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DIY Aquarium Cabinets

When purchasing a tank, we also have to take into consideration the cabinet; would it look right in our house etc., indeed in some cases does it actually match the tank that is sat on top of it. A lot of money can also be saved if we bought the tank alone and created our own cabinet.

This is not such a daunting task as it seems, even a basic cabinet can be made with the most basic of wood working skills. I have created a couple of cabinets in the past that were very pleasing to the eye and believe me I am no carpenter.

There are a few options that can be used, one of the most basic stands can be achieved using breeze blocks (cinder blocks) or even using house bricks for the stand columns and lengths of wood across the top for the actual tank support. In this case for quickness and strength I have used breeze blocks stacked and cemented 3 or 4 high, (depending on the finished height you require), and I laid 3 strips of 4” x 2” wood across the top for support. Please bear in mind that wherever you are going to house the finished set up the floor underneath must be capable of taking the weight involved when the tank is filled.

On top of the wood I also added a sheet of 1” thick polystyrene to cushion the tank and to rule out any vibrations. This design may not be the best to look at but it was built in 30 minutes (remember to allow the cement to harden overnight), and I attached a curtain around the front to improve the appearance.

Another option is to either purchase a metal box frame or get one welded together to your specifications, then this can be covered with either tongue and groove pine wood or in my case I normally use 12mm marine ply. Now if you plan the size of your cabinet with some thought you can apply the sides and back if required cut to size if using the marine ply, then go to a DIY store to purchase standard size cabinet doors which can then be fitted to the front, this will then give it a more aesthetic appearance.

The last option, as mentioned earlier, is to actually create the whole cabinet yourself from wood. Not as difficult as it sounds.

DIY aquarium cabinet

Before you do anything, draw a detailed plan of what you are making and the size, length of materials that you require. I always use 4”x2” planed wood for the main frame, this gives a good strength and with it being planed makes it look that bit more professional. Start by making the front and the back of the cabinet, these comprise of a wooden rectangle for each-the height being basically the viewing height required, and the length being the length of your tank plus say 1 cm(0.5 inch) to allow for any last minute adjustment of the tank.

Depending on the length being used, I then add into the rectangles a supporting beam halfway across (for longer cabinets I would add 2 supporting beams).

Cross beams will then join the front to the back. These are cut to the width of your tank, plus an additional support beam in the middle of the sides. In all of my wood joints I used counter sunk decking screws as these seem to be the strongest ones I could find. As added security for heavier tanks I add metal right angle brackets onto the inside of the corners, these really do make a difference.

Now you will have a basic frame that is the length and width of your tank. The hardest part has been done.

All that is left to do is add the casing for the frame on the sides and back. Depending on which you choose (in my case marine ply, for water retention purposes), this needs to be attached with counter sunk screws, this time I used 1 inch wood screws and plugged the top of the screws with plastic caps for neatness.

As already written for the front I added pre made cabinet doors which were attached with the appropriate hinges, purchased from the same timber store.

A full sheet of ply is added to the top of the cabinet and at this stage I perform the ultimate test for strength of my work piece. Stand on it to make sure it is sturdy enough for the job, with the larger cabinets I have even had 2 people standing on it.

If it has passed that test then add a sheet of 1 inch polystyrene for the reasons explained above, now we are very nearly there.

With all of the joins etc. there are bare edges on the corners of the cabinet, with these I simply added some pre-molded trims purchased from the same timber store, just to give it that professional finish.

The cabinet can now be stained or painted to suit yourselves and you have saved yourself a lot of money in the process.

A little tip I did learn was that if you take your plans to the timber stores, in many cases they will pre cut all of your beams and sheeting for you.

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