Will this cabinet take the weight of my tank?

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A reader finds a leak in his tank and asks if its best to buy a dedicated aquarium stand.

I had one of the worst experiences any fishkeeper could have one morning: waking up to find my tank had leaked from one corner and the entire 180 l of water had flooded the lounge. Luckily, I managed to save all of the fish and shrimp.

My question is, I have found a 60x60cm cabinet in a home and garden store. It’s a cube shape, and measurement-wise it would fit the 90 l aquarium I was looking to buy. But how can I ensure it will be sturdy enough? I don’t want to risk another disaster. 

Is it safer to buy a dedicated aquarium stand or can these cheaper storage units do the job just as well?

RICHARD L., VIA EMAIL

Neale advises: It’s easy enough to calculate the weight of an aquarium, since one litre of water weighs one kilo. A 90 l aquarium will therefore weigh at least 90 kg (almost 200 lbs) in the water alone, plus the extra weight of the glass and the hood. To put this in some sort of context, Wikipedia tells me that the average weight of an adult is between 60 and 80 kg, so even a relatively small aquarium, like the one in question, weighs significantly more than a person. Hence, when looking at off-the-shelf furniture, you’re asking yourself whether that table or cabinet could support the weight of at least one adult, if not more. Your old 180 l system would have weighed more than two people, for example.

I doubt many flatpack furniture items are built to support that sort of weight, so these aren’t going to be good choices. Going back to my teenage years, I placed a tank on top of an oak chest of drawers in my bedroom. One night, I was awoken to the sound of running water. At first, I thought it was rain. But alas, it was the sound of water running off the drawers and onto the carpet. What had happened was that the top of the chest of drawers had sagged, eventually only supporting the bottom pane of glass at a few points. Without adequate and even support and now under stress, the glass had cracked, and water was seeping out. Luckily, the terrapins in the tank were quickly moved into the bathtub, which was a surprise for my dad when he got up the next morning!

Some manufacturers may state (or tell you, if you inquire) what the maximum loading is for their furniture. That would be the safest way to find alternatives to the standard aquarium cabinets and stands available. But by default, your best bet is to stick to furniture designed to hold aquaria.