Aquarium stand surface not level

  • #1
I am in the process of setting up my first tank. Yay, except things keep coming up that bother me. For one, I got a stand from Petco. It is made of wood and particle board. I put it together and screwed everything in tightly. I hope I did it right. The tank has gaps under all four corners. I took a ruler and sure enough the top of the stand is bowed because the ruler rocked slightly. The largest gap is between 1/32"-1/16" or about the thickness of 1 1/2 credit cards. It is supported in the middle and the gap widens gradually out to the corners. It is a 20 gallon high Top Fin tank. I got some foam craft board at walmart. It's not the flimsy white stuff. I got two pieces that if layered are about 1/4" thick and have about the same give as the pink insulation stuff that they had at Lowes. Will this help? Oh, and the tank is the kind with a plastic rI'm supporting the bottom glass. I've read mixed reports about putting foam under these so I'm rather confused.
Another thing that concerns me is the stand is on carpet and I can rock it from front to back rather easily. I went ahead and set the tank of top of it and I have the sand I'm putting in it on the bottom shelf. It is a little more stable that way. We've thought of maybe getting a really heavy bag of sand or some kind of weight and just leaving it on the bottom shelf but that will be kind of ugly. Better than an unstable tank though. I would anchor it to the wall, but we live in an apartment. It has leveling feet and I tried for a while to level it but it was really hard to tell on the carpet. I also don't really trust the leveling feet because they jiggle. Would kind of rather just screw them all the way in and use shims if I have to. Just really hard to tell what to do on carpet.
The stand is supposed to hold a 20 gallon tank. I wasn't expecting it to be any trouble. Oh well. What do you guys think I should do? Any advice is appreciated.

2013-02-26 01.53.55.jpg
  • #2
when you add water thing's will change i'd leve leg's in and may be sand it some with a block of wood and sandpaper see if that would fix it .
  • #3
High spots along the sides, front or back of the tank can cause the glass to crack, or the seams to fail. I would never set up a tank with this problem without taking some corrective action. I would choose between these three options:

1) Return the stand to exchange it if you feel it is defective.

2) Many folks even out an uneven stand top by placing a sheet of foam insulation between the stand and the tank. This allows the tank sides to compress the foam, and not stress to the point of failure.

3) This would be my choice. All that is needed is for the corners of the tank to be supported, the sides/front/back do not need support. I would get a few small squares of glass from the local hardware store. 1" square pieces are plenty big. Place one under each corner of the tank. Depending on the thickness of the glass that you get, this may be sufficient to lift the tank above the warped, lifted areas. If not quite enough, I would add a second piece to each corner, stacked on top of the first. This method is totally adequate to support the tank safely, and is much less noticeable than a piece of foam.

Take your pick of solutions, but I would not fill the tank with water while it is sitting on a warped surface like you describe.

The wobble in the stand may be less once the weight is on it.

If the stand has individual legs, it may help the wobble to place a sheet of 1/2" plywood, cut to slightly larger size then the footprint of the stand underneath it. Not the most attractive solution.

A large, attractive rock may be better looking than the bag of gravel, or get one of the wicker baskets they sell at Walmart, and place the bag of gravel inside that to disguise it.
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  • #4
Okay, here's what I have so far. This is the foam that I got from the school supplies section in walmart:

This is the thickness:

2013-02-28 00.47.55.jpg

And this is what it looks like when I squish it really hard:

2013-02-28 00.48.28.jpg

Unfortunately it is covered in cardboard so I will have to put a sheet of clear plastic under it. The flexible stuff like a table cloth but slightly thicker. Either that or figure out some other way of waterproofing it. Is it safe to support an aquarium built on a plastic frame like this? The gap is only 3/64". I would sand it but I think the top is particle board. I would support it by the corners but I'm scared the sudden drop-off would put stress on it.

Here is a picture of one of the gaps. Each corner is like this. I don't even think the ends are supported. (credit card for reference):

2013-02-28 01.10.07.jpg

And the disguising the weight is a great idea. That is the substrate that is going in the tank so I'll have to get something cheaper to weigh it down. The floor slants slightly down to the left if I measured it right. If I screw the feet back in will it be safe? I just don't trust the tiny threads on a screw to be holding at least fifty pounds each. Can shI'm if necessary. Difficult to judge these things on carpet.
  • #5
Not sure what you mean by the sudden drop off.

The corners are all that need to be supported. Been doing this for decades now, with never a problem. The tip was given to me by a former local fish store owner who was going out of business. He had been using this method for over ten years and had greatly reduced his numbers of cracked/leaking tanks.

That foam may work, doubled up.

As I said, before, Your tank, your decision.

I assume the screw-in feet are meant to allow for leveling. If so, they should support the weight no problem, as long as they are not so loose as to be ready to fall out.
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  • #6
I got to thinking about how if I put foam under the entire tank there would still be more pressure in the center. I was thinking, maybe I could put one layer of foam under the entire tank and then cut triangles and put them as a second layer under the corners. That way I would feel more comfortable about the drop off as the foam is squishy. It would kind of be shaped like one of those desk calendars with the four corners that hold the calendar in place.
Also, still worried about how the stand rocks forward and back. Will this be more or less stable with weight on it? I am most likely going to shI'm the side slightly, but I think the rocking is caused by how the stand is built, just being such a narrow width and kind of tall. Wish the base was wider.
  • #7
Could work I guess. I've never used foam to level an uneven stand top. I was always concerned that over time, as the weighted tank settles into the foam, it would eventually develop the same stresses.

Like I said, I've never experienced this, because I've never used this method. Others seem to have had success with it, so it must work, but I'm not the one to judge the fine points of it.

Weight on the bottom shelf will definitely help with the stability. Once you fill the tank, you can easily judge how level it is by the water line in relation to the top frame. I would wait until this point to actually shI'm the feet.

I live in an old house with uneven floors, so I almost always have to shim. Not a major problem. If you have small kids/pets who you are worried about upsetting the tank, you could always shI'm it so it is tilted SLIGHTLY back, towards the wall. This makes it just a bit more difficult for it to tip out and possibly on top of a toddler. Shifting the weight you place on the bottom shelf to the very rear of that shelf will also help in this regard.

Good luck with your new tank. Don't over-think things. You do know about the Nitrogen Cycle right? That is where you need to study up if this is your first go at an aquarium, get that right and you will have much better success.

Click on the link above for great info on how to cycle your tank.
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  • #8
Also, sorry if I am being troublesome. It's just I'm very worried because I have never set a tank up before.

______________| <----------- tank
_______,--------------- <------------stand and support

That drop-off. I know it is minor. I just worry a lot. I guess I'm having trouble understanding how a tank can be supported by only the corners.
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  • #9
Sorry to keep posting so much. Just saw the last post. I have studied up on the nitrogen cycle. I am wondering if I can use fish food as I do not have ammonia for fishless cycling. I have my sister seeding some filter media for me. Hopefully this will help.
Also concerned about how the heater arrived but that is a different post. The cap was crooked. Tech support said it was decorative, that the seal is on the inside and to test. Thank goodness I have the nicest granddad that was worried about me and brought me a gfci.
I used to keep a large hexagon tank. It was my first tank and I probably did a lot of stuff wrong. It was already set up and had been for years when I started using it though. Have moved into an apartment since then and have no idea what happened to that tank which is a shame. It was a nice tank. It was not mine though.
When I got this I was just kind of thinking I could just set it up and go. Boy was I wrong! I think I worry even more because it is an apartment and I will be in big trouble if it leaks or breaks. Also, kids come over for Christmas and stuff. Kind of scary. How far back can I level it toward the wall? It seems silly to go to all this trouble for a betta, but I plan on adding a bunch of plants and more fish later so it will be worth it.
Thanks again.
  • #10
Well, it's difficult to believe, but the corners are the most vulnerable places because all the various forces come together there, and that is where all the joints are glued together - this makes it more vulnerable to twisting forces, the kind a warped base applies.

At the same time, the fact that it is the corner, means it is the strongest area to support the weight, as those downward forces are transferred through two pieces of glass, each of which is braced against warping by the other piece.

Glass sheets are amazingly strong. More so as long at the stresses applied are evenly applied. It was a leap of faith for me to adopt the corner-only support method, but it has proved 100% secure in my experience. I've had everything from 10 gal tanks to 50 gal long tanks (4 foot) supported solely by the corners for years, with never a problem.

Again, good luck.
  • #11
No problem with the number of questions.

You can use fish food for doing the cycle. Pure liquid ammonia gives you much more exact control over the dosing and makes it easier to tell when your cycle is complete. Both methods work supposedly. I used the ammonia method.

One drawback I've read about recently with the fish food and shrimp or dead fish method is that it adds phosphorous to the system and this, in turn, may give an algae bloom a foothold. Something better to avoid if possible.

Using cycled media is a great help. My first tank I set up from scratch took almost 8 weeks, the second, with some cycled media took closer to 4 weeks to fully cycle. Cut the time in half. I now have enough media available that two additional tanks achieved instant cycles for small numbers of fish.

Caution on the betta and tank mates, some bettas will accept co-inhabitants, some will not. Keep doing some research here, and if you decide to give it a try, make sure you have a plan "B".

Edit: regarding how much to lean it back. Not much. Definitely no more than so you can still hide the crooked water line behind the top frame so it is invisible. The idea is just to get the tank heading toward the wall, if it decides to tip.

I think you would be fine just making it level, especially if you add the weight to the bottom of the stand. They are designed to hold the tanks relatively secure. Too much liability for Petco and the manufacturer not to design them properly.
  • #12
I would think, as you fill the tank and it gets heavier, that it will "un-warp" the stand. Think of it like an empty flatbed tractor trailer. If you've ever noticed them, they arch up in the middle so that, when loaded, it flattens out. This makes them able to hold more weight.

I would think the fully loaded aquarium would be pressing down with such force that it would flatten out the stand top. Although, most of the pressure would still be in the middle where the stand was arched, so that might be bad for the glass. When I'm picturing it being a bad pressure in the middle of the tank, though, I'm picturing like a 1/2" gap on each corner.
I, personally, wouldn't worry about a 1/16" gap on each corner as that will probably come out when the tank is 1/4 filled and then the corners would have support. (I'm not guaranteeing that, but just my Engineering opinion!)

I hate defective things that I pay good money for, so I would probably just exchange. Hopefully that is an option for you. If you don't feel like assembling an entire stand again, maybe they could just exchange your top piece.

If you don't want to exchange, you could always just slowly fill the tank with everything and just pay close attention to the corners. If they come flush to the stand with less than 1/2 tank of water, I would say it would provide enough support. I'd def. fill it slowly and watch the corners, though, if you don't end up exchanging!
Good luck!!

EDIT...Oh...the foam. That definitely wouldn't hurt. It might just raise the corners up and make a gap somewhere else that wouldn't look good but would have the support since it's 3/4" and the gap is only 1/16", but the full tank might squeeze it down flush.
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  • #13
I ordered it over the internet so it would be difficult to exchange. The nearest petco is about 100 miles from here. Also, I kind of wonder if I might have cranked the top down too hard as I have a tendency to over-tighten bolts. If I were to use the foam, since I have it already, should I use the the two pieces stacked on top of each other, or only stack the corners two thick? And would this most likely prevent it from breaking?
And the leveling feet. They don't really adjust much, so by the time I had it level, they were almost all the way out, and with a few more turns they fell out so that made me kind of nervous. I screwed them back on a turn or so but still nervous. Maybe I should screw them in some more and be happy with that. I hate to even pose this question, but how unlevel can it be? At its worst, well, crude drawing time again.

| | |( |)| |

The bubble touches the outside mark on the level. Since it's carpet I have to push on the level or the stand and hope it's accurate. Maybe it's settled a bit more by today. I should probably measure it again. Will definitely be filling it slowly when I feel safe to do so.

Oh, and it will be a while, because I'm going to try to get plants first and we're kind of broke from all this money in the beginning. Then I was going to add harlequin rasboras and black kuhlI loaches. Still not sure how I'm going to quarantine them as far as cycling the quarantine tank/rubbermaid container but that is a question for another time. Guess I would just have to go through another cycle.
  • #14
When starting a new, unstocked tank, it's not so vital to quarantine, since you are not putting an established tank at risk. Most folks don't worry so much about quarantine until they have a well established tank they want to protect.

As I said, I wouldn't worry about leveling so much until you have it filled or, 95% full. It's then easy to just shI'm to make the water level with the plastic top frame.

While not the method I would use, I would guess that the foam (doubled at the corners) should work ok.
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  • #15
Okay, so next question would be, you can shI'm it with water in it? Won't it be all unstable? I think what I might do is take everything off the stand since I don't have water in it anyway, and adjust the feet according to what I have found so far, and make double sure they are past the jiggly point.
Will probably also put foam under the corners unless somebody finds this to be a bad idea. Please tell me so.
Also, will put extra weight on the bottom. Any idea how much?

Oh, and stocking. Maybe I should do the rasboras first and keep the betta in his little tank for a couple weeks. Is a couple weeks long enough? Was wanting to give the poor little betta a better home. Or maybe the kuhlI loaches first since they are more sensitive and I kind of fear putting them in a quarantine tank. But then again, what if one of them was sick? I'd never be able to catch them in the bigger tank, esp. if I put in plants. I think I might stick to the original order. Oh, is it critical to cycle the quarantine tank, or can I just do repeated water changes even though it will be a pain in the butt? And what do I need as far as a filter on a quarantine tank? And how much water for 7 loaches, or 7 rasboras at a time?
Thanks again.
  • #16
Don't mind about asking a lot. That's what its all about - Q&A

In my community tank I have a sheet of cork underneath the stand, but my floor is ceramic tiles on cement.
Between the stand and the glass I have an iron tray, where the whole aquariums fits in, custom made. in the tray I put a foam, much like the one in your pictures. In the store it is sold as a substrate for laundry machines, compressors and the like. At the time I set up the tank my idea was to use styrofoam, but people said it would squeeze under the weight - later I noticed styrofoam used in several fishstores. Now, I wouldn't hesitate to use it...
In your case, the problem is between the stand and the plastic tray holding the tank. Use the foam-solution. It will be stable enough.
The floor issue: I'd take out the screws completely. Put a single-layer of foam beneath the floor and the stand. Double layer might make the thing unstable, but one layer will help levelling.
Why not anchor it to the wall? Will your landlord mind about a screwhole? Don't you have bookshelves and lamps...

And... to fishlore
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  • #17
Okay. Extra foam under corners or double layer under whole tank? Will it hurt to put foam under it if it's the kind where the glass sits on top of a plastic frame? The glass does not actually contact the stand so all the pressure lies on the frame.
If I leave the feet in, but screwed all the way up they are pretty tight. They are flush against the stand when screwed all the way in. I can level it from there with shims or foam or something. Shims would probably be more stable wouldn't they?
I'm pretty sure I can't anchor it to the wall. Would maybe a 50 lb. bag of sand give it enough stability? Or 50 lbs. of something or another.
  • #18
I would only put a 1"x1" or 2x2 piece of the foam at each corner flush so you don't see it sticking out. That's the only area of the tank that has a gap and really needs the support, that's just sinve you already have the foam though. I would think it would be ok to fill with just the 1/16" gap since that's not really a lot. I'd try to shI'm the levelness before you fill though...I would think it would be kinda hard to get a shI'm under a full tank...heavy?

I would probably shI'm the front two legs on the stand up a little so the stand leans back towards the wall and then you could put some foam under the back of the tank to lift it up level so that your tank is level but the stand leans towards the wall. That way if anything bumps it off balance it is leaning into the wall and would yake a pretty heavy force to tip forward off the lean. Hope that all made sense haha

edit: Just a slight lean on the stand, nothing that would make it unstable just so it takes more effort to tip it away from the wall than it does to tip it towards the wall. That way if something does bump it, it will try to tip towarss the wall which will be there to support it.
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  • #19
Since it's such a small gap I think I will try not to worry about it so much. I think it makes the most sense to put the foam under the corners since that is where the space is. When I go to leak test it I will fill it slowly and check for levelness at a quarter and a half tank full. As long as the feet don't jiggle I will trust them. If I cannot level it satisfactorily with them I will use shims.
The betta was a rescue from walmart. My sister was keeping him for me. Her betta died last night so I told her she could have him. She had just got through setting up a nice new tank for the betta that died too. I hate to turn him down like that, but it helps her and gives me the opportunity to look into different fish.
Thanks for all your help. Everyone has been so nice here.
  • #20
Well that was nice of you! Have any fishies in mind?
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  • #21
Wellllll, I thinking mainly dwarf cichlids, like apistogramma or kribensis, maybe shell dwellers, or even dwarf puffers or croaking gouramis. Leaning towards some kind of cichlid. My sister said a guy came in the store today (she works at petsmart) and said he had some convict cichlids he needed homes for. I told her I was more interested in rams or cockatoo cichlids or kribs. I think I might have offended her for not offering to take some. It's hard to tell sometimes. She just wants what's best for them. I'm kind of afraid I'll end up getting some species of cichlid that breeds way too easily and end up not having a place for the babies. Any ideas?
Again, I'm just going to check on the foam thing just to be sure. If I only put it under the corners will it be okay? Like about 4" triangles? Or smaller? Or larger? Just checking. I think I might set it up tomorrow. The heater seems to be working. Had it in a bucket for a day. Haven't been electrocuted and the water is almost at temperature.
Thanks guys.
  • #22
Convicts don't just breed too easily. From what I've heard, they're also aggressive.
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  • #23
Sorry to keep this thread running so long. I was filling up my tank to leak test it today. I got it 3/4 of the way full and every now and then I would rock it just to see what would happen. It was still rocking way too much for me to be comfortable at 3/4 full. I unfilled it. pita. Glad it's only 20 gallons. Anyway, I'm thinking about maybe putting a sheet of plywood under it and attaching it somehow. Maybe put bolts up through where the feet are now or something, or figure out a way to brace it, but I wouldn't know how. The wood's really skinny. I would just build my own but I have no experience with that kind of thing. I guess if I'm really having problems with it I could complain about it and see what could be done. Any ideas?
  • #24
This is not a long thread. Not at all.

You should see if you can return it. Really sounds like it hasn't been made properly.
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  • #25
I will try the plywood thing first. I won't be making any permanent changes to it so if I need to take it back I still can. The only two problems are I will either have to make a trip to Memphis, or figure out how to get it back into that box and ship it. I think I would rather just go to Memphis. It is 110 miles away though.
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  • #26
Got the plywood underneath it. Still a little wobbly. Wish I could just put it on a hard surface but can only put it on carpet. I filled it up and checked to see if it was level again. It was not. The bubble is touching the second line on the level. Will it be safe to leave it like this overnight for leak testing or should I remove the water immediately? This is front to back, the narrow part. The water is touching the trim on the back and about a quarter of an inch above it on the front.
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  • #27
Okay. Was making me nervous. Unfilled it to 1/3. Will try to get shims tomorrow.
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  • #28
Stupid me. Carpet tack strip. Moved away from wall. Still slightly unlevel. Will get shims.

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