How to Build a Simple DIY Aquarium Stand

48" diy Aquarium Stand

Stan Hauter

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 4 - 5 hrs
  • Total Time: 4 - 5 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Have you ever found yourself in the position of needing (or wanting) an aquarium stand that looks great, doesn't cost much and can be ready to put a tank on in just a few hours? This DIY aquarium stand might be just the ticket for you. This stand is much simpler and less expensive to build than to it is buy a fancy aquarium cabinet.

The aquarium stand (similar to the 48" stand pictured above) was built for a 20 gallon reef aquarium to be placed in the client's kitchen. She planned to stain the stand to match the trim in her kitchen after she took it home. The client planned to install an LED aquarium canopy or a glass canopy and an LED light strip for lighting.

Below are the materials and steps to building your own aquarium stand.

DIY Simple Aquarium Stand Plans

DIY Simple AQ Stand Graphic
DIY Simple AQ Stand Graphic Graphic by Stan Hauter

This aquarium stand is constructed of 2x4 lumber, for the price, one of the strongest and most economical pieces of wood you can buy at almost any home improvement center.

Construction and Material Considerations

We found that an elevated flat, level surface (i.e. a work bench, desk or table) was the easiest platform to use for cutting, drilling and assembling the aquarium stand. A pair of saw horses would work well for assembling and painting.

8' wood studs were purchased for the construction of stands from 10 gallon to 55 gallon aquariums. 4 studs were required for a 24" or 30" tank, and 5 studs were required for 36" or 48" tanks. The height of the legs for each of these stands was the "standard 28". When you are picking out your pieces of lumber for this stand don't be tempted to choose the cheaper, low grade stuff. Use only pieces that are straight (not warped) with no open knots and an attractive grain (if you are going to stain the stand). This lumber may be a dollar or so more per piece, but the elimination of a number of headaches and quality of the end product will be well worth it.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pencil
  • Tape Measure
  • Wood Saw
  • Screw Driver
  • Drill Bits
  • 2-inch paint brush
  • 3- or 4-inch paint roller


  • 50 2 1/2" X 6.36 cm exterior wood screws
  • Wood priming paint
  • Latex (recommended) or oil base paint


  1. Prepare Materials

    Measure and mark the lumber for all of the pieces that you are going to cut. Measuring all of the pieces before cutting any of them will ensure that you have used the material efficiently. Measuring each piece twice before cutting will help to make sure that you have not made any mistakes. Measuring and marking accurately will help you to make sure that the stand will not wobble when it is assembled. Even 1/8" difference in the length of one leg will make a big difference in the aquarium stability.

    Sand each piece of lumber before assembling. If you are going to paint the stand a light sanding to take off the "fuzz" on the lumber will suffice. If you are going to stain the material a better job of sanding will produce the best result. Most people find that staining the pieces before assembly also gives the best result.

    Draw The Line
    Draw The Line Photo by Stan Hauter


    When measuring and marking the lumber, keep an eye on where the flaws are in the lumber. You don't want to cut a piece in such a way that you will be drilling a screw pilot hole through a knot. This will make installing the screws much easier.

  2. Measure the Legs

    Drill screw pilot holes in the deck 2x4's and the cross bar 2x4's (see photo for locations). Note: When drilling the pilot holes in the front and rear bottom deck pieces, drill them slightly farther from the ends and angle them towards the legs. This will make screwing the screws in easier as the legs may get in the way of the electric drill motor. Countersink the holes with the larger drill bit to a depth of about 1/4".

    Measure down 1 1/2" from the tops of the legs and, using a square, draw a line across each leg (bottom 2 pieces of wood in the photo). This will be the top of where the upper cross bars are attached. Measure up 6" from the bottom of each leg and draw a line, using a square. This will be the top of where the bottom cross bars are attached.

    Mark The Legs
    Mark The Legs Photo by Stan Hauter
  3. Assemble the Legs

    Lay two of the legs on the assembly surface (table, etc.) with the marked lines up. Place two of the cross bars across the legs, aligning the cross bars below the marked lines. Fasten the cross bars to the legs with one screw into each leg through each cross bar (total of 4 screws at this time). This will allow the legs to swivel on the legs. Adjust the legs until they are parallel with each other and the cross bars are also parallel with each other. Measure the distance from the top outside corner of the top cross bar to the lower outside corner of the bottom cross bar. It should be about 26". Now measure the distance from the opposite corners. Adjust the legs until the distances are identical. Be as precise as possible. Any variance in the distances will cause the stand to wobble. Hold the legs in place and install the other four screws. Repeat this process with the other two legs and cross bars.

    Assemble The Legs
    Assemble The Legs Photo by Stan Hauter
  4. Finish Assembly

    The next step in assembly is probably more easily done a flat floor and with an assistant. Stand the 2 leg assemblies on the floor with the cross bars facing each other. Place 2 of the top deck pieces on the top cross bars. Align one of the top deck pieces with edges of a leg and hold the ends of the cross bar tightly against the legs. Drill a pilot hole into the cross bar and install one screw into each cross bar. Repeat with another deck piece and the other leg. Measure from the top opposite corners of the legs and adjust the distance to match and install the last 4 screws in the top deck pieces. Place the stand assembly on a flat, raised surface (work bench or table and install the bottom deck pieces. Install the last top deck piece.

    Your aquarium stand is now complete and ready to paint.

    Assembled Aquarium Stand
    Assembled Aquarium Stand Photo by Stan Hauter