Why T-slot Aluminum Is a Great Choice for Custom Aquarium Stands

Hats off to Framing Tech for taking the extra step in reassuring my peace of mind. I would definitely go out on a limb and say that any reefer that wants to stay in the hobby for a long time should consider building your stand with Framing Tech.

— J’s Reefs


Unless you intend to install in your home a gigantic floor-to-ceiling fish tank, such as you would find at a commercial aquarium, you’ll need some kind of platform to hold your fish tank. Novice hobbyists might initially overlook this little detail, until they take the tank home and realize they have no place to put it, except on the floor. That is why, no matter the size of your tank, you need an aquarium stand.

We know the weight of water is approximately 8 pounds per gallon. For a modest-sized 40-gallon breeder tank, that works out to some 320 pounds of water, and much more for a larger tank. So the aquarium stands needs to be sturdy. But the stand isn’t just a platform for the tank: the area underneath can also serve as a storage place for mechanical needs and aquarium supplies, such as filtration system, tubing, scooping nets, fish food, medicine, etc.

For medium to large tanks (20 gallons up to 55 gallons and more) that need plenty of open space underneath, you have many sizes and types of stands to choose from, made from a variety of materials, such as:

  • Particle board, pressboard, or other similar engineered wood product
  • A strong natural wood, such as oak or maple
  • Welded steel
  • Extruded T-slot aluminum alloy

Each of these materials has its own set of pros and cons. Which to choose? Well, consider this: if aluminum didn’t exist, yet you had the power to create out of thin air the perfect material with which to construct a durable and reliable aquarium stand, you would have to invent aluminum. Here is what makes aluminum so special for numerous applications:

Now consider aluminum’s physical properties when applied to aquarium stands, and then stack them up against those of the other available materials.

Hardness

Even with a plastic or natural wood veneer, engineered wood products are not very tough. Better to go with natural hardwoods, such as oak or maple. Obviously steel beats them all, including aluminum, and would easily resist denting or bending; nevertheless, while aluminum in its pure, elemental state is relatively soft, it becomes much harder when alloyed with other elements, such as manganese, magnesium, and zinc.

Strength

Again, engineered wood could never stand up to the weight of anything but the smallest fish tank. If you’ve got the skills and tools, a well-constructed natural wood frame aquarium stand would look better—and last longer. However, stands built from all wood materials for larger tanks tend to need more bracing, supports, and often dividers underneath, all of which rob you of valuable filtration space.

Stronger still, by magnitudes, welded steel eliminates the need to put any thought into the load-bearing requirements of an aquarium stand, and it could easily hold even the largest tank.

But what about aluminum? Though a “soft” metal, it could certainly give steel a run for its money! Depending on the type of alloy and the processing technique used, pound for pound aluminum can be forged to be just as strong—if not stronger!—than some grades of steel.

Weight

And here is where the competition starts to get very keen. Compared to relatively lightweight engineered wood or moderately heavy natural wood, steel can be very heavy indeed—especially if the aquarium stand is designed to hold an exceptionally large tank. Of course, in that case you would need assistance from another person just to move the stand into position. Add to that the weight of the tank itself and the water it contains, and the combined weight of the entire setup might be more than your floor could withstand.

Which is why aluminum makes for an appealing alternative to steel for this application, thanks to its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio. After all, aluminum is about one-third the weight of steel, meaning parts can be made thicker and stronger while still reducing the total weight of the stand.

Durability

Not to be confused with “strength,” the property of durability in this instance has more to do with corrosion-resistance. Remember, we are dealing with water here, which has the capacity to be a destructive substance—and even more so in the case of the salt water found in a marine fish tank. There is no way around it: there will be spillage, no matter how careful you are. If it gets on engineered wood, it will be absorbed and will, over time, dangerously weaken your aquarium stand until, inevitably, it collapses.

Natural hardwood, though not quite as susceptible to catastrophic failure when exposed to water, can still warp when made damp by spilled liquid, and that can result in an uneven platform for the tank, causing leaks—and worse!

Steel, when exposed to water repeatedly, tends to rust, thereby weakening the structure overall, given enough time (and it’s even worse when exposed to salt water). But even if the amount of rust does not lead to catastrophic failure, it is still cosmetically undesirable.

And this is where aluminum truly shines: it does not rust! Well, actually it does, but not in the way we think of iron or steel rusting. Rather, it resists corrosion from exposure to water by the formation of a self-protecting oxide coating. In addition, different types of surface treatment, such as anodizing, painting, or lacquering, can further improve this all-important property of corrosion-resistance.

Aquarium stand with fish tank
Is this not a handsome and practical aquarium stand?!

When you put all these properties together, it’s hard to imagine why any serious aquarist would choose an aquarium stand not made of aluminum. It ticks off all the boxes that really should matter to a serious aquarist.

And you won’t find a more reliable, better-quality, easy-to-assemble T-slot aluminum aquarium stand than one designed and manufactured by Framing Tech. Don’t believe us? Listen to what J’s Reefs has to say about it.

At our website you can learn more about our standard-size and custom-built aquarium stands.