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Is Acrylic Paint for Aquarium Safe?

Luxurious aquariums require much time, money, attention, and expertise. A simple mistake like using inadequate paint for the aquarium’s background can endanger aquatic life. One thing is sure, oil-based paints contain toxic chemicals harmful to all water life. But is acrylic paint for aquarium safe for your business’s underwater museum?

Let’s find out how to make your high-end acrylic aquarium project a safe place for fish and plants by using the right paint.

Is Acrylic Paint for Aquarium Safe?

Your desire to paint your showpiece aquarium might cause you to lose your fish or other animals. Painting your aquarium is not an easy feat. You must understand that your vision requires more knowledge about the paint’s toxicity.

Generally looking, every type of paint that doesn’t contain toxic chemicals is safe for aquarium use. More often than not, epoxy, latex, shellac, and some acrylic paints are safe for aquatic life.

Hence, is acrylic paint for aquarium safe? If you are wondering, you will find the answer in the ingredients of the paint.

Not all acrylic paints are safe for aquarium use. Some acrylic paints are made with harmful pigments, and you should avoid using them in your aquarium.

It is important to research the brand you would like to use and ensure they are specifically formulated for aquariums.

You can use water-based and latex-based acrylic paints for your luxurious aquarium. They don’t typically contain toxic chemicals that might harm your fish, invertebrates, or live plants.

Acrylic Paint for Aquarium
Source: / Photo Contributor: jannoon028

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic to Fish?

Bear in mind that the acrylic paint isn’t toxic to fish only if it is applied to the aquarium correctly and in perfect condition. The downside of acrylic paint is that it won’t last a very long time.

While the water-based acrylic paint isn’t hazardous for fish, it might become softer after a while. If you notice the paint is starting to crack or flake, you must take it off immediately.

Considering their water-soluble nature, chances are it will start to flake off. Fish can mistake the flake-off paint for food which can endanger their well-being.

Is Acrylic Paint Good for Reef Aquariums?

The painting of saltwater setups differs from the one used for freshwater aquariums. Saltwater tends to dissolve paint, making the aquarium environment deadly for the fish.

It is not recommended to paint the interior of your saltwater tank. But if necessary, check the paint specifications and get a salt-resistant one.

Painting Your Luxurious Aquarium

Remember that non-toxic acrylic paint is only safe to use in aquariums when it is applied properly. Plus, it needs to be completely dry before the first water contact.

We recommend you consult a professional before using paint on your high-quality acrylic displays and gallery aquariums. Contact your manufacturer if you want to change the background or put a new decoration into your premium acrylic aquarium.

However, if you still decide to do it yourself, here are some rules you should follow.

  • Clean the aquarium thoroughly. For this, you can use liquid soap, isopropyl alcohol, or acetone.
  • Let the aquarium dry off before painting.
  • You might want to consider using sandpaper and primer before applying the acrylic paint.
  • Read the instructions that come with the acrylic paint and use a thick paintbrush for the best results. Usually, you should apply at least two or three coats. However, you should completely dry off each layer before applying another coat of paint.
  • Let the paint cure completely. We recommend waiting at least a week before filling the aquarium and putting your fish in it.
  • Finally, wash the aquarium with dechlorinated water.

Do occasional visual inspections and check if the paint has any cracks or has started flaking. 

If you are painting the background of your aquarium, it might be best to paint the outside instead of the inside. That way, you won’t endanger your fish and plants.

Painting Your Luxurious Aquarium
Source: / Photo Contributor: dimakig

How to Determine If the Acrylic Paint Is Safe for an Aquarium?

Not every acrylic paint is safe for aquariums. There are acrylic paint varieties that contain chemicals that can endanger aquatic life.

The first rule for buying aquarium-friendly acrylic paint is to seek non-toxic and water-based products. Look for paint that is labeled as “non-toxic”, “aquarium safe”, or “animal safe”.

Additionally, you might want to get an aquarium paint labeled “food safe”. These types of paints are made from ingredients that are safe for fish if they get in contact with them. 

Furthermore, the food-safe paints are manufactured with a special coating that evaporates when dry. 

Aside from the label, you should double-check the ingredients and avoid purchasing chemical-based acrylic paint.

You should especially stay away from paint that contains the following chemicals:

Next, you should avoid mold-resistant paint. While it might be tempting to use paint and not worry about mold, you should know that it harms fish. It has fungicides like thiabendazole, which can be deadly for fish. 

Paints with antifouling agents are also unsafe for the aquarium ecosystem.

Lastly, oil-based paints are not for aquarium use. It is more than clear that oil is hazardous waste, and you should never use it in any form in your aquarium.

Alternatives for Acrylic Paint for Aquariums

Acrylic paint is not your only option for painting your aquarium. As an alternative, you can use epoxy and latex paint. You can also use certain spray paint on your high-end aquarium.

Epoxy paint for aquarium use

Not only is the epoxy paint safe for your aquarium, but it can also be beneficial to the health of your fish. The epoxy resin keeps potential pathogens away, improving the water quality and making a safer living environment for your fish.

Epoxy is also beneficial for the well-being of your fish because it has high UV resistance. This is especially important if your aquarium display is located in a well-lighted place.

Another advantage of epoxy is that it is a surface where moss can’t grow. Epoxy paint will make cleaning your aquarium easier because you won’t have to spend much time cleaning unwanted plants.

Plus, the epoxy gives the aquarium surface a smooth finish which can be easy to maintain.

Ultimately, regarding durability, epoxy is one of the best choices because it is scratch and impact-resistant.

Latex paint for aquarium use

Latex paint is similar to acrylic paint. The latex paints are also water-based, making them suitable for aquarium use if they don’t contain harmful chemicals.

Latex paint is a good alternative to acrylic paint because it usually covers the surface in fewer coats. Latex paint dries quickly if applied on a dry and primed surface.

Additionally, latex paint is easy to clean and resists chalking. What’s more, latex paint is resistant to mildew and mold, making it a durable paint for aquariums.

Finally, the latex paint palette is usually richer than acrylics. There are different gloss finish options to choose from that will give your aquarium an extra modern look.

Spray paint for aquarium use

Spray paint is one of the quickest and easiest ways to paint your aquarium. However, you should find spray paint without toxic chemicals that are safe for aquariums.

Aside from non-toxic spray paint, you should use sprays that are manufactured to resist moisture.

Spray paints have many additional features. You can pick spray paints that have rust protection, strong adhesion, require no sanding, and are even resistant to peeling.

Spray paints come in a matte and glossy finish to meet your preferences. Additionally, you can choose between spray paints for freshwater and reef displays.


Is acrylic paint for aquarium safe? You can use acrylic paint in aquariums as long as it is water-based, non-toxic, and designed for aquarium use. Ensure you follow the application rules, and let it completely dry before you fill the aquarium with water.

Regarding the durability of acrylic paint, it is not widely used for aquariums. After a while, it might start to crack or flake off, endangering aquatic life. Consider using alternatives to acrylic paints.

We highly recommend hiring experts to paint your premium acrylic aquarium instead of doing it yourself and potentially harming your aquarium fish and plants.

There you have it; your dilemma is solved. You can now enjoy the beauty of the luxurious aquarium without worrying about the safety of the aquatic life.

Neal Moir

Neal Moir

is the owner at Titan Aquatic Exhibits and brings more than a decade in aquarium and acrylic pool wall manufacturing experience.

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