Fish Tank Coffee Table




Introduction: Fish Tank Coffee Table

I got the idea of building this coffee table fish tank after looking online and seeing them for sale for about $700.

And the other DIY tanks were not very thoroughly explained nor used wood which wouldn't match my house decor

I wanted to make something affordable and for the 30 gal fish tank that I already had. (32 x 12.5 x 18)

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Sides, bottom rails: 1"x4" x 23' oak board (2X 10" and 1X 4") ($65)

Top Rails: 1"x3" x 8' oak board ($20)

1.5 in. x 3/8 in. Fluted Dowel Pins ($2)

Wood Glue (Titebond III) ($5)

Tank Base: 1/2" plywood 32.25" x 12.75" ($15)

Tank support: 1 x 2 x 8' ($1.20)

Caps: 4X 5" x 4.25" (Cut from base)

Minwax PolyShades Bombay Mahogany ($10)

24x48x3/8" Plate glass with polished edge ($120)

5M SMD RGB 5050 Waterproof LED Strip light 300 & 44 Key IR Remote & 12V 5A power (ebay) ($25)

32 x 12 x 18 fish tank ($50 for all parts)

  • Undergravel Filter
  1. Air pump

Gravel, decorations, Heater, etc


Table Saw

Router with 1/2" Collet

Yonico 13322 3 Bit Edge Molding Router Bit Set with Large Designer 1/2-Inch Shank ($21)


Brad Point Drill Bits ($9)

Dowel Jig (Amazon: Wolfcraft 3751405 Dowel Pro) ($29)


Tape Measure

2 or 4x 36" C clamps (4x $9)

The total cost for the whole project:

  • Tank & All Accessories: When acquired on Craigslist: $50
  • Wood: $100
  • Glass Top: $120
  • LED: $25
  • Misc Parts & Tools: $100
  • The total cost for materials used: ~$350

Step 2: Wood Prep

Have a beer and get to work!

1. Cut the 1 x 4 oak boards into 8 piceces 22.5" long for the vertical supports.

2. Cut the 1 x 4 oak board into 2 pieces 25 1/4" long for the bottom length support

3. Cut the 1 x 4 oak board into 2 pieces 9" long for the bottom width support

4. Cut the 1 x 3 oak board into 2 pieces 25 1/4" long for the top length support
5. Cut the 1 x 3 oak board into 2 pieces 9" long for the top width support

6. Cut the tank support wood pieces 2 pieces of 1 x 2 x 32" and 1 x 2 x 11"


The dowels that I purchased are 1.5" long so the holes need to be 3/4" + 1/16" to allow for glue for the length and width supports.

Obviously, for the vertical support to dowel, the thickness of the board is only 3/4", so the depth must be less than the length and width support depths. I used 7/16" for the shorter side and 1 3/16" for the deep end.

Use a stop to measure the depth of the hole to prevent drilling too deep.

Use the jig or a drill press for the initial holes to ensure a perfectly straight drilled hole.

Length and width Vertical Support Dowels

1. Measure the placement for the dowels on the vertical support. The lower dowel was drilled ((13/16" deep)with the center 1 1/2" from the bottom of the vertical support. The upper dowel hole (13/16") was drilled 1 1/2" above the center of the lower dowel.

2. The upper support dowel was drilled 1 1/8" from the top of the vertical support.

Reference the 3rd & 4th image in this step.

Use the Jig to align the boards and make the ends match and the jig is over the hole to match the upper board. Repeat with the remaining 7 vertical support boards.

Length and width Support Dowels

1. Measure 1" from base of 1 x 4 pieces to insert first dowel.

2. Measure up 1 1/2" above center of lower dowel and use this as the second dowel position.

3. Measure 3/4" from top side of 1 x 3 piece for top support dowel positions.

Use the Jig to align the boards and make the ends match and the jig is over the hole to match the upper board. Fig 6 & 7 Repeat with the remaining 7 horizontal support boards.

Vertical Support Dowels

1. Measure up 6" from the base of the vertical support board where the deep dowel hole (1 3/16") will be inserted.

2. Measure up 18" from the base for dowel #2

3. Measure up 24" from the base for dowel #3

4. Arrange the boards as seen in figure 7 to drill the shallow dowel hole (7/16") for all 7 boards for all 3 holes.

Step 3: Glueing

Add a bead of glue down each end of the sealed area.

Add some glue onto the dowel and into the dowel holes.

Clamp tight and wipe away glue with a damp rag

1. I first started with the vertical corners

2. Then I made both width end of the vertical support

3. I added the length supports to one end of the vertical support

4. Add the other width end of the vertical support.

Step 4: Prep for Fish Tank

1. Glue and screw on the 1 x 2" horizontal mounts for the fish tank base. I chose to add mine 1/2" from the bottom of the horizontal rail; however, I later realized that this is too low for most fish tank pumps to easily fit without vibration.

2. Cut off a corner of the 32 1/4 x 12 3/4" for the fish tank wiring to feed through. 1 - 2" hole should be sufficient.

3. Sand with 150-300 grit sand paper

4. Apply 1 coat of the Minwax Polyshades to stain and seal the tank

5. Repeat 3 & 4

6. Before adding my fish tank, I used some 3/8" thick window sealing foam around the horizontal mounts to cushion the fish tank from floor vibrations. (Doesn't really do much)

Step 5: Final Touches

LED Lighting

The LED string that I purchased has double sided tape on the back allowing it to stick to the upper and lower horizontal supports without any additional effort.

1. Begin at the corner of the tank where the corner was cut off for wiring.

2. Adhere the lighting around the top of the tank about 1" below the top of the fish tank.

3. Bend the lighting down and add a the same 5M strand of lights around the bottom of the tank.

4. Connect the IR & Electrical connections to the end of the LED light strip.

Top Caps

1. I used a router and router table to create finished edge on the top caps for the fish tank.

2. I also used some crystal cabinet drawer pulls that I found on ebay to raise the glass off the top caps.

3. I have not secured these to the table in case I need to remove the fish tank. I will eventually spot glue them so that they can be removed fairly easily without damage.

Setting up tank

The goal here is to have all wiring, fixtures and pumps underneath the base of the fish tank with just a single cord power extending outside the tank; however, in my original design, it was slightly too low and causes loud rattling noises. I'd suggest raising the tank support rails 1/2 to 1" to prevent this issue.

1. I used a 40 gallon air pump with dual outlets to connect to the undergravel filter for my 30 gallon tank.

2. Place the pump toward the corner of the tank where the corner is cut off. Add all other pumps, and surge protector into the middle of the tank. Pull the tubing for the air hoses up out of the corner.

3. Add the tank support plywood.

4. Add the fish tank

5. Follow the appropriate steps for setting up a fish tank.

6. Add the top corner caps

Step 6: Voila

Be the First to Share


    • Big and Small Contest

      Big and Small Contest
    • Game Design: Student Design Challenge

      Game Design: Student Design Challenge
    • For the Home Contest

      For the Home Contest



    Question 3 years ago

    what are tank supports.

    Tuan JinnN
    Tuan JinnN

    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is great, I have seen a similar one in real life. One of the think that's off though is: the rotten water smell after 3 weeks, despite having the filter I could still smell it... kinda odd.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I've had my tank running for the last 3 months and don't have any odd smells. I clean the water & tank nearly weekly.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Water changes are needed, if not your fish might be doomed. A bucket and a cheap pump should work for whatever water change you need, just keep a close eye on it while it fills!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I might of missed it but how much is the space between the wood to the top layer of glass? 2 inches? Does it create condensation on the top layer of glass since theres a heater inside?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, there's about 2 inches between the wood and the glass. There is condensation that forms on the glass but in a 3x3" area near the oxygen bubblers.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I have a fish tank and I thought that was a great idea I like that blog

    Very nice job! Builders could shave a nice chunk off of the price of the glass top if they polish the edge themselves. It's not hard. I bet there's even an instructables somewhere on here!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    nice build , have you experienced any issues with smell / rawness . i find fish tanks to often develop a raw somewhat fishy smell after a while.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Fish tanks when balanced should smell "sweet"... other links above, but this product (does not eliminate sound practices) helps to keep water balanced.

    (trouble posting photos earlier so posting here) The Globe water looks "cloudy" but was not (and I know water looks aka Amazon dark peaty so on - has nothing to do with water quality) but in this case both good. Was not good at photography.

    One in Japan - stellar... hard to find close ups on web any more - but it has both outside rocky features, falls and underwater. I had tanks with home made rock sculptures (one with betta in splash area) but four hang on back rocky "things" for large 75... sold to guy who owned Cichilds. She loved playing in "falls area" (high flow filters) but tore her tail so out she went into calmer globe, 20 long - she went after corries - viscous gal! The globes (link earlier) come in many sizes - some huge (two types of plastic, better then glass - can not even find now but still can not toss about or will crack). Need only one small hole in base to balance as filling up with water. (spot lights, underwater old box filter, hidden in back of plants). So many possibilities in this field!

    Great link to super product to keep aquarium (pond industrial use) water superbly balanced!

    Aquariums are lovely little bits of heaven that have been proven to lower your blood pressure and heart rate; some claim they extend your life.

    Anyone who owns an aquarium, salt or fresh water knows that constant care and maintenance is the key an appealing waterscape and happy healthy fish. Now there is a way to obtain these results without the constant cleaning.

    Biodigesters are the answer

    Biodigesters been specially designed to inhibit algae growth in aquariums by removing its food sources. Biodigesters (affectionately referred to as “bugs”) are a combination of all natural bacteria, lab grade purified enzymes with micro and macro nutrients. Biodigesters bacteria and enzymes are targeted to the food sources available in your aquariums water. Biodigesters can successfully attack, degrade, and liquefy fecal mass, undigested food, and other organics that contribute to a build-up of ammonia and bottom solids within the aquarium. Biodigesters condition the marine environments ecology, close to natures own.

    Biodigesters microbes are reliable scavengers that thrive on organic mass (waste). As supplied they are in suspended animation (micro-encapsulated) but are revived when added to the tank. Shortly thereafter, they begin to digest excreta, excess food, oxidize ammonia, reduce nitrites, nitrates, and other N-Compounds and reduce odors.

    Biodigesters proprietary blend of all natural bio-cultures and enzymes have been selected for their ability to effectively digest/degrade extremely heavy concentrations of organic mass within an aquatic system. Reducing those hostile factors that have been determined to be detrimental to the health and life cycle of both fin and shell fish.

    Globe Betta.jpgOrange Betta in rocky falls areaa.jpgGlobe Swords Blue Female Betta.jpgDSCF3942.JPG2260096456_8c79bbf17a.jpg

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great design and all (created my own aquarium, terrarium - aquarium designs since a small child). Back then (50's, 60's) one educated onself, matured a tank (bacteria) and slowly over time added the stock, allowing for the "good" (biobacteria) to build up - no "death" by "dither" fish. Books such as the Dr. Innes (1940's) are still relevant and amazing and one will see how often what seems new has just not be read about historically. (as well as designs often thought new but not.) As well I have decades of aquarium/fish studies (pre vet/ocean sciences). And animal, fish as well "rescue". (see below photo). As well in these older books (and newer more extensive) one learned the parts of fish including "lateral" lines. I mention my background as prior on many fish/aquaraium forums many post information without any real scientific research. (and most buried in search engines now).

    These "old" books would state - "never tap on the aquarium glass", and for good reason. (as well being startled means being stressed, and like us fish have immune systems and create Adrenalin/cortisol stress hormones which if constantly stressed can cause illness and death).


    Quick search:

    The inner ear is located inside the fish’s head and
    consists of small bones that move in response to vibrations (sound
    waves) that pass through the water and through the fish’s body. The
    movement of these bones displaces sensory cells in the inner ear and the fishes brain interprets this as sound.

    Lateral Lines.

    lateral line is a sense organ fish use to detect movement and
    vibration in the surrounding water. They use it to detect depth/water
    pressure, prey, pretators, sense current movement and orientation in the
    current, as well as to avoid collisions. It essentially is a form of
    eyes, ears and sensory feelings combined into one organ. All fish have
    some form of a lateral line, some having a more developed one then
    others. Lateral lines are usually visible as faint lines running
    lengthwise down each side, from the vicinity of the gill covers to the
    base of the tail. Sometimes parts of the lateral organ are modified
    into electroreceptors, which are organs used to detect electrical


    Therefore my response is with regard to the inhabitants well being. As another posted - UrcZ, they are extremely "sensitive" to vibration. Remember as well water magnifies vibration, distorts and changes the waves of light. Many fish, do not have eyelids, and all are highly sensitive to any vibration, as well as sudden lights on/off (not as in nature with dawn). Then some aquariums have no plants to lend a sense of "security" (being eaten a native instinct).

    So a coffee table, or (ugh mho) sink "fish tank" (hot/cold water, constant movement, sounds, back of toilet designs and more, just consider the owner/viewer interest and not the impact or quality of care for the inhabitants. There is even one article by someone who sells such things who vigorously defends his position with "research" (hand picked I might add).

    As well, something learned "old school" which I see a lot even in pet shops, is using toxic cleaners in the are near fish tanks (glass cleaners) smoking so on. All goes into the water and harms fish.

    Here is a major aquarium with just such concerns and the vibrations are not even that close but nearby. (kind of like the Navy sonar testing which has had disastrous effects on sea life).

    A suggestion would be a Plant only tank! (for those suggestions "lower life forms" shrimps so on, ditto for vibration harming them as for fish). One may not notice their discomfort (read Desmond Morris books "Naked Ape" so on to see "aberrant" behavior in species in improper environments (ground breaking when zoos, circuses were horrific).

    Noise and Vibration Impact on Sea-life Health and Well-being

    Betta Rescue Dec 16 2009.JPG

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, I really thank you for your detailed and well thought out comment. I have thought about how the vibration of walking, moving etc will impact the fish well-being. I added some foam padding under the tank; however, believe that I do need to add more dampening to remove the impacts of nearby banging. My question back to you is: when you have a normal stand tank, how are the fish not impacted my nearby movements, walking, etc? I rarely use my coffee table and it is mainly for looks; therefore don't bump it too often.

    I do not use glass cleaner while the glass is on top of the tank.

    Finally, I don't use the rapid changing color pattern for the LED's as visualized in the movie that I posted, it is just an option for the tank. Typically, I leave it set on one color and on during daylight hours and off at night.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    (sorry if post not too well ordered, hard to edit in viewing pane).

    Felic - My concern was without knowing the intent of the coffee table use and sorry I should have asked (but info still good for anyone using aquariums as furniture)... as many use them like a normal table. Meaning I think now I thought erroneously you would put a coffee or other cup, glass down on the table (or guests). I was not even thinking about other types of noise as the placement seem good and "normal".

    So it seems your aquarium is just a wonderful and BEAUTIFUL (and super well crafted) floor aquarium (see my globes on Chinese stand). (my dream tank would have been like the coral pond type floor tanks).

    But since you asked and I had former horrific noise issues with former NYC apt here is some information. (dropping 200 lb weights day night nightmare for me, cat and eventually me and cat slept downstairs lobby until they moved out - horrific management).

    Rubber! (see below).

    And just found a great link that even uses and aquarium in part of it's explanation (how glass being a solid helps to stop ambient noise vibration - not "tapping" on it however, lol).

    As you will read, and I found during copious research then Rubber is the main product that absorbs/blocks sound (and was a law in NYC for under carpets but most do not comply anymore hence the problems. As well foam is useless.) (my apt was an older one, cinder block (cement) walls, sub floors as well).

    Are your floors wood or carpeted... if carpets then no big issue. And just get some rubber (thicker the better) to put under it... or just observe if startle response since you already have it set up (maybe at some point when you rearrange redo things).


    Ever since Google (et al) changed their search engine policy, many wonderful, factual links just don't come up. I have all of mine archived (thousands re to fish so on) or remember where to find them. I no longer have any set ups (moved) but post links that are buried alive... pass them along!

    Great link to super product to keep aquarium (pond industrial use) water superbly balanced!

    Globes (in case any one wants one) Found mine at plastics outlet long ago on Canal ST. NYC - then out of business and took years of searching until one day realized they were lamps (lighting globes which I saw at an outdoor lobby) then found this site.

    See photo of my Globes.

    Some great links - posting just because hard to find now.

    WWM - Lighting.

    Turns out foam does nothing, but rubber actually stops, or slows vibration. Any room, is a sounding box - like a drum, or guitar or violin. The walls, ceiling, floors magnify sound.

    (in the old days at least the books I read, one positioned the aquarium in a "quiet spot" away from windows with cold draft or direct sunlight (this was before modern windows but direct sunlight means one needs shades so on - ditto for winter). Or in a "fish room".

    I do believe fish like us get used to a certain amount (and their filter splash as well can create a buffer). It is often the (certain decibel) and as with my apt. sudden BHAMS (stuff actually dropped off the walls and my cat would run around in circles staring at the ceiling. One could never sleep as one could never relax knowing "IT" was coming).

    So if you can find rubber (let it outgas outdoors for a while as most is now synthetic or a blend)... Home depot or even floor mats, or just thicker carpet. Fabric works better then foam. (I am thinking the type that comes with carpet, there are many types, but rubber was highest on the list).

    Re lighting. To be honest I did not see the LED, (was busy)... (boy has LED lighting come down - I used spots and wanted LED spots but cost prohibitive then). Here is some main information anyway. I always try (with each species, plant or fish, snail so on) try to research their natural environment and re-create it in the aquarium environment. Nature knows best and that is what they evolved with as well.

    Fish like plants need a certain spectrum, and use light source to as well direct their positioning (swim bladder so on) and to test this as a child, (when I used the old lightbulbs which worked just fine btw but there was also natural sunlight, filtered.) I would get a lamp take off shade and turn off aquarium lights - then move bulb (light source) to side up and down. Fish would start to "tile" in it's direction.

    I helped get the old red "laser" light toy off the market (at the time don't know now) (put underwater and shining out both in public eyes and fish's eye ) eliminated as it could and did cause retinal blindness. (like the old cat toy that says "don't shine in cat's eyes" (or anyone's).

    And of course flashing lights never good (I got migraines instantly when dad would drive the car on our street - sunlight flickering through maple trees) or red police, fire lights (always had to shield eyes). Ditto those Japanese films (children getting seizures) - it is the involvement of the Brain (eyes see, brain perceives). (degree in psychology where brains are studied, lol) We just did not evolve for flashing lights. Nor did any other species - dawn, sun moving up, down dusk, night.

    The old florescent fixtures (still used in industry, offices) actually flicker very rapidly and are deemed to not be healthy for anyone.

    (this from WWB - all of my original research/books long ago gone- so have to do quick searches)

    "My late father, who was an Electrical Engineer used to like to tell us "interesting" new developments in his field. One night at supper, he told us about a study that was done, I believe in Boston, that cited that recent increases in petit mal seizures in school children could be directly linked to the spectrum of the particular Fluorescent lights being used throughout the school system. Evidently, the price was right and lots of the same flour. tubes were bought for use throughout the school system. When the particular lighting was replaced the incidents of petit mal seizures dropped! It was the color range of the spectrum rather than the brightness that caused the rise in seizures, or so the theory went.

    This made sense as some seizures are related to, I believe, to red lights. Now, this was back in the mid 60's and I never forgot it as later I had a cat with seizures and the quickest way to end an episode for him was to place something like a towel over his head, block all light and he would respond immediately. "


    Again - nature and replicating "her" as best can mho best course of action.

    So NOT knowing you usage here are some great links - depends on how all is used. And needs of species, including plants. (light is now often considered a "nutrient" and is highly used in many medical situations, sleep disorders so on).

    I personally do not think (if regular lighting requirements are met) that (and again depends on species)... adding some color highlights can't do much if any harm. Just overhead, and not flashing. (but who really knows - not in nature!?)

    Highlight an object so on. (there are some great old zoological/aquarium books - I had this great one on all of this - for commercial settings which techniques later was adopted to home use)... not sure where or how to find such books again. It explained everything, as it was costly to build such public spaces and there were teams of engineers, zoologists, oceanographers that the research cited.

    And salt water aquariums have their own lighting needs, lunar as well as solar (maybe even fresh water)... but obvious with coral and other species how crucial the lunar lighting is.

    Great source of articles.

    "The quality of aquatic life in your aquarium can be directly related to the quality of light. If the correct spectrum and intensity of light is not provided, the survival rate of your plants, corals, or invertebrates will be poor. When designing your aquarium lighting system, your goal should be to duplicate natural conditions. Thanks to recent advancements in lighting technology, this has become an easier task."

    Great article on Led's in salt aquariums.


    Globe 4.JPG

    7 years ago on Introduction

    How do you feed the fish? If you have to take the lid off, I guess it forces you to keep the top uncovered, which could be a good thing


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The lid does not have to be removed to be feed the fish. There is about a 2-3" gap between the top of the tank and the glass allowing me to insert my hand.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I like the idea. How does evaporation effect the glass top?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    So far I haven't seen any evaporation causing issues with the glass. I do see about 1" of evaporation on a weekly basis.