I plan to install a 180 gallon aquarium in my basement. The dimensions are 72" x 24" x 25" About 2000 pounds after sand and decorations when filled

How should I go about doing this without having structural issues in the future?

  • 1
    What is behind the wall? A storeroom? Your garage? Your neighbor's garage? The baby's nursery? Apr 2, 2016 at 3:09
  • What is the wall made of? Where I live the interior walls of residences are made of 2"x4" vertical studs, which would support one side of the load you describe. Apr 2, 2016 at 3:13
  • The boiler room is behind the wall. The walls are made of 2" by 4" studs. Apr 2, 2016 at 21:22

2 Answers 2


I am not a licensed carpenter but I have replaced walls and doors in my old house. Here is how I would do it.

I think you should not try to use a cantilevered or bracketed shelf for this. Make a strong table to hold the aquarium.

In the following I am assuming wood construction, with your walls made of the usual 2"x4" studs and wallboard.

The front edge of the table can rest on the bottom edge of the opening, with the back edge resting on four legs.

When you make the opening, cut the lower studs 4 inches shorter than the finished opening, and frame the lower edge with two 2"x4" standing on their short sides. This forms the front edge of the table frame. Don't worry if the ends of the edge don't line up with the studs.

EDIT The single 2"x4" studs may not be strong enough to serve as legs for such a heavy load. You should add more short studs by inserting them into the lower wall and nailing or screwing through the drywall. If the boiler side of the wall is unfinished then you can toenail the new studs but this is not strictly necessary.

Make two of the new studs line up with the ends of the front edge. You should have eight studs in all under the front edge. END EDIT

Make the side and back edges of the table frame similarly of paired 2"x4" nailed or screwed together.

The surface of the table can be of lighter construction because an aquarium rests on its own lower edges. The table surface serves mainly to keep the frame rectangular. 1/2" plywood should be enough.

The legs can be more paired 2"x4" or single 4"x4" each. Use four legs evenly spaced along the back edge.

Here is a rough sketch of what it might look like from the boiler room:

built in wooden aquarium stand

EDIT As Kyle points out, this sketch is incomplete. I have not drawn in the table top, the leg bracing, the header at the top of the wall opening, or the finish framing of the wall opening. END EDIT

You will have to figure out a way to keep the bottoms of the legs from being accidentally moved during any future work in the boiler room. In my house I would use a sill plate nailed directly to the concrete floor. You might want to use angled braces from the frame to the foot of the legs. Make the braces of 1"x3" or 1"x4".

Give the whole construction a couple of thick coats of paint to keep the splashes from soaking the wood and starting wet rot.

  • Nice mockup, what software did you use?
    – Kyle West
    Apr 4, 2016 at 12:58
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    @Kyle West: Thank you. I used mspaint and insomnia. Apr 5, 2016 at 1:20
  • whoa. that's dedication to come up with that in MSPaint!
    – Kyle West
    Apr 5, 2016 at 12:52
  • Nah. If I was really dedicated I'd change it to 2"x6"s and add the cross bracing. Apr 5, 2016 at 22:09

A. I. Breveleri provides a good starting point but I'd beef everything up to 2x6s and you'll definitely want some cross members front to back in the top of the stand. As A. I. mentioned you need something to keep the legs from moving. I'd build another frame like the top around the bottom.

Since this is for an aquarium being level is VERY important. Not only will the water always be level and will look strange if it's not even with the tank you can actually crack the aquarium over time if it's not sitting completely flat.

Finally, putting all this in the boiler room isn't necessarily the best idea. Those 200 gallons are going to evaporate and salt will splash everywhere. Make sure you have an exhaust fan to deal with the humidity and good space (preferably a barrier) between your pricey tank and pricey HVAC equipment or you'll be replacing the latter sooner than expected.

I have one of these and it's a ton of work but looks great.

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    I agree with Kyle, paired 2"x6" would not be overkill for the frame. Apr 5, 2016 at 1:24
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    I was thinking that a plywood top to the table would keep the long side of the frame from bending, but I like your idea of cross members instead. OP note that these cross pieces should be constructed to resist tension, as the frame is more likely to bow out than in. Apr 5, 2016 at 1:35
  • def. put a sheet of plywood on top -- and don't forgot you may need to drill some holes for plumbing depending on what kind of overflow you choose. this assumes you're using a non-custom glass tank like those available from marineland. If you're using a custom glass or acrylic tank the manufacturer likely has specific requirements for what goes directly under the tank. solid foam insulation is commonly used.
    – Kyle West
    Apr 5, 2016 at 12:53

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