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