Fish Tank Stand: Bracing For 501 Pounds of Water



The project in the shop that moves the slowest is the Fish Tank Stand. GAKMAN and I are building it together for his house, and we only work on it when we can get together. We both have demanding jobs at Microsoft, so that’s not often. Well, the stand is done finally, but that’s not what this post is about. This post will deal with water. 501 pounds of water.

On the last day of the build, as GAKMAN and I were getting ready to begin spraying final coats of General Finishes Enduro-Var. He started to giggle, and it was evil. I knew what he was giggling about – he had remembered something else that we needed to do, and this meant that we had another project delay.

“How big is the tank?” I asked.

“60 gallons” he replied.

“How much does a gallon weigh?” I worried.

“8.3 pounds” he answered.

“501 pounds, let’s go!” I ordered.

Off to the big box store. I had a plan forming in my head to reinforce the case from the inside with angle iron. We did not want the top to sag and bind on the doors, and I didn’t want to build another stand – the first one took us a year.

The Angle Iron Beam

First, we bought a piece of angle iron and cut it to the right length.

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The Bosch jigsaw came with a great metal blade that really made quick work of this.

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We only had to cutoff about 3/8 of an inch.

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I cleaned up the cut edge with a file.

Rust Prevention

After the angle iron was the right length, and all sharp edges were removed, it was time to prevent rust. Remember, the base of the stand will have a pump, a filtration system, and salt water. To prevent rust, as much as you can prevent rust on iron that is 12 inches away from salt water, we cleaned up the angle iron first with Simple Green, and then with sandpaper.

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Shiny angle iron, with no muck.

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And then applied multiple coats of lacquer. This should help protect the steel from rust, for at least  little while. I was surprised at how well this sprayed out of the can, how fast it dried, and how strong the fumes were even with the Spray Booth in operation.

Custom Posts for the Angle Iron Beam

Beams work by bearing weight, and transferring the weight to posts, so I needed posts to transfer the weight from the angle iron to the base of the case, and because angle iron has, well… angles, the posts would be custom.

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Start by tracing the angle iron onto the posts, and cutting away the material with the jigsaw. Refine with a rasp, check the fit, sand, and lacquer.

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Install the posts and angle iron with screws. I placed the angle iron about 1/3 back from the front of the case.

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Ensure the angle iron fits into the recess in the post nicely.

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Done. A cabinet that will stand up to a beautiful and heavy saltwater fishtank.

Note that the hole in the top is by design, it’s so that water can be pumped down from the tank into the stand, get filtered, and then return back to the tank.

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