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Adding a Personal Touch to Your Aquarium Décor

Hey, Eileen here. Ever have a certain look or item in mind for your home or wardrobe or aquarium, and were not able to find just what you wanted? Ever decide to just make it instead? Despite the huge selection of aquarium ornaments on the market today, this DIY approach is what many aquarists are beginning to turn to when the ornaments in the stores just aren’t personal enough for their own unique tanks. So, how can you get in on the action to make your tank truly your own? Here are a few tips to making your own aquarium ornaments or using non-aquarium items to personalize your aquarium.

Silicone Sealant is Your Friend

Custom Slate BackgroundSilicone aquarium sealant can be found in almost any fish store and is usually available in clear or black. Sealants designed for aquariums are safe for fish and aquarium tankmates when fully cured, but stay away from other sealants like those used for bathroom or hardware applications. You can use sealants to make caves from pieces of rock or rubble, glue shells, stones or other decorations together, or even to cover things like PVC or plastic “caves” with substrate or rocks to form a more natural-looking hideaway.  Note: The tank in these photos has a custom background created by arranging and attaching layered slate with black silicone.  The effect of the rock wall is rather permanent, but impressive as it adds dimension.  This background was applied before the tank was set-up.

Think Outside the Box

Most rigid plastic toys, ornaments and figurines are safe for aquariums as long as they are not painted and do not have any sticker decals on them. Make sure the object is well-cleaned and any stickers or adhesives are completely removed. If you aren’t sure if it is painted or printed, try soaking it in water for awhile, then try to scrape the color off with your fingernail. If it comes off, it isn’t safe for your aquarium. You’ll also want to make sure any small pieces are removed or firmly attached with an adhesive like silicone sealants, and make sure nothing is small enough for your fish to eat.

A lot of ceramics and pottery like coffee mugs and flower pots are generally safe for aquariums, too. This is a great way to get your companies logo in that aquarium you have set up in the lobby! If a mug or plate or bowl is safe for food use, you can generally use it in your aquarium. Decorative pots that are only partially glazed or have fragile artistic glazes are not safe enough for aquariums. To see if an object will last in your aquarium, you can soak it for a few weeks in water that is the same conditions as your aquarium (or better yet, is at the extremes of your aquarium as far as temperature and pH). If it is unchanged in color, texture and strength at the end of a couple months, it should be safe to use as a decoration. Completely unglazed terracotta pottery is also perfectly suitable for aquariums.  These items can make excellent caves and breeding shelters for fish like cichlids and gobies.

Some of the only artifacts leftover from ancient shipwrecks are pottery and glassware. It may look different and become completely encrusted with corals or algaes – especially in saltwater aquariums, a problem all of these ornament ideas – but glass is very durable (which is probably why most aquariums are made from it as well).  Decorative glass bottles can be found in craft and antique stores and even very well-cleaned beer, wine and condiment bottles can be made into aquarium décor! As with the other materials listed, you’ll want to make sure there are no labels or adhesives left on the glass or bottles you decide to use and the glass should not be painted – if the glass is colored, make sure it is the glass itself that is colored, not a glaze or paint over it. You can also fill a light-colored bottle with small objects, ornaments, beads or substrates and seal the top closed to form a decorative glass “bubble” within your tank.

Cues from Nature: the Good and the Bad

Using natural items can be good and bad. In general, avoid the temptation to use something you’ve picked up off the ground since it is difficult to tell what chemicals orforeign substances may have leeched into it. Things like seashells and coral skeletons that can be cleaned VERY, VERY thoroughly in very hot water are usually safe, but avoid organic matter like starfish or wood that can decompose when put back into the water of your aquarium. Wood ornaments created for aquariums are usually safe for freshwater aquariums since they’ve already been cleaned and treated, but wood from the forest behind your house or that you’ve found at the shore is usually not a good addition to a home aquarium. If you aren’t sure if an object like a shell will affect your water quality if it is submerged, soak it in water with similar conditions to your tank and monitor the changes in color, smell, and chemistry of the water over a few weeks.  Most shells are not suitable for freshwater aquariums except african cichlid or brackish set-ups, as they may raise your pH.

The Don’ts and Disclaimers

Of course, there are always disclaimers. These tips are just to give you an idea and starting point for your own creativity.  Always make sure any non-aquarium ornaments you re-purpose for your aquarium are very clean and are safe for your fish, inverts and water chemistry before adding them to your aquarium, especially in extreme aquarium conditions like saltwater aquarium, low pH/acidic aquariums, high temperatures and sensitive or very aggressive animals. Make sure all objects are free from chemicals and sharp edges are sanded down or covered with silicone to avoid injuries to yourself or your aquarium residents. When in doubt, feel free to ask and we’ll be happy to help you figure out if your new decorating idea is a safe one!

These are just a few ideas. Be creative and let your personality shine through into your aquarium.  And, don’t forget to show us the pictures of your new, unique aquarium!

112 comments

  1. avatar

    Hi,

    I want to know which colors are suitable for artificial corals & reefs ,so that they are permanant in salt water, & not
    remove after cleaning…

    Thanks

  2. avatar

    Hi Manoj, Not exactly clear on what you’re asking…are you asking about what type of paint to use?

  3. avatar

    Yes ….exactly

    I m doing artificial coral decoration in fiber material for marine aquarium,I want to know what type of paint shall I use which should be permanent,non toxic and should not remove from the surface.

    Any help regarding this will be appreciable…Thanks

  4. avatar

    You want to use an epoxy paint, that is approved for use in potable water (drinking water). Once cured, the epoxy is very tough, and fish safe.

  5. avatar
    awatson7@columbus.rr.com

    I would love to use a small Eiffel Tower in my Betta’s fish tank, but can only find statues made of metal. Could one of these be covered in some type of sealant to make it waterproof and ok for my betta?

  6. avatar

    I wouldn’t recommend using a metal ornament, even covered in sealant. Its possible, but if the metal got wet through a crack in the sealant or anything, it would start to rust and release chemicals, minerals or even a mild electrical current into the water. I did a web search for “eiffel tower figurine” and found some websites with glass replicas (most seemed to be wedding favors or cake toppers) that would probably be safe.

    Another option, depending how large the tank is, would be to create a “snowglobe” effect with the metal figurine by putting it in a small glass jar (some craft stores have them available) and sealing the opening closed. If you use the jar upside down, you can seal the lid and then bury it in the substrate so the jar is upsidedown and the tower is sitting on the lid of the container.

  7. avatar

    ok…
    So epoxy paint will helpful for me ,but i don’t know how to use it,& from where i get that.
    Also the other thing is that I search for epoxy paint on web ,but it shows that it is to make it I have to use to many chemicals combination….
    Could u please provide me,any information about using epoxy paint & from where i get that or how to create it…

    Thanks

  8. avatar

    Epoxy paints become inert and they’re practically “bulletproof” when fully cured, but they can be expensive and you may not be able to purchase it in quantities less than 1 gallon…you may be able to purchase it at Lowe’s or better quality at paint stores like Sherwin Williams or even at swimming pool supply stores. You’ll be asking for paints for potable use (drinking safe) so you can ask someone at these establishments what they have available and I’m sure they’ll be able to give you detailed directions for mixing and use too. You may be able to find safe enamel type paints at craft or model shops in smaller volume, variable colors and in spray or brush on forms, though they won’t be as thick-coating or as durable as epoxy paints and may not stand up to heavy scrubbing. Do stay away from epoxy boat/marine paint as they may be chemically enhanced to deter barnicles and other inverts. May take some store visits or phone work, but try these establishments and see what they have.

  9. avatar

    so i was wondering if i could put a ceramic figure in my fresh water tank. it is made of red clay and base coloring and has been fired in the kiln. i want to put in in my tank but i am worried about my fishes :D

  10. avatar

    Hey Jon, thanks for your question. Ceramic is an inert substance, so you’re safe! Good luck.

  11. avatar

    Terra cotta is usually ok in freshwater aquariums, you may want to submerge the item in a bucket of water to see how it holds up for a week or two. What kind of base coloring? You want to be sure it was colored with a stable, non-toxic paint or enamel that won’t leach anything into the water over time. You can test the water you soak the item in before you put it in and a few days later to be sure it won’t effect your pH.

  12. avatar

    I’m trying to decorate my tank like the bottom of a fishing lake and I wanted to put one of my old propellers and a few very large fishing lures in the tank. What would be the best way to seal these items to keep the tank safe?

  13. avatar

    Sounds like an interesting concept. Plastic or fiberglass pieces should be safe. Any pieces with wood, metal or decals can be coated in several coats of a clearcoat sealant or glaze. The best type would depend on the material but you would want to make sure it is suitable for use in water. I would recommend testing on a piece to make sure it holds up and doesn’t affect water quality before adding any pieces to the aquarium.

  14. avatar

    Hai (:
    I have a handsome male betta. im so lucky i got him, i randomly & irresponsibly picked him up from the pet store when i was out with my friends .. :D
    I wanna make a nice tank for him. but i dont have any extra money to buy decor, etc. because im only 12 ;) so i wanted to know if there any things around the house or outsied i could use. Thannk yoouu!

  15. avatar

    hi MalMal,
    There are a lot of options that you might find around the house. Read through the “Think Outside the Box” section again and then take a look around. Glass, ceramic, colored plastic, even Legos without decals can be used. You can also take a look around your local thrift store (Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc) or a Dollar Store for decoration ideas – just remember to test everything for its safety and durability. Good luck !

    – Eileen

  16. avatar

    Hello!

    I’m starting up a new aquarium that’ll house a mixture of different plants and aquatic beasties. Everything is pretty much sorted except for the ornaments.

    I’ve been given a small ceramic candle holder and am wondering if you know if it is safe to use. I’ve read in this article that ceramics are generally safe however I’m not sure of the glazing that would have been used. I usually keep the mindset “if in doubt, leave out” but this candle holder would make the ideal hiding spot for fish once thoroughly cleaned.

    Is there any way I can quickly test this to see if it will be safe? I’ve been planning this tank for months and do have back-up ornaments but would like to see if I can add just a little something unique to it.

    Thank you for your time and for writing this brilliant article!

  17. avatar

    Hi Grey. Is it completely glazed? Look over the entire pieces (inside and out, top and bottom) and make sure there are no rough patches that the glazing doesn’t cover that water may soak into. If you can find out the manufacturer, you can try contacting them to see if the glaze is non-toxic, or you can soak the piece in the extremes that your tank would go through and make sure it doesn’t soften or the color doesn’t come off. If you do use it, I would still check it occasionally when you do your regular cleanings.

    All that said, I’d say you are likely safe to use it. Candleholders are designed to handle extreme temperatures and the glaze should be pretty durable. Ceramic itself is inert and should not affect the water quality.

  18. avatar

    Hello,

    Thank you very much for answering my query. It does seem to be completely covered in glazing and I’ll check it thoroughly again just to be sure.

    I can do some tests on it and see how it fairs, thanks again!

  19. avatar

    Hi –

    I have two goldfish that we just transplanted to a 10 gallon tank (the fish were won at a fair a year and half ago and have been living in a bubble-bowl).

    I do glass mosaic tiling and I’d like to add some kind of decoration. I’m thinking a thin, square block with the word ‘SWIM’ cut out (so the fish can swim through the letters like windows). The structure will be made of plexiglass with glass tiled applied, grouted, and sealed (grout and seal used for pool bottoms). Does that sound reasonably safe for our little fish?

    Many Thanks,

    Rachel

  20. avatar

    Hi,

    I would like to know if it is safe to use beads for the bottom of a fish tank? These beads r usually used for braclets or necklaces. And i would like to know if its safe for a crowntail betta fish.

    Questionally asking,
    April

  21. avatar

    Sounds like it should be ok, as long as all materials are inert once cured. Keep an eye on the water chemistry for a few days after you decorate, particularly your pH just to be sure. Mosaic would also make a great background for the tank :)

  22. avatar

    glass and plastic beads should be fine, just make sure they are large enough not to be swallowed by the fish. I would avoid anything painted that might chip after being submerged for a long time.

  23. avatar

    Hello
    I’m thinking of making a cave for my aquarium would it be safe to use a microwave plate cover that’s basically a lunch box with holes make a hole in the side and cover with gravel

    Would it be ok or would it build up chemicals?

    Thanks

  24. avatar

    Should be fine as you would hope anything you’re using near your food is inert ;)

  25. avatar

    Hi
    I would like to know if ‘plasti-kote fast dry enamel projekt paint is safe to use on objects submersed into the aquarium?

    I want to use it for use in my terrapin tank but wood be useful for my fish as well.

    Iv searched everywhere on web and come up with nothing and to make clear I am on about the brush-on liquid paint not the spray version.
    Thanks
    Ronnie

  26. avatar

    I am stunned by the prices of the plastic plants for sale in the petshops for aquariums! Is it possible to make your own with the “silk” or plastic flowers and greenery sold at hobby stores?

    Thanks!

  27. avatar

    Plants sold in hobby stores should also be safe for tanks, be sure the base you use is waterproof and that the leaves are not painted or treated

  28. avatar

    chances are the enamel will be inert once completely cured. You may want to contact the manufacturer directly for more input on the application, they may be able to tell you for sure.

  29. avatar

    I want to put a football helmet in my tank but the logo is a sticker is there anyway to cover the sticker so it stays on I’m building a football themed tank

  30. avatar

    Hi, glad I found this post. I was wondering if this item is fish tank safe: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Never-Dies-Titanic-Skulls/dp/B003HGB3SW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1344303967&sr=8-1&keywords=titanic+skulls It is “cold cast resin” and I heard it has some metal in it (not sure). I have a Titanic themed tank with fancy goldfish and I think this would be PERFECT! But I want it to be safe. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  31. avatar

    you could try brushing over it with a light layer of silicone or waterproof laquer, just be sure that any laquer is inert.

  32. avatar

    the resin should be inert and safe for your tank, just keep an eye out for the paint to chip…while it shouldn’t hurt the fish it may not hold up to being submerged.

  33. avatar

    Thanks! I may try some clear aquarium sealant. That’s a good idea.

  34. avatar

    hi, our clown loaches have outgrown their homes multiple times, can we use a reptile cave in our aquarium? we sanded it so there isn’t any rough edges.
    thanks

  35. avatar

    Hi there i have a question for you. I have a 100 gallon tank. Would two 55 gallon filters do the trick? I just want to make sure everything is safe clean ready before I get going with the fish. Also what soap/cleaner would be best for rocks

  36. avatar

    Hi there. I am in the process of finishing up my fish tank. I have bought some figurines like these: They say they are made out of PVC plastic – will this be OK to add into my tank? Is there not some sort of Spray Paint clear coating I can use to be extra safe? Or anything else I can use to protect the fish and also the figurine over time? Thanks in advance for the help.

  37. avatar

    Hi, I have malawi cichlids..just wanted to find out if using normal kitchen tiles in my tank will be safe for my fish? Any thoughts?

  38. avatar

    shouldn’t cause any problems though you may want to monitor the pH depending on the material the cave is constructed with…resins are inert, stoneware may raise the pH

  39. avatar

    should provide sufficient filtration. The water should turn over in the tank at least 3 to four times in an hour. You can use a mild bleach solution on rocks to kill algae and sterilize, but be sure to use dechlorinator to neutralize the bleach and rinse well. You shouldn’t smell any bleach when you’re finished.

  40. avatar

    they look like they’ll be fine. Keep an eye on the paint for signs of chipping and peeling. Are they bobble heads? If so watch any areas where water can seep in, if there is a spring, it may eventually deteriorate or rust

  41. avatar

    don’t see why plain porcelain or stone tiles would pose a problem, particularly if they are meant for countertop surfaces. You may want to clean them thouroughly to ensure any debris or coatings are removed to be safe.

  42. avatar

    can i spay paint a rock and put it in a saltwater tank? could i do that for a koi pond?

  43. avatar

    You’ll have to be very careful with the paint you choose. There are paint types designed for aquatic applications that are inert when cured and formulated to hold up in water.

  44. avatar

    I want to make a rock reef decoration in my fresh water tank. Is there any problems with using rocks purchased from a home and garden center how should I clean them? I saw a reply that said use a mild solution of bleach for sterilizing, how much bleach to water is considered a mild solution?

  45. avatar

    Hey, I’m about to upgrade my current tank and am looking for exciting decorations… I have a sheep’s skull that I found in a field once which has been bleached by the sun and had the flesh boiled away from it. I was wondering if I covered it in sealant or some kind of aquarium resin, would it be okay? It would look pretty awesome and my cories would look pretty cute hiding in the eye sockets.

  46. avatar

    As long as it is thouroughly cleaned and you use a food grade or entirely inert sealant, it should be ok. Keep an eye on your pH as any bone that breaks down could affect the alkalinity of the water.

  47. avatar

    I recently dismantled my fresh water tank and went to salt water for the beauty and wider variety of fish, my question is can I use some of my old decorations, fake skull, lil skull towers, etc, in my t
    Salt water tank now? Heard fake decorations are a no no but thought that was meant for the brightly colored stuff like sponge bob pineapple house

  48. avatar

    Thanks for the response. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks bleaching, cleaning and drying out the skull now I just need to seal it. Do you have any idea on what I could use to do so? Most aquarium sealant comes in small tubes and I’m not sure how well it would cover such a large item, a few people have suggested Krylon Fusion but that’s not available in the UK as far as I’m aware :(

  49. avatar

    I think it really depends on who manufactured the ornament, some are made to be safe in fresh or saltwater, others only for fresh. You can put the ornament in the tank, just keep an eye on it for shipping or flaking of the paint, if it starts, probably best to remove it.

  50. avatar

    look at your local hardware or home improvement store for clear 100% silicone caulk. Make sure it doesn’t contain antimicrobial or other additives, and let it cure for at least 48 hours.

  51. avatar

    If I am looking to use an alternative for gravel in a small beta fish tank, could a beaded necklace work? I think this would be both decorative and easier to maintain as I could simply pull on the beaded string for cleanings to get all of the detritus and debris free for cleaning times. Are beads like this safe to use? Is this a plausible idea?

  52. avatar

    I’m sure a necklace would be fine, may want to look for one with colored plastic or glass beads…painted plastic ones will start to chip. Good luck.

  53. avatar

    i want to buy a cold cast poly resin bronze mermaid for my new saltwater tank?? no fish yet..but will it b ok? dont wanna spend lots of cash on it..if its gonna deteriate.

  54. avatar

    polyresin or bronze? Polyresin ornaments are generally safe for fresh or salt though a close eye should be kept on any paint or finish to watch for peeling or chipping. Bronze will not be a good idea in a closed saltwater system.

  55. avatar

    are dollar general terra cotta pots safe for tropical fish

  56. avatar

    they should be fine, just be sure to clean them first

  57. avatar
    Catherine Perry

    I have a brass figurine that I’m considering for a decorative piece in my Betta fish bowl. It is two elephants on a bench under an umbrella reading a book.

    My question is: Would the brass object make my Betta sick?

  58. avatar

    Brass is questionable…not sure how long it will hold up submerged, and as far as the toxicity probably better not to add it in such a small volume of water to be safe.

  59. avatar

    I have a hockey puck with a decal on it that I would like to make safe for my betta tank (Hockey theme!). What is the best way to seal it or what should I buy to cover it to make it safe for the tank and keep the decal on? I think the puck is make out of some sort of hard rubber?

  60. avatar

    A layer of aquarium sealant on the whole puck should do the trick. The silicone layer will make the decal waterproof, and the rubber should be inert.

  61. avatar

    Hi, I would like to have a wvu football themed tank and I found a stadium replica http://www.homefields.com/pc-75-8-west-virginiamountaineer-field.aspx
    And I was wondering if I can put this in my tank. I do not know if its safe for the fish.
    Thanks!

  62. avatar

    You may want to contact the supplier and find out what these models are made of and what kind of paint is used. Chances are the non-lighted models will not pose a threat to your tank, but there is little info on the construction at the link you provided.

  63. avatar

    Hi,
    Love the article by the way! I just got myself a 180 gallon glass tank and will be setting it up as a salt water tank for shark and rays. I want to have a beautiful tank but in keeping it perfect and safe for the rays and shark I want the tank to be as empty as possible with just a background, hide tunnel, and natural sand. I was thinking that it would be really neat to have a glass tile mosaic background. Very similar to how a kitchen back splash is, or a fully tiled shower. It would be glass tiles, that are grouted and sealed just like how it is for a pool then sealed with aquarium sealant. Now my major concern is the weight that the tile and grout and all would put on the glass. I know mosaic peaces can be very heavy and I’m concerned the glass wouldn’t be strong enough to hold the weight for that plus the water and fish and all. I haven’t seen ANY tanks done this way but I think it would be just stunningly beautiful. Any thoughts would be helpful on this. Thank you.

  64. avatar

    Hi i just got a goldfish from a carnival and they gave me one of those small tanks with it im only 13 so i dont have alote money and im wondering how to take good care of it without having to pay a fortune.

  65. avatar

    We’ve done backgrounds with wood and slate and they have held up, the mosaic shouldn’t be a problem and sounds like it would be a fantastic backdrop!

  66. avatar

    You can actually read about carnival fish here: http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatfishblog/2008/05/15/carnival-fish-part-1/ if it helps. The important thing about goldfish is providing enough space and a clean environment.

  67. avatar

    my comet goldfish lik variety (food status)

  68. avatar

    I have a hollow glazed ornament from the circle of love collection. I filled it with the tank water and submerged it. It looked fantastic but I was advised it could leach into the water and poison my fish. If I fill with sand and seal the bottom completely so that only the glaze is in the water will it be okay? Many thanks

  69. avatar

    what is the ornament made of? If it is glazed ceramic it is probably inert. a coating of clear silicone will seal it completely.

  70. avatar

    Yes it is glazed ceramic, I can only find silicone sealant, is that what you mean? If not where do I find it? Many thanks

  71. avatar

    Hi,

    I’m setting up a hermit crab enclosure and I’m just wondering what I should use. I want to put some substrate down the end of my enclosure that descends down into salt water to represent a shoreline. But i need to put a sealant over the substrate so that the water stays there and that it doesn’t flood the rest of the tank. What should I use?

    Thanks

  72. avatar

    yes, 100% silicone sealant should do the trick if you’re concerned

  73. avatar

    you can use clear silicone sealant which is inert when fully dry or cured

  74. avatar

    How do I put it all over the substrate without it moving?

  75. avatar

    best bet would probably be to combine the silicone with the substrate to make a composite, then use it to create a short barrier between the water and the rest of the substrate. Does that make sense?

  76. avatar

    Yes that is a great idea!!! THANKYOU so much :)

  77. avatar

    Can I use a fishing lure for a decoration in my tanks and could I also use a hamster tube as a kind of “tunnel?”

  78. avatar

    hey i want to give a 3d look to my aquarium in background,so i thought of using rock design exterior tiles in the background,what should i use to stick tiles and is it a good idea of using the tiles. ur help will be appreciable ;)

  79. avatar

    Both should be usable as they should both be inert.

  80. avatar

    What material are the tiles? You want to be sure the material is inert so it won’t effect the water chemistry. 100 percent silicone aqquarium sealant can be used to adhere tile or rock to the glass.

  81. avatar

    Would it be possible to but non painted, plastic jewelry beads that i bought from a store in a fish tank?

  82. avatar

    Hi! I just got a betta fish, and i really would Like to make the tank my own, but i. Dont want to put anything in there, the fish is really beautiful and i would be really sad if something bad happens! Lol. I got this idea to put One of my action figurines from a tv serie i Like :p it would Look awsome! I did some research and the figurine itself is made of pvc plastic. There are no metal joins either! I soaked it in very hot water for several minutes. Then i did tried to scrape the color off with my fingernail and absolutly Nothing came off. So here is my question, after all those tests, is there Anthing else i should be aware of before to put my action figurine in my fish tank That could arm my fish?

  83. avatar

    Of course! I would clean them thouroughly first though :)

  84. avatar

    We use action figures in some store displays, they are just fine! Go for it!

  85. avatar

    Hi, i got this rubber snake toy for a present and i would like to put in my fish tank..
    would it be safe if i was to steralize it?? its kinda rubbery and soft.. the snake

  86. avatar

    Hi Bridgette,

    I don’t think that’ll be a problem. I would wash it with hot water first, but nothing too extreme. Most rubber toys tend to be fairly inert – so you should be fine. In the outside chance something would leech from it – having carbon in your filter (which comes standard with most) should neutralize it. We’d love to see your tank once it’s setup. If you have time, post a picture on facebook.com/thatpetplace.

  87. avatar

    I made some clay pieces for my fish tank what would be the best thing to seal it with. I have fresh water African cichlids, I was wondering if epoxy paint or lead free glaze (food safe) would seal it.

  88. avatar

    Hi Mel, Any food-safe glazes should be safe. I would look it over carefully to make sure there are no spots that the glaze missed or even double-glaze it to be safe but otherwise, that should be fine for the aquarium.

  89. avatar

    Hi, I’m trying to figure something out. Is it possible to create a decoration out of Legos or something else that can be attached together? I would like to have something that I can take out and change at will, but can’t find the right material to do it. I don’t have any sort of unusual type of aquarium, just a baby snapping turtle and some fish from time to time, and no salt of acids are in it. Thanks in advance!

  90. avatar

    Hi Levi, Legos would be a good choice! I would look for ones without any decals but plain plastic solid-colored blocks work great. You may need to experiment with weighting them down but they are safe for use in the aquarium. Bigger building blocks would work too. You can also try stacking unpainted terracotta pots to form pyramids or gluing together PVC of various sizes (although those “ornaments” are a little more permanent once attached together).

  91. avatar

    Thank you! Lots of those types of toys laying around my home, now I can find some use for them.

  92. avatar

    Hey, I have a 45gal freshwater aquarium and I was wondering could I put dead coral in or to I need to coat it with something first?
    Thanks.

  93. avatar

    Hi Susan, I wouldn’t recommend putting coral skeletons in a freshwater tank. They are mostly calcium carbonate and would affect the pH and hardness of the aquarium. If you like the look of corals for your freshwater tank, I would recommend getting artificial ornaments instead.

  94. avatar

    Thank you so much. :-)

  95. avatar

    Hello. A few days ago I bought a polyester resin ornament painted in part with epoxy paints made by a company that makes artificial reef ornaments. I was told to leave the ornament in water with some chlorine and salt to cure it. After that I changed the water and added a dechlorinator. Then I noticed some areas of the resin changed color and those smell like thinner and the ornament makes the water have a different strange smell. How can I get rid of the smell and make the ornament safe for a saltwater aquarium? Thank you.

  96. avatar

    Hello Arturo, That doesn’t sound like something I would recommend adding to a tank given the smell and change to the integrity of the paint; it doesn’t sound safe for aquarium use to me. I would recommend contacting that manufacturer that you purchased it from to see if they have any solutions for you.

  97. avatar

    I’m going to change some of the colors on the artificial reef ornament using acrylic paints. I have been doing some research and it appears that sealing the ornament with clear epoxy resin would be safe and inert. Do you believe the epoxy resin is a safe choice to seal the ornament? Regards.

  98. avatar

    Hello Arturo, I’ve conferred with one of the other marine biologists on this as well. The epoxy resin should be safe as long as it completely cures; you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions very closely before adding it to your aquarium. Resins like this do have a pretty strong odor but are safe as long as they are cured. The acrylic paint should be fine as long as it completely dries before you coat it with the resin. I would certainly recommend keeping carbon in your filter to help remove any chemicals or residue that may have possibly leeched into the water, especially given the problems that you’ve been seeing already.

  99. avatar

    Hi I made some artificial flower arrangements and used 100% silicone from a hardware store. Seems to stink. I have them soaking in water right now but is it ok to use them in my tank.

  100. avatar

    Hello Amy, The silicone should be safe as long as it has been fully cured and does not have any additives or chemicals like mildew-killers or other algacides. You will also want to monitor the plants and make sure they are safe; plants from a craft store for example may not be safe for aquariums depending on the type of paint or dye that was used.

  101. avatar

    Hello! Soon I am going to be getting a 25 gal aquarium for a betta fish and several corydoras and I’m very excited to decorate it. My father recently came back from Germany with a model of the Brandenburg Gate ( http://onlineshop.smile-berlin.com/de/product?info=1653 ) and I’ve read that polyresin figures are ok for aquariums, but I can’t really tell if it actually is polyresin and I’d really like to use it in my tank. Could it be alright or should i cover it in a sealant or even just not use it? Thank you!

  102. avatar

    Hello Ender, Have you tried contacting that vendor to find out what it is made from? I don’t see any info on that site about the materials but it looks to be polyresin based on the appearance and “poly” in the description. It would probably be safe but I would still recommend testing it underwater for awhile before adding it to the tank with fish, especially since its a small tank. It is a great little figurine though, should look great in the tank if it works out for you!

  103. avatar

    I have a 3 gallon fishtank that I bought about 2 years ago. While looking for decorations, I overlooked the large tube that ran straight through the middle of the cylinder shaped tank and bought a medium sized volcano to go there. When I got home my mom helped me come up with an idea of how to still use the volcano in the tank. We filed down the inside of the Volano hole so that the filter tube fit right down the middle of it. We did not seal the volcano and I believe that is the reason that my first and last 7 fish, including 1 beautiful teal male beta and 6 neon tetras, have died. I cleaned out the tank after the last few fish died and it has sat clean, but full of the decorations for about a year and a half. I have heard of a way to seal plastic involving olive oil. Can you tell me anything about that or do I have to go buy a special sealant from a pet store?

  104. avatar

    Hello Elara, I have never heard of sealing plastic with olive oil. Was this volcano an aquarium ornament to begin with or some other type of decoration? If it was an ornament, it shouldn’t have any effect on the water quality, even if it was filed. Even broken ornaments are fine to use as long as they don’t have sharp edges. You can seal the edges with clear enamel paint or even nail polish if its a small area; you’ll just want to make sure it is completely dried before putting it back into the aquarium.

    Very small tanks can be very tricky, especially with sensitive tropical fish like Neon Tetras and there could be a number of other factors as to why your fish aren’t surviving. You can certainly call and have a discussion with any of our Fish Room staff about your tank to help it be more successful.

  105. avatar

    I glued small rocks with aquarium sealant for beta cave but after 24 hrs the glue was not dry??? Why can’t it bond?

  106. avatar

    Hello annabelle, Aquarium sealants typically take 24 hours to dry and up to 48 hours to cure completely but humid conditions can make that take longer. If any of the surfaces were wet, that can also prevent it from curing. All sealants vary so I would recommend reading and following the instructions on the one you used very carefully. Many companies also have customer service helplines if you are having trouble with their product.

  107. avatar

    Hello! I’ve been really interested in arts and crafts lately and was wondering if a resin project would be safe in a fresh water tank? It usually takes 12+ hours to dry, there’s no paint or glues on it. Just want to know if it’s safe, thank you!!

  108. avatar

    Hi Jc. You can look for resins that are food-safe to be on the safe side, but most resins should be safe after they are fully cured.

  109. avatar

    I’m trying desperately to find some fish safe bottle caps (like beer bottle shaped), for my Fallout 3 themed tank, I can only find caps are made in Ecuador and China from shiny steel, they are lead and nickel safe… I’m guessing that any form of metal is a no no even if it was coated in silicone?

    Really need to find something like these http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Bargain-packs-of-flat-COLOURED-bottle-caps-and-epoxy-domes-dots-/221301805773?pt=UK_Crafts_Other_Crafts_EH&var=520184065743&hash=item33869d92cd

    Can anyone help me find something that would be fish safe?!

  110. avatar

    Hi BH, It is possible to coat an object in silicone or acrylic sealant but it is risky with metal; if any moisture can get to the metal, it may start to rust or corrode and affect the tank. I wouldn’t recommend it. Have you tried looking in craft stores or even party supply stores for plastic caps? Check around party favors or kids’ crafts and you might get lucky; I remember seeing some plastic soda can tabs in a craft store just a couple days ago. Depending on the look you are going for and how you’d like to use the caps (sorry, I don’t know much about Fallout 3), you could try using them on the outside of the tank – either on the front of the glass or as a background. You could also try filling a glass jar like this one with your caps and sealing the lid shut with silicone.

  111. avatar

    I bought a decoration from Petco designed for an aquarium. After a couple days it reeked and made the water smell horribly. I removed it and let it sit in water for a week. I was about to put in my tank but decided to test what chemicals could make it smell. Turns out the bacteria safe start began to make it smell again. Any suggestions or could you recommend other decorations this won’t happen with.

  112. avatar

    Hello PW, Is it the ornament itself that is smelling bad or the water? Can you give some more info about your tank – size, how long it has been set up, the fish in it, the levels (actual values) of pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, etc.? You mention “bacteria safe start”…is this what you are smelling or is it something else? A lot of bacteria supplements for new aquariums can have a strong smell, as can aquarium that are heavily stocked or have a water quality issue. An ornament that is starting to smell would be very unusual, but a new and heavily stocked aquarium might not be. I would recommend calling in and having a discussion with someone in our fishroom to help you get to the bottom of the problem. You can reach the fishroom staff at 717-299-5691, option 7 or 888-842-8738.

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About Eileen Daub

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I was one of those kids who said "I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up!"....except then I actually became one. After a brief time at the United States Coast Guard Academy, I graduated from Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2004. Since then, I've been a marine biologist at That Fish Place - That Pet Place, along with a Fish Room supervisor, copywriter, livestock inventory controller, livestock mail-order supervisor and other duties here and there. I also spent eight seasons as a professional actress with the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and in other local roles. If that isn't bad enough, I'm a proud Crazy Hockey Fan (go Flyers and go Hershey Bears!).