My Aquascaping Experience

JGaulard

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Staff member
  • #1
I have been mulling the idea of setting up a fish tank for years. I used to be quite the aquarium enthusiast, but after I left my parents' house for college, all of that fell by the wayside. I actually owned a 75 gallon tank a few years after I graduated, but that was only for about 10 months. What I'd like to do now is set something up that's permanent. I don't want to have to deal with buying and selling tanks, changing things around all the time, moving the tank from one location to another, and all that comes with living in apartments and other types of rentals. I'm over all of that. What I'd like is to own an aquarium as an adult. If you've been in the fish hobby as a kid and now you're all grown up, you know what I'm talking about. The experience is completely different. What I'd really like to do is spend a little money on the good stuff. Instead of being in a rush the entire time, I'd like to read and do research and purchase high quality items. I want to do things right.

My initial idea was to buy a 55 gallon tank and set it up as a cold water environment. I was going to go outside and scavenge some natural looking (or just natural) gravel and rocks from a nearby stream. I'd still like to do that, but I've decided that a better tank is the 40 gallon breeder. That's got a 36"x18" base as opposed to the 55 gallon's 48"x12" base. I have seen 55 gallon tanks in the past and while they're very cool, I think I'd like something that's got more depth to it. But really, if the 55 is all the store had on hand when I went to buy, I'd get it. It actually doesn't even matter because I have a weird feeling I'll ultimately own more than one tank. Fish are just too much fun to stay limited to one tank.

With this setup, I was going to go the plastic plant route. But after reading around a bit and watching far too many videos, I think I'll go with live plants. What I'm looking for is a hobby that involves intellect and maintenance, not something that I can assemble and just watch. I would like to learn about the different types of plants that go with cold water and which ones are good for what. I would also like to learn about the various fish that would be good with cold water. There's a lot to learn. That's why I think I'm going to buy this book:

Aquascaping: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planting, Styling, and Maintaining Beautiful Aquariums by George Farmer.
https://amzn.to/3tE8Num

It's a good book that's very involved with all I want to know.

I'm at the point where I need to build myself a tank stand. I've got lots of ideas, but I think it's going to look somewhat like this one in the picture.

Frag-Tank-Stand-3.jpg

I'll sand mine and stain it when I'm finished. Then I'll clear coat it with some polyurethane. I've made DIY furniture in the past and it's come out pretty good.

After that, I'll head out to Petco or something like that to see if they have my tank in stock. If they do, I'll buy it and set it up on the stand. That's where the fun starts and that's where I'd like to start taking my time and learning. I'll need substrate, plants, fish, and decor. I'll also need a filter, lid, and light. I can picture myself sitting at my computer getting all excited because I've unearthed another seller of something or other.

What I'd like to do is use this thread to continually add my experiences to. Since I've yet to do anything other than think up a few ideas, I thought this was a good place to start.

If you aren't familiar with aquascaping, take a look at this video. It's such a beautiful hobby.

 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #2
Two decisions I've had to recently make have had to do with what type of tank I'd like to buy as well as whether or not I'd like to buy a pre-made stand or make one myself. As for the stand, I've already mentioned that I'll be making it myself. The reasoning for this is two-fold. First, I've never liked the way those store bought stands look. I think they're pretty cheesy. Perhaps if there was an industrial looking metal stand, yes, I'd get that, but as far as those wood ones go, I'll pass. They're totally not worth the money, which brings me to my second fold of my two-fold reasoning.

Store bought fish tank stands are a rip off. If you've got any experience with a circular saw, you can totally make one yourself. If you don't, I'm sure some worker at Home Depot would be more than happy to help you out by cutting the wood. All it takes is 2x4s and a piece of plywood. You can even buy the plywood pre-cut. You'll usually need one that's 2'x4'. That's a great size to make the top of a stand because you can fit many different sized tanks on top of it.

If there was a third fold to my reasoning, it would be that I love building things like fish tank stands. I get to use my saws and screw guns and all that. I would never pass up an opportunity like this.

Regarding the fish tanks, I have the choice between glass and acrylic. I've always owned glass tanks. I'm not even sure the acrylic ones were invented back when I was into fish during a previous life. I do love the appearance of these new acrylic tanks though. They're super clear and can be compared to watching an HD TV versus a regular one. Obviously, glass would be the regular TV. That's not to say glass isn't awesome, because it is. It's just that those acrylic tanks have no moldings. Have you ever seen a glass tank? They've got that black trim around the top and the bottom. Some brands even have it on the corners. I don't like that and it's almost worth spending the extra cash to get the plastic tank. Acrylic tanks cost a lot more than the glass ones do though and they're even hard to find. Many of them need to be custom made. On top of that, they scratch much easier than glass does. I'm not sure I could live with a fish tank with a big scratch across the front of it. Especially at the price I'd surely pay for it.

They're light though. So if I were to be moving this tank into a hard to get to area, I'd have to take that into account. Overall, acrylic tanks are the best you can get. If you watched that video I posted above, you can see the plastic tanks in it. They look so damn good.

When it comes to glass, it's all just so easy. They're for sale everywhere and they're cheap. They're about twice the weight of acrylic, but for me, that doesn't matter. I'm not buying a 40 gallon, which I could probably move by myself. The good thing about glass tanks is that there are parts for the available everywhere as well. There is certainly no shortage of lids and light for these things.

It's for these reasons that I am choosing to build my own tank stand and buy a glass aquarium. Everyone does it this way, especially beginners like me. I'm comfortable with that.
 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #3
For the past few weeks, I've been thinking about what kind of fish tank stand I'd like to make. And then I took a look at the price of lumber. Because of COVID, lumber prices are screaming high right now. A piece of 3/4" 4'x8' piece of plywood that used to cost $22, is now $56. The same is true for OSB. What used to cost $11 is now over $40. As for 2"x4"s, what used to cost around $1.50 is now around $6. It's crazy out there, so I thought better than to go waste some money on this overpriced nonsense. What I did do, however, was use a DIY table I made a few years ago as the top and then buy a 10' 4"x4" (cut into four 28" pieces) from Hammond Lumber in Farmington, Maine to use as legs. I also bought a 2"x4" to strengthen the sides a bit. Those two pieces of lumber cost me only $20. I put everything together this afternoon, stained it, and then applied some polyurethane it to add some gloss. Here it is. By the way, the 2"x4" was spruce and the 4"x4" was supposed to be hemlock, but they gave me cedar by accident. I didn't complain since the cedar was more expensive.

diy-fish-tank-stand.jpg

diy-table-top.jpg

just-stained-diy-fish-tank-stand.jpg


Basically, it's a garage workbench that's stained brown. It's very strong, but it's not done yet. I'm waiting for some shelving brackets to arrive on Wednesday. I bought them from Amazon. Check them out. I got the 12-pack for around $35. Each one can hold 125 pounds.

black-shelf-brackets.jpg

I bought these to strengthen the legs of the table. As they are right now, I don't think they'd hold the weight of a large fish tank that's full of water. Also, these brackets should straighten the legs out. They never screw on straight. After it's all together, this table should hold a lot of weight. I actually used to have a table just like this one, but with weaker shelving brackets, that held a 75 gallon tank for about a year. I have no idea how it did that. I may have gotten lucky. Anyway, I'll take some photos of the brackets after I install them.

Also, this is what I wanted to make. I'll have to wait for the price of lumber to fall somewhat. This work bench is eight feet long.


For the top and the shelf, I'll be using Advantech as opposed to plywood. I'm over plywood. The Advantech is sustainable and much stronger. I'll also use the corner braces that are in the video. In case you're interested, those are called Simpson RTC42 2x Rigid Tie Corner- Galvanized. They're about $7 each.
 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #4
Okay, I received my LuckIn shelf brackets. Here they are. There are 12 of them.

luckin-shelf-bracket-12-pack.jpg

luckin-shelf-brackets.jpg


The brackets came with screws and plastic wall anchors. I used the screws to mount these things to my table, but I didn't use the wall anchors. I have to say that the brackets are fairly heavy duty. I was concerned about the welds, but they seem okay. I'm not concerned with them anymore. They're actually better than many that I've seen. If you're interested in ordering these brackets yourself, here's a link to them on Amazon:

https://amzn.to/3s8HCqh

As soon as I received these from UPS today, I screwed them to the table. Here are a few shots of the finished product.

55-75-gallon-diy-fish-tank-stand.jpg

diy-aquarium-stand-construction.jpg

diy-table-corner-brackets.jpg

fish-tank-stand-shelf-bracket.jpg

This really is the way to go. Obviously, to make the stand even stronger, I could attach some 2x4s to the bottom of the legs, but this is good. The corner brackets really hold the legs to the table. It's now very solid feeling. These are strong brackets, so I'm confident with putting a 29, 40 gallon breeder, 55, or a 75 gallon on top of this. My plan is to buy a 40 gallon breeder, so that'll probably be in my next post. As for right now, I'm just happy to get this table finished.

PS - I wanted to mention my two primary concerns while building this table. Because it'll be carrying so much weight (I'll show some weights below). The first thing I was concerned with was it bowing, meaning, I didn't want it to sag in the middle. I countered that potential sagging with additional 2x4s that ran below the outer edge. I think this will be fine because I've actually used an almost identical table, but without those additional 2x4s, to hold a 75 gallon tank and it was fine. I have no idea how I got away with that, but if the lighter version of this table could hold that, I'm certain the more substantial version can too.

Second, I was concerned with the legs spreading under the weight of a filled tank. Many others have dealt with this prospect by attaching boards down near the middle of the legs or even at the bottom. I didn't like that look, so I went with some beefy shelf brackets instead. I think these will work just fine. They'll keep the legs straight and will also hold the weight of the tank on the top of the table.

Aquarium Size, Dimensions, Empty Weight, Filled Weight

20 Gallon: (high) 24" x 12" x 16", 25 lbs., 225 lbs.
20 Gallon: (long) 30" x 12" x 12", 25 lbs., 225 lbs.
25 Gallon: 24" x 12" x 20", 32 lbs., 282 lbs.
29 Gallon: 30" x 12" x 18", 40 lbs., 330 lbs.
30 Gallon: (breeder) 36" x 18" x 12", 48 lbs., 348 lbs.
40 Gallon: (breeder) 36" x 18" x 16", 58 lbs., 458 lbs.
40 Gallon: (long) 48" x 12" x 16", 55 lbs., 455 lbs.
50 Gallon: 36" x 18" x 19", 100 lbs., 600 lbs.
55 Gallon: 48" x 13" x 21", 78 lbs., 625 lbs.
65 Gallon: 36" x 18" x 24", 126 lbs., 772 lbs.
75 Gallon: 48" x 18" x 21", 140 lbs., 850 lbs.
90 Gallon: 48" x 18" x 24", 160 lbs., 1050 lbs.
125 Gallon: 72" x 18" x 21", 206 lbs., 1400 lbs.
150 Gallon: 72" x 18" x 28", 308 lbs., 1800 lbs.
180 Gallon: 72" x 24" x 25", 338 lbs., 2100 lbs.
 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #5
I've decided to purchase a 55 gallon tank. I was watching an aquascaping video last night that helped make up my mind. I really only want to buy one primary tank and I think a 75 gallon isn't worth the trouble. The only difference between a 55 and a 75 is that the 75 is five inches deeper, from front to back. I don't need that extra floor space. As for the 40 gallon breeder, I don't know. I think I'll grow out of that quickly because I've already owned larger tanks in my life. I get bored quickly. Plus, parts for the 55 are readily available, easy to find, and relatively inexpensive. Because it's such a popularly sized tank, parts are everywhere. Take a look at the video I was watching last night.

How To: Planted Aquarium Tutorial - 55 Gallon Aquascape With Discus

 
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