How to Make a Fish Tank out of Wood

Written by a.j. hawkins
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How to Make a Fish Tank out of Wood
You can build your own aquarium using plywood and plexiglass. (Jochen Sands/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Plywood can be an inexpensive and effective option for building a home aquarium. Although some plexiglass is required, the majority of this fish tank is made from 3/4-inch thick exterior plywood siding. The biggest obstacle to making a wooden fish tank is making it waterproof. Wood naturally absorbs water, therefore you will need to use silicone and other materials to ensure the water from the tank does not saturate into the plywood.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 3/4-inch exterior plywood sheets
  • Hand or power saw
  • Drill
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Belt sander
  • Caulking gun
  • Plexiglass pane
  • 2-inch drywall screws
  • Auto body putty
  • Paint brushes
  • Two-part epoxy paint
  • Non-toxic waterproof silicone caulking
  • Sandpaper
  • Waterproof wood glue

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  1. 1

    Measure the desired dimensions of your fish tank onto the 3/4-inch thick plywood sheets and cut the sheets using a hand or power saw. You will need eight pieces: a 1-foot by 4-foot bottom panel, an 8-inch by 4-foot back panel, two 8-inch by 11-inch end panels, two 3-inch by 4-foot horizontal face frames and two 3-inch by 5-inch vertical face frames. These dimensions will make a 70-gallon rectangular fish tank that is plywood on three sides with an open top and plexiglass front which will adhere to the four plywood face frames. Check each piece of plywood for rough edges and sand them with coarse grit sandpaper.

  2. 2

    Lay the bottom panel across two saw horses or on breeze blocks in your work area. Drill holes three inches apart along each edge of the bottom panel.

  3. 3

    Apply a heavy amount of wood glue along each edge of the bottom panel. Set the long edge of the back panel into the glue along the long edge of the bottom panel, forming a 90-degree angle. Hold the two panels together for about 10 minutes so the glue can begin to set.

  4. 4

    Turn the bottom and back panel upside down, being sure to hold the two pieces together at a 90-degree angle. Screw two-inch drywall screws into each hole, securing the bottom and back panels together.

  5. 5

    Apply glue to one edge of an end panel. Lift it up into place so the glued edge will press against the edge of the bottom panel with holes. Screw two-inch drywall screws into each hole, securing the bottom and end panel together. Drill holes at three-inch intervals along the edge of the end panel that is flush with the back panel. Secure the end and back panel together with drywall screws. Repeat the entire step for the other end panel.

  6. 6

    Apply glue to the front edge of the bottom panel and place the bottom face frame against it. Secure it to the bottom and end panels with drywall screws at three-inch intervals.

  7. 7

    Turn the tank right side up. Apply glue to the front edges of the end panels and screw the top face frame into place at the top of the end panels. Secure the left and right face frames to the front edge of the end panels with drywall screws.

  8. 8

    Check all edges to ensure they are flush and all screws are tight. Apply glue to any unglued edges and allow it to dry overnight.

  9. 9

    Apply epoxy paint to all exposed surfaces of plywood in a well-ventilated area. Allow the paint to dry overnight and then fill any holes or cracks in the plywood with auto body putty.

  10. 10

    Sand all painted surfaces with a belt sander or sandpaper, then apply a second coat of epoxy paint. Repeat steps 9 and 10 until four coats of paint have been applied. Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours.

  11. 11

    Turn the fish tank face down on a level surface, so that the face frame is supported. Sand a two-inch-wide strip around the inside of the tank on the back of the face frame; this is where you will attach the plexiglass. Apply a ½-inch-wide line of silicone caulking along the sanded area around the entire opening of the face frame.

  12. 12

    Place the plexiglass pane onto the back of the face frame, pressing it evenly into the silicone caulking to secure it. Put silicone caulking around all edges of the plexiglass pane and the plywood, as well as along all interior edges of the tank. Allow it to dry for 48 hours.

Tips and warnings

  • It is important to only use waterproof glue and silicone caulking, as non-waterproof kinds can not only cause your tank to come apart when full of water but they can also be toxic to fish. Two-part epoxy paint is the only kind which should be used to paint the inside of the tank as it is aquarium safe. You must allow all of these products to cure completely before adding water to the tank.

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