When building large aquariums it is important to consider what type of stand to use. Unlike small aquariums, the use of benches, desks and cupboards as support is out of the question. With large tanks you are also dealing with heavy loads. Consider: an 8ft tank full of water, rocks and gravel will weigh around the same amount as a small vehicle. It is therefore important that the stand is both strong and sturdy in its application.
The question is whether to use wood or metal for its construction. Both have their advantages. In some cases a mixture of both can provide the answer. Obviously metal offers strength while wood seems more presentable. With tanks up to 6ft wooden stands seem to be acceptable. However, in my opinion, you cannot beat a good steel frame. I would not recommend the use of a wooden stand for tanks greater than 500 kg gross. Initially wood can withhold a reasonable weight. However, over time, if the wood rots or is affected by termites without becoming apparent, it runs the risk of becoming dangerous. Pine is the most common wood used for its cost efficiency. My recommendation though is to look for hardwoods. They are more resistant to wood rot and are no doubt stronger.
Apart from corrosion, metal stands are for hardier than wooden stands. The only disadvantages are their increased weight and lack of appeal. There are ways to lower the chance of corrosion. Good preparation and painting with “Kill Rust” paint is the easiest and cheapest preventative. However, the enthusiast can either powder coat or two pack paint the stand for longer lasting protection. Pay particular attention to welds, as this is usually the first place where corrosion starts.
If a steel stand really doesn’t appeal to you, remember you can cover the frame with wood and wooden doors. This makes an excellent looking unit that also covers up external filters and messy utensils. It can also provide useful storage for those hard to hide objects. If you are building in external filters, it is a good idea to allow large breathing holes for moisture to escape. Some people choose not to cover the rear of the stand at all. Also, make sure that all external filters can be serviced or removed once built in. Side opening doors can provide the answer to servicing difficulties.
Regardless of the material used for construction, there are some other important aspects to check.
1. Make sure the stand is square to the ground in the room. Not all floors are Square especially over a long distance. Sometimes it is necessary to “pack” the stand in order to make it level. This is especially important in supporting the tank. No matter how square the stand, always use foam between it and the tank. This acts as a barrier that absorbs any unevenness in pressure on the tank’s base. I have seen tanks ride up On small amounts of sealant. This increases the chance of the glass deflecting and cracking. Use some foam; it is the only safe way.
2. Spreading the weight. On the base of the stand legs it is important to spread the Weight. Especially if you intend placing the tank and stand on tiles. Large tiles are not always supported on the edges and are prone to cracking. A large foot on each leg Will help distribute weight more evenly. A good trick, if needs be, is to place the feet on large pieces of plywood. The wood spreads the load and also acts like a cushion, taking any “irregularities” out by compressing evenly.
3. The stand height. The height of the stand obviously determines the height of the tank. With this it is important to remember cleaning, feeding and the general appearance. Keep in mind that the higher the tank the less sturdy it will be. Also consider the main observation height. If you are watching your fish mainly whilst sitting, you will be more inclined to have the tank slightly lower. To comfortably observe your fish whilst standing you will require a higher tank. If you have small children, take my advice a they will find all sorts of objects to swim with the fish. This can be very dangerous, to both the children and the fish. Remember most lights above the tank usually sit on top of the glass. Do not risk these lights being within the reach of children. Not only are they hot, but they are powered by 240 volts.