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Make an Aquarium out of a cardboard box

Such a fun project :) And you can personalize it just about any way you want. Paint or draw any kind of fish and sea life that you like and put them in your tank!

Maybe you can't have a real fish tank. But with this project you can have one that is almost as good!




About this project

It is an easy project to make and you could keep it simple by cutting a box into the aquarium shape then adding a sea bottom and fish suspended by strings. But...

I do some extra things with this project including adding a hood light like a real fish tank, adding glow in the dark seashells and sea life. And adding some glow in the dark colors to the fish.

The heart of this project is simply two things: An aquarium shaped box and some plastic wrap. Although you can exercise some creativity when it comes to the size and shape of the box. It would be fun and unique to use any size or shape of box!

And along the way I will show you some neat and fun things to put inside your aquarium.


Tools and Materials:

  • 1 cardboard box
  • Plastic wrap
  • Tape
  • Glue (or hot glue)
  • Paper and colored pencils
  • Air hardening clay to make seashells and other sealife
  • Various paints
  • Thin string or thread or fishing line (to suspend the fish)
  • Optionally glow in the dark paint and a UV Flashlight
  • Optionally sand for the sea bottom
  • LED Lights for the top of the tank (optional but fun)

Here are Amazon links to the optional but fun things I added to my aquarium


Let's Get Started

Mark the four sides of the box keeping at least an inch border all the way around. These are the holes you will cut out for the aquarium glass (plastic wrap). It's important to keep it all with at least a one inch border for strength. If those borders are too thin the aquarium could be weak.

Find the seam on your box and with a knife carefully open it up.


Lay it flat and cut out the squares.


Flip it over so the insides of box are up and facing you. Then cut and tape plastic wrap over all those openings. We want the plastic wrap to be on the inside of the box when we put the box back together. It will look much better that way.


Put the box back together.


Okay! We have an empty aquarium! Let's add some stuff to the inside.


Let's start with the sea bottom. Cut a piece of cardboard or foamboard so it will fit in the bottom of the box. Crumple up some paper and tape it down like this. This will give the sea bottom some interesting terrain variety.


Next paper mache over that terrain. Or, you can wet paper with 50/50 glue and water then apply that over the terrain.


Complete the shell and paint it a sand color.


Have some fun with clay and add sea-life.

Some ideas for you are turtles, snails, starfish, oysters, anenomes and coral reef.



Now have some fun painting all of that. This part was a lot of fun for me. And for most of the sea-life I used glow in the dark UV paint.


Let's Continue making the aquarium



This is the exact paint I bought:

Glow in the dark Acrylic Paint





And to make it really pop this is the UV flashlight I used:


Ray O Vac UV Flashlight