How to Install a 55-Gallon Fish Tank in a Wall

Written by kasandra rose
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How to Install a 55-Gallon Fish Tank in a Wall
Fishtanks are attractive conversation starters. (meeka image by Henryk Olszewski from

An aquarium can take up a lot of space in a room. To save space, set it into a wall. Built-in aquariums also add a sense of mystery and create a living painting to grace the wall. An additional advantage is that you can hide all the nuts and bolts that aquariums require in another room. Of course, you must have another room or be willing to build a nice finished cabinet. A 55-gallon aquarium is 48 inches long, 12.75 inches deep and 21 inches high.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Stud finder
  • Marker
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Drill
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Hammer
  • 3⁄4-inch plywood
  • Shims
  • 2-by-4-inch studs
  • 24 metal angle brackets
  • 3-inch nails
  • 1.5-inch finishing nails
  • 2-by-6-inch studs
  • Circular saw
  • 1-by-4-inch studs
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint

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  1. 1

    Locate a non-load-bearing wall with space for the aquarium equipment behind it. Locate the studs using a stud finder. Add 4 inches to the width and 5 inches to the height to allow for framing the hole with 2-by-6 boards.

  2. 2

    Measure and mark 52 inches long and 26 inches high on the wall where you are going to put the aquarium. Check the line with a level. The aquarium must be level.

  3. 3

    Drill a hole in each corner with the drill. Start the reciprocating saw in the holes and cut through the drywall and support studs.

  4. 4

    Frame the aquarium hole using 2-by-6 studs. Measure the length of your finished hole and cut 2-by-6 studs to frame the header and the footer with the circular saw. Check the level again and use shims to even the footer.

  5. 5

    Measure the distance between each side between the header and footer and cut a 2-by-6 stud to fit. Toenail the side frames in place by pounding in the nails at an angle.

  6. 6

    Frame a support for the portion of the aquarium sticking into the room behind the aquarium. Measure four 50-inch, 2-by-4 studs. Measure four 6-inch, 2-by-4 studs.

  7. 7

    Screw through the 50-inch studs into the ends of the 6-inch studs using the drill and a Phillips drill bit. Build a second rectangle.

  8. 8

    Cut six vertical supports from the 2-by-4 studs. Make the supports 3 inches shorter than the top edge of the wall frame where the aquarium will sit, so that a level surface is created from the support frame to the framed wall cutout.

  9. 9

    Set both 50-inch-by-6-inch rectangular frames on their long ends on the ground. Place three of the wood supports, flat on the ground, between them. One wood support should be at each end and the third one in the middle.

  10. 10

    Use a metal angle bracket at each inside corner where a wood support touches a 50-inch by 6-inch rectangle; use four angle brackets per brace. Flip the frame over and attach three more wood supports, using the metal angle brackets to secure them.

  11. 11

    Set the tank support next to the framed wall section. Shim the support to match the wall frame if needed. Check the level in both directions while shimming.

  12. 12

    Cut a 13.5-inch-by-48.5-inch rectangle out of 3/4-inch plywood. Fit this piece on top of the support frame you built, and the framed hole in the wall. Set it flush to the outside of the observation room wall. Nail it in place using 1.5-inch finishing nails. This will form one continuous, flat surface for the aquarium to sit on.

  13. 13

    Put the aquarium on the plywood and slide it into place. The front of the aquarium should be near the edge of the front wall in the observation room.

  14. 14

    Cut two pieces of 1-by-4-inch stud to 50 inches long. Cut two pieces of 1-by-4-inch stud to 20 inches long.

  15. 15

    Arrange the 1-by-4-inch pieces to frame the wall cut-out on the observation room side. The short pieces will sit between the top and bottom pieces, and overlap the wall cutout so that it obscures a half-inch of each side of the aquarium and the outside corners are matched. Nail it in place with finishing nails.

  16. 16

    Sand and prime the frame, then paint it.

Tips and warnings

  • Cut the corners of the frame at a 45-degree angle instead of the blunt cut for a more finished look.
  • Tie your hair back and secure loose clothes before using power equipment.
  • Wear safety goggles when working with saws.
  • Make sure that there is a ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet, rated for water safety, near the aquarium.

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