Vivarium Shelving Options & Long Term Success - Dendroboard

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Old 09-13-2008, 07:12 PM
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Default Vivarium Shelving Options & Long Term Success

I have been watching shelving projects and options on this board over the last year or so and I am finally ready to build or purchase a 3 tier shelf system to hold a series of tanks. I know a lot of folks are lucky enough to have the extra space keep their frogs in their basement or a special frog room in which function is always more important that form. We have more limited space and our tanks are beginning to take over, so I have designated part of a room in our main living space to build or construct this unit. Ideally, if I could do anything with it, I would like the outer visible part to have more of a cabinet type finish that would blend with the kitchen cabinets and other furniture since our home has a very open floor plan and it will be quite visible throughout the living space of our home, so while function is of utmost importance, I would also like it to "look good".
However, I know that it is likely that would absolutely break the bank if built by a professional cabinet maker and I worry that if not, the wood framing might sag over time with SO much weight on each shelf. I have seen a few threads in which people did a shelving that had a more finished look for a living space, although they were posted a while ago and I can't find the threads anymore. Also, I am wondering how they have faired over time and if people have experienced any sagging or if they are still going strong.
I recognize I may have to break down and go for a strong metal unit, although if I do that, I think I would like a black finish just to allow it to blend more and I even having trouble finding a high quality metal unit that is not silver. Any suggestions?
My ideal dimensions are about 60-65 inches wide with 3 shelves with between 24-30 inches between shelves. I recognize I may have to do this in 2 units put together side by side or I may have to add extra depth to put supports behind the tanks. I need 20 inches of depth minimum for the tanks, but thought for stability it would probably have to be deeper and this may allow for some hidden supports along the shelves.
Could people that have solutions like this for their vivarium shelving please post pictures of what they have? And also notes on any problems or positives with a particular material/ style of construction or any special details that I may be forgetting to take into account. Ideally I would love to purchase a unit I can build from a kit, but recognize it is not likely I will find what I need that way.
I appreciate any pointers, pictures and help members can provide.
Thanks in advance,
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Old 09-14-2008, 01:46 PM
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Default Re: Vivarium Shelving Options & Long Term Success

I'd build a shelving unit out of 2x4s, and then use pieces of moulding to finish off the front. Sanded and stained, I think it would look pretty good.

That being said, I use ugly metal racks :P
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Old 09-14-2008, 02:29 PM
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Default Re: Vivarium Shelving Options & Long Term Success


I was in the exact same situation you are in...needed something functional and strong but did not want it to look horrible. My carpentry skills are dangerous so I went the pre made shelving route. I also needed to keep the purchase price low. Unfortunately I can not find the exact link of the product I bought but I found shelves at Costco (in store) for $60 that were rated at 1500lbs per shelf. The dimensions of the one I have are 48L X 18W X 72H. I used half the unit height wise because at this time I am planning only one top shelf of terrariums. I have room to grow!!!

Here is something very similar but not exact to what I got...can not find the link, maybe they replaced the product with this???

Costco - Shelving 18-1/2x73x36

It has a polished metal look on the beams and I liked that. I put self adhesive liner paper on the shelves themselves ($7.00 at Target) and found some baskets at cost plus to store my accessories in (those were expensive but the perfect dimensions $105.00). Now am working on the terrariums. Picture was taken with camera phone so it is not that great but you get the idea.

I am happy with how it turned out...hopefully this will not be too ridiculous for the hard core do it yourself types out there but it works for me and I can't wait to move on to the good stuff...frogs!!!

Good luck with your shelving efforts!!!

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Old 09-16-2008, 04:53 AM
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Default Re: Vivarium Shelving Options & Long Term Success

Like Zach said, I think your best option would be to start out with a custom stand made of 2x4's and plywood, something that will hold the weight and fit where you want. Then you can use trim molding and nicer pieces of wood to "skin" it. Basically you build an attractive encasement for the functional selves. Just using some 1/4 inch oak plywood and oak trim molding and a miter saw with box you can make a very nice cabinet looking finish.

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Old 09-20-2008, 09:57 AM
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Default Re: Vivarium Shelving Options & Long Term Success

Alright... a few questions, about how much weight are you going to be putting on each shelf? Also, How many inches do you have from floor to ceiling? What Kind of tools do you have?

One other thing to look into is going to be clear pine. It is just as strong as preasure treated pine, but it takes stanes better, it is straighter cut and has a lot few knots in it. It is a bit more expensive than the preasure treated pine, but well worth it as well. Home Depot, Lowes, and Ace all should sell Clear Pine.

Feel free to PM me, or just keep everything on the thread. I work graveyards though so I will not be able to get back with you until late Saturday night.
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Old 09-20-2008, 07:33 PM
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Default Re: Vivarium Shelving Options & Long Term Success

I would build if I were you and look into the future. If you see yourself expanding more, obviously make it a bit bigger to accomodate. I have used the metal baker's racks for about 5 years now and am finally fed up with them. They aren't a true 4' long and not quite 18" deep which really limits me to what tanks I can put on them.

Next weekend I am starting the building of my racks. I am going to make them strong enough to hold a couple fish tanks if I need and also some people underestimate the weight of a viv, especially with using gravel or with water features.

I am doing 4x4 posts in the corners, and the shelves will be 2x4s, just like this stand, but imagine a couple stacked on top of each other.

75 Gallon Aquarium Stand
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