A DIY Aquarium Stand for Under $150 – Part 1

Would you rather see your money spent on amazing fish and coral to put inside your saltwater aquarium… or on a store-bought wooden box for it to sit on? The solution: a DIY aquarium stand.

Pre-fab, put-together-yourself aquarium stands for 20 gallon tanks can cost $200 or more. For a 40 gallon tank they can cost $300 or more. For a 50 gallon tank… well, you get the idea. And for a custom made stand, ouch!

Now, what if you could cut that cost almost in HALF and have a tank stand that looks just as nice if not better…

Here’s how I made a DIY aquarium stand for under $150, in my garage, using little more than a few common household tools.

How to put together a DIY Aquarium Stand for $150 or less:

Step 1:  Select the Materials

  • 1  sheet of 3/4″ thick maple (veneered) plywood – Home Depot, $40
  • 2  96″ long 2×4’s – Home Depot, $5
  • 1  25′ roll of 7/8″ maple edge banding – Woodcraft, $10
  • 4  heavy duty leg levelers (e.g. cabinet feet)(rated to 440 lbs each) – WoodCraft, $25
  • 2  120 deg. euro-style cabinet hinges – Woodcraft, $24
  • 2  packs self-tapping 1-1/4″ wood screws – Lowes, $12
  • 1  cabinet door catch – Lowes, $1
  • 1  14″ drawer slide set – Home Depot, $12
  • 1  32oz can varnish – Home Depot, $12

Note :  The maple plywood was priced at $50 a sheet, but I asked if they would knock $10 off on a sheet that had golf-ball-sized imperfection (I made sure it ended up on an inside piece where it wouldn’t be seen).

Step 2:  Gather the Tools

Required (all of them are quite common for household projects or maintenance):

  • Circular saw
  • Cordless drill
  • A carpenter’s square
  • Philips screwdriver
  • an ordinary household iron
  • a utility knife
  • paint brush
  • 1 sheet 120 grit sandpaper
  • 1 sheet 180 grit sandpaper
  • a 1 3/8″ spade drill bit (~$6) OR, if you have a hammer, a 3/4″ wood chisel (3pc chisel set ~$10)
  • safety glasses

Optional :

  • orbital palm sander
  • miter saw
  • 1 3/8″ forstner drill bit
  • a pair of 24″ bar clamps and a pair of 36″ bar clamps
  • a Kreg Pocket-Hole Jig Kit (~$20)

Since they’re not common household tools (but ARE readily available at Home Depot and Lowes), the picture shows what a forstner bit and Kreg Pocket-Hole kit look like — top left is what’s left of the maple edge banding, top center is the forstner bit, and top right is the Kreg pocket-hole kit:

optional tools

Again, these are completely optional. They by no means necessary but, if you happen to have them, will save your a bit of time and work.

Step 3:  Planning

It goes without saying that before you begin you need to decide what you would like your stand to look like as well as determining if you have the time, tools, and work space available to make it. The KEY here is to keep it simple. Remember, unless your an experienced woodworker with high-end tools, the simpler and sleeker your design, the few materials and tools you’ll need and the great your chances of finishing with a breathtaking piece of furniture will be.

Oh, and during your planning, don’t forget to take into account your ability to get the materials from the store to your home. I drive a Hyundai Genesis coupe. My wife drives a Mazda Miata. There is NO WAY I was going to fit a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood into either of those cars.

With a little planning on paper, I was able to have the plywood sheet cut into 4 ideally sized pieces for free at Home Depot when I bought it. It not only made fitting it into my car a breeze, it also made working with the plywood a lot easier when I got it back to the small work space I cleared out on my garage floor.

Here you can see how I pre-planned with pieces of my cabinet would be cut out of each of the four smaller pieces of plywood:

aquarium stand plan

In fact, depending on how well you plan, you could have ALL your pieces of wood cut to size there and assemble them at home even if you don’t own a saw.

That should be enough to get your creative juices flowing, and decide if building your own DIY stand is something you’d like to take a stab at…

In Part 2 I’ll show you the easy, straightforward steps used to put it together.