Is Acrylic Paint Safe for Aquariums

Is Acrylic Paint Safe for Aquariums? Expert Opinion

Acrylic paint is a popular choice for artists due to its versatility and vibrant colors.

However, if you’re considering using acrylic paint in your aquarium, you might be wondering whether it’s safe for your aquatic pets.

In this article, we will explore the safety of acrylic paint for aquariums. In this article, we’ll discuss the properties of acrylic paint and explore the potential risks it poses to fish and other aquatic life.

Additionally, we’ll provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about using acrylic paint in your aquarium.

So, is acrylic paint safe for aquariums? Let’s dive in and find out if acrylic paint can peacefully coexist with your underwater friends.

Which is the Safest Paint Type for Aquariums?

The safest paint type for aquariums is aquarium-specific epoxy paint.

This type of paint is designed to be safe for aquatic life and is specially formulated for use in aquariums.

It does not include any dangerous chemicals, and it is nontoxic once it dries.

Epoxy paint is also durable and will last for many years. What about acrylic paint?

Is Acrylic Paint Safe for Aquariums?

Acrylic paint may be safe for aquariums. But note that not all acrylic paints are made for use in aquatic environments.

Some acrylic paints may contain additives or chemicals that could be harmful to your fish and other aquatic life.

Always make sure to read the label and check if the paint is specifically designed for aquariums before using it.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic?

The toxicity of acrylic paint depends on the type of paint and the ingredients it contains. Many acrylic paints contain toxic chemicals, such as lead, which can be dangerous for both humans and aquatic life.

Additionally, some acrylic paints may contain solvents or additives that can be harmful to aquatic life. To be sure your paint is safe for aquariums, always make sure to check the label before using it.

Properties of Acrylic Paint

What is Acrylic Paint Made of and How It Works

Acrylic paint is a type of paint that contains colored particles mixed in a special liquid. This liquid is made of a material called acrylic polymer.

When you use water based acrylic paint, it feels smooth and soft because of this special mixture. (If your paint doesn’t look smooth, follow our guide on how to make acrylic paint smoother).

You can find acrylic paint in many different colors, so you can get creative and make your aquarium look beautiful. You can also mix different colors together or add some water to change the way it looks.

Why Acrylic Paint is Safe for Aquariums

The great thing about acrylic paint is that it is made mostly of water, which makes it safe for aquariums. Other types of paint may have strong chemicals that can be harmful, but acrylic paint is less toxic.

When the paint dries, the water in it evaporates, leaving behind a solid layer of color. This solid layer is safe for the fish, plants, and other living things in the aquarium.

How Acrylic Paint Stays Strong in Water

Acrylic paint is really good at staying strong even when it’s in water. Once the paint is dry, it forms a tough and flexible layer on the surface.

This layer can handle the wet conditions inside an aquarium without easily getting damaged, peeling off, or dissolving in water.

It keeps the colors bright and makes sure the painted parts of the aquarium look good for a long time.

Considerations for Aquarium Safety

Potential risks of using paint in aquariums

  • Harmful Chemicals. Some paints contain substances that can enter the water and harm aquatic life. These chemicals can be toxic and upset the delicate balance of the aquarium ecosystem.
  • Peeling or Chipping. Low-quality or unsuitable paints may not stick well to the aquarium surfaces. Over time, they can peel, chip, or flake off, creating debris that can harm the aquarium inhabitants.
  • Water Quality Impact. Paints not made for aquariums can break down in water, releasing substances that harm water quality. This can lead to poor conditions for the aquatic organisms.
  • Toxicity to Aquatic Life. Certain paint ingredients, like heavy metals or harmful compounds, can be poisonous to fish and other aquatic creatures. This can cause illness or even death in the aquarium.
  • Altered Water Chemistry. Some paints can change the water’s pH or chemical balance, disrupting the natural conditions needed for the aquarium inhabitants to thrive.
  • Cleaning Challenges. Painted surfaces in the aquarium can be harder to clean compared to non-painted ones. This can lead to debris buildup and algae growth, compromising water quality and the aquarium’s appearance.

Importance of selecting aquarium-safe paint

  • Safety for Fish and Aquatic Life. It’s important to choose paint that won’t harm the fish, plants, or other creatures in your aquarium. Aquarium-safe paint is made of harmless and non-toxic paint.
  • Protecting Water Quality. Helps maintain good water quality by preventing harmful substances leaching into the water. This preserves a healthy environment for your aquatic pets.
  • Durability and Longevity. Aquarium-safe paint is designed to withstand water conditions and adhere well to surfaces. This ensures that the paint won’t peel, chip, or deteriorate, reducing the risk of it entering the water.
  • Enhancing Aesthetics. With a wide range of colors and finishes available, aquarium-safe paint allows you to create an appealing tank. It adds beauty and enhances the appearance of your aquarium.
  • Ease of Maintenance. Using aquarium-safe paint makes cleaning and maintenance easier. The paint’s durability and resistance to water help ensure a cleaner environment.

Factors to Consider when Choosing Acrylic Paint for Aquariums

When choosing acrylic paint for aquariums, consider the following factors:

  • Aquarium-Safe Formulation. Ensure that the acrylic paint is specifically labeled as safe for aquarium use. It should be free from toxic substances and additives that could harm aquatic life.
  • Water Resistance. Opt for acrylic paint that has excellent water resistance. This ensures that the paint will not dissolve, peel, or deteriorate when exposed to water.
  • Non-Toxic and Low volatile organic compound (VOC). Look for acrylic paints that are non-toxic and have low (VOC) content. This reduces the risk of releasing harmful chemicals into the aquarium environment.
  • Colorfastness. Choose acrylic paint that is colorfast and resistant to fading or discoloration. This helps to maintain the vibrancy and visual appeal of the painted surfaces.
  • Adhesion to Aquarium Surfaces. Select acrylic paint that adheres well to the surfaces, such as aquarium glass. This ensures that the paint stays in place and does not flake or peel off easily.
  • Compatibility with Sealants and Coatings. Consider whether the acrylic paint is compatible with any sealants or coatings used in the aquarium setup. Compatibility ensures a seamless integration and reduces the risk of any adverse reactions.

Acrylic Paint and Aquarium Safety

Acrylic paint is safe for aquariums if used correctly. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Non-Toxic: Acrylic paint is not very toxic, which means it won’t harm your fish or other aquatic animals. When it dries, it becomes solid and doesn’t release any harmful substances into the water. Just make sure to use acrylic paint that is labeled as non-toxic.
  • Safety Certifications. Look for acrylic paint that has been tested and certified as safe for aquarium use. These certifications ensure that the paint doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that could harm your aquatic friends.
  • Compatibility. Different types of fish and plants may have different sensitivities. so it’s important to choose acrylic paint that is compatible with your specific aquarium inhabitants. Do some research or ask for advice to find paints that won’t cause any harm.
  • Application. Before applying the paint, clean the surfaces thoroughly to remove any dirt or contaminants. This will help the paint adhere better and prevent any potential problems. Allow the paint to dry and cure completely before adding fish or other organisms back into the aquarium.
  • Monitoring. Keep an eye on the water quality and observe your aquarium inhabitants regularly. If you notice any issues like peeling or flaking paint, take action immediately. It’s important to address any problems promptly to ensure the safety of your aquatic buddies.

Preparing and Applying Acrylic Paint in Aquariums

Proper preparation and cleaning of the aquarium surfaces:

Before applying acrylic paint to your aquarium, it’s crucial to prepare the surfaces properly. Follow these simple steps to ensure a clean and suitable surface for painting:

  • Empty the aquarium. Remove all the water and inhabitants from the tank. Transfer the fish and other aquatic animals to a temporary holding tank or container with proper water conditions. 
  • Remove aquarium decorations and equipment. Take out any painting decoration, rocks, plants, or equipment from the aquarium. This will make it easier to clean and paint the surfaces.
  • Clean the surfaces. Use a non-toxic aquarium-safe cleaner or a mixture of water and mild dish soap to clean the interior and exterior surfaces of the tank. Scrub gently with a soft sponge or cloth to remove any dirt, algae, or residues. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to ensure all cleaning agents are removed.
  • Allow surfaces to dry. Give the tank ample time to dry completely before proceeding to the next step. This will help the paint adhere better and prevent any moisture-related issues.

Applying acrylic paint to the interior or exterior of the tank:

Once the surfaces are clean and dry, you can begin applying the acrylic paint. Here’s a simple guide to help you with the process:

  • Select aquarium-safe acrylic paint. Choose high-quality acrylic paint specifically labeled as safe for aquarium use. Ensure that it is water-based, non-toxic, and suitable for painting on various surfaces.
  • Use a brush or roller. Depending on the size of the area you’re painting, you can use a small brush or a paint roller to apply the acrylic paint. Make sure the brush or roller is clean and free from any residual paint or debris.
  • Apply thin and even coats. Start by applying a thin layer of paint to the surfaces, ensuring even coverage. Allow each acrylic paint clear coat to dry before applying additional layers. Applying multiple thin coats will result in a better finish and minimize the risk of paint issues.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Pay attention to the recommended drying time between coats and any specific instructions provided by the paint manufacturer. This will ensure proper adherence and curing of the paint.

Curing and drying processes:

After applying the acrylic paint, it’s important to allow sufficient time for the paint to cure and dry before reintroducing fish or other aquatic organisms. Here are some key points to consider during this process:

  • Curing time. Acrylic paint usually takes around 24 to 48 hours to cure fully. However, it’s best to follow the instructions provided by the paint manufacturer for the specific product you’re using.
  • Ventilation. Ensure proper ventilation in the room where the tank is located to help with the drying process. Adequate airflow will assist in drying the paint faster and prevent any potential fumes from accumulating.
  • Avoid contact with water. During the curing period, it’s essential to keep the painted surfaces away from water. This includes not filling the tank or splashing water on the painted areas.
  • Regular monitoring. After the paint has dried and cured, monitor the aquarium closely for any signs of paint deterioration, such as peeling or flaking. If any issues arise, take prompt action to address them and ensure the safety of the aquatic life.

What happens if you use the wrong paint in your aquarium?

Using the wrong paint in an aquarium can lead to a variety of problems, including toxicity and water contamination.

Non-aquarium safe paints may contain ingredients that can leach into the water and harm fish, plants, and other aquatic life.

Additionally, certain paints may not be able to withstand contact with water, which can lead to peeling and flaking of the paint.

It’s important to use only aquarium-safe acrylic paints when painting the interior or aquarium background.

This will ensure the safety of aquatic life and provide optimal results in terms of appearance and durability.

Maintenance and Monitoring

Checking the water quality and parameters:

Keep an eye on the water quality and conditions in your aquarium regularly to ensure a healthy environment for your aquatic friends. Here are some simple steps to follow:

  • Test the water: Use testing kits to check important factors like pH levels, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and temperature. These tests help you understand if the water is clean and suitable for your fish and other creatures.
  • Keep it clean: Regularly change a portion of the water to maintain cleanliness and remove any pollutants or toxins. This keeps the water fresh and helps your aquarium inhabitants stay healthy.
  • Act promptly: If you notice any unusual changes in water quality, such as high ammonia or nitrite levels, take immediate action. Perform water changes, adjust filters, or seek advice from experts to solve the problem.

Maintaining the paint and dealing with issues:

Taking care of the painted surfaces in your aquarium is important to ensure they stay in good condition. Here’s what you can do:

  • Keep an eye out: Regularly inspect the painted surfaces for any signs of damage, like peeling or discoloration. Check both the inside and outside of the tank.
  • Fix issues right away: If you notice any problems with the paint, don’t wait. Remove any loose or damaged paint gently without disturbing the aquarium. Clean the area and touch up with aquarium-safe paint, if necessary.
  • Be gentle: When cleaning the tank, avoid rough scrubbing or using harsh cleaning agents that could harm the painted surfaces. Instead, use soft sponges or cloths.

Proper maintenance and care for the painted aquarium:

To ensure the longevity of your painted aquarium, follow these simple maintenance tips:

  • Keep it clean: Regularly clean the aquarium by removing debris, algae, and leftover food. This helps maintain a healthy and attractive environment.
  • Handle with care: When moving or handling the tank, be gentle to avoid any accidental damage to the painted surfaces.
  • Follow instructions:
  • If the paint manufacturer provides specific care guidelines, follow them closely to ensure the paint remains in good condition.

How To Paint Aquarium Backgrounds

Step 1: Emptying the Tank:

  • Remove all water, fish, and decorations from the tank.
  • Ensure the tank is completely empty before proceeding.

Step 2: Cleaning the Tank:

  • Use a sponge or cloth to clean the interior and exterior surfaces of the tank.
  • Remove all dirt, dust, and debris from the surface.
  • Create a smooth painting surface by scrubbing the tank carefully.

Step 3: Priming the Surface:

  • Apply an aquarium-safe primer to the tank surfaces.
  • This will create a smooth base for the paint to adhere to.
  • Allow the primer to dry completely before moving on.

Step 4: Covering Protected Areas:

  • Use painter’s tape to cover areas you do not want to paint.
  • Protect edges, silicone seams, or any other parts you want to keep paint-free.

Step 5: Choosing Aquarium-Safe Paint:

  • Select paint specifically labeled as safe for aquarium use.
  • Ensure it is non-toxic and suitable for use in aquatic environments.

Step 6: Applying the Paint:

  • Use a brush or roller to apply the paint evenly on the tank’s interior surfaces.
  • Start from the top and work your way down, using smooth and even strokes.
  • When using a spray paint, ensure you hold the sprayer at least 12 inches away from the fish tanks.
  • Also, keep the sprayer moving to avoid puddles of paint.

Step 7: Allowing for Drying:

  • Allow the first coat of paint to dry completely before applying additional coats if desired.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for recommended drying times.
  • You can speed up the drying process by using a fan or hair dryer.

Step 8: Curing the Paint:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for curing time.
  • Allow the paint to fully bond and cure before proceeding.

Step 9: Rinsing the Tank:

  • After the paint has cured, rinse the acrylic tanks thoroughly to remove any residue.
  • Ensure the tank is clean and free from any leftover paint particles.

Step 10: Reassembling the Tank:

  • Add fresh water to the tank once it is clean and free from residue.
  • Reintroduce tank decorations and set up the tank as desired.

Step 11: Introducing the Fish:

  • Only reintroduce the fish once the water parameters are suitable and stable.
  • Monitor the fish closely after reintroduction to ensure their well-being.

Best Aquarium Safe Paint

Before painting your aquarium, it is important to use an aquarium-safe paint. Here are some of the best aquarium safe paints.

1. Krylon Fusion for Plastic

Krylon K02320007 Fusion For Plastic Aerosol Spray Paint, 12-Ounce, Gloss White – K02320001
  • The product is 12OZ GLS White spring Paint
  • Elegant design and Smooth finish
  • The product is manufactured in United States

Krylon Fusion for Plastic is a highly reliable aquarium-safe paint. It demonstrates excellent adhesion, creating a smooth and water-resistant finish on various surfaces.

The vibrant color options allow for personalized tank designs. The quick drying time minimizes downtime, and the paint maintains its durability.

Overall, Krylon Fusion for Plastic is a dependable choice for aquarium enthusiasts.

2. Rust-Oleum Specialty Tub & Tile Refinishing Kit

Rust-Oleum 280882 Specialty Tub & Tile Spray Paint, 12 oz, White
  • Apply Tub and Tile Spray Paint to ceramic, porcelain or fiberglass including tiles, sinks and tubs
  • One-step epoxy acrylic formula withstands moisture and extreme hot temperatures
  • Spray Paint formula dries to the touch in 15 minutes and covers up to 15 sq ft per can, allow surface to fully dry for 3 days prior to water exposure, remodeling your bathroom has never been so easy

The Rust-Oleum Specialty is a versatile option suitable for aquarium use. It provides a glossy and waterproof coating that withstands the test of time.

The easy application process and clear instructions make it user-friendly. With its reliable adherence, this aquarium paint offers a long-lasting solution for aquarium projects.

3. Plasti Dip

Plasti Dip Spray Black 11oz (6 Pack)
  • Peelable easy to remove from most surfaces when ready to remove
  • Protects coated items against moisture, acids, abrasion, corrosion, and skidding/slipping
  • Provides a comfortable, controlled grip

This is a flexible and protective paint that performs well in aquarium applications. Its ability to adhere to irregular surfaces makes it convenient for coating various tank structures.

The finished coating provides a safe and durable layer, ensuring the well-being of aquatic life. With its versatility and reliability, Plasti Dip is a recommended choice for aquarium owners.

4. Liquitex Professional Spray Paint

Liquitex Professional Spray Paint, 12-oz (400ml), Neutral Grey 8
  • Opacity: Opaque / Lightfast: I / Color code: 8599
  • Matte finish; Color brilliance, lightfastness and low-odor
  • Includes 12-oz / 400ml can of acrylic paint

Liquitex Spray Paint offers a wide range of vibrant colors suitable for aquarium projects. Its acrylic-based formula provides excellent coverage and a smooth finish.

The quick drying time reduces waiting periods, allowing for prompt reintegration of fish.

The paint’s adherence to different surfaces and water resistance contribute to its longevity. For those seeking a spray paint option, Liquitex Spray Paint is a reliable choice.


What type of acrylic is used for aquariums?

The type of acrylic used for aquariums is specifically designed for underwater environments. It is commonly known as aquarium-safe acrylic or aquarium-grade acrylic.

Is acrylic paint waterproof?

Yes, acrylic paint is waterproof once it has dried completely. When acrylic paint dries, it forms a solid and water-resistant layer. This allows it to withstand exposure to water without easily getting damaged or washed away.

Is latex paint fish safe?

Latex paint is generally not considered fish safe for aquarium use. Latex paints contain various additives and chemicals that can be harmful to aquatic life. These chemicals can leach into the water and pose a risk to the fish and other inhabitants of the aquarium.

Is it safe to paint a room with a fish tank?

Painting a room with a fish tank can be safe as long as proper precautions are taken. It is important to use low-toxicity, low-odor paint and ensure that the room is well-ventilated during the painting process. Avoid using paints that contain harmful chemicals or volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

How to spray paint plastic aquarium

– To spray paint a plastic aquarium:
– Thoroughly clean the tank.
– Tape off areas not to be painted.
– Use aquarium-safe spray paints.
– Apply even coats, holding the can 6-8 inches away.
– Allow proper drying time before reassembling the tank.
– Monitor water parameters to ensure the safety of aquatic life.

Related Read:

Is Acrylic Toxic to Cats

Are Acrylics Dog Safe?


Acrylic paint is safe for aquariums. It’s non-toxic and water-resistant, making it a good choice for decorating your aquarium.

Use acrylic paint labeled for aquariums and follow the instructions.

Keep an eye on the water quality and painted surfaces to ensure your aquatic friends are healthy.

By taking these steps, you can create a beautiful and safe environment for your aquarium.


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