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Thread: Fishtank Stand - Evolution + Planning

  1. #1
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    Fishtank Stand - Evolution + Planning

    Here's the story...

    My oldest, who is 12, asked for a fishtank. We don't currently have any pets, and mostly like it like that for a variety of reasons. But he persisted, and we thought that this could be okay. But we wanted to first be sure that he was committed to the work involved. A solution presented itself when he found a tiny 1 gallon tank - complete with pump, gravel and even fishfood, on the curb one trash day several months ago.

    So he set up this tank, filled it, and we got a few tiny fish. Then after a few months of proving himself, we decided that a fishtank would be okay.

    But buying new was out of the question. First, it's expensive. Second, there are so many tanks being sold on kijiji.ca, (think: Craigslist) that we didn't see the point of paying new prices.

    After a while we came across a moving sale advertised where they had 3-4 tanks. So I took my son off and we had a look and came home with a nice tank. They told us it was a 20 gallon but when we filled it with water it turned out to actually be 15. Nice tank, fully equipped, but SWMBO was disappointed in the size.

    But we set it up anyways, and bought some more fish.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    We placed the tank along a short wall that is sort of at the crossroads of our house. On one side is the family room (school room for us, homeschoolers) and on the other is the main hallway leading right into the kitchen. Our plan all along has been to build a cabinet to go there. It would contain the fishtank supplies, as well as provide a place to 'hide' the kitchen trashcan, and some other needed storage. Currently, the tank is straddling two cabinets that my dad built for me 18 years ago when I got married, as nightstands.

    So I started designing...

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Time passed, as it tends to do. I had other projects on the go, and other things going on, and this remained just a design. I poked at it every now and then, and we looked at trash cans in the store -- the "drawer" on the left and the trash can do sort of need to match each other.

    But then this past weekend one of our neighbours held a garage sale and I wandered over to look. I was almost out the door when I noticed the small post-it note on their cash box that read "ask about fishtanks"...

    Well to make a long story short, we suddenly found ourselves the happy new owners of a Thirty gallon tank for a song.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    We don't really want two tanks. So the new plan is that I need to build a cabinet to suit the new tank, get it set up and running, and then we'll get rid of the old tank.

    Back to sketchup.

    My original design was 36" tall, just like the kitchen counters. And I really liked that drawer that went across the top. But the new tank is much taller, not to mention wider. (no bigger from front-to-back, though)

    So here is design #1

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    The thermostat on the wall is a problem. This forced me to shorten the cabinet by at least three inches.

    We didn't really like it. I miss the drawer at the top. It feels cramped, and seems to have much less storage than the first design. If you go back to the first photo you see that "mail organizer" on the wall. That has to go when we build this cabinet, so I was planning on the top drawer for the mail storage (and some related stuff). Keeps it central, but now gets it out of sight. And we did want to have room for other stuff.

    So after some thought we decided that we should just bite the bullet and move the thermostat. If I do that, then we can go back to the full 36" height that I had originally planned.

    Also, I was concerned about the weight of the 30 gallon unit (I googled and came up with a figure of about 250lbs for 30 gallons of water!?) So I had designed in a 2" thick torsion box for the top. But again, that took space away that I could have used in drawers. After looking back at the original stand that came with the tank I realized that they just had some 5/8" particle board for the top, and a simple box for the base. So what was I worried about? Furthermore, when looking at this design, I realized that without the drawer across the top, there was no reason I couldn't have a middle "wall" in the cabinet that would give me lots of support.

    So on to the latest design:

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    I do miss the full-width drawer, but I like the security that the middle divider gives. This proposed cabinet is 36" tall, and the top is 37-1/2" long (the tank is 36") and the cabinet is 17-1/4" deep (18" for the top). The four top drawers are identical (6" vertical opening), with one extra tall drawer on the bottom-right for fish supplies, and the large cabinet on the bottom-left will hold a trash can, and also a small recycling bin. The trash section is not a door, but rather a very large drawer platform, much like I built under the kitchen sink five years back.

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    And that is where we stand so far. I like to think about designs for a while, so we'll probably sit on this for a few weeks, and hopefully get going on it in the second half of august.
    Last edited by Art Mulder; 07-29-2009 at 11:56 AM.
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  2. #2
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    ps: Oh yeah. So far I'm thinking basic plywood for the cabinet, painted. I'm thinking about giving milk-paint a try. And top-coated with lots and lots of polyurethane, due to the water threat.

    I might go with a dusty blue instead of the dull red though.

    I wondered about buying melamine sheet goods for this for the water resistance. But I really would rather work with plywood -- melamine is usually particle board. Not to mention that then I'd be trying to paint the outside of melamine, don't want white!
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  3. #3
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    Just a thought - you might be able to find a solid surface/stone cut off to fit that would eliminate any future 'water worries'.
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  4. #4
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    don't forget, 30 gallons of water is a fairish amount of wieght to be supporting. take larry's motto to heart.
    benedictione omnes bene

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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Noren View Post
    don't forget, 30 gallons of water is a fairish amount of wieght to be supporting. take larry's motto to heart.
    Dan,

    I did address that in the original post:

    After looking back at the original stand that came with the tank I realized that they just had some 5/8" particle board for the top, and a simple box for the base. So what was I worried about?
    I should have probably added that my neighbour had owned the tank for about 10 years, particle board stand and all. So I think I'll be okay with three full-height supports of 3/4" plywood. (not even considering the back.)
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Art Mulder View Post
    Dan,

    I did address that in the original post:



    I should have probably added that my neighbour had owned the tank for about 10 years, particle board stand and all. So I think I'll be okay with three full-height supports of 3/4" plywood. (not even considering the back.)
    Your design built with plywood will be more than strong enough, Art. The only thing I might add/question is that in the last design picture it looks like the back is open, and if so, I would add that if it were me, I would use a 1/4" plywood back on it to prevent any racking, BUT,........ I'm like Larry in that I tend to overbuild on projects like this.

    Here's a couple of shots of one I built a couple of years ago for my Computer Guru, (who now owns an exotic fish store too). This one was for a 150 gallon tank.Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	36433 The shelves inside were for the pumps, etc. and the rectangular cutouts in the back were for the hoses & wiring .

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    Even the "Very HIGH DOLLAR" commercially built ones do not have anywhere as much hidden structure as this one does. (as I said, OVERBUILT).

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norman Hitt View Post
    Your design built with plywood will be more than strong enough, Art. The only thing I might add/question is that in the last design picture it looks like the back is open,
    no no no. Full back. 1/4" plywood, or even 1/2"... (overbuild, me? )

    I am contemplating recessing the back behind 2 of the drawers 3-4"... to give room for a power bar, and a pump or two. You'd almost never notice that the drawer is shorter, and it'd be nice to hide it away.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Art Mulder View Post
    no no no. Full back. 1/4" plywood, or even 1/2"... (overbuild, me? )

    I am contemplating recessing the back behind 2 of the drawers 3-4"... to give room for a power bar, and a pump or two. You'd almost never notice that the drawer is shorter, and it'd be nice to hide it away.
    Yeah, that would probably work on a stand for that size tank. We considered that on the one I made, but since it wouldn't be able to be moved with the tank on it, it meant having to have it sitting too far away from the wall to get to the items back there.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Art Mulder View Post
    Also, I was concerned about the weight of the 30 gallon unit (I googled and came up with a figure of about 250lbs for 30 gallons of water!?)
    Art,

    The standard rule of thumb is 8 pounds a gallon. So you're not far off.

    Three things:

    1. Fish tanks are exactly like lathes. How, you ask? Well, a lathe sounds like it costs a lot, and it does. But it's all the other stuff that gets you. So the cost of the lathe is one half of the total project cost, or maybe a third. Same with aquariums. Only with lathes, you never flush wood chips down the toilet, while the children weep and the wife screams "Bill, you doofus, when are you going to learn your lesson about nitrogen levels! I married an idiot! I should have listened to my mother!"

    2. Build the thing out of 3/4 ply. Use actual joinery, not pocket screws! Rabbets. And titebond III. When it gets wet, and it will get wet, it'll want to sag and twist and bow. 3/4, with shelves let into rabbets, and you'll be golden. Oh, and don't just set it on the floor. If you do, when you finally move it, there will be fishtank marks. Make sure air can circulate underneath it.

    3. Plan out your filtration system before you build. Most people eventually go to an outside the tank filter, hanging off the back, even if they start with an undergravel filter. "But darling, the salesman said an undergravel filter would be fine!" (see number one...) Figure out in advance how far that filter needs for clearance, and what you'll do with all the cords and stuff... they should be well hidden. Most people use some kind of plastic of vinyl-like scenic backing outside the back panel. If you ever change it, you don't want to have to move the tank, so make sure there's room back there...

    Thanks,

    Bill

    (ps. it's a good idea to decide what kind of fish you want in advance too. Never, ever, let someone talk you into salt water, that will triple your cost. Cichlids are your best bet. Me, I like brichardis... Rams are cool too, but they like to die. They're just like us, "Our very breath is loaned." Course, they don't breathe...

    Last edited by Bill Lantry; 09-07-2009 at 11:58 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Lantry View Post
    Oh, and don't just set it on the floor. If you do, when you finally move it, there will be fishtank marks. Make sure air can circulate underneath it.
    fishtank marks?

    Plan out your filtration system before you build. Most people eventually go to an outside the tank filter, hanging off the back, even if they start with an undergravel filter.
    I had an undergravel filter when I was a kid. Those things are evil. You need to rip the tank apart and totally empty it in order to clean them. Nuts.
    This tank came with a canister filter - fluval 204 I think. Not top of the line, but not under gravel silliness either.
    The filter actually going to go around the corner from the tank on the floor in a bucket to catch the water that WILL drip out of it when #1 son takes off the lid to clean it, and not be in the stand at all.

    (See, I'm planning ahead. Someday, when the fishtank is long history, this is still going to be a useful cabinet. With drawers and everything.)

    thanks for the great advise. Sounds like fun times at your house around the toilet bowl...
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