Aquarium Rack Build-DIY: Part I

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DIY aquarium rack
DIY Aquarium Rack

You have been in the aquarium hobby for some time and continue gaining aquariums. There will be an occasion when you want an aquarium rack.  Main question is, do you have a room in your house to devote for aquarium fish or do you have the go ahead by your significant other?  Are you looking to establish a few show aquariums for your living room?  The methods and materials I talk about here will be practical for all these possibilities, they may be a little overkill for some setups.  Having as much water as I do in my fish room, I will accept this overkill.  Know body wants to walk into a room and feel water on their feet, utilizing these methods I am relatively positive if you follow these steps this will not happen to you because of an aquarium rack or stand failure.

There are various ways to build an aquarium rack from 2x4s and blocks, metal industrial racking systems, to what I will cover in this post all wood 2x4s and 4x4s with screws.  4×4 leg method is different than building it with 2×4 legs, with 2×4 legs you will have to cut more boards.

Aquarium rack Materials

The amount of material will depend on the size/capacity of the aquarium rack you prefer to build.  The key materials required are:

  • 2×4’s (horizontal braces)
  • 4×4’s (vertical posts)
  • 2 ½” or 3″ screws, decking screws work great as they’re designed to handle water
  • ¾” plywood or other flat surface wood
  • 1 5/8” screws, decking screws work great
  • Flat Paint of your color choosing
  • 3/4″ Styrofoam

Aquarium Rack Considerations

Determining the rack size will depend on many aspects, space available, the quantity of aquariums wanted, size of aquariums, water change plan, etc.  The main idea here is to create a draft plan you are looking for.  Draw out a rough plan including measurements on the plan for reference when building.  I have built one without a plan and have cut boards wrong or lost time walking back and forth from the garage to my fish room to remeasure.

Space Available

Space will be the primary deciding factor for what size and shape your aquarium rack can be.  Do you have the height required for 1, 2, or 3 shelves?  If you choose multiple shelves you will need to assure there is sufficient room from the top of the aquarium to bottom of the next shelf this is imperative for cleaning, adding water, and room for lighting to fit. If you plan to have lights attached to the shelf above; you need to account for that fixture drop distance.  If you have lids that open up account for your lid height when open, you also need to consider this if you build your own aquarium lids.  I have built mine and a few I did not measure and just cut.  With the lighting fixture attached to the shelf above, the lid does not like to stay open on its own due to not opening far enough.

The height of your aquarium rack needs determined first.  Failure to determine the height of rack plus aquarium may lead to aquariums not fitting.  This will give you an understanding where that bottom shelf will rest and how many shelves will fit.  The height of your ceiling will set what you can do for all the above considerations.The distance between the aquarium top and shelf support bottom there are some things to do to avoid the headaches I first went through. 

When drafting your aquarium rack plan keep in mind ease of cleaning.  Building a rack for aquariums to sit with the shortest side facing the front will make cleaning the back parts of aquarium more problematic.  Your height above aquarium needs to be enough to allow access to the back of the aquarium for gravel vacuuming and a hood that’s easily removed.  When building or purchasing a hood keep this in mind for easy removal to clean at the back of the aquarium.  Aquariums with the long length facing the front, you’ll have enough room for you to reach the back through the lid access.

Space Maximization

An aquarium rack that will hold the maximum number of aquariums while leaving room for the fish room to be enjoyable and function is about the maximization of space.  You must plan, measure, and think about the layout you want prior to building anything.  If this does not occur, you risk building your entire room and realizing you can not drain your bottom aquariums; you did not leave room for storage of food and other items, or you have no room for acclimated/seasoned water storage.

When you are measuring out your rack size keep in mind where doors open, nothing worse than finishing the rack and come to find out it’s too long and your door won’t open all the way.  Get a feel for where your outlets are as you design the layout (will they be easy to access, likely hood of water falling on them, will it supply enough for that entire rack?).  If you have limited outlets, consider hiring a professional electrician to put more in. 

Corners are where you will lose some valuable space.  Items that will help maximize this space are air pumps (insert affiliate link), water storage, shelving for storage (just remember to leave enough room to get into the corner between racks), drained water container.  I have a water change system for when I do my water changes; I vacuum the aquarium and the hose goes into a PVC pipe that drains into a 30-gallon plastic trash can.  From there the water gets pumped out to a drain in another room.

Every inch you can have planned for something will make your life in the fish room easier.  Maximization just comes down to one thing pre-plan, pre-plan, pre-plan….  If you don’t, you will plan on draining those tanks to rearrange your room and I don’t know about you but I do not want to do that.

Covered in Part I

We have set the stage for the your aquarium rack build we covered materials needed, considerations that need made, and some tips that will help you save some headaches I experienced and learned from.  Stay tuned for Part II we will cover the build starting with measurements all the way to painting and leveling. 

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