How to Keep Your Unwanted Fish Tank Out of the Waste Stream : BLOG: Five Ways to Upcycle a Fish Tank

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Unwanted fish tanks may make up a very small fraction of the waste stream, but if you have one, Robert Woods, editor of Fish Keeping World, has some tips for keeping it out of landfill…

Keeping fish can be a time consuming but rewarding hobby. If you have an empty fish tank, and don’t want to keep fish anymore there are still plenty of other uses for your empty aquarium so why not upcycle it and give it a new lease of life?

There are some really amazing repurposed tanks, from piano fish tanks, to mosaic light boxes. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the easier, simpler options for repurposing your old fish tank.

Before you turn it into any of the following things, you’ll need to ensure it’s had a thorough clean. If you no longer want to keep fish in it you can use regular household chemicals, however if you do want to carry on keeping fish, or growing food as some of the below examples, just use vinegar and hot water to clean the aquarium.


Why not turn your fish tank into a terrarium? A terrarium is a collection of plants growing in an enclosed container.

If you want to add some greenery to your home, you can plant a terrarium using a variety of plants. The most popular ones to use are succulents, and there are lots of different types available.

You’ll also need a few different mediums to create the layers in the tank; you can use soil, rocks, activated charcoal and small pebbles.

Layer the pebbles on the bottom, with a thin layer of activated charcoal on top. This acts as drainage for your plants and helps to fight off bacteria. Then add your potting soil and the plants.

Once you have everything arranged to your liking, use the rocks or stones to make the final layer. This project should only take you around 30 minutes.

Fairy Herb Garden

If you have children, this could be a fun project to do as a family. You’ll need to follow the same steps as setting up the terrarium as above, but instead of choosing succulents, choose herbs that you are likely to use when you cook.

You can take more care when placing the plants and stones, to create a fairy garden looks. Use the stones to make a path, and larger pebbles which you can paint to create little fairy houses.

The herbs can be placed strategically to look like plants growing in the garden.

Finally, make your very own little fairy to add to the fairy garden. Not only will you produce food to use, but this is also a fun project for children to get stuck in to.

Depending on the level of detail you want to include this project could take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours.

Coffee Table

Whilst this might sound complicated, it really isn’t.

Why not use your old fish tank to make a coffee table for your living room, a one off piece which is both simple to make, but looks unique.

You can add whatever you’d like to, to the tank before you create the table. How about sand from your favourite beaches, or driftwood and large pebbles?

Once you’ve filled the tank up, you’ll need to decide on what you want the top of your table to be. You could have a solid wood top, leave it clear glass, or make a mosaic… the choice is down to you.

The project can take up to 3 hours to complete.

Aquaponics – Growing food

This is perhaps the most practical uses for repurposing your fish tank, because not only can you actually carry on keeping fish, but you can also grow your own food using the fish.

An aquaponics set up is a self-sustaining system, in which the fish create food for the plants from their waste, and the plants clean the water for the fish.

Once the system is set up, you will spend less time maintaining it than a regular fish tank, they don’t require the same frequency of water changes because the plants are doing all the work.

You can either make a small countertop set up in which you can grow herb and green leaves, or you can have a large set up in your garden to grow a wider variety of vegetables.

This system will take a few hours to set up, but the follow-up maintenance time is next to nothing.

Table Centre Piece

So the last four suggestions, all have quite practical uses, this one is for those of you who enjoy being creative.

You can use your old fish tank to create a centrepiece for your dining table.

Choose some candles of various sizes to place inside the tank. Place the taller candles along the back wall of the tank, and the shorter ones in the front. Once you have them in place, scatter a layer of small pebbles and stones around them.

Depending on the season or the celebration you are having, you can add more decorations to your centrepiece. For example, if it’s Christmas you can add some holly and berries, and if it’s Halloween you can add some mini pumpkins.

This is the shortest project in this roundup and will only take around 5 minutes to complete.

Hopefully these five ways of repurposing your fish tank will have inspired you to upcycle your old tank!

Robert Woods, Editor of Fish Keeping World

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