Reclaimed Pallet Fish Tank Stand




Introduction: Reclaimed Pallet Fish Tank Stand

In our living room we have always enjoyed having a 55 Gallon fish tank. One day after starting to take apart the top for a cleaning we noticed that the plastic support bar holding the front and back pieces of glass had broken and the glass had started to bow outwards...Envisioning the tank bursting apart with 55 gallons of water and 5 dead fish on the floor we hurried up and ordered a new tank. Our old stand was a run of the mill black composite stand from wal-mart that we had grown sort of tired of, and the idea of building a new stand for our new tank came along.

Not wanting to spend the $75 to $300+ dollars on a store bought stand I figured I could do some online research and come up with a plan. I found a free plan after a short search on google for a frame built with 2 x 4's that seemed more than strong enough, so I decided to begin.

Luckily I live near a town that has a bunch of factories that have piles and piles of unwanted pallets that some of them even have to pay to get removed. I found two shops in particular that were more than happy to give me permission to dig around and take anything I wanted provided I just neatly re-stacked anything I didn't want.

The main objective I had was to find solid, dry, and colorful pallets of a consistent thickness. When searching for pallets you want to take the time to cut up and use, it's more than worth it check the inside face of the cross boards because often the color can be quite different than the outside due to weathering and use. They sometimes have less gouges and skid marks as well. After digging around I found 5 or 6 I thought met my criteria and took them home.

Step 1: The Frame and Materials/Tools Needed

Here is an approximate list of the materials I used for the stand.

Assorted pallet wood selected for quality and color (taken from 5-6 pallets)

5 - 8' 2 x 4's

1 - Box Multi-Purpose Screws

1- Half Sheet 3/8" Plywood, cut to the size of the top

4 - Black Tee Hinges

2 - Cabinet Pulls

2 - Magnet Door Catches

Trim Nails

The tools I used for the job included:

Circular Saw

Table Saw

Miter Saw

Air Nailer



Squares and Tape Measures

Unfortunately when I started this build my intention wasn't to make an instructable so I don't have any plans or step-by-step instructions for the frame. On the plus side, there are quite a few places online to find plans for making one yourself out of pretty much any material you want. I didn't want to use the pallet wood for the frame seeing as the stand would be supporting over 450 pounds of water and tank. I opted for an almost overly sturdy style I was sure would support the weight of the fish tank evenly.

Step 2: The Top

The first step after constructing a strong frame is to cut to size your piece of 3/8" plywood with a circular saw and screw it down to the frame. (a little late in taking a photo of this step).

Then the fun begins with selecting the colors and textures of the various pallet pieces to make a nice "patchwork" design.

Find the width of your top and divide evenly by however many strips you want to span the width of the top and rip them all to the correct size on the table saw.

I started nailing the pieces down from front to back, just cutting them on the miter saw to any length I thought would be semi-aesthetic.

Step 3: The Sides and Bottom Shelf

Keeping in mind it's always best to have a plan, lay out any pieces you think will look good together for the sides and bottom shelf.

Same as for the top, measure your sides' heights and divide evenly by how many pieces you want, being sure to account for butting up the top piece flush with top you've already nailed in place to overlap the ends. Rip them on the table saw to the correct width, cut them to the correct length with the miter saw, and nail them in place.

For the bottom shelf, cut all your pieces to length first. You can measure, divide, and rip them all to the same width or just start from the middle and nail outwards, ripping the last piece to fit. After the doors are attached you won't see the last pieces on the ends anyhow.

Step 4: The Face and Middle Shelf

Being sure to utilize your selection of pallet wood and mix/match it how you like, its time to pick your pieces for the face. This is done last to overlap all the edges of the sides, top and bottom.

I started with the top and bottom strips and decided to divide the width in half and ripped pieces to size. You can just use one piece to cover the entire width of the face but with the pattern I had going so far I thought it might seem a bit bland. Once you've got your pieces ripped to width you can experiment with staggering them and cutting them to the necessary length, then nail them in place. Use the same method for the side faces.

After I used some extra pieces to sort of hide the inside framing and give it a bit of a more finished look.

It's totally optional whether or not you want a shelf in the middle, but I also wanted to have doors to keep all our fish stuff hidden from view. I nailed 2 cleats or strips to the bottom shelf on what would be the inside space behind the doors. Nail 2 more of these strips directly above the lower ones.

Then measure to the correct width and height and cut a few pieces for both of the sides of the "cabinet". Nail them to the inside of the cleats to hide them from view.

I decided to add a shelf made of all of my thinner scrap pieces half way up. Nail a couple cleats to the insides of the cabinet half way up for your shelf to rest on and then nail the scraps in place.

Step 5: The Doors

Select the wood you'd like to use for the doors. Divide by the width of your left and right openings, and rip your pieces to be connected. I used two strips of wood, or "ledges" to be more accurate, to connect the 4 pieces that would make up each door. Lay them out face down, being sure to use nails short enough that they wont blow through the front, and nail the strips in place.

After the door panel is attached to the ledges, use a miter saw or a miter jig on your table saw to cut the un-square ends all at once so they are perfectly flush with each other.

I decided to buy some simple black tee hinges and black drawer pulls from Home Depot I thought might look good.

Divide evenly, or wherever you think looks good, drill the holes for and mount the drawer pulls.

Set your door panels in place and attach your hinges where you like, as long as they are all even with one another.

Install a magnetic door catch on each side if desired.

Step 6: Finished!

Assuming you don't want to add any sort of finish, your'e done! I chose not to add any finish because I just like the look of the raw pallet wood, totally up to you and what you like.

Compared to the price of buying a new stand it is really a pretty cheap project if you are up for doing some pallet hunting. This stand cost around a total of $50 when all said and done.

Lastly, place your new homemade stand and fish tank where you like and enjoy.

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    2 years ago

    thanks so much for posting this, it inspired me to make a stand for my new 20 gallon tank as it didnt fit into the same bookshelf that my 10 gallon did, I of course changed some things as mine is smaller and taller but its turning out so great with this idea to follow


    4 years ago

    I love the cabinet, I already have one which was a gift from my Hubby but as the old tank is now out of service for too old now and not had water in it for 8nyears now, it’s is only good as a trarium which means I will need to buy a new tank and as you say the cost of the tank and cabinet is very very expensive.

    I have been collecting pallets and stripping them down so,I can build my new kitchen with them but I think I will side line some of the pieces for a new cabinet for a new tank :-)

    I miss having fish lol but mine will be a glass tank and will put sides and a backing on it as I plan to have the tank that has a overflow corner with the pump pushing back up to,the primary tank, should have gone with this type the last time lol.

    Will use some of the nices pieces of timber that I have found on the pallets and put a side due to their colour and type of wood, it’s not all pine wood used on pallets that’s for sure :-) some of its really really pretty :-)

    Like the idea of making the frame for it out of bought 2x2 timber that’s a good idea and use the pallet timber for the dressing of the unit which will add even more strength to the frame work.

    Thanks for such a great idea :-) Dawsie


    4 years ago

    Fits the decor perfectly. Something to be aware of is that wooden pallets are untreated which is fine for interior use if you don't have nasty insects. Deck oil works well.


    4 years ago

    Some pallets are chemically treated in a way that makes their wood unsafe for indoor use. Did you look into this?


    4 years ago

    What a great looking pallet project. Nicely done


    4 years ago

    Love this!!! Great job, now I want a fish tank just so I can have the stand!


    4 years ago

    That looks really nice! I love that you left the different colors as they are :)