How to Paint Aquarium Glass

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If you want to convert an aquarium to a decorative container, or if you just want to block light from one side of the fish tank, it's possible to paint the surface. If you try to apply paint directly onto the glass aquarium surface, the paint won't stick very well. It will end up looking streaky, providing only partial coverage. The trick to painting glass is using the right primer.

Things You'll Need

  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Rag
  • Paper Towel
  • Painter's tape
  • Bonding primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Roller
  • Oil-based exterior paint
  • Move any fish to a backup aquarium, if possible, and drain the aquarium. It is possible to paint the aquarium's exterior glass while fish are swimming inside, but if you accidentally spill paint in the tank, it could harm or even kill the fish, so it's best to move fish if you have an extra tank available.

  • Clean the glass surface with dish soap and water, and rinse the surface so there are no suds left. Some glass cleaners can leave residue behind that inhibits primer adhesion, but regular dish soap rinses off easily.

  • Dry the rinsed surface with a rag or paper towel.

  • Stick painter's tape to any edges you do not want painted.

  • Apply bonding primer to the aquarium's exterior. A paintbrush is ideal for most aquariums. For very large aquariums, you can use a roller to save time. If you plan on painting both sides of the aquarium, apply primer to the inside too. Wait for the primer to dry.

  • Paint over the primer with an oil-based exterior paint. Oil-based paints hold up better against the moisture damage associated with aquariums, and exterior-grade paints are further formulated for lasting, moisture-resistant coverage.

  • After the paint has dried for at least 24 hours, remove any painter's tape, refill the aquarium, and return the fish to the tank.

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References

  • "Creative Homeowner Ultimate Guide to Home Repair and Improvement"; Creative Homeowner Press; 2006
  • "Stanley Complete: Complete Painting"; Larry Johnston; 2007
  • "Black & Decker Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair"; Thomas G. Lemmer, Brett Martin, Karen Ruth; 2008
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