The Chicago Livebearer Society was invited to participate in the 2017 Aquatic Experience Show. This required the club to set up a display in a 10 foot by 10 foot booth. Early on we decided that we would like to have some tanks in the booth to attract the public.

Our goal was to be able to display both wild-type and domestic livebearers. The tanks needed to be at a comfortable viewing height and we knew that we needed a custom rack to do so. Time would not allow us to build a rack from scratch onsite, so we knew we needed a rack that could be bolted together and taken down quickly. The rack would need to be inexpensive and built with materials sourced from local home stores, so 2X4 construction was the method used.

We chose to set up two, 20GH tanks which measure:

  • 24¼ W
  • 12½ D
  • 16¾ H

Since the tanks would be displayed side by side, we knew we needed a stand that was at least 48-1/2" wide. We opted for bit of extra width and went with 49" for the width. As for height, we went for 40” which would offer comfortable viewing for standing patrons.

DownloadPDF with instructions, drill guide and illustrations



You’ll need five 2X4s and various nuts, bolts and washers. You can easily find this at your local home center.





49" 2X4

Shelf front


9.5" 2X4

Shelf side


6" 2X4

Shelf Support


40" 2X 4



4" 5/16" Bolts + nuts + washers

Attaches legs to shelves


3" wood screws

Shelf construction


2.5" wood screws

Attaches shelf support to Legs


Metal Cross Brace (about 1" by 36” ")

Cross brace adds enormous strength


1" #12 wood screws

Attach cross brace to shelf and legs


120 grit sandpaper

To remove rough edges prior to paint


Primer and Paint

We chose black paint.


Mini Paint Roller and paint pan

We used a 3.5" roller


1/8, 3/16 and 3/8 drill bits

For drilling pilot holes

Tools Needed

This stand can be built with hand saws and an electric drill. That said, it is much easier if you have a circular saw or (preferably) a power miter box and drill press. A power sander is also very helpful.

All the materials are painted prior to assembly. If paint after assembly, the stand will be almost impossible to take apart later.

Assembly Instructions

  1. Cut all the wood pieces to sizes and quantities above.
  2. Print out the drilling templates using Adobe Acrobat Reader. Check the sizes of the print outs with a ruler. The drill guides should measure 3-1/2" wide when printed. If they are smaller or larger, ensure that Actual Size is checked in the Page Size and Print Handling section of the Adobe Reader print dialog.
  3. Using the Template, drill the holes as indicated in the drawing for the Left Side and Right side of the 49"shelves.
  4. Find the middle of each 49" shelf and drill two holes aligned vertically for the middle shelf support. You can use the template to help line up the small holes.
  5. Using the Template, drill the holes for the legs. The height of the bottom shelf is flexible. We set ours about a 11-1/2" off the ground.
  6. Using the Template, drill the holes in the shelf supports. Each shelf support has four holes.
  7. Lightly sand all the pieces.
  8. Paint all the pieces. We used one coat of grey primer and two coats of satin black paint.
  9. Assemble the shelves. Lay out the shelf pieces on a flat surface, being careful to keep the pieces square. It’s helpful if you have a bar clamp to hold the shelf pieces in position.
    1. Drill a 1/8" pilot hole for each screw
    2. Drive the 3" screw through the 49" shelf into the 9-1/2" horizontals. You will need twelve screws per shelf.
  10. Attach the shelf supports to the legs.
    1. Drive in four, 2-1/2" screws for each.
  11. Place both shelves on a flat surface with the 3-1/2" face of the 2X4 on the ground.
  12. Place the legs on top, using the shelf support to align the pieces.
  13. Place a washer on the 5/16” bolt and insert it though the leg and shelf. Secure it on the other side with a washer and nut loosely. Repeat for both legs – eight in total.
  14. Turn the assembly over and repeat Step 13 for the reverse side of the stand.
  15. Flip the stand upright. Tighten the bolts hand tight and check for square.
  16. Use a single #12 1" screw to secure both cross braces to the back of the top shelf of the stand. You may wish to drill a pilot hole.
  17. Rotate the cross brace and extend them to the inside of the back right and back left legs. Secure each cross brace with a single #12 1" screw.
  18. Check for square and tighten all the bolts.


  • When drilling the holes in the legs and shelf supports, remember that the large holes go on the inside of both the shelf and the leg.
  • During assembly, you might encounter holes that don’t line up exactly, making it hard to drive the 5/16" bolts through the legs and shelves. If necessary, you can enlarge them a bit using a 3/8" drill bit.
  • Knockdown of the stand can be challenging as latex paint can be quite sticky. When bolting on the legs, consider using soap or was to keep the pieces from sticking.