Aquarium Racks in a Fish Room

Finally!  Episode 5 of the Ted’s Fishroom series.  Sorry to take so long, but the trip to Gabon and subsequent trips all over the place put me behind in making videos.  This installment is about building racks for aquariums.  I use three different types of racks: wood, commercial shelving and angle-iron aquarium stands.  The video talks about each briefly and then goes into detail about how to build a basic stand with dado joints.  One thing I mention is the cost effectiveness of wood stands.  I priced a 24″ metal aquarium stand this week, and was quoted $65.99 (retail).  The stand that you will see me make in the video has a total cost of $7.35 in materials….  enjoy.

33 Replies to “Aquarium Racks in a Fish Room”

  1. Ted this really cool video. Its very easy for everyone to understand and build a simple and strong stand. Thanks

  2. Thank you for the great information on how to build wooden stands for a fish room. I have been looking for replacement stands [one’s that look prettier anyway] for my fry tanks. I think I will try your instructions.

  3. i was wondering how to design a stand that would be 4-40 breeder tanks 2 in each row. i need the 1st row of 2 breeders at 28″ from the ground. this is for a pet store im designing going to have 52- 40 breeders 2 rows high.

    1. I assume that you are going to have long rows of tanks (52/4 = 13 racks)… If you want to be able to move the racks around, building little 4-tank racks is a good idea. Basic plan is the same. Dado cut the vertical supports to hold the rails that the tanks will sit on. 2×4 is plenty strong. A 6-foot rail (to fit two 40 br) may bow a bit, so you might want to include a center vertical between the tanks in front and back… so six verticals, four rails to make ten boards total for each rack. If I were lining a wall with 40 br and had no plans to move the racks, I would build a single long unit using 4 x 4 dado cut verticals every three tanks and dado cut 2×4 verticals between the tank ends not next two the 4×4 risers. Then use 10 foot 2 x 4 rails that would meet end to end at the 4×4 risers (2″ of each rail abutting in the dado). This gives enough space to set 3 40br between each 4×4 vertical, and will have about 28″ of space you would lose building 13 individual racks and setting them in a long row.

    1. I do not use an automated water changer, so I am not sure what water changer you are referring to. Most systems either use drilled tanks with bulkheads as outlets for water that rises above the outlet. Water is then added to the aquarium through a separate piping system. As water is added to the tank (usually slightly cooler than tank water so it sinks), the water level rises and overflows out the outlet. Automation can be provided by using solenoid valves and a landscape sprinkler timer to turn the solenoid on and off.

  4. hi excellent video! were in the process of expanding our breeding/fish room setup and were thinking of either industrial steel racks or wooden ones, is it worth putting shelving or just extra support for the tanks inbetween each level?

    1. Tanks with bottom rims only need support on their edges, and really only the corners. I have seen plenty of excellent racks with only one set of parallel edges on rails. I would not waste the money on metal racks when wood will do. Plus, you can cut wood to whatever length you need, rather than have to adjust to what a metal rack is. Plus, metal rusts!

      1. Thanks for that will be going with your design we are looking to do 3 levels though

        Bottom – sump
        1st 3ft tank
        2nd 3 ft tank

        And top for storage

        4×4 would be better?

  5. Great video!!! I am considering a similar project. I am torn between the drilled tank/bulkhead system or using individual sponge filters and weekly water changes. The only reason that I considering this system is disease. The drilled tank/bulkhead system is much more efficient and easier to maintain, but the only downside is if one fish get some sick they can all potentially get it sick. It appears that you have sponges. What system do you use? Why? And how do you control/reduce the risk of disease?? Thanks in advance.

    1. A drilled tank with bulkhead system does not mean that the tank has to be on a central filtration system. I plan to drill all my tanks so I can have flow-through (automated) water changing. I will still use the mat wall filters.

  6. By far one of the most fundamentally helpful and courage-inspiring videos I’ve seen. Ted, yes, sometimes it just takes someone SHOWING YOU to really get you over the intimidation of powertools combined with a lack of carpentry experience. No longer. I know this has helped more than one fellow aquarist. A great contribution to the hobby. Thanks!

  7. This page – Aquarium Racks in a Fish Room | Ted’s Fishroom really has all the information and facts I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  8. hi ted,my question is ,I want to build a rack for a 75 and a 50 side by side and put two 55g in top of the 75and50 using 2x5planks as legs as well as support of the tanks,do you think that will be good enough. thanks

    1. Hi Jose,
      Because the tanks are not the same width, you are building a ‘stair step’ rack. These are nice because you are setting the thinner tanks on top back from the front edge of the bottom tanks, so you can make the distance between the top of the bottom tanks and the bottom of the upper rail smaller and still be able to get into the bottom tanks. The only problem (not a big deal) is that the 75 and 50 are combined 1 foot shorter than the two 55’s on top. What I would do is build the rack to hold two 75’s on the bottom and put the 50 in the center of one of the spaces. Someday you may elect to trade it out for another 75. What is important is that there is a center support in the middle of your 8-ft long rails. Do not forget to make the length of the rails the total length of each tank (48″ x 2) plus the width of each riser (leg). Since you will have three legs on each rail, you will need to add an additional 6 inches… so 48″ + 48″ + 6″ = 102″. Make sure that you are measuring the actual length of the tanks on the outside edges of the trim.

  9. Unexpectedly, I got the OK from the warden (wife Sharon!) to get some more tanks. This video was very helpful and the dado system is much easier than what I was considering.

    Any hints on leveling the stand? The corner of my basement where I will put this new stand slopes towards a drain. I was thinking of adding some heavy duty leveling legs.

    1. You can use a level and a ruler to measure how much longer you need the leg that sits on the low point to be. Set the level in line from the point where the back leg will rest to the point where the front leg will rest (I assume the floor is sloping from the back of the rack to the front). Lift the end of the level at the low end up until it is level. Use the ruler to measure the distance from the floor to the bottom of the ruler at the point where the front leg will rest. It will probably be less than 1/2″. When the rack is finished, set tanks with a little water on the bottom shelf and use shims under the legs of the rack to fine tune the level. It is important that the rack have weight on it when you do this.

  10. I am trying to build an 8′ rack for my 15 35 gallon flat tanks, they are 3′ deep x 16″ wide x 12″ tall (we’re not facing them out since they will be primarily a breeding rack) 5 on each shelf with a 10-12″ gap for lighting & plumbing. Would this be possible with dado cuts into 4×4 legs – 3 in back & 3 in front, using 3/4″ OSB for shelving? My calculations ended up being 7′ tall with clearance & shelves, but wasn’t sure if this would support over a ton of weight & have never tackled a project this size! Thanks for any help!

    1. If my calculation is right, your rails will be 80″ long plus the width of three 4×4 legs. With five tanks on each shelf you will end up with three tanks on one side of the middle leg and two on the other. The length of the rail under the three will be 48″, which is the limit to what a 2×4 can span with minimal bowing. Personally, I would use four legs. 4×4 on the ends and 2×4 in the middle, with the sequence being 4×4 leg – 2 tanks – 2×4 leg – one tank – 2×4 leg – two tanks – 4×4 leg. That would give you a maximum span between legs of 32″. Should be plenty strong.

  11. I’ve cut the dado joints and despite my measure three times cut once philosophy I’ve got a small gap in the dado joint between the rail and the leg. It doesn’t fit tightly. Any recommendations? Shims?

    1. If the dado is too wide for the rail, just make sure that the rail is set snug to the bottom of the dado. No need to shim over the top of the rail.

  12. Hi, GREAT video! I’m brand new to this. I will be using 6 – 10gal tanks. Would like to build a stand (width of tank (10 1/4″) facing the front). The tanks I have measure 20 1/8 L x 10 1/4 W x 12 H. I have a drop ceiling in my basement (6′ 10″). If I make the stand 2 tanks side by side & 3 tanks high, what dimensions do you suggest for legs & rails? If I set tanks, length from front to wall, will the 2 ends just need to be supported? Again, I’m new to this & starting out small. Thank you for any help!

  13. Hi, GREAT video! I’m brand new to this. I will be using 4 – 10gal tanks. Would like to build a stand (lenght of tank (20 1/8″) facing the front). The tanks I have measure 20 1/8 L x 10 1/4 W x 12 H. I have a drop ceiling in my basement (6′ 10″). If I make the stand 1 tank & 4 tanks high, what dimensions do you suggest for legs & rails? If I set tanks, length side to side, will the 2 ends just need to be supported? Again, I’m new to this & starting out small. Thank you for any help!

    1. Hi Jay… The longest you will want a rail without a leg is 48″, so you will need a leg every two tanks if you are facing the 10-gallons ‘face out’. If you are only going to have four tens, I suggest two rows of two.

      1. Sorry didn’t make myself clear. I want to use 4-10gal, single in a row. 4 high. I was wondering how much room in hieght I would need to stack 4 high, single stack? What demensions should I use? I mean how much space would you use between top of tank & bottom of next tank/ 2×4 above it.
        Thanks, Jay

        1. The amount of space above the tank depends upon how much space you will need. I usually try for 8-10 inches between the top of the tank and the bottom of the 2×4 above it. So for 10-gallon tanks, that would mean 12″ + 8-10″ between the top of a rail and the bottom of the rail above it. Let’s go with 8″ for this example. That is 20″ per shelf. Start at the ceiling and work down. 20″ + 3.5″ (width of the 2×4 rail) = 23.5″… round to 24″ for some room for error. 4 shelves would need 4×24″ = 8 feet. If you have an 8′ ceiling, the rail for the bottom row would be sitting on the floor. Personally, I do not like the bottom of the lowest tanks lower than about 12″ from the floor. They are hard to siphon any lower than that.

  14. So glad I found your site, I just expanded using this video and design. I placed 3 ten gal length wise on the bottom, a 20 gal long on the middle pan view, and 3 more 10’s on the top…I love it

    1. I do not… untreated pine can last a long time, unless it is soaked wet all the time. I take steps to keep the room relatively dry, and try not to let a lot of water hit the floor.

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