If you’re getting a brand new fish tank, one of the first questions you will need to answer is where you want it to be placed. You could choose to either keep it downstairs in the living area, or you could opt to have it installed upstairs. BUT is it safe to put a fish tank upstairs?
Fish tanks can be placed on the second floor, but it is considered safe to put fish tanks that are no more than 125 gallons. For fish tanks larger than 125 gallons, a structural engineer needs to asses the structure of your flooring to ensure your floor can withstand the weight of the aquarium.
Generally, upstairs floors in modern homes are rated to hold between 30 to 40 pounds per square foot with older homes being often times stronger than new ones.
After a few hours of research, I have discovered that most upstairs floors [in both modern and older homes] can hold quite a bit of weight, but in order for this to work you need to stick with me till the end of this article as I’m going to share with you some structural engineering tips that will help you safely install your fish tank on the second floor of your home.
Can You Put A Fish Tank Upstairs
More often than not, fish tanks up to 55 gallons can be safely placed almost anywhere in the house, whereas fish tanks larger than 55 gallons and no more than 125 gallons can also be safely placed anywhere in the house as long as they are placed in a good structural location.
Generally, a 125 gallon fish tank filled with water, on a wooden stand, placed perpendicular to the joists up against a bearing wall, will not require any additional support. Giving the fact that the fish tank is placed in a good structural location, everything should be okay.
However, for fish tanks larger than 125 gallons that you wish to place on the second floor of your home I highly recommend you to consider adding additional supports under your wood framed floor.
Please be aware that these are generalities that may or may not apply to your particular situation.
How LARGE A Fish Tank Can Floors Support
How large a fish tank can your floor support it REALLY depends on several factors such as the floor framing layout of your floor, the safety factor of your floor, but there are other factors also that determine how large a fish tank your floor can support which will be discussed in this article.
To gain access to this kind of information, I strongly suggest that you examine The Building Code of Your House. However, you should only be concerned about whether or not your floor can support the weight of your fish tank when talking about monster-sized fish tanks larger than 125 gallons.
Remember that an apartment building may or may not have a similar framing layout to The Basic Residential Wood Floor Framing Layout, which you can check out by clicking on the link in the text. BUT let’s first stat with a few simple definitions:
- Dead Load: This represents the weight of EVERY piece of wood, steel, tile that is permanent such us the floor joists, walls, floor tile, bolts, etc.
- Live Load: This is EVERYTHING that you add to your home starting with the day you move in. Everything from bookshelves, beds, cabinets, fish tanks, computers, or even people is considered live load.
- Floor Safe Factor: It goes without saying that any structure needs a safety factor. The safety factor of your floor will help you determine how much weight can your floor support without collapsing.
- Partition Wall: This is a wall designed 100% for separation purposes. Its only purpose is to separate rooms in your house. It was not designed to carry the weight of your floor or roof down to the foundation.
- Bearing Wall: This is the exact opposite of the partition wall. The Bearing Wall was designed to carry the weight of your floor, roof, wall, or ceiling.
- Floor Joists: Floor joists are horizontal framing members that support your floor. Each end of your floor’s joists are supported by beams or bearing walls.
All these “things” are used to Calculate The Floor’s Live Load Capacity, which is important when trying to find out whether or not your floor will support a certain weight.
⭐ Consider Your Home’s Live Load Capacity
Most Residence & Apartment Buildings are designed to support a minimum live load of 30 to 40 pounds per square foot [psf].
However, please realize that this refers to live loads that are uniformly spread over the entire floor, and I also mentioned MINIMUM loads, meaning that your floor will be significantly stronger than the minimum 40 pounds per square foot in many areas.
Where To Put A Fish Tank Upstairs
According to The International Residential Code, most non-sleeping floors in Residential Homes & Apartment Buildings must support a MINIMUM live load of 40 pounds per square foot, whereas sleeping floors must support a minimum live load of 30 pounds per square foot [33% less].
This is relevant because you now know from the get go that non-sleeping floors are usually stronger, and more fitted to support the weight of a mega-gallon aquarium. BUT where do you place your monster aquarium to ensure your floor won’t collapse?
1. The Strongest Floor
The BEST possible spot to put your fish tank upstairs is wherever the joists span the shortest distance as this is going to be a WAY stronger floor framing than rooms where joists span a greater distance.
However, after carefully inspecting the joists in your house you will soon realize that the strongest room in your house is also the smallest room, and you might not be so happy with the idea of placing your mega-gallon fish tank in a small room no one uses. But what do you do now?
2. Close To A Bearing Wall
The closer to the bearing wall the fish tank is positioned, the more total weight in pounds the floor joists can support. If we’re talking fish tanks larger than 125 gallons, I strongly suggest that you position the aquarium as close to the bearing wall as possible and oriented perpendicular to the floor joists.
Positioning a fish tank perpendicular to the floor joists is important because that way your fish tank’s weight will be uniformly distributed to as many floor joists as possible.
3. Continuous Runner Stands
When placing a big fish tank upstairs is better to consider adding additional support to ensure the weight of the aquarium is distributed properly. One of the best possible safety additions you can make to your upstairs’ fish tank setup is an aquarium stand with a continuous runner at the bottom.
Aquarium stands with a continuous runner at the bottom will do a much better job at distributing the weight of the aquarium than the classic, four legs stand.
If you already own a four legs aquarium stand and you don’t like the idea of buying a brand new one, you can simply put the aquarium over a sheet of plywood to help distribute the weight of the fish tank to more floor joists. Remember that this can help a little bit, but it is not very effective since a sheet of plywood laid flat is not very stiff.
Weight Distribution For LARGE Tanks
No one can tell you for sure whether your not your upstairs floor can support the weight of a 180 gallon fish tank without looking at the plans for your house and inspect the conditions, which is why is imperative that you find a good structural location.
As previously mentioned, fish tanks that are no more than 125 gallons are okay to put upstairs as long as you find the PERFECT structural location. However, for fish tanks larger than 125 gallons you have two options depending on how large the fish actually is.
5 Tips For Placing Large Fish Tanks Upstairs
- Place the fish tank as close as possible to the bearing wall
- Place the fish tank in the room with the strongest upstairs floor framing
- Position the fish tank perpendicular to the floor joists
- Consider adding additional supports under your wood framed floor [prior to filling the tank with water] – for fish tanks larger than 125 gallons
- Consider purchasing a stand with a continuous runner at the bottom
It is VERY difficult to know where to draw the line of what is safe and what is not without inspecting the conditions, but as a general rule remember that large fish tanks up to 125 gallons can be safely placed upstairs if the tips mentioned in this article are followed.
For fish tanks that are larger than 125 gallons, I highly recommend that you seek professional advice preferably from a Structural Engineering Company.
⭐ Identify The Bearing Wall In Your Home
Generally, in apartment building the bearing walls are the walls separating your apartment from your neighbors’ apartment, whereas for homes bearing walls are usually the walls place in front of the house.
BEST Aquarium Stands For Upstairs Large Fish Tanks
I want to start by saying that in my opinion, only the fish tanks larger than 55 gallons will need aquarium stands with a continuous runner at the bottom. For fish tanks smaller than 55 gallon you are safe to use a four legs aquarium stand that you can reinforce with a sheet of plywood.
Most 55 gallon fish tanks will do just fine with four legs stands but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so here we are:
|Fish Tank Stand Size||Amazon Link|
|55 Gallons||Skroots Stand Made From Durable Wood|
|75 Gallons||Upright Aquarium Stand|
|75 – 90 Gallons||Marco Group 751-BLK|
If you have a hard time finding a continuous runner aquarium stand for your monster fish tank or you’re looking to save yourself some money, I suggest that you try to build your own stand.
How MUCH Do Fish Tanks Weigh
To get a feel for how heavy big fish tanks really are, I have put together a list of some of the most popular, big fish tanks available. And because it is VERY important to really know how much these big fish tanks weigh when filled with water I have done the math for you as well.
|Aquarium Size [Gallons]||Dimensions [Inches]||Empty Weight [Pounds]||Filled Weight [Pounds]|
|50 Gallon||36″ x 18″ x 19″||100 Pounds||600 Pounds|
|75 Gallon||48″ x 18″ x 21″||140 Pounds||800+ Pounds|
|125 Gallon||72″ x 18″x 21||205 Pounds||1200+ Pounds|
|180 Gallon||72″ x 24″x 25″||400+ Pounds||1900+ Pounds|
|225 Gallon||72″ x 27.5″ x 27.5″||400+ Pounds||2100+ Pounds|
⭐ How MUCH Do Fully Loaded Aquariums Weigh
Here’s the formula I have used to find out exactly how much a fully loaded fish tank weighs. Weight = The Weight of The Fish Tank When Empty + (The Fish Tank’s Capacity In Gallons x 8.5)
In conclusion, please realize that these are all generalities that may or may not apply to your particular situation. If you’re unsure of whether or not your floor can put up with the weight of a monster aquarium, I highly recommend that you seek professional advice.
On a final note, know that modern homes are usually built using soft wood for structural lumber such as southern pines, whereas years ago the structural lumber used in the construction of homes was made from hardwood trees such as oak or ash.
This means that older homes are generally stronger than brand new, modern homes mostly due to the type of wood used as structural lumber. However, modern homes made from soft wood trees still maintain the minimum safety factor.
This nothing more but general advice, it is not based on the specifics to your house or of anyone else’s. Each and every house is unique and if you’re unsure, then you should definitely seek professional advice.
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