Aquarium Stands - Particle Board is EVIL!

Jan 8, 2001

Well it is official. As of today I am now a certifiable idiot.

After 15+ years of keeping aquariums, you would think I would have learned a thing or two about aquarium equipment, specifically aquarium stands.

But nooooo, even with this supposedly accumulated knowledge, it was only a few years ago when this 'goof' goes out and buys an aquarium stand simply because it 'looks really cool'.

Never mind that the stand is:

a brand new item in my local fish store (LFS)
constructed using (the EVIL) Particle Board
completely un-researched & the LFS has no experience with the stand
somewhat pricey, thus (falsely) implying quality

But remember, it looks cool.

So... after five years of successfully keeping my 65G reef tank on this really cool looking particle board stand, I've encountered a bit of a problem. Okay not really a bit of a problem, more like a BIG problem.

The problem is ...

"Newt"-tons First Law of Aquariums:

Objects under a fish tank invariably get wet & tend to stay wet.

As you can imagine, wet particle board tends to warp and expand when it is first soaked with salt water; dried; and re-soaked a couple of times. This fact is true regardless of how well the veneer (or whatever the plastic covering is called) is actually applied to the particle board. This bowing and expanding tends to destabilize the aquarium stand somewhat significantly.

I have now limped the stand along for about 18 months since the first soaking (due to a severe overflow caused by an accidental piece of rope dropping into the tank; the wick effect which drained water onto the floor and a few days away).

Yesterday, however I heard a big CRACK!!! Sure enough, the stand is on it's last particle board legs.

So today, I find myself with the wonderful task of potentially having to break down my reef tank, empty it, get a new stand and put the thing back together. My fish and about ten thousand other critters are really going to be PEEVED!

BTW, this tank has been running virtually effort free for about the last three of the five years since it was setup. The first two years were a bit labor intensive, but the ecosystem has really hit a great maintenance free stride. As you can probably guess, disrupting the system is about the last thing I want to do to this stable reef.

Anyway, I have now come full circle to my original opinion: I am a certifiable idiot.

Seriously though, the moral is that:

Particle Board Aquarium Stands are a poor choice for reliability.

With my story now over, in the following sections I have shared some of my opinions and experience with various types of aquarium stands. (It's your choice whether or not you listen to this 'expert' idiot's opinion.)

Student's Stand (Cinder Blocks)

I have built VERY sturdy stands out of 6 cinder construction blocks (big grey bricks) and a suitable board on top for the tank to rest upon.
Amazingly this stand is not that unattractive and I have used it several times. The only keys being to use a reasonably level piece of wood (preferrably varnished) and place the cinder blocks underneath the ends of the tank.


extremely simple and inexpensive stand
extremely sturdy and durable
Leaving the cinder block holes exposed makes nice shelves


leveling the stand can be challenge (only a minor annoyance)
looks a little cheaper, unattractive? (I like it)

Note: A useful table of the weights for various tanks (empty and full) can be found at:

Hardwood Cabinet Style

Quite common and usually expensive, I think this may be my choice from now on for a show tank. The hardwood tanks are FAR more durable than the particle board and if they have been treated correctly, they stay in much better shape.


cabinetry space


relatively heavy and unwieldy

Steel Frame

Simple, elegant and usually inexpensive. The steel frame tank stands are also utilized in many fish stores.


appearance (if you like simple designs)
space saver
can have walls/cabinetry built around it


rust can be a factor, especially in salt water
great for splitting toes
appearance (if you hate simple designs)

Particle Board

EVIL! ('nuff said)


appearance (most unique designs)
can be reasonably inexpensive
reasonably lightweight


not durable, can warp greatly
not the best for attaching power bars, pumps etc.
my anecdote above

2x4 Construction

Also a common way to build fish tank walls in fish stores, this may fall under the student stand category. I have used this in my basement.


strong and durable
can have walls/cabinetry built around it


unless covered, can be ugly
unless treated/painted, can have some staining
do you usually built things in your showrooms with exposed 2x4s?

Anyway, I am sure there are more aquarium stand variants out there, but I hope this helps you select a stand for your tank.

By the way, AQUARIUMS WEIGH A LOT! Don't forget to calculate the full weight of your tank (water, glass, rocks, sand) to ensure your stand and floor will hold up. A useful link for making this calculation is:


Happy fish keeping...

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About the Author ID:
Member: Colin Kemp
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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