Aquarium safe paint

rachelguthrieFebruary 11, 2009


I was told that acrylic latex paint is safe for fish. I have a castle, purchased at Pets Mart, and the paint is falling off. I need to repaint it. I do not want to spend $75.00 on 1 gallon of Sweetwater epoxy paint just to cover up a few spots. So, I'm intrigued with the acrylic latex idea. What brand name is best? Where can I get it? Anyone who has done this alreday, please advise me.

Thank you.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woeisme(z7b NC)

I have never done this but there may be a few options to explore.
I would guess that any epoxy paint that is safe for potable water and withstands submersion in water would be acceptable. usually epoxy is only toxic when wet, but is inert when it cures. Check the labeling on the paint. There is paint that is used for dishware that is "food safe" I would check for water submersion capabilities of that stuff though. As long as it's non-toxic even if it flakes I would it's still safe to use. You could also use any type of paint you want, but it would have to be totally sealed with an epoxy coating that is both potable water and submersible. Another option is to use an epoxy like I just mentioned as a "glue". Then aquarium safe sand or gravel on the wet epoxy for a "natural" look. After a quick search to see iof there was anything that would jar my memory, Krylon brand a paint called "Fusion" is supposed to be safe. I think I have seen this stuff at Walmart or HD for plastic deck furniture. Hope this helps or gives you a few ideas. Check back when you find something suitable, I'd be interested to know.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 1:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree with Woe. Check the label.

However, I do know someone who used Krylon Fusion to paint the top and bottom frame on a tank. It's never flaked and as some of it is inside the frame, the water washes over it regularly. It houses a breeding pair of Discus that have reared more than a few spawns in it since he set it up.

Also check out acrylic craft paint. If it's labeled "100% acrylic." it should be perfectly safe. Just let it cure completely before putting into your tank. Dry isn't necessarially cured, BTW. At least a few days. Better- a full week, to be sure.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 4:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Have generally found that acrylic latex to be as good as two part epoxy for about a third the cost. Have used it both SW ,FW as well as "rocks" made from expanding foam in waterfalls. One setup dates from 1995.Of 18 cardinal tetras
and 5 clown loaches still have 12 cardinals and 4 Clowns.
Would say the paint and the X foam are not very toxic?? lol One surpising result.both encrusting corals and chinese algae eaters LOVE the stuff. They will carefully scrape the paint off lol
The more expensive brands seem to hold up better and have the greatest choice of colors in small amounts. "Patio Paint " works well . gary

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 4:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm relieved to hear that someone has used the acrylic latex paint safely in a tank, because I too have a decoration with the paint flaking off that's been sitting in a closet for several years now and I'd like to be able to use it.

But I don't know that I agree about any acrylic latex being as tough as 2 part epoxy. I helped a friend paint the concrete block walls of the walk in cages in her commercial kennel with 2 part epoxy some years ago and even with her monster pressure washer blasting away at them after every guest, it's still intact. I seriously doubt that any acrylic latex would hold up to the same abuse, or that a pleco could eat it off a decoration either.

I also recall our mad dashes to get the stuff mixed and on the walls before it set up in the bucket, and how she ended up with a far shorter haircut than her usual afterwards, so don't know that I would want to mess with the stuff again for any project larger then a tank decoration.

However: If a decoration were painted with acrylic latex and cured: could it be then top coated with a CLEAR 2 part epoxy to prevent flaking that might induce potential gastric distress in a fish, even if it's isn't toxic?

I'll have to check on what's available. It might be the ultimate solution for my flaked decoration as well as Rachelguthrie's.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 1:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
paparoseman(z8 WA. PO.)

Years ago I made a spraybar out of PVC . I painted it with medium green paint used to paint model cars and military tanks. The paint never flaked and caused no problems.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 8:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you everyone for your advise. I went to Wal-Mart, but was not very impressed with any of their paint. Nothing in the craft department said 100% acrylic or "food safe." Krylon was the spray paint type, which I think, would make an awful mess. The castle is painted with many shades of blue. I need to paint brush whatever I do. I think I'll go to Hobby Lobby and see what they have.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 9:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

If you find a paint labeled "food safe" I'd like to hear about the brand and particularly the
BW Wouldn't argue the two part epoxy is tougher than acrylic .IME it's just not worth the difference in price or steps in application. Have had no toxic issures with acrylic latex , have some underwater as well as in abrasive situations that is still holding after 10 years. There are chips but then I've had epoxy also chip lol
Only fish I've had a problem with is Chinese algae eaters . They seem attracted to the acrylic unlike plecoes or loaches. Are they actually eating the paint or just scraping it off?? In either case it has not proved to be toxic.
BTW I specificly asked manufacturers of both "great stuff" and acrylics about toxic issues . Both replies boiled down to "May or may not be toxic would not recommend the product in any situation where it comes in contact with food for either humans or animals" At the same time we know of no research directly linking them to "Side effects. Any use in this manner is stickly at the risk of the consumer" lol You think that's lawyer speak for "We don't want no lawsuits!!! gary

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 6:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have never seen any paint labeled food safe, but for less than $1.50 per 2 oz. bottle, you can buy acrylic paint in any craft store in 100's of colors, although all you really need to make every color in the spectrum is white, black, red, yellow and blue.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 9:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woeisme(z7b NC)

There are "food safe" paints used for dishes and glassware. I remember some of the neighbors kids had kits with plates, markers and paints in them. They had to be fired in an oven, but a home oven, not a kiln or professional one. They quite possibly could be at Hobby Lobby, Michael's or other craft stores. There is also food safe paints used for the inside of potable water tanks.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 9:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fagannutsy(North New Jersey)

How about swimming pool paint

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 5:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hello, Haven't posted in years but was searching for something and came across this thread (hello Woeisme - we used to chat)

(see last part of post for "solutions")

My books long packed but am going to post this (excuse any typos)... The material on this is way beyond the scope of this forum. Background in pre vet/zoo sciences, and decades of work as sculpturess in materials and most salient ended up with chemical injury due to exposure to these very classes of materials - some more some less toxic.

I was paralyzed, internal bleeding, multi organ breakdown so on so forth and did research on the way "down" and was vegetative for many years. Only by my own research into alternative therapies can I now post here (ie am functional).

As an artist I exposed myself and was exposed (schools, colleges) to a great many materials (now most don't know this but there are brand names for most classes of these products - read OSHA booklets on chemical properties, toxicity, and brand names. One basically has to understand human anatomy and physiology, neurotoxicology and other related fields to understand what these chemicals do to our systems (I had just been admitted to NYU for Masters in allied Health Field).

By law, with a Doctor's letter one is supposed to be able to obtain a MSDS - many companies never complied (material safety data sheet). (many companies lie outright about the safety of their products btw, the EPA is not the best barometer). Most of these are not only toxic when not cured, but even after they are (although the harder the material the less it outgasses over time - all plastics continue to out gas over time) I studied plastics and resins for years (but books long ago packed). Resins are of a great variety, but acrylic is not the same at all as resins. (although there are acrylic resins) There are hundreds of different products and one must obtain the MSDS to know exactly what is being discussed.

Resins range from pressure/heat cured (hardest, strongest and industrial use mainly) to the over the counter two part (or even one part). Two part is harder and usually stronger then one part (the exothermic quality ie heat makes it so due to it's properties). Acrylic is from an entirely different class.

One has to get the chemistry of these products then look up each chemical and see what it does to the various systems. None, I repeat none are completely safe.

Smaller organisms are more vulnerable then larger (think canary in the cave.) That said, many toxicity affects (built up over time and exposure duration) do not show up as drastically in short lived creatures verses longer lived ones.

I would never allow a creature to digest any "inert" plastic or acrylic simply due to it's ability (will not be digested) to clog it's system btw. And that's the problem with the softer acrylic - it breaks down in water over time (when wet water is it's solvent, when dry achohol, but that said, all things even rock over time can be broken down by water, and it is soft enough in property for this to occur inside the aquarium - over time).

Remember as well - just because a product does not smell bad, does not mean it is not harmful.

The foams are also toxic and break down over time (pretty fast actually) I read of several diy aquarium projects later becoming messes. The softer the product the more breakdown and toxic. Two part epoxy is most definitely more durable but again depends on product ie industrial acrylic resin verses craft epoxy (hundreds of diff products as Woesime states read the label - then look up the properties. Also realize what the EPA and our gov allows, allows a certain number of deaths per types of exposures (it gets worse, but don't believe everything you read)

If one uses acrylic - esp a small part just MHO and suggestion, once dried, apply a thin layer or to of silicone.

That will solve that situation easily.

Same with the harder two part epoxy resin. A thin smear (invisible) will seal "cure or skin coat" and will prevent exposure of water to product.

When I used the two part putty I applied silicone then a layer of sand to further disguise, but for me this fit the project.

Note the part of the article that mentions "sensitizers"... most of these chemicals fall into one or both categories of synthesizers (put to sleep like I was) and or sensitizers (once a certain amount of exposure, later, after much cell damage is done, (can be one big exposure or many small ones over time) then you are sensitized - meaning life threatening reactions to smaller and smaller exposures (so small most would not notice).

Sorry to be so long winded. Like most, I didn't give many of these products much thought - until I had to! lol (well sorta)

There is a great book:

Artist Beware, Updated and Revised: The Hazards in Working with All Art and Craft Materials and the Precautions Every Artist and Craftsperson Should Take (Paperback)
by Michael McCann PhD CIH (Author) "Vinyl chloride, asbestos, benzene, lead, cigarettes, and now art and craft materials?..." (more)



Q: Is there a difference between polyester, acrylic and epoxy resins?

A: Acrylic resin (but not acrylic emulsion, which is the basis of acrylic paint) is a thermoplastic, which means it is one of a group of plastics which can be heated and manipulated repeatedly, whereas polyester resin and epoxy are thermosetting plastics, which use heat or a catalyst to solidfy into a solid mass that won't melt down.

Acrylic is mixed from acrylic polymer, a dry powder, a methyl methacrylate monomer, a thin liquid, and usually an organic peroxide hardener of some sort. If pieces of any size are contemplated, an autoclave or hydraulic press is necessary for reducing air-bubbles and counteracting the internal stresses created by the strongly exothermic reaction. The dust is toxic, as is the monomer and its vapors. And the organic peroxides are especially poisonous, some of them being explosive and others causing instant blindness if they get in ones eyes.

Polyester resin, a syrupy clear liquid, is mixed with a small but variable amount of a strong catalyst, which causes the curing mass to heat up (and to craze if you've added too much.) It is versatile stuff, being useful for coating, casting, and building up composites, usually in conjunction with fiberglass cloth.

It is not as hard or as clear as acrylic, having a somewhat yellowish tinge to it. And it- and especially the catalyst- is also highly toxic, and is persistantly evil-smelling as well.

Epoxy resin works similarly, doesn't smell as bad, but it -and the hardener that makes it set- is a sensitizer, meaning that you can get a nasty allergic reaction after repeated exposure. Some hardeners are not as bad as others in this respect. Epoxy won't set water-clear like acrylic, and doesn't resist sunlight (UV) degradation as well, but works better with high-tech cloths, like Kevlar and graphite.

Almost any dry pigment (with a few exceptions- test first on a small scale) can be used to color these resins, as well as various inert fillers which also add color; there are also special polyester dyes available. It can be made opaque or transparent- acrylic is used for casting "plexiglas" sheets, among other clear things.

Be very careful when using any of these materials: these are generally considered industrial rather than art supplies, and you are expected to know how to protect yourself from their harmful effects. If you don't have the proper facilities for dealing with them, consider using safer alternative systems.


All that said - I've found some "safer" solutions, but as the original poster noted many are of a larger more expensive quantity (pond paint so on).

Again, use artist paints in tube (cheapest) and after dried (give it a few more days) thin smear of aquarium silicone.

Same for any expoxy.

Car model (hobby) enamel - small amounts sold and not expensive... again thin smear of silicone. Enamels, epoxies are more toxic but more durable then acrylic.

(I painted the back of many of my aquariums with fine acrylic artist paint - all I had, and was surprised when I was letting the tank soak in the tub that later the acrylic was water logged and was peeling off. Again the water is not a dried acrylic solvent but it can and will flake, peel so on. Can not will. I let it dry and patted it back down!)

I have used two part epoxy (plumbers "putty", which I am pretty sure is what is being sold online for marine coral projects) I used this to set rocks over hard plastic (amazing strength and dries fast). To be sure, I used a thin coat of silicone over it to seal it once it was hardened and a week of curing.

I've just used "bondo" to seal an expensive break in a gigantic acrylic globe (I never work with any of these but did in this case due to globe costing over 250 originally and unlike the exposures at work with no safety precautions, I took them, 3rd tier mask, flooded with outgoing fan so on)(an extremely toxic product and in the same field of floor strippers so on) (btw, many perfumes and colognes, fabric soaps and softeners are of the same petrolium based class, and hence the chemically injured being "allergic" to them.)

I am/was looking for a smaller amount of "safe" (relatively speaking) paint to coat this ugly pink color.

I tested the white plastic mesh (to allow for light to come in) and wasn't sure, and thought a neutral grey would maybe be ok?

I am planning a moss mesh wall and have several large moss wood pieces which will go infront, so If I do not find a smaller amount of "pond" paint (I may call and ask for a sample, lol) I will either let the moss hide most of the ugly... or use silicone and the mesh or both.

Here are some thoughts though.

One can always use paint then when dried and more (it takes as someone mentioned longer to cure) apply a thin layer of silicone. This will seal it and works to protect the "skin" of the cure, and stop any further out gassing regardless of how minuscule.

Here is a product I used long ago when making my huge interior water fountain (hypertufa) pond. It is fantastic!

They have a sample package. (see second link) and is what I may order to cover my ugly bondo and seal any toxicity. It is rubber based.

Mini Sample Pack
Contains enough PermaFlex to coat 7.5 sq (2 coats)
Contains enough LRB/TAV mixture to apply a 1" dia. bead 2Â long

1/2 Pint PermaFlex
1/2 Pint LRB (Liquid Rubber Base)
1/4 Pint TAV (Thickening Activator)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 6:51PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
newbie goldfish owner 'won' goldfish at fair & life is not good
Hi. I searched your forums 1st, but did not see exactly...
Weird Betta Behavior
Hey y'all. I have a question about my betta. He has...
Betta fish and heaters
Hi, I just bought a little betta fish. I appsolutly...
Black moor problems
My black moor had one of his eyes pop out, so I started...
55 Gal Salt Water Aquarium for Sale
The 55 gal acrylic aquarium includes: (4) fans, (1)...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™