How to Build Non-Toxic Aquarium Decorations

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Aquariums are already interesting enough to look at, watching the fish swim around. There are plenty of fake plants, ceramic castles, figurines, sunken ships and plastic treasure chests to make your aquarium even more pleasing to the eye. You can also make your own aquarium decorations which are safe for your fish, fun to make and even more fun to look at. You can even change your décor with the season for year-round interest and excitement.

Things You'll Need

  • Pre-poured ceramic figurine
  • Pottery clay
  • Nontoxic glaze
  • Semiprecious stones like quartz or amethyst
  • Rock tumbler (optional)
  • Wrapping paper
  • Old posters
  • Sticker-making kit

Make it with clay. The ceramic, nontoxic statues and castles you find in the pet store are fine, but you can choose your own designs to fit in with your home décor and personal interests. Most towns have either a paint-your-own ceramics store or a studio at the local parks and recreation center that offers unfinished pottery, nontoxic glaze and access to a kiln, all for a nominal fee. Your place will stock a lot of small pieces on the shelves, everything from Buddha statues to frogs to alligators to little jack o'lanterns to snowmen. If you don't like anything you see, they can special order something for you. Sitting around chatting with other people while you smooth and sand your piece for the first firing and then paint it with the glaze for the second firing is fun, and when your piece is done, you have the added joy in knowing you've made it yourself. Some of these paint-your-own shops and parks and recreation studios also have clay you can mold yourself, and will fire your creation for you, just as they would the pre-poured items. You can create anything you want for your aquarium, limited only by your imagination and skill. Of course you'll need to use a nontoxic glaze, just like you did for the pre-poured items.

Add some stones. A large quartz crystal is a lovely, Zen-like addition to any small aquarium, and doesn't take much effort. You can also be creative with different colored semiprecious stones (purple amethyst, yellow citrine, blue sodalite or green malachite, to name a few) and set them down into your gravel your own design. You can even get enough of the right stones to create your favorite team's logo on the bottom of you aquarium. If you only have access to unpolished stones, you will need a rock tumbler. Follow the instructions on the rock tumbler for smooth stones in very little time. It's fun, and something kids enjoy.

Think seasonal. In addition to the ceramic jack o'lanterns, snowmen and leprechauns you can paint and fire (and swap out with the seasons), you can also be creative with your aquarium backdrop. Instead of a permanent background, find other designs you might like—holiday wrapping paper, your team's logo, a blown-up photo from your last vacation, a Disney princess motif for your daughter's fish—the possibilities are endless. Make sure the paper design is the same size as the back of your aquarium, and have it laminated. Most print shops, including Office Depot and Staples, can do this for a small fee. Affix your laminated decoration to the back of your aquarium on the outside. Since it's outside, it cannot hurt your fish. Change your background every so often for an ever-changing, completely safe aquarium decoration.

Stick it on. There are kits where you or your kids can design and color your own stickers, which can then be placed on the outside of your aquarium at no danger to your fish. The kids will love it—just make sure to leave enough glass un-stickered so you can still see the fish.

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