I get a lot of questions about how I set up my 125 gallon aquarium shown above, so you’ll find everything you ever wanted to know about it here. I’ve broken the process down into parts and this first part will focus on the building of the stand. I regularly post update videos on YouTube, so you should also check those out. A link to my channel is on the menu to the left.

I built the stand in January, 2010 and the whole process took a few months. The frame is based on a blueprint that is commonly used by others. This was the first piece of furniture I’d ever built and fortunately I had a lot of help from my friend Adam. We used his basement and many of his tools and I used the skills I acquired on this project to build a lot of other stuff afterwards, including another aquarium stand.

I got the 125 gallon tank itself at Petsmart for 300 bucks. The dimensions of the tank are 72″L x 18″W x 20″H and a filled tank of this size holds 1043 pounds of water. Including the tank itself and the 30 gallon sump tank, this stand had to be able to support over 1500 pounds. So, I massively over-engineered the stand. It could probably hold a couple of 125 gallon tanks the way I built it. Anyway, let’s get into the nitty gritty of building an aquarium stand.

This is a shot of the top and bottom frames assembled. The top is 2×6′s and the bottom is 2×4′s. The dimensions I chose for the stand are 72″L x 18″W x 41″H which makes it significantly taller than what you’d buy in a store. It’s the perfect height so that you don’t have to bend over to look in it but it isn’t so tall as to be dangerously top-heavy.

Four Legs assembled.

Frame completed. Everything is fastened with huge counter-sunk deck screws. It could probably hold the weight of many 125 gallon aquariums.

Top and bottom are both plywood, all other paneling is cheap project panel. 11 bucks for a 4×8 can’t be beat.

Here’s a shot of the interior bottom panel. I eye-balled this cut for each of the four corners and it worked really well.

Everything is done but the trim, wood filling, priming, and painting.

Adam holding the trim piece for me while I fasten it. If you decide to build something like this, I highly recommend you have a good helper.

After a couple of hard days of work, Adam and I were proud as Hell of the end result.

After the trim was installed, we loaded it onto a truck and took it to my house. This is it in my living room. From here on out, I did all the work alone while my girlfriend thought I was a crazy person.

The next step was to sand it down. This ensures good paint adhesion. Also, I’d filled every single nail/screw hole and they needed a good sanding too.

Here it is after a good coat of water-based primer.

I chose to paint it a light tan inside and glossy black outside.

I learned many things while painting this thing. First, I regret using high gloss paint. I painted another stand I built afterwards satin black and it looks a lot better in my opinion. Second, I used white primer under this black paint and so you can imagine how many coats of paint it took. Tinting the primer gray is highly recommended. Lastly, the particular paint I used was pretty crappy and didn’t take well to the amount of tint I added. So, it stayed sticky for literally months. Fortunately for you, they no longer make the paint I used, so no worries there if you follow in my footsteps. Just use good paint, it’s worth the money. I sold paint professionally for five years and I now exclusively use Valspar Signature series.

The total cost of materials to build the stand was around 150 dollars. That is incredibly cheap for such an indestructible, furniture-quality aquarium stand. Definitely no regrets on building it as opposed to buying the stuff they sell at pet stores. You’d pay 2-3 times what I paid for far less quality.

This concludes the first part in my quest to put together a gigantic aquarium in my living room. In the rest of the articles, I’ll explain how I built my sump filtration, picked the fish, and all the other stuff that goes into this. As I said, this is my first major carpentry project and it turned out great. Here’s a video I made in March, 2010 that shows some more of this stage of the process.

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