design carefully, and understand how and why these racks work before cutting any wood.

     However, if you injure yourself, or you have trouble with the rack for any reason, Select Aquatics
     can in no way be held responsible! Good luck!

     Greg Sage, Owner, Select Aquatics



   This pair of racks were built fall 2014, and these are
   very sturdy and stable. However, that extra strength
   comes with a price- each rack is slightly longer due
   to the double legs, than a standard rack with single
   supports. But a standard rack requires cut outs needing
   wood shop tools. This rack can be done by one person 
   in their fishroom, and this rack will never sway or tilt.



                                         Tools and materials You Will Need:

   - A circular hand saw that can make straight cuts
    - A drill that can handle drill bits and three inch wood screws
    -If possible, a second drill to drill pilot holes, then just switch drills to put screws in
    (This is a big time saver as each rack takes around 60 screws)
    - A tape measure and pencil
    - I use duct tape to hold joints together before pilot holes are drilled, and screws
      are put in.
    - 2x4s, enough to build the size stand you are looking for. (See below)
    - 42 inches of a 4" x 1/2" wood slat also available at any lumber store
    - Two 4'x2' pieces of 3/4" plywood for the shelf bottoms
    - A box of 3" wood screws
    - 20-25 1.25" wood screws to attach plywood shelving to rack, and braces to back.
    - Paint and paintbrush
    - A drill bit to make pilot holes for the 3 inch screws, and screwhead bit*
    - Paint and paintbrush
   * I found that using a "star" type head, rather than a Phillips, was quicker and easier



   Step 1: Draw Up What you will Need

    Each Rack will have 22 pieces of wood, regardless of the rack size. How big you want  
    the rack to be will come down to the lengths of these pieces. There will be:

    4 Legs
    4 Rails (The long horizontal pieces)
    4 Front to Back horizontal Supports (or 8, if you want to double up - see below)
    8 Vertical leg Supports - 4 for each shelf- 4 cut for bottom shelf, 4 for top
    2 4 x 1/2" diagonal back supports

    For Example, the natural colored wood stand below has 2 shelves, the tank footprint
    is 13x48 inches. The first shelf is 31 inches off the ground, the top shelf is 63 inches.
    The dimensions for that stand are:

    4 Legs - 62 inches each
    4 Rails - 52 inches each
    4 Front to back Supports - 10 inches each
    4 Vertical leg supports for bottom shelf - 30 inches each
    4 Vertical leg supports for top shelf - 28.5 inches each
    Two 21 inch 4 x 1/2" diagonal back supports

    Keep in mind to purchase 2x4s that are 8 feet long, and then plan how to cut
    them so that you make most efficient use of the wood.

    To increase the depth of the rack, simply increase the length
    of the Front and Back Supports.

    A rack can be as long as 8 feet, but if you go over 4 feet, you will need to
    provide for a middle set of legs to break up longer than a 4 foot span,
    Or the rack may not be able to hold the weight of the aquariums.


                Raw Materials

    Because it is best to paint the wood before it is
    built into a project, I would build a stand over 2 days.
    Day 1 the wood was measured and cut, sorted and then
    painted to dry overnight. Day 2 involved putting the
    rack together, and removing tanks from any racks the
    new ones were replacing, then, getting the new rack
    set up with tanks, etc.





        Attaching Lower Supports

Attach pieces cut to height of first shelf 
     to the bottom of each leg as shown. The Rails
     will be set and attached as shown, with
     two 3 inch screws coming in from the 
     other side. To put the bottom rail on the legs  
     so it is supported, before screws have 
     been put in, I will duct tape the joint 
     as shown on one end, then attach 
     and screw the other side in as shown in
     the pic to the left.


      So now you will have the two sides of the rack
    constructed, with the rails for the first shelf
    attached, but the two structures are not 
    connected to one another. Be sure when you
    attach the rail ends to the legs you will need
    a left and a right half, so place the rails on
    the legs correctly.


     The Front to back pieces are now put in, and
    they are screwed in as shown, as well as 2 screws
    going in from the back side. Be careful putting in
    screws at these areas - it is easy to have them hit
    one another.



      This is a better pic of another stand with
     similar construction. In this case I put in two
     front to back pieces at every joint thinking it
     would provide extra stability. It may have,
     all of the stands I have made since have had
     just one. Then, as you can see, the upper
     supports are attached next. I used 4 screws
     for each support.



   At this point, with the upper supports attached,
   you should have a structure that looks like this.



      The top Rails and Front and Back pieces are
     attached in the same manner as the lower
     shelf was.






     The secret to this design is that the wood distributes
     the weight by resting against other 2x4s, which are held in
     place by a second set of 2x4s that provide stability.
     The screws do very little weight bearing.


     This shot shows how at least two screws are going
     in to hold each of the Front to Back cross pieces.
     As well, you can see how without paying attention,
     These 3 inch nails can easily hit one another inside
     the wood.




      Once the rack structure is all put together,
     at both top corners on the backside of the rack,
     attach a piece of 4" x 1/2" panel wood, each
     piece about 18- 21" long., with the ends cut to
     fit as shown. These braces are essential.


     Here is a stand just completed, and the 3/4" plywood has 
    been attached with the 1.25 inch wood screws. On this rack,   
    the plywood was cut to extend out and a provide a small
    work area. This rack is the one on the left in the top pic.
    The piece of 3/4" plywood still needs to be attached to to
    the top.



     And this is the final result!


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