Buying a new aquarium stand for a larger fish tank can be expensive. This guide shows you how to build a super strong, DIY aquarium stand out of inexpensive 2x4s with a rustic twist!
When my son moved back home, he brought his fish tank with him.
So yes, ‘we’ now have fish pets.
But my new hobby didn’t start out fancy at all. Yet here we are with a massive 65 gallon fish tank, complete with a pretty cool DIY aquarium stand to boot!
How did this all come about? Trust me… I blinked once and here we are.
So let’s start at the beginning, just in case this new hobby of ours fits right up your alley as well…
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Why we upgraded to a 65 gallon fish tank
This fish hobby all started with a typical tiny fishbowl. Not really knowing what my son was getting into, he brought a few tropical fish home, plunked them into the round fish bowl where they promptly and sadly didn’t make it.
He nearly gave up several times over when he tried goldfish as a last resort. And to our complete surprise, they thrived!
We later learned how resilient goldfish are, so that explains it for sure. Little did I know how much more there was to learn…
But as-is, I felt the bowl was too small for two goldfish, so we relocated them into a free 10 gallon fish tank found on Facebook, which fit them perfectly… at that time.
And of course, once they outgrew that tank, we found ourselves upgrading to a brand new fancy pants 20 gallon bubble wall aquarium next! We loved this tank and it goes all the way up to 37 gallons too!
However one thing we neglected to learn more about was how big goldfish grew. Because within a year, they had outgrown the 20 gallon tank as well. Egads.
So before I did anything more this next round, I contacted the pet store and flat out asked how big our kind of fish would get and what size fish tank we would need so we wouldn’t have to keep upgrading the tanks.
“You’ll likely need a 60 gallon for your one fancy and one regular goldfish.”
Good grief. My house was tight as it was. Where would we put this massive thing?
Regardless, our 60 gallon fish tank searching began.
Landing a used fish tank
And to my delight, I eventually found and purchased the above used 65 gallon fish tank from Facebook Marketplace for under $200, that offered a smaller footprint with its taller tank style! This took up much less storage space than a long shallow version.
This tank measures: 36″ width, 18″ deep, 25″ height.
Only problem was, the MDF fish tank cabinet it came with felt rickety. And I didn’t like the style.
So I decided to search out how to build a strong, sturdy DIY aquarium stand myself!
Before we move further, here’s a few things I wish I had known before we got into the wonderful world of fish aquarium shopping…
Cleaning and testing the used fish tank before we brought it inside the house.
How to choose a fish aquarium
- Decide on the kind of fish you want first. (tropical or goldfish)
- Learn about the upkeep each requires. (goldfish are easy keepers but also get big)
- Find out how large your fish will ultimately get.
- Decide on the right size tank for your fish longterm so you won’t have to keep upgrading tanks.
- Consider brand. Higher end equipment may do a better job.
- Check your home insurance to ensure they cover the size tank you wish to have.
- Ensure your floors will hold the weight.
- Be certain that your chosen aquarium stand will hold your chosen tank adequately.
- If purchasing used, test the tank for leaks outdoors before filling it inside.
Back to the stand! I found most DIY fish tank frameworks were made from 2x4s. Well, that is affordable and easy! Plus, I could get the look I wanted to suit my rustic styled home.
So after doing some rough size calculations and sketches of what I wanted, a quick trip to the local hardware store landed me 12 brand new quality 2x4s and I got right to work.
And I couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome! I got the look I wanted with a relatively easy build, although it did take me about 2.5 days to complete this project! Much longer than I thought it would.
But the time spent was well worth it. I can sleep much more soundly at night knowing our aquarium stand is super strong, plus enjoy looking at it so much more because it looks super cool too!
Here’s how I made my DIY stand, with a open-framed rustic vibe for convenient storage through an open, easy access frame… that looks pretty cool!
Read on for the full step-by-step instructions rated for a beginner to intermediate builder.
How to build a rustic, inexpensive DIY aquarium stand out of 2x4s!
Supplies I used:
Approx. 12 2x4s for stand and top
2 1×3 for cross supports
Wood screws: 2.5 and 3″ wood deck screws
Designing the aquarium stand
Aside from the angle trim supports using 1 1×3, I chose to build my entire 65 gallon fish tank stand out of just 2x4s so it would be affordable while being super strong.
Top pick quality of the materials are super important this round, because this stand must hold the weight of your fish tank setup plus sand plus water! Ours is estimated to weigh approx. 1000 lbs.
How to choose quality 2x4s
- Select 2x4s that are solid and not joined, for extra durability.
- Check each board to ensure it isn’t warped. Hold a board up to your nose, then look down the entire length, horizontally and vertically. You’ll quickly spot issues.
- Kiln-dried wood is best if you can find it, because it’s less likely to be warped.
Building the DIY aquarium stand
1. Measure your fish tank.
Our own 65 gallon fish tank dimensions: 36″ wide, 18″ deep, 25″ tall.
I chose it because it’s taller, which gave us a smaller profile to work with because we didn’t have space for a longer, shallow tank.
2. Design the stand size according to your tank size, how high you’d like the tank to sit and what you want the stand to look like.
I did several hand sketches until I figured out what I wanted.
My overall stand (without the added 2×4 top) measures: 20″ high x 20″ deep x 38″ wide.
Because this tank was on the taller side, the stand was made shorter than the original it came with so I didn’t require to stand on a stool to clean it. It’s nice to get to decide these details!
Cutting down the pieces of wood
3. Decide how you’d like to build your frame, then cut and lightly sand all the 2×4 pieces, dry-fitting them along the way to ensure they fit.
I built two rectangle frames first (top and bottom of stand), then added legs, then added supports.
Wood lumber cut list:
Overall stand (without top): 20″ high x 20″ deep x 38″ wide.
12 2x4s for the stand and top.
2 1×3 for cross supports.
- Front and back frame boards: 4 x 38″ long
- Side frame boards: 4 x 17″ long
- Middle frame supports: 6 x 17″ long
- Legs: 6 x 20″ long
- Additional outer leg supports: 10 x 13″ long
- Top: 6 x 40″ long
- Angle supports using 1x3s: 2Front and back: 43″ long / Sides: 28″ long
- Angle supports 1×3: 2 for front & back – 43″ long
- Angle supports 1×3: 2 for sides – 28″ long
Assembling the fish tank
I used a combination of 2.5 and 3″ wood deck screws depending where they were going. If the wood could manage the depth, 3″ will give you added strength.
Indoor screws may be fine as well, however I chose outdoor deck screws for their moisture resistant durability in case there was ever a fish tank leak.
3. Assemble the outer frames first, by inserting two screws into each side of the boards.
4. Pump the cordless drill while inserting the screws to ensure they don’t split the wood.
I didn’t require to pre drill holes, however if you find the wood splitting on you, I suggest to do so.
5. Screw in all 6 legs, with corner legs positioned sideways, and the front and back legs positioned with the wider part facing frontwards.
6. Position the inner support boards against the legs, then screw them into place from the inside into the legs, then from the outside of the frame.
Adding the 2nd frame
7. Loosely assemble the next frame on top of the original by screwing the 4 corners together.
8. Flip the entire stand upside down moving the loose frame to rest on the ground. Attach the frame to the legs with screws.
I found my 2nd frame didn’t fit the legs perfectly due to wood warpage, so I used a construction square for guidance, then clamps or wood wedges to guide the wood where it should be before attaching to the legs.
Then flip the fish tank stand on its side to build the rest.
Stand above is sitting on its side.
Inserting outer leg supports
These additional outer leg support boards not only beef up the look of the fish tank legs, they offer more stability and really add strength which is needed for a fish tank that will weigh this much.
9. Measure the space between the top and bottom rectangle frame, then cut 10 additional pieces to fit inside this space.
Total frame height: 20″ tall
10 outer leg support boards: 13″ long
Position an outer leg support in front of the leg, then attach with screws from the inside of the stand so the screws don’t show.
Stand above is standing upright.
Position and attach two support pieces around the outer corner of each leg.
So now, not only will the main 2×4 legs take the weight, so will the outer 2×4 pieces, making this tank stand triple strong!
I also had the structure checked out by a knowledgeable woodworking neighbour and he verified this was by far stronger than the original tank. WAY stronger.
Adding cross supports
1×3 cross support boards are optional and won’t likely be needed if you wish to cut and outfit plywood to cover your framework.
However in my case, I desired this fish tank stand to have a deconstructed open-framed look, so cross supports are necessary so the tank doesn’t rock side-to-side causing a possible collapse.
I cut 4 angle supports and placed them front, back and both sides, rotating the angle on each side.
Attach the cross supports before you assemble the top.
1. Lay the stand on its side, then position a front support board in an angle desired. I positioned mine corner to corner to fit.
- Front and back: 43″ long
- Sides: 28″ long
2. Mark off the end cuts with a pencil from underneath, then cut with a miter saw.
3. Attach the cross supports to the stand to ensure they fit, then remove before staining or painting the stand. Reattach afterwards.
Adding a 2×4 top
Your fish tank will need some kind of top.
I decided to stick with all 2x4s for the top so it equalled the heftiness the stand was taking on, and so my desired finishing treatment would look the same on the entire aquarium stand.
Plus, it’s super strong!
1. Cut as many 2x4s as you’ll need to cover the tank top, allowing for approx 1″ of overage on the sides and front. Back overage is optional.
My top boards along the back of the tank are flush because I needed the extra overage in front to fit well.
- My top required: 6 2x4s x 40″ long
2. Attach with screws from the top into the frame.
I positioned the top screws to be underneath where the tank would sit to diminish them showing.
The top screws were also slightly countersink to be on the safe side, however most fish tank bottoms have a small enough gap to allow a safe gap from the wood top to the glass. Just check yours.
Staining the fish tank stand
Most online tutorials I viewed built framework similar to mine with the exception of adding cut plywood to cover the frame. That’s certainly a good option that would add even more stability and give you more of a finished cabinet look.
However I desired my tank stand to have an open framework. So I stained all the exposed 2x4s to resemble reclaimed wood.
Getting a reclaimed wood look with stain
I used 3 different tones from Fusion Mineral Paint’s Stain and Finishing Oil to achieve the look I was after.
When I first brushed on just Driftwood, I found the wood looked too grey for my liking. So I switched things up:
1. Mix more Golden Pine with a little bit of Cappuccino together in a container. (I didn’t do exact measurements)
2. Brush on a mix of Golden Pine and Cappuccino, then while still wet and before wiping the stain back off, add random brush strokes of Driftwood here and there.
3. Allow the stain to sit for a few moments, then wipe off the excess with a clean rag.
4. Wait until the stain is dry-to-the-touch, then either add more coats for more tone and increased sheen, or cover with Natural if you wish to just increase the sheen a little and not change the overall tone.
I ended up adding two coats to get the tone and sheen I was after which also helps keep the wood moisture resistant. The wood is still fairly matte, which is what I like!
Visit other unique stained projects I’ve done HERE for more inspo!
Adding crate details
If you look carefully, I attempted to have the 2×4 stampings show for extra rustic detail.
Since I meant to add a few more of my own but forgot, I’ll add them later, then share once I do!
Until then, THESE CRATE STENCILS can get you this look in a jiffy of your boards don’t have enough wood markings for your liking!
The finished aquarium cabinet stand
Isn’t it the coolest?! This fish tank stand is as sturdy as all get out! And I couldn’t wait to haul it into place in the living room! But first, a few more shots so you can see it in natural daylight from all angles.
I think the open framework has such a cool vibe!
You could leave it as-is, build custom crates for storage inside (slip them in before the cross brace!) or line the bottom with boards to create more of a shelf. You’ll see what I did soon…
And I love the extra detail of the cross supports. I think they add a train trestle vibe that also beefs up the stability of the tank stand so it doesn’t have a chance to rock!
Also be sure to add some felt furniture protectors underneath the piece so you can further protect your floors and slide the piece around before the water is added.
And I love how the 2×4 top turned out with the individual planks.
One note of caution would be to ensure one board transitions smoothly to the next so you don’t end up with a fish tank that rocks.
Tank set up in the living room
And here’s how the fish tank and stand look in the living room! Isn’t it cool?
I was so concerned the tank would be too big for the space, but after repositioning the wood gate window screens to sit flatter, it fit perfectly. What a relief!
We borrowed a few fish tank decorations and the LED light bubble wall from our 20 gallon bubble tank while adding a few more which look so pretty with the white sand!
The new-old tank came with a Fluval U4 interior pump which creates a gentle current. So far, so good! It’s a quality brand we haven’t yet tried yet.
Are you interested in hearing more fish tank kinda tips as time goes on? I’m certainly learning a lot!
The open back is also a great design for those with exterior fish tank pumps. And of course, one could include an adjustable shelf or two if desired.
For additional fish tank storage with an industrial vibe, I simply placed in a couple of metal galvanized buckets inside of the stand that are just large enough to hold the supplies we use most frequently, such as water conditioner, filters, fish food and water test strips.
Kinda like open shelving. No cabinet doors are required this round making grabbing fish supplies a breeze!
Check out some other fish tank storage ideas HERE
Prior to set up, we tested the tank in the garage to check for water leaks and not a drop of water was to be had.
We adore the larger tank, and are so happy with our 65 gallon aquarium stand!
Visit lots of various fish tank stands HERE
Here’s a few other random questions I also got answers for:
How do I make a simple aquarium stand?
Doesn’t get much easier than building with 2x4s. They are strong, affordable and you can finish them any way you wish, even by wrapping them in plywood to create a closed up cabinet look.
How do you make a large aquarium stand?
Measure your tank, then build the base to fit that tank size or slightly larger. This tutorial can adapt to any sized tank. Just add more supports and use longer boards if your tank is longer, bigger or heavier. Small tanks will require less structure.
Can I use a TV stand for an aquarium stand? Will regular furniture hold a fish tank?
From the reading I did, it’s important to have a tank stand that doesn’t have legs, but rather, a large frame so the weight of the tank is dispersed more evenly.
If you want to use a piece of furniture with legs, I’d suggest to remove or beef up the legs, add more support AND attach it to the wall for more support. And add a good cross brace across the back for good measure.
Which wood is best for an aquarium stand?
I vote for solid wood. Even a quality 2×4 is solid enough to hold the weight of a tank if it’s beefed up enough.
All I know is, we LOVE the new and improved fish tank and stand! The goldfish appear to enjoy the larger surroundings, and we love the tank’s evening glow as we enjoy our evening TV shows! Watching fish swim is a very calming experience.
The only thing left to do? Decide where this year’s Christmas tree will go because this thing is here to stay… wish me luck! May get a bedroom tree yet…
Did this inspire you to build your own aquarium stand too? If you give it a try, let me know how you make out!
Print this tutorial:
DIY Aquarium Stand (easy to customize)
Wood cut list for this stand: 20" high x 20" deep x 38" wide
- 4 2x4 38" long front and back frame boards
- 4 2x4 17" long side frame boards
- 6 2x4 20" long legs
- 10 2x4 13" long outer leg supports (4 corners / front / back)
- 6 2x4 40" long top
- 2 1x3 43" long angle supports, front and back
- 2 1x3 28" long angle supports, sides
- Build two box frames for the top and bottom first.
- Attach legs in 8 places onto the first frame.
- Add inner supports pushed against legs for added strength.
- Attach the 2nd frame to the other end of the legs.
- Turn stand on its side, then add the outer supports around each leg.
- Create 4 cross supports on all outer stand sides with 1x3s on an angle.
- Cover the top with 2x4s cut to size. Attach with screws.
- Paint or stain the piece as desired.
Other favorite furniture projects:
Visit many other unique furniture makeover projects HERE