I've built a few DIY aquarium racks, but I wanted to go with a steel frame for my two 40 breeders to save space. Unlike a wooden frame, these steel supports lay flat against the sides of the aquariums. Steel shelving can also support a lot of weight - 800 lbs per shelf in this case. Water weighs roughly 8 lbs per gallon, so 40 gallons of water alone is 320 lbs. When you add the weight of the glass aquarium (58 lbs for a 40 breeder), substrate, heater, filters, etc. the total weight of one 40 gallon aquarium can be over 400 lbs.
Where to Get a Steel Aquarium Rack
These heavy duty storage units have been recommended by several people over the past few years as an affordable store-bought option for holding one or two 40 gallon tanks. This video by Aquarium Co-op from 2014 referenced a very similar rack that may or may not still be available from Lowe's. I purchased mine at Home Depot. Similar units are available from a variety of retailers, including this Muscle Rack on amazon. Fortunately 36" x 18" seems to be a fairly common shelving size, so it should not be too difficult for most people to find.
Aquarium Rack Assembly
The cool thing about these 5-shelf steel units is that they are really two units that stack. The kit comes with eight upright posts that are 3 feet long, which makes the unit 6 feet tall when stacked. If you didn't want one tank on top of the other, you could place both sets of uprights on the floor and have two separate aquarium stands.
For my application I only used 3 of the 5 shelves that came with the unit. It has to be assembled from the floor up, so the bottom shelf goes on first, followed by the first aquarium shelf. Because the dimensions are so similar to those of a 40 breeder aquarium, the tank has to be lowered into the posts from the top. This gets tricky when you get to the top aquarium.
In order to be able to lift the top aquarium above the tops of the posts, I cut about 6 inches off the front two uprights using a hacksaw. Cutting through the steel was actually easier than it looks because its not very thick. Once the cuts were made, I was able to lift the top tank up (with help) and slide it down into place.
Although two of the shelves were not used on this rack, I added their steel support sections to the sides and back of the unit to add stability. Without the extra bracing, the whole rack was somewhat wobbly. In the photo above you can see two extra 36" braces positioned a few inches below each aquarium. This keeps the rack from bowing or shifting under the weight of two full aquariums.
After both tanks were on the shelves I moved the unit into its place along the wall and finished the overflow plumbing before filling with water. I also painted the bottom shelf black to match the rest of the rack. The space underneath the tanks adds a lot of extra storage to the fish room. I keep my folding step ladder tucked next to the rack so that it's easy to access when I need to work on the top tank.
14 thoughts on “Aquarium Rack for Two 40 Gallon Breeders”
But how can you put all that weight on those wood fiberboards, i pushed down on one of mine in the garage to soo the strength of the wood and it cracked…. its not strong wood and honestly i would say get some stronger wood for the shelves because that is very risky to be putting 400 pounds of glass and water on a 1/2″ thick fiber board! Just sayin be careful. Thanks for your info provided, very useful!
But how can you put all that weight on those wood fiberboards, i pushed down on one of mine in the garage to for the strength of the wood and it cracked…. its not strong wood and honestly i would say get some stronger wood for the shelves because that is very risky to be putting 400 pounds of glass and water on a 1/2″ thick fiber board! Just sayin be careful. Thanks for your info provided, very useful!
The weight is not on the fiber boards it is on the shelves metal rails around the edges. Rimmed glass aquariums are supported by the frame on the bottom which is just at the edges.. the glass base of the aquarium does not contact the surface it sits on.
how well is this still holding up after a year and some?
I’m thinking of a similar setup.
You mentioned the weight is on rails and not fiberboard but did you still use it under the tank?
The stand is still supporting two filled 40 breeders after almost 2 years. I do have the pressed board shelves under the tanks. Though you could set it up without them. I kept them in to keep the stand from twisting or flexing too much. But they're solid and everything is still level.
With it being 5 shelves could this hold more than 2?
I would not put more than two 40 breeders on this rack. But you could use it for several 10, 15, 20-29 gallon aquariums depending on the configuration.
If you stacked three 40 breeders the bottom one would be near the floor and the top one would be very high, it would be a nightmare for maintenance. And potentially too much weight for the rack although I haven't done the math on that.
Can you please measure the actual L and W of the rack? This model is no longer available at HD and replaced with UR-185PBB. I wonder if they are the same size. I just tried the rack at Office Depot and the L is only 35" when put together. Thanks!!
The total outside width of the rack is 36 and 3/8″ but any rack of the same size is going to be sold as a 36″ size just like mine was. Lowes and Home Depot both carried a 36″ metal rack when I last checked, the exact model number probably changes every couple years
I got this same rack and began setting it up today. I'm somewhat nervous about it not being stable enough once together. I replaced the particle board with 3/4 thick plywood. My concern is that my tanks are 20 high and 29 gallons, so that the rims would not perfectly align with the edges of the braces. Do you think that would be an issue?
I think that will depend on the plywood you're using. I haven't used it that way so I can't say for sure.
I have these racks set up right now with 40 gal breeders in them. You should never put any tanks in them that aren't support on all four sides by the metal rack. Plywood in the center and putting smaller tanks is NOT a good idea. Also, there are 2 different sizes of 40 gal breeder tanks that vary by manufacturer. One works perfectly, but the others do not fit. Most are actually too big to fit in this rack.
It should be noted to reptile people who are looking for stands to hold 2 40 gal tanks that this shelving does not allow reptile lids.
Thanks for pointing this out Theo, I guess that would depend on the type of lid you wanted to use for your reptiles. I'm just a fishkeeper so I can't comment on how reptile lids would fit.