Adding a painted background or hand-painted decorations to your aquarium can bring a personal touch to your setup and make it look more appealing. In order to do so, you will need aquarium safe paint.
However, not all paint will hold up underwater. More importantly, some paints can leach harmful chemicals into your tank water, potentially killing your fish and plants. You’ll need to choose a safe paint that is intended for constant exposure to freshwater or saltwater.
We’ve tested many different aquarium paints and put together these reviews and a buyer’s guide to help you choose the best one for painting safely in your aquarium.
Best Aquarium-Safe Paint Recommendations:
What is the Best Aquarium-Safe Paint for My Fish Tank?
Our top pick for aquarium-safe paint is the Krylon K02333007 Fusion Spray Paint. It’s easy to apply to large surfaces and goes on smoothly to reduce the number of coats needed. Best of all, it’s entirely safe for plants and fish, and it will last for a long time even when exposed to your tank water.
3 Best Aquarium-Safe Paint Options
This paint comes in a spray can, so it’s an excellent option for covering large areas of glass. It fires at any angle, making it easy to use in tight spaces like aquariums.
The paint goes on very smoothly, and it’s easy to get a clean, even coat in just one pass.
The paint won’t chip, bubble, or flake easily, even when it’s underwater constantly. Once the paint has dried, it’s safe for fish, plants, and bacteria in your tank.
- It comes in an easy-to-apply spray can
- It can be applied while holding the can in any position
- It’s safe for fish, plants, and bacteria
- It offers a natural-looking color to your tank
- The paint goes on smoothly and only needs one or two coats
- It dries quickly
- It’s relatively expensive
- It’s not suitable for precision painting
This is a rubber-based paint that will stand up to constant exposure to both freshwater and saltwater environments. It won’t chip or flake.
This paint comes in a spray can that makes application a breeze. It goes on very thick and usually only needs one coat. The paint is smooth and dries quickly, so your new tank background should be ready within a day.
Once it’s dry, it’s entirely safe for use in live tanks.
This paint only comes in black and red, so it’s really only suitable for darker or less natural-looking setups.
- Rubber-based paint will never chip or flake
- It can be used in marine and freshwater environments
- It goes on very smoothly
- The drying process is much faster than most other options
- It’s safe for fish, plants, and bacteria once dry
- It’s affordable
- You won’t be able to use it for precision painting
- It only comes in black and red colors
This is a flat-white waterproofing material that you can paint with onto decorations or glass with precision.
The colored options aren’t aquarium-safe, but you can mix this with a safe, colored concrete paint for unlimited color variations. However, you will need to purchase coloring agents separately.
This waterproofer won’t chip or flake when underwater, and it will never leach harmful chemicals into your tank.
It’s a bit more time-consuming to apply than spray paint and takes longer to dry, but it can be brushed on in different shades for a truly custom look.
- It is entirely waterproof
- It can be brushed on for precision painting
- It’s safe for your plants, fish, and tank bacteria
- It’s an excellent option for painting decorations
- It can be mixed with different colors for a custom look
- It is flat-white and requires additional purchases to create colors
- It takes longer to dry than spray paint
- The application is more time-consuming
What is Aquarium-Safe Paint?
Aquarium-safe paint is any paint that is safe for use in an aquarium. It’s designed to be safe enough to be used in an environment where living plants or fish may come in contact with it. Some paints or waterproofing agents are naturally safe for use in an aquarium, while other kinds of paint are explicitly made for fish tanks.
What is the Difference Between Regular Paint and Aquarium-Safe Paint?
There are three important differences between regular paint and aquarium-safe paint.
First, and most importantly, aquarium-safe paint is made so that it seals itself once it dries. These paints are often made of rubber or other waterproof material that won’t interact with water or moisture. They won’t leach harmful chemicals into your tank water, and they won’t be detrimental to your fish, plants, or the beneficial bacteria in your aquarium.
Standard paints do interact with water and can easily release hazardous compounds into your tank.
Second, most standard paints aren’t waterproof. When exposed to water, they will flake, chip, or allow water between the paint and the surface to which they have adhered, causing the paint to bubble. For this reason, standard paints are not only dangerous to your tank inhabitants, but it also won’t last very long and will need to be repainted in as little as a few hours.
Aquarium-safe paints are made to be entirely waterproof. Whether they come into contact with water occasionally or are continuously submerged, they will never flake or crumble.
Can Stand Up to Salt
Lastly, most standard paint will quickly deteriorate when exposed to salt, which is very corrosive. Aquarium-safe paint’s sealing qualities will allow it to resist wearing when exposed to saltwater.
Why Use Aquarium-Safe Paint?
Painting the glass in your aquarium or the decorations you place inside your tank can be a very enjoyable and rewarding experience. You’ll be able to create a truly custom setup designed precisely to your specifications.
Painted glass can make your tank look more natural or vibrant, and it can help add cohesiveness to your decor.
Aquarium-safe paint also allows you to add items to your tank that aren’t otherwise safe for aquarium use or intended for submersion. Many aquarists like to add flower pots, ceramic trinkets, or other non-aquarium decorations to their tanks.
These may leach chemicals into your water or break down in marine environments, but a coat of aquarium-safe paint can make them suitable for tank placement.
Lastly, if you’re going to paint anything that goes into your tank, you absolutely need to use a paint that is safe for aquariums. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating an unsafe and potentially deadly environment for your tank inhabitants.
How to Use Aquarium-Safe Paint?
Aquarium-safe paint can be used in a few different ways, depending on the type you choose and what you want to paint.
1. To Paint the Glass
Spray paint that is safe for tank use can simply be applied directly to dry glass and left to cure. You can prep your tank using painter’s tape and sheets of paper to protect areas you don’t want to be painted. The application should be made as smoothly and evenly as possible. You may need to apply a second or third coat for adequate coverage after the previous one dries.
If you have liquid paint, you can use a brush to apply it to the dry glass. You could also use a roller for a smoother, more even application. You can use painter’s tape to block off the trim around the top and any glass surfaces you want to remain clear.
In either case, let the paint dry for at least as long as the instructions on your paint recommend. We suggest waiting several days before adding water regardless of the manufacturer’s instructions, just to ensure that the paint is fully cured.
2. To Paint Decorations
Liquid paint is usually your best option for painting decorations because application with a brush allows for far more accuracy than a spray can.
Make sure your decoration is entirely dry and clean of dirt, dust, and other debris. Apply the aquarium-safe paint as desired with a brush.
If you’re painting a decoration that isn’t already intended for placement in an aquarium, make sure you cover all surfaces with aquarium-safe paint. Failing to do so could lead to the material breaking down over time and potentially poisoning your fish or killing the plants and bacteria in your aquarium.
How to Remove Aquarium Paint?
If you mess up during the application or you want to remove old aquarium paint from the glass before applying a new coat or color, the paint can usually be removed by scraping it off with a razor blade.
Never attempt to remove paint while your tank is full. Doing so could potentially leave your tank water open to contamination of chemicals trapped within the paint. Additionally, you may accidentally remove small chips of paint that your fish could swallow. Always empty your tank and dry it thoroughly before scraping paint off the glass.
To begin the removal process, run the razor blade over the painted area, making sure to hold it at about a 30-degree angle. As you remove the paint, be careful not to damage the silicone seal at the seams between glass panes on your aquarium. This could cause leaks in your tank.
How to Recognize a Fish Tank-Safe Paint?
Most paints that are made specifically for safe use in aquariums are labeled as such. If you’re purchasing tank paint from a pet supply store, check the label. More often than not, you’ll see that it’s marked as safe for fish, plants, and bacteria.
Checking to see if a paint is safe for your aquarium is much more challenging if you’re purchasing it online or from a home improvement store. These paints won’t be marked specifically for use in fish tanks.
However, if a paint is marked as food safe or suitable for use in “potable” applications, the paint is safe for your aquarium. These labels mean they are approved for contact with human food and won’t leach chemicals into your water.
Aquarium-Safe Paint FAQs
Can You Paint the Inside of an Aquarium?
Yes, you can. However, you can’t use all types of paint.
Painting your aquarium’s inner walls is an excellent way to add a natural or custom appearance to your tank or match your room or tank decorations. However, you should only use a food-safe or aquarium-safe paint, as these won’t release harmful chemicals into your tank water.
Should I Paint the Back of My Aquarium?
Many aquarists choose to paint their tank’s rear wall to add depth and a custom appearance to their setup. While you have the option to paint the interior or exterior of the rear glass, the interior is usually preferred, provided you use aquarium-safe paint.
Since the exterior of the wall is exposed, the paint is more likely to get scratched or damaged, requiring touch-ups or full repainting. Painting the interior of the glass will help keep your paint job better protected.
What Color is Best for an Aquarium Background?
The color you choose for your tank’s background is personal preference, so you can get creative or match your room or tank decorations.
With that being said, most fish will feel safest and most comfortable with colors that mimic their natural habitat. Blues, light browns, greens, and cream colors are best to help keep fish stress levels at a minimum.
Additionally, darker colors like black and blue can make your fish look more vibrant, especially Roseline Sharks, and colorful in comparison, improving the aesthetic of your tank.
Can You Paint Aquarium Ornaments?
Aquarium ornaments can be painted and placed in your tank, as long as you use an aquarium-safe paint.
If the decoration wasn’t originally intended for placement in an aquarium, make sure to cover the entire surface with aquarium-safe paint to prevent chemicals from making their way into your water.
Can You Paint Aquarium Trim?
The trim around your aquarium can be painted without any issue, but we recommend you still use an aquarium-safe paint. Doing so will ensure that the paint is waterproof and won’t get damaged if it comes in contact with the nearby water. Additionally, aquarium-safe paint on your trim will help prevent contamination if there is contact with the tank water at any point.
What is the Best Aquarium-Safe Paint for My Tank?
Whether you’re painting the glass inside your tank, decorations, or the trim around the outside of your aquarium, you should use an aquarium-safe paint. This type of paint will stand up to constant exposure to water and won’t leach harmful and potentially deadly chemicals into your water.
Aquarium-safe paints are all intended for different uses, so there is no single paint that is ideal for all aquarium applications. However, our overall favorite aquarium-safe paint is the Krylon K02333007 Fusion Spray Paint. It’s easy to apply, provides a striking, natural color for your setup, and it’s entirely safe for plants, fish, and bacteria once it dries.