Tuesday, April 16, 2013

DIY Cinder Block Aquarium Stand

Aquariums are a beautiful addition to the home. They are also insanely heavy and fragile. Think about it this way: a 55-gallon aquarium is basically five panes of glass holding over 500 pounds of water, sand, rocks, and fish.

If one of those panes were to crack because of unevenly distributed weight, you would likely have disastrous water damage on your hands. So you obviously can't just plop an aquarium onto a spare rickety table and hope for the best. But I've never been satisfied with the quality of aquarium stands sold in pet stores, and on top of that they can run you hundreds of dollars.

There's got to be a better option, right?

Many aquarium enthusiasts build inexpensive stands from cinder blocks. They're sturdy enough to hold up mobile homes, so they have no problem supporting the massive weight of a large aquarium. Only one problem: they're so ugly!

Luckily, I stumbled on this article last year when I was looking for aquarium stand options. It's a great idea for a durable, easy to build stand that won't be an eyesore. It's also completely customizable. Here's my take on the project.

Materials for a 55-Gallon Stand
  • Nine basic cinder blocks (8"x8"x16")
  • One sheet of plywood (16"x50")
  • Two 2x8 boards (50" length)
  • Sandpaper
  • Latex paint (I use this)
  • Paintbrush (nylon bristles are best for latex)
  • Measuring tape or yardstick

Project Cost

The wood and cinder blocks can be bought from Lowe's or Home Depot for $30 or less, and of course the employees can cut the wood for you as well. Cost of paint is more variable. I happen to keep a 5-gallon bucket of white latex on hand, but a gallon of paint will run you $13-25, depending on brand and color. Tack on $6 for a paintbrush and $3 for sandpaper if you don't have them already, and you can expect to spend $45-60 on this project.

Tip: Ask the employees in the lumber department if they have any plywood scraps. The thickness doesn't really matter, as long as it's nice and flat (not warped). You may be able to get your plywood for just a dollar or two if there is a big enough scrap lying around somewhere. You can even use press board to go cheaper; it just doesn't look quite as nice.

Before Building

Here are things to bear in mind before you begin. The two most important features of an aquarium stand are that it is level and that it distributes weight evenly. If the aquarium is larger than 20 gallons or so, it's a good idea to position it against a load-bearing wall and to ensure that the floor is level, even, and able to support the weight.

Remember not to position your stand completely flush against the wall, because you need room behind the aquarium for cords, hanging filters, etc. My stand is positioned 3 inches from a load-bearing wall. I used a carpenter's level to ensure that the surface is level, but you can also assemble the stand, set your tank on top, and fill it with just a couple inches of water to ensure that the water sits level in the tank.

Pick a spot you are certain you love, because once you get hundreds of pounds of water and live fish in that tank, it's going to be a huge pain to move.

Lastly, have a plan for your electrical outlets and for tank maintenance. You will need an outlet near your stand unless you plan on using an extension cord. Think about how you will plug things in and how you will hide dangling cords or power strips. Think about what faucet you will use for water changes and how you will access it, preferably without having to haul buckets of water back and forth across your house--I've been there and it ain't fun!


You can pre-assemble your stand to make sure it is positioned properly and looks the way you want before painting.

To distribute the weight evenly for a 55-gallon tank, build three columns of cinder blocks spaced 12.5 inches apart. Cinder blocks bear weight best when you stack them with the holes facing vertically (so the holes will be hidden once your stand is assembled).

Start by positioning the three cinder blocks that will form the base of the stand. Decide how far you want them from the wall (I chose 3 inches) and position them 12.5 inches apart. This doesn't have to be exact, but use a ruler to make sure that you have between 12 and 13 inches of space between each column.

Next, lay the sheet of plywood over the cinder blocks, aligning the edges. This will become your shelf. Stack the remaining cinder blocks, 2 on each column, positioning them as perfectly over the bottom cinder blocks as you can. Finally, lay your 2x8 wood planks over the top, aligning the edges. You will have a small space, about 1 inch, between the 2x8s.

Take a look at your stand and the room it is in, and imagine your aquarium here. Do you love it? Is it in a reasonable place where you can enjoy it without it being in the way? Do you want to add another shelf or make any other changes to the structure of the stand before continuing?


Use a stiff bristle brush or broom to sweep any concrete dust from the cinder blocks so the paint goes on smoothly. You can prime the blocks, but I just brushed on latex paint, going over the surface in every direction to fill in all the crevices. I allowed them to dry for about 6 hours before applying a second coat.

Now, for the 2x8s and plywood. Sand them down, smoothing the edges and removing any splinters. Then use a brush/broom to sweep off the wood dust so you have a smooth surface for painting. Most people recommend priming raw wood before applying latex, but the brand I use is very thick and goes on fine without causing any warping to raw wood. In any case, paint the wood with a nice thick coat, using a primer first if you prefer.

I allowed the blocks and wood to dry overnight (12 hours), then reassembled the stand as described in the previous step.

Finishing Touches

Position your tank so that the corners of it line up as evenly as possible with the outer corners of the cinder blocks. This will ensure the most even weight distribution possible, and your 2x8s will also help to spread the weight evenly across the edges of your tank.

Now, you can finally set up your tank!

I added two storage bins to the shelves to hold fish food and supplies, and I hid my power strip beneath the shelf on the left hand side.

One Year Later

I'm still so happy with this project! It turned out great. The stand has remained level and perfectly stable. Plus, my cat totally digs the craftsmanship.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions, and don't forget to share a picture if you decide to build this stand yourself! :)


  1. way to go! This is what I've been looking for.
    You are the answer to my "55 gallon fish tank dreams".
    Thank you. thank you. THANK YOU!
    Now I'll show you mine since you've shown me yours. LOL.

    1. That's great to hear! I'm glad the tutorial helped. Definitely show me your finished project :)

    2. That's great to hear! I'm glad the tutorial helped. Definitely show me your finished project :)

    3. I just made mine today. Instead of plywood I got a 1×6 board and cut that into 50in pieces. My turtle tank is on the patio so I elevated the bottom shelf to keep it dry when it comes time to wash off the patio. I love this project. Eventually will paint the blocks but that's a project for another day.Thanks for sharing.

    4. Je veut vous dire merci .la belle idée je l'ai fait tres beau resultat je suis bien content tres solide et beaucoup moins dispendieux que l'acheter dans une animalerie ou tout autre magasin de grande surface .encore merci de partager ta belle Idée.André du Canada.

  2. I'm thrilled to have come across this post! I just acquired a 6 foot tank that holds over 100 gallons, and have been fretting over what to use as a stand. Having read your DIY, I feel that my fretting days are over ;) Of course, I'll have to adapt these instructions for my monster-size tank. Do you have any advice or caveats?

  3. I am going to try this in a month for my new 300liter tank. Thanks for posting this! :)

  4. You saved my time Aspen )) I'm looking for a good aquarium stand solution for my piranhas whole month. This way I will get the most creative and simple stand for my 66 gallon tank. Thank You.

  5. Is there a structural reason for making the plywood and 2x8 boards longer than the tank? Can I just make the structure as wide as the tank? I just don't want to buy a full sheet of plywood when all I need is 50". Lowe's will certainly cut the sheet, but I believe I would have to purchase the entire board because of its unique remnant size. They also have some beautiful 1x48 boards that I would love to have. They would stain up so beautifully...

  6. I am concerned about the weight of the cinderblocks on my wood floor. I live in a typical by level ranch and under where the fish tank will be is my downstairs family room. I have a 40 gallon fish tank to rehome my two red eared slider turtles. Will the weight of all those cinderblocks plus the wood planks plus the tank with the water and all the accessories in the tank and a filter be too much weight on the floor? Please comment thank you so much by the way I love the way your project turned out. I too am not please with the option the pet stores have and they are way too costly. I am convinced I can build Something more suitable for me thank you so much I will be eagerly await your reply.

    1. I wish I had the expertise to help you out. I don't know enough to tell you how much weight your floors can handle considering what type of foundation and flooring you have. I have been advised before that it's best to place the tank against a load-bearing wall, especially if you are not on the ground floor. I can tell you that, personally, I've had my 55 gal against a load-bearing wall in my 2nd floor apartment for 3 years with no issues. Also, I imagine the weight of yours would be significantly less since you won't be using as much water for turtles. If you're really concerned, maybe you could consult a contractor beforehand just in case? Good luck and I hope that helps!

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  8. Looks tacky but did it and works very well. Thanks.

  9. I did mine a few months ago. It looks great. I painted several layers of spray paint. Steel gray on the wood and black cinderblocks. I'm passing your site along. No, it doesn't look tacky.

  10. Have one similar for a 29 gallon tank. Cinder blocks on the floor with 1/2 inch plywood and then a wood toy chest on top of that (it holds perfectly). Upgrading to a 55 gallon and going to use your plans for sure! Biggest worry I have is the move from one tank to the other! The new tank is going where the old one is now!

  11. I'm thrilled to have come across this post! I just acquired a 6 foot tank that holds over 100 gallons, and have been fretting over what to use as a stand. Having read your DIY, I feel that my fretting days are over ;) Of course, I'll have to adapt these instructions for my monster-size tank. Do you have any advice or caveats?

  12. same amount of materials for a 40 gallon breeder tank? Thanks :)

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  14. As an added idea you can drape a sheet over it all and hide the blocks

  15. This is a great idea! Might be nice to add some kind of curtain over the two holes for discreet storage.

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  17. It is my first visit to your blog, and I am very impressed with the articles aquarium plants that you serve. Give adequate knowledge for me. Thank you for sharing useful material. I will be back for the more great post.

  18. You are AWESOME,AWESOME,AWESOME. You just saved me hundreds of dollars.

  19. Can I use this method for 5*2.5*2ft 12mm glass 190 gallon aquarium?

  20. Really great build, I am gonna try this tomorrow with a 48 inch aquarium!

  21. Looks superb. Thanks for the article.

  22. will this work for a 75gal and would i need more cinder blocks?

  23. Hi,
    I'm 6'4" and I like my tanks higher in order to comfortably work in them. Does adding a 4th cinder block (and possibly another shelf) cause any structural concerns? I'm on a concrete basement floor so no load bearing concerns here.
    Tks for your thoughts.

  24. What would you recommend for a hexagonal tank that is 20 " wide but technically 18" because of the hex shape...

  25. Hello n hi I have a125 gallon tank set up on blocks now with 8 cylinder bricks wood etc but want to take up a little higher with 4 more bricks is it safer to do this or keep it at the same level