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Discussion Starter #1
So as I sit around trying to come up with projects for myself to work on, one keeps coming up over and over again. An aquarium stand for my 75g reef tank.




This tank measures 48x18x21 (length, width, height), a 90g is 48x18x25, and a 120g(tall) is 48x24x25.

I would like to design a stand that would be able to hold all three sizes. I think I have the overall "idea" in mind for doing this. I'm just not sure about the best joinery method. I was planning to use 3/4 plywood for this build, and I would like to avoid any visible end grain where possible.

One thing that I have to keep in mind is weight. A 120g glass tank is going to be pretty heavy. Upwards around 1400lbs when full. This needs to be built as a cabinet because I need to have access underneath the tank as well. Basically there will be a sump down in that area, and other things.




I was thinking most of the weight would be dispersed on the ends and corners. Also the first 19" of the top would be 3/4 ply top as well. The back end needs to be open to allow for plumbing of a 120. The 75/90 would need to have holes cut to allow for the plumbing as well.

I see lots of guys using 2x4, 4x4, and/or 2x6 frame work. That seems like overkill to me. I'd like to think that 3/4 ply could easily handle the job with the proper joinery...

My biggest drawbacks are inexperience, ignorance and lack of tools. I have a decent table saw, plunge router, circular saw, oribtal sander, and 1/4" drill at my disposal. Don't really have much else than that though.

Any advice, tips and suggestions you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Aquarium type cabinets because of their height and becoming top heavy, represent a challenge to be structurally sound. It has to be fabricated with a design that eliminates side stresses that would allow racking and twisting. Straight down weight is fairly easy to handle. For the corners it's imperative to create a "gusset effect", which keeps 90 degree corners from any movement.

This aquarium cabinet I made for a standard 55 gal tank. It's basic structure is all plywood. The exterior is Ebony with a Mahogany trim. Most of the back is left off to allow for cooling, ventilation, tubing, and cords. The cross members are wide enough to create a good strong corner. To the weight of the water (8.33 lbs/gal) and the weight of the tank, rocks, and all the equipment it gets pretty heavy. I've included a rough pencil sketch as a fabrication suggestion. The photo looks a little bent, and that's because I'm a better woodworker than a photographer.
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Discussion Starter #4
I'm still drafting your drawing up in sketch-up. Sorry, didn't mean to offend...

Thanks for the response. When I have the sketch-up done I'll post it and see if I'm on the right track. I'm sure it will be followed by a bunch of questions too.
 

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I have built many aquarium stands in my life and the real secret is to install them level more than anything.

3/4 inch plywood will be strong enough to last a lifetime as long as there are no leaks or it isn't subjected to long term moisture exposure which would cause decomposition.

The plan you suggested has been done many times and to eliminate the plywood edge showing there are a few options.

One is to veneer the edges so they look like solid wood. This is generally the best look and is fairly easy.

Next would be to miter or lock miter the outside corners

Third would be to use a wide outside corner molding to cover the ply's.

Lastly, you could always make a solid wood face frame for the front.


Good luck
 

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Discussion Starter #6
ok - got it drawn up inside sketch-up.



On the main cabinet. Does it matter which board the rabbets are on? I'd prefer not to have end grain showing on the face. If not I can always cover it with trim, just curious.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
ok, thanks. I've been wanting to setup a smaller tank next to my desk here at the house. I might build that stand in the same fashion, only smaller and see how that goes.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Not sure I understand what you mean by gusseted. Can you explain a bit more? I really want to make sure I'm using the right joint for the job.

I have since changed my design. I was a little concerned about the upper support that ran the length of the stand. In the first drawing it was attached to the sides of the vertical supports. In this new drawing I have it sitting directly on top. I was planning to join those 3 pieces with a biscuit (once I get myself a joiner)






I've also flipped it over so you can see the bottom as well. I wanted to widen out the bottom a bit so that it had a bit more girth around the edges, in hopes of adding some stability. I left off the side cabinets simply because they are not adding any structural support and aren't really a concern just yet.



This is the joinery I'm using in the corners now:



I saw a router bit for a "locking rabbet" joint at a local shop. Would that offer me any additional strength?
 

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I've built two stands one for a small tank for my office and another for home.
My home tank is only about 33 gallons so I used 1/2 ply for the sides going into 1.5" frames with dados 1/2 deep. I don't have a great picture but below you can kind of see the thicker edges with the plywood set back about 1/4" and the maple trim on top.



Here is another shot from the front where you can see horizontal pieces that I notched for the sides to fit into.


Here is a much clearer shot from the inside. The metal brackets are only used so I can easily take the top off.
 
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