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Building a simple tank rack: What Joey didn't tell you

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ok, I finally got some time to keep working on this project. I had all the pieces pre-cut and with the experience from the first try, this one was MUCH easier. Now I can kind of see how Joey did it in 45 min. 45 min for someone who already has their ducks in a row, has all the tools readily available, isn't learning anything new. 



This time, at each step, I pre-drilled all of the holes first. THEN I did all the screws. This made things go much, much faster. And I found that I had been too tentative with the drill. Use all the power! Makes it faster when drilling holes. I had to slow a bit for the screws themselves.

I also invested in a second clamp (I mean, they're pretty cheap, so "investment" might not be the right word.) This saved me a lot of hassle, to the point where I would consider this an essential item for the build. The first time, I was using my foot to kind of keep things from moving, and it was really hard to keep the boards where I wanted them, especially because the wood is not perfectly straight. Sometimes you have to MAKE it fit, as Joey says in the initial video.


Generally, I just figured out how to place the wood in a way that made drilling easier. See above- last time I had placed the piece flat on the ground and used my foot as a backstop. Why? This method uses gravity instead.

I was much more careful to measure out where the middle shelf should be this time. I wanted it to be level, which is an issue I had with the first model. I think I had asked on a woodworking forum, but they explained that if you're measuring accurately, it should be level. Duh! I was just... kind of eyeballing it. Lol

I also gave myself more space for the second shelf, since I knew I had made mistakes in the measurements and three tanks was not an option. As you can see with the pic of the first finished stand, there isn't really much room for a lid there. I have some ideas to make it work, but I wanted to make things easy for myself on the second stand. Just add more room, yah know?


Stand 1.0 above. My new fancy goldfish Tater is enjoying it. I don't have the second tank stocked yet as I want to get a light for some plants. I might drill some hooks and chain so that I can suspend the light in the recess below the top shelf.

So now for the hard part: admitting how much I spent on everything. I think its important to separate what I used, and what I bought but didn't use. Because let's face it, when you're new, you just don't know. You think something will work and it just doesn't. Not everything can be returned to the store (ex. Cut lumber) I will place an asterisk next to items I think are absolutely necessary necessary this build. So... let's tackle this:

6" level $2.97

Varathane polyurethane, 8oz (not enough, had to buy more) $9.98

1qt Varathane polyurethane $17.97

Varathane stain, 8oz (had to buy more) $4.87

1qt Varathane stain $7.87

Wood filler $4.48

*2 boxes Spax screws $23.16 (I needed both)

*Titebond II wood glue $3.97

*Clear plastic drop cloth $2.12

2" bristle stain brush $8.37

Metal corner braces (not used) $3.70

*Six 2x4 wood boards $41.88

More boards cause I messed up $20.94

Plywood $48.87

*California lumber fee $0.84

Three 3" wood handle brushes $2.91

2" flat brush $1.28

Paint thinner $7.32 (bought for cleanup but didn't really need)

Paint care fee $0.35

60 grit sandpaper 6 pack $4.97

Replacement drill bits $4.97

*8" composite shims $2.28

Styrofoam (to level tank) $9.95

Spax drill bit $1.87

*Two Quakehold earthquake safety strap $19.94

Screw extractor $2.67

*Saw rental (7 1/4" Makita) twice $36

Palm sander $29 (not essential but much faster than hand sanding)

Heat gun $23 (ended up being useless for this project)

Sales tax $20.65

Stuff I already had that I used:

*Drill & bits


Carpenter's square

Dremel & bits (to remove stripped screw)

I suspect I am missing a few things from this list, but certainly I have all of the essentials on here. Strictly speaking, you don't need to stain or polyurethane so I removed that from the "required" list.

Total amount I paid for EVERYTHING, including stuff I didn't need, to make 2 stands: $369.15. Ouch. That's $184.58 per stand. So if you are balking at the price of a new, pre-made stand, just consider how many mistakes you'll make when you DIY. (Please don't make fun of me, I know it's a lot! I did my best! I'm basically advertising my faults here so please have mercy.) 😅

Amount for what I would have needed with no frills/staining, etc.: $141.19 for two stands, that's $70.60 per stand and much more reasonable. Consider also that if you already had a sander, or rented it instead, this could be less. Alternatively,  if you don't have a drill, it could be more.

For my project, I really wanted it stained, polyurethaned, and with plywood shelves. If we include those items, and omit any mistakes, my project should have cost: $233.66 for two stands, or $116.83 per stand. That means I bought $135.49 worth of stuff I didn't need because I was a beginner and didn't know what I was doing!!!

Personally I am lucky to be in a place financially where I can afford such screw ups. I just think it's important to be completely honest with people when we're talking about doing DIY, especially with someone who is not particularly experienced. You're gonna make mistakes, and they are going to cost money. So that attractive $70 DIY price tag ends up being a lot more (not to mention all the time and effort.) Personally, I do not consider this a waste at all. I have learned SO MUCH and honestly could see myself building more stands in the future if I ever move into a house rather than an apartment. That's another thing too- you CAN build this with very little room. Yes, I would have loved a big yard to do this in, or a driveway, or even a friggin' TABLE. But it is DOABLE.

I hope people find this post beneficial. I'll post additional updates in the future once I finish the second stand or set up all the aquariums, but I'll be going at a bit slower pace and won't update as often. I would love to see any other woodworking/building projects that other DIYers have put together for their fish.

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This is a really great, thorough summary! I agree that it’s important to be honest about the cost of DIY. It’s one thing if you already have the tools you need as well as extra parts and materials. It’s an entirely different thing if you’re new and don’t have a full shop plus scraps. Thanks for documenting your project so well!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Some more pics! I finally got all four 20 Longs up and running. There are more tweaks to come- lights, lids, filters, etc, but I'm finally able to call it complete. It uses two power strips- one is a regular one for stuff that always stays on (air pumps, heater, filters,) and the Kasa smart power strip is mostly for lights. Only the right two tanks are heated, which has helped clear up outlet space. I also mounted the power strips to the wall with those velcro type 3M wall sticky things (here: https://www.command.com/3M/en_US/command/products/~/Command-Large-Picture-Hanging-Strips/?N=5924736+3294529207+3294737318&preselect=8706801+3293786499&rt=rud)


This has been super useful and eases my mind- if there is a leak, the strips are elevated off of the floor, plus it provides the all important "drip loop" I have to do some cord management, but I am waiting until I get the final lights and filters.

I mounted one of the lights under the top shelf; this is the one where I had accidentally made the shelf too short, so the light wouldn't fit sitting on top of the lid. (Note also- that's a temporary failed lid. I'll be upgrading when I get time.) I had to drill pilot holes, but just used some screw in hooks and some chain, easy to find at a hardware store.


Also added some handy 3M Command hooks to hold towels and fish nets. Very handy, helps the towels dry too.

So I'm calling this done! All other upgrades are specific to the tanks- including a big fat order of fishes set to arrive on Friday! This is where the pay off for this project REALLY begins! 🔨🐟🐠🔧🛠🧰🗜



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