I'm building an aquarium stand, with only wood and screws. I'm only equipped with a miter saw, a drill, and some hand powered saws and a leveler- this will be my first woodworking project. The goal is to have a stand that will hold a 35-40 gallon aquarium that will weigh at most 500lbs. But I am hoping this stand could hold 900-1000 lbs. (If I were to sell this, it's footprint is able to hold 75-gallon aquarium)

On the interior corners, it will have a 2x4 that spans top to bottom (30in) that the other pieces will screw into. I can use 2x4's and 2x6's for the other lengths as well, but I was hoping to use 1-inch thick common board to keep the weight of the stand down.

The finished product would have 1/4in plywood on all sides and 1/2 on the top. I was also planning on adding two handles on each end (drilled into the internal 2x4) for ease of transport.


So here are the bulk of my concerns.

Would using 2x4's and 2x6's instead of 1x4's and 1x6's be a better choice ultimately?

Would this design be able to take lateral pressure?

What alterations should I make to make it safe for 1000lbs?

Will the center piece (The one drawn in dashes) on the face and back be of any benefit? Or can it be left out entirely?

Should I use 1/2inch plywood on all sides instead?

The footprint of my aquarium is smaller than the stand, so it's edges won't be lined up with the frame, is that still safe? Aquarium is 36x15in and stand is 38x20in

The picture isn't entirely to scale, but it's close enough to get the point across.

Edit Updated Design - Forgot to add the two "joists" to the top and bottom.

Exterior front and top Interior Back

  • As a diver water weighs ~8.4 lbs per galon so you will be close on the weight from what I can see of the pics on my phone it looks good. The only thing I did not see is cross braces to keep it from falling if it was bumped on a end, or earthquake.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 23:45
  • 1
    Is the aquarium structurally rigid enough on the bottom that it can be supported only on the corners and span the distance with its own strength? Or does it need to be supported uniformly across the bottom? Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 1:42
  • @Harper The aquarium is glass, so only the sides need to be supported, but I plan on adding 1/2in plywood to the top in case I get an acrylic one in the future.
    – Twichl
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 6:35
  • 1
    Have you considered possible condensation and dampness?
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 2:11
  • 1
    Since the OP used inches and not CM I believe gallons would be an easier calculation or about 64 lbs per square foot.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 17:45

2 Answers 2


Use 2x material... it's probably cheaper, stronger, and gives you more surface to screw into. (edit: this was based on the original question -- 'use 1x or 2x material?')

1/2" ply would probably be fine, but I'd suggest you upgrade to at least 5/8" ply (or whatever the horrible version of that is in the box stores -- 19/32"?!?) to skin the exterior. Construction adhesive would also be a recommended upgrade. Screws every foot or so.

With a plywood skin on 4 sides and the top, lateral pressure won't be a problem.

Thicker ply and 2x materials should make this adequate for 1000#, but only you can be the judge. (Maybe we need a bounty to decide what the best testing methodology is... I vote that you take it to a big box store and start loading bags of concrete on it.)

For the top, if you aren't sure that your weight will be bearing on the wood, 5/8" ply wouldn't hurt, either. One cross-brace would probably be all you need to keep the top from sagging and help keep the entire unit from wobbling.

Design-wise, you can make your life somewhat easier by double-thicknessing the legs and lapping them. (Can sketch if needed.) The 2x6 at the bottom could be replaced by a 2x4. (edit: this comment was based on an earlier sketch...)

Edit: let's see if I can add a sketch... back of envelope detail

(sigh. after 2 attempts, I can't get it to rotate properly. Sorry.)

  • A sketch would be nice. It seems like double thicknessing and lapping both require tools I don't have at my disposal though.
    – Twichl
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 16:42
  • Will sketch. And what I'm proposing is not complicated at all -- no fancy cutting. Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 16:45
  • Alright, I added the updated design. Sorry it took me so long- I forgot how difficult it is to draw proportionally in 3d
    – Twichl
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 20:06
  • Your drawing is much nicer than mine. The cross braces certainly won't hurt, but they aren't needed if you skin with plywood. (And leaving them out will make building somewhat easier.) Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 21:31
  • Alright, I might keep the cross braces just for peace of mind. Do you have any suggestions to keep the feet carpet and hardwood floor safe?
    – Twichl
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 23:16

1x4s and 1x6s are the best material to use, 2x4 and 2x6 are overkill and much more difficult to work with.

  • 1
    The problem with 1X wood is it is not structural and the cut of the wood will not support as well as 2X for a load that weighs hundred of lbs.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 14:01

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