29 Gallon Tank John's network rack (tanks part 5)


So back a couple years ago I made a build thread on my rack of tanks. Part 5 was supposed to be the rack and lights. I have not put the doors on it despite them sitting on my workbench so I suppose I will call it done. Recently a member Cbriana asked about stands and racks for 20 longs and I offered to clean up a drawing of this rack and give her the dimensions and some guidance to do it for 29/20 long only so here's the thread as a DIY.

We will be going through the process to build this 6 tank rack, and how to scale it down to a single column:


First, we need some plans:



As marked at the top, one plan is for an 88.25" rack, and the other is for a 33.75" rack. The dado detail and side view, as well as the lettering system shown on the page with the smaller rack is true to both sizes. Along the bottom is the "cut list" showing the letter designator, quantity required, and lengths of each board. The 88 and 33" version use the same letters for ease of reading, but follow the list under the appropriate design.

*Builders note: I did not include an actual "cut sheet"; when I build I figure out the best way to divide all my ~96" long lumber to most efficiently make all the parts out of the least wood possible. I recommend you add 1/4 per cut when figuring which cuts to put on each board. Do this math before you go to the store. An estimated cut sheet for the small rack would be b+b+c+c=~89X4 sticks for all b and c. Next, a+d+d=~90+a+d+d=90+a=63+a=63 4 sticks for all a and d you would need 8 stick of 96" lumber to build the small tank rack but you could likely do a little better if you really wanted to*

Supply note, I use structural screws, like deck screws to build, I recommend 2" long screws for the build when joining 1.5 to 1.5 and 2.5" long when going through a 1.5 into a butt (cross to spanner). Additionally I like to wood fill my screw holes. You will also need a couple scrap pieces of wood as thick as your homes trim and one or two 6" self tapping lag bolts for safety even though you could climb this rack like a ladder, a floor heave or earth quake could drop thousands of pounds of fish tanks on you if unsecured. Finally, I did not include a top or backer in the plans, I used 3/8" mdf for the shelf top, and the thinnest backer/utility plywood I could find for the back. This design does not need a backer for rigidity, I use one to keep spill and splashes directed towards the area I can actually reach and away from the wall/trim of my home.

Tools for this are: table saw (10"), hand held circular saw (7.25") miter saw (not required but highly recommended 10"). I use 80-110 tooth finish blades for this work. A strong drill, drill bit and driver bit to match your screws (always pre drill stick lumber for this type of finish). Hammer, chisel(or dado blades for your saw). A couple ratchet straps. 60 or 80 grit sand paper. Good small carpenters square or speed square, tape measure, helper. I also like to cut 1/8" thick felt furniture pads and put them under the base cross directly below the dado verticals and a small one in the middle of the span. This allows the stand to settle as you fill the tanks, and let's you wipe spills under it. Additionally, I use 1/8 thick, 1" wide adhesive weather stripping foam on the surface under the tank rims, this is all for asthetic as I have found all my tanks(and neighbors and anyone else I have helped) have bowing bottom rims (when checked on a glass table) so it covers the flaw in fitment.

Now, let's build.

First, rip your 2x4 lumber the long way by setting the table saw fence to 3.25", I like to clamp a 4' level to my fence while doing this for easier results, and always measure from the fence to the blade with the same measuring tool. Pass all your lumber through. Next, set your fence to 3" roll the lumber over and pass it through again. The result will be much straighter, square cut 1.5x3" lumber, pass all the lumber through. Consistency is key and the less you mind your fence better. Set aside all the tiny shaved sticks for use as shims in case your floor isn't level, or for other projects.

Next, make your cut list by following your cut sheets. I like to label my wood by length with a pencil as I go. Again, consistency is key, use the same measuring tape ask the way through your cuts. Decide before if you will be cutting through the pencil line, or trying to spike the pencil lines. I like to try to split the lines so if you look close, you see a little tiny bit of pencil. Stack your pieces by size and check off the list as you go.

Next, let's cut a dado. Strap all the vertical Dado boards (a) together side by side. Make a mark just under (1/16 under)3" from each end. This will be where your base and top crosses will fit, going 1/16 under for this dado will stop the vertical board from causing hot spots on your floor and allow the base crosses to distribute the weight instead. Use a straight edge to draw across the stack, set your circular saw to 1.5" cut depth then starting with the mark, make cuts every 3/8-1/2 inch to make the dado area look like a comb. Use your hammer and chisel to break the comb out, then sand as required by wrapping the 60-80 grit under a piece of scrap wood. Keep all the dados strapped together through this fitting process.



Next flip the dado verticals over, keeping them strapped together. Make a mark at 9-1/32" and 12" then measuring from the same end, at 37-1/32" and 40". You want it tight by ~1/32 so you can get a good right fitting cross bar connection here. Using the same technique as previously, referencing the dado detail drawing, cut, chisel and sand to fit.


Now, make your front and back facing dado and cross assemblies. Use the ratchet straps to pull them square/tight, check with your carpenters square on all corners, cross measure, and use the 2" screws. I usually use 2 screws per connection point.


After building the front, and back faces, stand them up and connect them with the spanners. Use the straps to pull them tight/square. At the base and top detail, side view, spanner (c) will screw sideways to spanner (d) as the last step. You may need to tap these in with your hammer. Pay close attention to spanner (c) where the tanks will be sitting. You need that surface flush at the top (where the tanks will sit, if there was any cutting error, let it be wrong underneath


Now that it is free standing, check for square and cross measure, you can do some fine tuning with a combination of the straps and loosening/re tightening the screws, but it should ultimately be pretty square if you were checking at each step. Sand any details and wood fill screw holes. Follow the wood filler instructions. Attach your top and backer if your want one, then paint. I actually painted my first coat on the stand, top, and backer while separate, then attached and painted again.

Now, bring it inside and put it where you want it. Push the base against your trim and put the lower tank in. Fill it (then) with water to find the settling positions and check for level. If tilted away from the wall add a shim under the front edge at the pads until level. If tilted sideways, add shims under the pads as required. The beauty of the shims from ripping is that they typically vary in thickness due to lumber irregularity and you sound be able to find what you need in the pile. After you get it level, check to see how much space you have behind the top rear cross. If you floor and wall are square(some homes have settled more than others) it should be the same as your trim. Find and mark a stud above your rack, them find where that spot would be (I do this visually) from inside at the cross bar. Wedge the trim chunk or shim behind the rack lined up with the stud, then run the 6" lag through the rack, through the shim block, and into the wall/stud.


I have a wall outlet behind my bottom left 29, there was enough room to cut a hole behind it and run 2 surge strips to the floor before filling the tank with water.

Load the tank rack up with beautiful tanks and enjoy.

Design notes: as designed the is 1.5-1.75" behind the 20l and 29 gallon tanks, a HOB wound not fit but it's perfect for pipes and hoses/cords. This rack is used in my home with sump systems and internal/matten filters. On the 10s in the middle I added blocks at the rear cross as they aren't as deep as 29/20l tanks and it allows enough space for a hob on the 10s (I even keep an external uv system behind one of them). If you wanted to adapt this to use HOB on all the tanks, I would put a couple ~6" pieces of scrap 1.5x3 behind rear lower cross to space it away from the wall, an additional 1.5" if a backer board is desired, modify accordingly. Use a longer lag bolt for earth quake protection of you make that adjustment.

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