Wall Aquarium – A Good Idea?

A wall aquarium, mmm. In itself it could seem a bit tricky and difficult to achieve but at the same time a really decorous way of doing things. Well, both of these thoughts are correct but installing a wall aquarium is not as difficult as it could appear especially to anyone who is reasonably adept at do-it-yourself. Anyone who is not sure of their capabilities should obtain either professional advice or assistance from a friend who has proved DIY capabilities.

The very first consideration is a question – should the aquarium actually be positioned through the wall or on a stand? The stand can be an attractive modern piece of furniture nowadays not just a bare bones affair. Consultation is necessary with the partner, is the partner enthusiastic and if so in which direction?

The next consideration is aquarium size as a large wall aquarium will make a big impact on the room, the larger the bigger the impact – ‘in your face’ is another way of putting it. It must be remembered that this impact will have a powerful effect on the balance of the room. On the other side, a very small aquarium could look out of place but again this depends on the room and the effect required.

Placing the aquarium is made more difficult as the viewing side is easy enough but what about the other side? This side, the back, projects and needs to be hidden, at the same time providing a place for exterior equipment. One good place is where there’s a walk-in cupboard such as under the stairs if the other side is into the desired room and allows for the required positioning. Beware of any electrical installations, these can be present but must not present the slightest hazard such as that caused by spilt seawater or a trip by the aquarist. Another way is to build a cupboard on the side where the aquarium projects. The framework needs to allow the aquarist to easily complete required maintenance tasks comfortably, if maintenance proves difficult the desire to maintain properly will diminish, definitely not good. The built cupboard framework can be covered with decorative material to make it into furniture and match the room it protrudes into. Pre-planning is absolutely essential, if it’s inadequate there’s problems ahead no doubt.

So, there’s still going to be a wall aquarium. All the planning is done, there’s agreement on the size and finished decorations. Part of the pre-planning was of course the size of the aquarium. Now work can begin.

A hole is required, pretty obvious that. What kind of wall is it, brick with plaster, wood framework with plasterboard? Mark the outline of the aquarium on the wall. Add the thickness of the base board and the polystyrene, see below. If the wall is a wood framework cut the plasterboard away to expose the framework. Do not cut the wood framework clear before making sure that any load on the wall will be safe. Cut any framework away and make sure to replace any vertical framework as needed, often at the ends of the hole. Make sure any horizontal framework at the bottom of the aquarium is replaced and adequately fixed. Place a wooden crosspiece just above the top of the aquarium ensuring it is the same dimensions as the other framework and properly horizontal.

If the wall is brick clear any plaster. Obtain a lintel which can be a length of wood or better metal, this should be obtained with height close to the height of a brick. Overlap the lintel at each end of the proposed hole by at least the length of a complete brick. Before removing one layer of bricks above the proposed hole make sure any load on the wall will be safe. Remove the bricks and insert the lintel. Mortar can be used as a filler, small temporary wedges can be used until the mortar has set. Once set, the bricks below the lintel can be cleared creating the hole. Straighten the vertical edges of the hole as required.

Obtain or make a wooden board, 3/4″ (circa 2cm) or more thick (depending on the size of the aquarium) that is perfectly flat and a little larger than the base of the aquarium. Ensure that this base will go into the wall hole so that the front edge is in line with the wall that the aquarium will be viewed from, and also ensure that it will lay horizontally in all directions. Obtain some expanded polystyrene sheet (this will be for the aquarium to rest on) and cut a piece the same size as the base. Now make the supports for the rear of the base (the front will be supported by the wall). A full aquarium is very heavy so make sure the supports are adequate, 3″ x 3″ (circa 7.5cm) would not be excessive. Put the ends square under each rear corner of the base and make sure the floor that they stand on is adequately strong. Make sure they cannot be kicked and moved in any accidental way, metal right-angle brackets would be good for this. Make sure there are enough supports – a four foot long board would require three supports. When fixing the base board in place regularly ensure that it is level in all directions. Make sure the base board cannot move horizontally, the weight of the full aquarium will help stop this but placing the aquarium could move it – a couple of screws through the base board towards each end and one in the middle at the front down into the wall will suffice.

Ok, clear up any debris and let’s have a coffee. The main work is done! It wasn’t as bad as reading the above could have suggested.

Fitting the aquarium is easy. Have some help available and place the aquarium on the base (don’t forget the polystyrene), then move it forward to line up perfectly with the wall front. If the hole was cut correctly there should not be much of a gap at the sides and top.

The last bit of construction is the ‘picture’ frame. According to taste, obtain some thin wood, say 1/2″ (circa 1cm) thick by say 2″ (circa 5cm) wide. This is purely decorative and is to make the frame which hides the small gaps around the aquarium. Cut the lengths and sand the long outer edges as desired then put either a butt joint at the corners or a mitre joint which looks better. The frame can be glued, pinned or screwed to the wall as is practical. Ensure the finished framework is smooth and flat to the wall. The aquarium need be overlapped by only a small amount, say 1/4″ (circa 7mm) or so, this isn’t critical as there isn’t any load.

Now decorate as required. The wooden frame around the aquarium can be painted to match the wall, varnished or whatever.

So on to the aquarium. Make sure there is an adequate power supply and sockets safely positioned etc and if a cabinet to contain the back of the aquarium has been built, a light. Then prepare the aquarium in the usual way.

A wall aquarium is an enhancement. It is a living picture and will draw you to it. All the wonderful advantages of owning a marine aquarium will be there plus a touch of the not exclusive but unusual. Most will take the aquarium stand route, it is easier and quicker and not all rooms are suitable for a wall installation. But if you could fit a wall aquarium, at least consider it.

(Photo: uncrate.com)


  1. The work is done! It was helped by reading the above. Thanks.

  2. Very glad it was of help. Enjoy the aquarium.

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