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tophat665 04-27-2008 04:58 PM

DIY Stand for a 120 and a 55
MTS is a hell of disease. My kids are less than thrilled about the amount of time I spend with the fish vs them (what can I say, fish aren't as noisy, never monopolize the TV, and take no as an answer the first time.) So they talked me into getting them some bearded dragons. Last week, I went out and got a 120 gallon tank to set them up in when I get them. This will balance my livingroom, with the 110 to the right of the TV and the 120 to the left. In any case, I figured, why waste all that footprint when I can surely get a 55 gallon under the 120... So here is the plan for the stand I'll be putting together as soon as I can get the lumber:

Now, that's a bit busy, so here it is in steps:
Step 1, the frames:

Step 2, hook the frames to some uprights with carriage bolts where possible, and with glue and long wood screws where there's no room for bolts:

Step 3. Here's where it starts to get busy, so the added elements are in red: butt jointed 2x4s to hold the main weight of the top frame, so that all the weight isn't on the screws and bolts, and 3/4" exterior plywood for the tanks to sit on. Am I overbuilding this for an empty 120? You bet. It won't stay empty forever.

Step 4: Some nice Interior 3/4" plywood on the sides and back to keep everything square when it's holding 3/4 of a ton of full tank. There two strawberry pattern items (1' 1x6s) may or may not be in there. Why is in step 5.

And to finish it off, Step 5: Frame the front with 4 pieces of 4 1/4" baseboard molding, bevel cut, and a piece of 1/2" plywood that will hinge up to allow access to the 55 or down to keep the lights from shining out into the room. Either I'll get lift hinges that'll support it open by themselves, or I'll put some locking drawer slides to pull out and support it open. If I need to use the drawer slides, I'll need to put those 1x6's in there to clear the frame.

So that's it. I am surely going to add light and timer switches to the left side, line the inside of the frame over the 55 with mylar and install some fluorescent tubes in there. I also may add a canopy piece over the 120 for the various lights for the lizards, some interior outlets (GFI of course) for filters and accessories, and wire the whole thing so I can plug it in and not worry about power strips.

bettababy 04-27-2008 05:19 PM

Just a quick note for you... beardies are great pets, but they have as specific of requirements as the fish do.... and that environment is a lot different from the fish. Watch humidity levels... the beardies need that and not all fish will do well with too warm a surface area just above the water. If the water temp and air temp directly above it differ too much, your fish will suffer. Also, the temp on the beardie tank should graduate from cool to hot from one end to the other. This can affect temps below the tank, increase or decrease temp up above, add heat to one end down below. Be sure if you enclose anything that you have plenty of ventilation for lights... especially the heat lights for the lizards. Also, be sure that any UV lights used for the lizards don't shine through and over the fish tank... very unhealthy situation for fish there, too.

Be careful that the sand substrate in the beardie tank doesn't get into the fish tank below. Most of the reptile sands have additives in them to help aid in vitamin absorbtion for the lizards... this is not good for fish. Beardies can get quite messy, and I've seen them throw sand around while playing or even during a fight.

You might want to consider swapping the 2 tanks, put lizards below and fish up top. In doing that you could avoid most of what I listed above and use the remaining width up top as a shelf for things like filter units, air pumps, cords, strip outlets, food storage, etc.
Just a thought, don't want to see you run into trouble after the money is spent, the work is done, and you think everything is great.

tophat665 04-27-2008 06:49 PM

Thanks, Dawn. Good things to keep in mind. This is exactly the sort of thing I needed to hear to make sure I have my engineering right. (I am going to be studying up on bearded dragons until July, when I hope to get a pair - If you have any resources you'd particularly recommend, I'd love to hear about it.)

Unfortunately, I want to keep the lizard tank up so that I don't have little hands in there all the time.

I think most of that is going to be taken care of by having the entire top of the tank covered by a single sheet of plywood. I shouldn't have to worry about anything dropping through from the top tank to the bottom, or any of the UV lights getting through.

That said, I can stick 1 1/4" styrofoam insulation in the bays between the 2x4s in the top frame to isolate the bottom tank a bit from the thermal gradient on the top. The mylar sheeting over that ought to help too, and, if it were going to be helpful, I could lay another layer of mylar under the 120 and any heating pad that goes there.

For the lighting on the bottom, I was thinking 6 15 watt T-8 tubes, a pink plant bulb and 2 10000K on each side (with the plant bulb coming on early and going off late to simulate dawn and dusk), and 3 2600mcd blue LEDs. I can attach the ballasts (3 doubles) to the top of the back plywood on the bottom, so that there's better ventilation.

For lighting on the top tank, I was thinking less of a canopy and more of a pair of overhead bars to hang lighting from. That should take care of a 48" hanging fixture for the UVA/UVB lighting and an array of IR lighting for heat gradient and moon lighting for nighttime observation, all a good 30" from the bottom of the tank. I have a number of large elm branches I'm currently drying that I will be skinning the bark from and cutting down to size for furniture, and I will be considering shelters and food and water bowls in the future.

When the time comes to switch over to fish in a decade or so, (if I do not indeed become so used to the dragons that I want to continue keeping them rather than fish in that tank) I'll replace the lighting with a 390 watt CF fixture (or whatever is comparable in 10 years)

bettababy 04-28-2008 02:36 AM

Did I understand you right? Plywood over the beardie tank? Not as a cover I hope... no can do!
If that's what you meant then let me know and I'll explain the why of it to you. If not, then I'm sorry for the misunderstanding.

tophat665 04-28-2008 11:11 AM


Originally Posted by bettababy
Did I understand you right? Plywood over the beardie tank? Not as a cover I hope... no can do!
If that's what you meant then let me know and I'll explain the why of it to you. If not, then I'm sorry for the misunderstanding.

No no. Plywood under the beardie tank, covering the entire top of the stand and preventing any detritus from falling from the beardies to the mollies. It's that big red rectangle in step 3. Now, I can insulate it on the bottom with styrofoam, and on top with mylar to thermally isolate the beardie tank from the molly tank. Is that workable? Also, will the beardie tank need a screen top, or would it do better with an acrylic top? (an acrylic top came with the tank, which is why I ask).

bettababy 04-28-2008 03:20 PM

Ok, thanks for clarifying... I thought that sounded odd, lol.

You'll definately want a screen cover for the beardies! They will need plenty of air flow in that tank, especially considering how deep it is.

Personally, I would think little hands in an aquarium would be much more hazardous than hands in the beardie tank. Beardies are very social and very gentle... great companion pets. They're also very curious. They thrive on the attention and affection. Fish, on the other hand... much more easily injured, and easier to toss something into the tank that pollutes water or is hazardous to the fish.

Just an idea for you... if you were to put the beardies on the bottom, it would be quite easy to construct a framed door for the lower frame, or set of double doors, with a locking mechanism on it, making it impossible for little hands to reach through. If you screen it in instead of making them solid wood panels, it doesn't take away from the view of the beardies, and makes it much easier to take care of them. Remember that beardies need fresh water every day... reaching into a 120 sitting above a 55 would be a lot harder than changing water in an upper 55 for fish and lifting out a water dish for lizards down below. It would also help to keep your substrate in the fish tank heated, which would benefit live plants and bottom dwelling tropical fish. Also, how often are you going to be moving fish out of the tank? Beardies need to come out to play and get exercise... also much easier if the tank is down below.

You have a lot of options here... but I still vote for putting lizards below instead of up top... it makes more sense for both tanks.

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