Guidelines for Choosing an Aquarium Stand

Perhaps it is due to the fact that the adult human body is made up of some 60% water, or that our most ancient biological ancestors first emerged onto land from a primordial sea. Whatever the instinctive reason, unquestionably there is hardly a person alive who is not automatically drawn to—if not utterly transfixed by—the sight of an indoor fish tank, displayed on a beautiful aquarium stand and populated by thriving schools of exotic, colorful, water-dwelling creatures swimming to and fro. It is both aesthetically pleasing in its own right and deeply relaxing to watch.

1856 aquarium with stand
Glass freshwater aquarium from 1856 containing Vallisneria spiralis, goldfish, roach, and minnow
[source]
As far back as ancient antiquity the early Romans were known to keep sea barbels as “pets” in marble aquarium tanks—what they might have called an aqua vivarium—in their homes. But it wasn’t until the technical innovations of the 19th and 20th centuries that it became practical and affordable for the layperson to adopt this hobby and become a serious aquarist.

Like tending houseplants, keeping a home aquarium is a way of connecting yourself to nature when indoors, and in all weathers, even if you live far distant from any lake or ocean. It is a hobby highly recommended to promote peace of mind and an appreciation of both the variety and the fragility of life on this Earth.

Once you have made the decision to set up your own aquarium, your first consideration should be: where to put it.

In the case of a basic fishbowl or very small tank (under 10 or 20 gallons), almost any flat, level surface will do, such as a table, bureau top, or shelf. But for anything much larger, a sturdy, dedicated aquarium stand is the only way to go. You can build your own (if you are skilled in carpentry and have the time); or you can purchase a ready-made unit, in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials, from any of a large number of commercial outlets. Before you do, however, here are four important factors you should consider.

Location

Yellow aquarium fishBack to the original question: where to put it? Think of your aquarium stand as just another piece of furniture—but with a fish tank on top. Unlike your other furniture, however, this fish tank can be extremely heavy and contains a delicate eco-system. After it has been properly situated, you most likely will never want to move it elsewhere. So choose the location carefully!

The aquarium stand should be positioned in a “public” place, where you can enjoy it easily, but not where it gets in the way of normal foot traffic. It should also be kept away from direct sunlight, drafts, doors, and windows, as well as heating and cooling vents. Ready accessibility to a sink and faucet (for when changing out water) is important as well. And it should also be conveniently near an electric outlet, where you can plug in canopy lights, filtration pumps, and other necessary electrical accessories.

If you live in a small studio apartment with lots of furniture, obviously your options will be severely limited, compared to those of a homeowner with an open layout and rooms galore. But no matter what kind of living space you inhabit, finally keep in mind that the total weight of the setup may be considerable. Wherever the aquarium stand goes, the floor below it must be structurally sound enough to accommodate that weight.

Budget

Once you have determined a suitable location, measure the site for general height, width, and depth; and that will determine the maximum size of the tank, and thus the size of the aquarium stand required to hold it. If you have room to spare, then great—the sky’s the limit!

But bear in mind that keeping an aquarium can get costly. Aside from the initial investment in the tank itself, the stand, and all the electrical equipment, you must also fill it with substrate, plants, and other decorations, and then stock it with fish. Beyond that, factor in the ongoing maintenance cost of running the electrics and other ancillary expenses, not to mention buying fish food and medication. Be aware too that salt water aquariums are significantly harder and more expensive to maintain than fresh water aquariums.

So also budget your time. Aquariums don’t take care of themselves, after all. If the goal is a healthy, happy fish population, an aquarium requires constant monitoring and ongoing maintenance.

As a general rule, the larger the tank, the more it will cost to purchase and maintain (in terms of more fish, more food, more lighting, more powerful pumps, and larger electric bills). But also remember this: any aquarium is essentially a miniaturized, artificial ecosystem. As such, bigger tends to be better. Simply because of its higher water volume (which promotes a superior self-regulating biological environment), a large aquarium will be naturally healthier than a smaller one, which cannot easily resist sudden temperature changes or water chemistry fluctuations. In the long run, your livestock will thrive better in the largest aquarium you can afford.

In the end, buy what your budget allows—but don’t cut corners. You will regret it in the long run.

Fresh Water Aquarium
Large fresh water aquarium tank

Size

The dimensions of the tank will determine the size of the aquarium stand. Most commercially available stands have a height of 36 inches, which is perfect for both sitting in contemplation and admiring your finny wards in an upright position. That leaves width and depth to consider. Again, your living space will help determine that.

But aquarium stands are more than just empty air surrounded by sturdy legs. They should also provide a convenient, closed-off cabinet area to store your aquarium equipment, such as skimmers, nets, maintenance tanks, backup pumps, fish food, medicine, replacement filters, and so on.

Framing Technology carries a wide variety of aquarium stands, in various dimensions, including custom-built designs, with leveling feet as well as plenty of space for storage. Here are some examples of our standard-size stands.

For your convenience, and to fit in with your home’s décor, these aquarium stands come with additional options, such as choice of finish, hinged doors, shelving and compartments, cable and plumbing options, and cabinet side panels.

Materials

Last but far from least, the material your aquarium stand is made from is of paramount importance. By definition, aquariums are filled of course mostly with water—a molecule composed of two light gases, oxygen and hydrogen. But did we mention that water itself is heavy? Just ask Jack & Jill. Given that water weighs on average 10 pounds per gallon, you can do the math yourself. A small 20-gallon glass tank weighing 25 pounds when empty will jump to over 200 pounds after it is filled with water and gravel. A medium-sized tank measuring 48″ × 24″ × 24″ contains 120 gallons of water, which works out to 1,200 pounds. A larger tank measuring 96″ × 36″ × 36″ holds a whopping 525 gallons of water. That’s over 2½ tons!

To support that kind of weight, the aquarium stand must be constructed of strong, durable materials. By all means, avoid particle board or medium-density fiberboard (MDF), both of which are subject to critical weakening over time from moisture—and quite possibly will eventually disintegrate, with disastrous results. Wood is better, but that too may also warp over time if repeatedly exposed to water, especially if left unfinished (a coat or two of marine varnish is highly recommended!). Water spillage likewise will cause iron and steel aquarium stands to rust—more so if the stand holds a salt water aquarium.

Increasingly, serious aquarists are choosing aluminum stands for their hobby, due to their overall lightness, strength, and resistance to corrosion. At Framing Technology, Inc., our attractive, time-tested, anodized aluminum t-slot aquarium stands combine both function and décor, and they consistently outperform similar steel and wood frames. The durability and versatility of our various-sized profiles offer the ideal solution for creating a unique structure for your aquarium, regardless of size or weight.

Whatever type of aquarium stand you choose, be sure it is of high quality and provides solid support. With that critical decision made, we hope you enjoy your “aqua vivarium” for many years to come!

Exotic aquarium fish

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