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It can be challenging to find reasonably priced aquarium stands. If you want to stack more than one aquarium on a rack, there are even fewer options. This is why most people with a fish room full of many tanks end up building their own DIY aquarium rack. There are a lot of different designs out there. The simplest one I've seen is just stacking cinder blocks on the floor and laying 2x6 boards across them. Personally I like building a cheap rack out of wood.

My First DIY Aquarium Rack

About a year ago I built a DIY wooden rack that holds two 10 gallon tanks. I used 2x4s for the entire structure, and cut some plywood to make shelves for the tanks and the bottom storage area. That whole project cost me about $40. Compare that to the cost of a stand from any store. A stand for a single 10 or 20 gallon aquarium typically runs upwards of $100. This was my first build and although it looked pretty nice (in my opinion) there were a couple things I wanted to change.

My first DIY 10 gallon rack with guppy tank and shrimp tank
My first DIY 10 gallon rack with guppy tank and shrimp tank

 

The first issue is that in trying to keep the rack from being too tall I squeezed the middle shelf down. As a result I only left about 4 inches of clearance above the bottom tank, not quite enough to get in and do maintenance easily. I also wanted to design it to accommodate more tanks. Having a rack that only holds two 10 gallons isn't the best use of space.

Now that I'm building out my fish room I had an opportunity to replace my original rack with a modified design. This new rack was designed to hold four 10 gallon tanks, and use only a little bit more floor space than my first design. However while I was building I decided I would rather have a 20 gallon on the top shelf than two 10's. But I still have twice the water volume in roughly the same floor area as my first rack.

Building the New DIY Aquarium Rack

In order to support twice the weight of my first stand I used a sturdier design by incorporating upright 2x4s between the load-bearing shelves. You can modify this design to suit any size tank you want; I've seen the same design used for a rack of 40 breeders (which I will probably do at some point). The most important thing is building to the dimensions of the aquarium size you want to support. I recommend having the aquarium in your possession before starting so you can test fit while you build.

The design uses the following cuts of 2x4 studs, all of which can be varying lengths depending on your application:

  • 4 upright supports that determine the overall height of the stand
  • 6 long shelf pieces that the aquariums will rest on (the front and back)
  • 6 short shelf pieces (the sides)
  • 8 vertical support pieces that support the weight of the shelves
  • Optional: 2-6 additional short shelf pieces as cross supports
  • Optional: Plywood sheet for shelving
2x4 Cuts
2x4 Cuts

The lengths of all these pieces will vary depending on your design, but I cut my uprights to 47", the long shelf pieces to 27.5", the shorter shelf pieces to 18", the upper supports to 21.5", and the lower supports to 15". A miter saw is ideal for making the cuts, but I used a circular saw when building my first rack because that's all I had. I use 2.5" #8 wood screws for fastening. A box of these screws is about $10 at a home improvement store and that includes a drill bit. 

I painted all of the wood white before I started assembling the rack. I highly recommend doing it this way if you intend to paint your DIY aquarium rack. For this build I used an old can of white paint that was sitting in my garage for about 5 years, so my cost for painting was $0.

DIY Aquarium Rack - Painted 2x4's
Painted 2x4's

After painting I assembled the three rectangular "shelves". I pre-drilled all my screw holes with a 1/8" bit. It's important to use a flat surface to build on and a level and a square to check your alignment. Once I had those three shelf frames built I slid them onto the long uprights.

DIY Aquarium Rack - Assembling the Stand
Assembling the stand

Before screwing anything into place I checked that each shelf was level. I added the support pieces between the shelves, building up from the floor so that each one sat tightly on the piece below it. It helps to drive in one screw to hold each piece in place, then go back and add another screw at each connection point.

DIY Aquarium Rack - Shelf frame assembled
Shelf frame assembled

You can cut sheets of plywood to create flat shelves (I prefer to do this), but this isn't necessary for standard rimmed glass tanks. The glass bottom of a tank with a plastic rim never contacts the surface the tank is sitting on. In fact, you really only need to support the 4 corners of the frame. If you have an acrylic tank with a flat bottom, then the entire bottom of the aquarium must be supported.

I bought a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood for $20 and cut it to size to make shelves and enclose the bottom section. I sanded and painted the plywood just like I did with all the 2x4 pieces.

My last step was to put some doors on the bottom section of the rack. I used some cheap hinges and knobs to hang the doors, which were cut from the same plywood as the shelves. I'm not a carpenter, so its not furniture quality work, but the entire build cost me under $70.

completed DIY aquarium rack
completed DIY aquarium rack
setting up tanks on new rack
setting up tanks on new rack

Once all the tanks are set up and running I'll post an update on this rack. You can see my latest fish room updates here.

Since my fish room is in an unfinished section of my basement there weren't any outlets along the wall where most of my tanks will be going. In fact, the only available outlets in the room were on the same circuit as my washing machine, which pulls about 10 amps by itself. I estimated that the number of aquariums I plan to eventually run in this room would eat up 7 or 8 amps, potentially more if I include one or two high-light planted tanks.

I'm taking my time with each upgrade to the fish room to make sure that I build in the ability to expand by adding more tanks if I want to later. (See my fish room sink plumbing as an example) I thought about running an extension cord from a nearby circuit, but ultimately I decided to have a dedicated, 15 amp GFCI circuit installed by an electrician.  Although I'm doing all of the plumbing and building the racks myself, I don't like to mess around with electricity, especially at the service panel.

Fish Room Under Construction - Dedicated Circuit Installed
Fish Room Under Construction - Dedicated Circuit Installed

I had the receptacles mounted a little over 6 feet up the wall so that they would be above the tops of the tanks. With a 15 amp circuit just for my aquariums I'll have plenty of power for the 10+ tanks I plan to eventually run. I'll also have power for additional devices like a sprinkler timer and dehumidifier. Once I start setting up racks this wall will be a lot more full, and I'll be able to mount power strips to each rack without running extension cords along the floor or around the room.

 

2

I recently bought a house that has a good space to dedicate to building a fish room, and I'll be posting about my progress getting it set up. I'm doing everything myself - except some electrical work, more on that in a later update - and I'll break it down into steps someone else wanting to setup a fish room might actually be able to follow.
Old Plumbing (new sink shown)

My fish room is in the only unfinished room in the house, which is also the laundry room. The space is ideal because it has a floor drain and a sink, but I had to re-arrange it to give myself more space for aquariums. The previous owners did not have stacking laundry machines, so the room was plumbed in a way that put the washing machine and the dryer on opposite sides of the sink. I wanted to put in stacking units, and because of the room's layout I needed to stack them where the existing sink was.

I decided I needed to replace the sink and move it, flip the drain lines for the sink and the washer, and re-route the hot and cold water lines using PEX tubing.

New Drain Assembly

Luckily the existing ABS drain assembly was held in place by shielded couplings that I was able to remove easily. I built a mirror image copy of the existing drain assembly and installed it between the existing sections of cast iron pipe coming from the ceiling and up from the floor with new couplings. I cut the ABS with a hacksaw and cemented it together, which was a lot easier than I expected. The challenge was getting the vertical section to the exact length that would fit between the iron pipe coming from upstairs and the section of pipe going down into the floor.

PEX Tools

Once I had the drains switched I started cutting out the existing copper supply pipes at the ceiling. I used a handheld pipe cutter that rotates around the pipe which cut through them like butter. Then I used half inch shark bite fittings to join my red and blue PEX to the existing copper lines. I had to buy a PEX cutter and clamp tool, both of which were easy to use and made installing the new lines go really fast. Links for all of the tools I used here are listed at the bottom of the post.

1/2" Sharkbite fitting - copper to PEX

For the sink connections I used some threaded/PEX barb valve fittings at the end of the PEX line so I could screw the faucet hoses onto the threaded fitting.

Sink hot water connection

For the washing machine I wanted to keep the existing water hammer arrestors, so I just cut them off the old copper pipe and used 2 more sharkbite fittings to join them to my PEX line. The sharkbite fittings haven't leaked at all and they were the easiest thing to install. You just need a deburring tool (see tool links below) to make sure there are no sharp edges on the PEX or copper that would damage the internal O-ring that keeps the sharkbite sealed.

New Standpipe Installed

The faucet I installed on the utility sink has a threaded nozzle so that I can attach a hose or python for doing water changes. Eventually I will probably be installing an automatic top-off water line that operates on a timer to keep all of my aquariums full and allows me to do automatic water changes. But that project is a few months out. The nice thing about the PEX tubing is it will be easy to splice in a couple of tees and run that new line.

New Plumbing Finished

The last challenge I had was securing the PEX lines to the concrete wall. I had to buy a hammer drill to make pilot holes for concrete anchors. I got a cheap refurbished model that worked fine for the few holes I needed to drill. In the final photo you can see the PEX is nice and clean and I haven't had any leaks after a couple weeks of regular use.

I'm currently working on another phase of the fish room setup: installing a water filtration system that will serve the fish room and the rest of the house.

Links to buy all the tools I used for this project:
Sharkbite Fittings: https://amzn.to/2NmS4Gc
Sharkbite Deburring tool: https://amzn.to/2NYy2CP
PEX clamp tool: https://amzn.to/2NmSdcI
Ridgid pipe Cutter: https://amzn.to/2Nnshh7