Building a Plywood Aquarium Stand

A plywood aquarium stand is a great option for setting up a new aquarium.

Plywood is an affordable material. It’s readily available. It’s incredibly strong. And you can use it to build a stand without bulky 2×4 framing–giving you much more room for equipment in your stand.

Pre-made stands, like those that come with Red Sea or Waterbox aquariums, will give you an idea of the type structural support a tank you size will need.

They typically make their stands out of MDF. Plywood gives you just as much support if not more.

Here’s how I made a stand out of plywood for the new 65 gallon aquarium I’m setting up…

I made it in my garage with a few handheld power tools: a miter saw, circular saw, jigsaw, router, drill and palm-sander.

The body of the stand is made from 3/4 inch plywood.

1/2″ thick plywood would have been more than adequate for a 65g tank.

However, red oak grain will match other furniture in the same room. And neither Home Depot or Lowe’s had full 4′ x 8′ sheets in 1/2″ red oak.

Home Depot had 3/4″ red oak plywood so that’s what I used.

I rabbeted the the front and back panels along the edges that would mate with the side panels. This was done to ensure a rock-solid joint was formed when they were glued and screwed together.

cutting plywood panels
Cutting the panels for my plywood aquarium stand.

1″ x 2″ sub-framing pieces were then glued and screwed along the top and bottom of the front, back, and both side panels.

attaching the sub-framing
Attaching the 1″ x 2″ sub-framing to the inside of the front panel. Notice the rabbets that were cut in the edges for the side panels to mate into.

The sub-framing will support the bottom panel of the cabinet.

It also provided material to screw into when I joined the front and back panels to the side panels, and the top to the cabinet body.

In this picture you can see the plywood ‘box’ assembled. It also gives you a good look at the 1″x2″ sub-framing. Note that the long 1″x2″ running the length of the stand beneath the two plywood cross-beams is actually a trim piece along the back of a shelf that’s hidden by the front panel in this picture.

stand with framing
Plywood stand showing the 1″ x 2″ sub-framing as well as two plywood cross-beams to help support the top when it’s attached. And Penny, the job supervisor.

That by the way is Penny, the job supervisor. She’s a real stickler for garage/shop safety.

Similar framing supports the bottom panel.Next, decorative trim pieces were made with various widths of 1/4″ and 1/2″ thick red oak boards from Home Depot.

The doors were attached using euro-style Blum 95 degree blind-corner hinges.

The top was made from three 10″ x 1″ red oak planks that I cut to width and length, glued together, and then sanded smooth.

The top is smooth but NOT perfectly flat because I do not have a planar. So the aquarium will sit on a 1/2″ thick piece of rigid insulation foam. This will ensure the slightly uneven surface of the top does not create stress points on the bottom of the tank when it’s filled.

The cabinet was stained and finished with three coats of water-based polyurethane.

cabinet doors
Staining the cabinet doors.
Cabinet front before the doors were mounted.
Cabinet front before the doors were mounted.
Inside of the cabinet.
View of the inside.
Back of the cabinet.
The back of the cabinet.
Finished stand with copper pipe light rack.
The finished stand along with a DIY light rack made from copper pipe.
Finished stand, doors open.
A peak at the inside. The Blum hinges I used are ‘clip ons’. Simply press a tab on the hinges and doors pop off for easier access to the inside. Then just snap ’em right back on.

This write up on the stand I made for my 24 gallon aquarium. gives you an even more detailed look at how to build a plywood aquarium stand.