Is Acrylic Paint Safe For Aquariums? (Fish Safe Painting)

Many fish owners want to make the best habitat for their pets while creating a beautiful display for visitors.

Painting aquarium decorations are a great way to create a colorful scene.

We’ll be answering the question, “is acrylic paint safe for aquariums?” to help you find the best possible paint products for your fish. 

Before answering this question, we need to know what acrylic paint is. Three ingredients make up paint: acrylic pigment, acrylic binder, and acrylic vehicle.

The acrylic pigment is how paints get their bright colors. You can add Quickrete Liquid Concrete Paint to Drylok to add color to it and also ensure that it's safe paint to be used within a fish tank.

It can be natural or synthetic. Acrylic binder holds the pigment in place when the spray paint dries and protects the spray paint after it dries. The acrylic vehicle transports the binder and the color. In this case, the vehicle is water. 

All levels of artists use acrylic spray paints, from professionals to beginners. Craft enthusiasts often use these paints for projects as well. There are varying grades of paint available depending on your project. 

High-level artists often use professional-grade acrylic paints. Lower-grade paint is popular with beginners, hobbyists, and kids. 

Now that we know what acrylic paint is and who typically uses it, we can explore the question, “is acrylic paint safe aquarium paint?” For the most part, all acrylic paints are non-toxic paint because they are solvent-free, low-odor, and non-flammable. 

But, as we mentioned earlier, water is the vehicle transport in acrylic paints. This means that fish flakes off when submerged in water for a long time. 

So, is water-based acrylic paint toxic for fish? The paint itself does not release toxins into the water of an aquarium. But the fish may confuse the peeled-off flakes for food.

It is poisonous to fish if ingested. Not only will your fish be at risk, but your decorations will slowly deteriorate as well. 

Unfortunately, some popular spray paint brands like Americana acrylic paint are toxic for fish because they contain harmful chemicals or toxic chemicals. And so those brands are not suitable for paint inside an aquarium. 

The paint can kill fish, but not due to toxins in the water. It is toxic to fish when ingested. 

The most widely used and recommended to apply clear coat of all in one spray paint in your aquarium is the Krylon Fusion paint. Krylon fusion paint is specifically designed for reef tanks. It is ideal for painting plastics or pvc pipes, it isn't ideal for glass.

You can even go with matte paint to completely block out any light. After drying the final coat you can also use various kinds of epoxy coating as sealant for ensuring more safety.

We recommend buying the aquarium ornaments considering your color taste so that you don't end up scratching your head to find aquarium-safe paint.

Acrylic Paint & Aquariums

How To Find A Safe Paint For Fish Tanks

Is acrylic paint safe for fish tanks? Unfortunately, not all paints are aquarium safe paint and can't be used for painting fish tanks.  

Not not all paint brands are best to use in aquarium. The best aquarium safe paint will not flake off when submerged underwater for long periods. Best aquarium safe paints do not emit toxins either and are all around safe for fish in an aquarium. 

You can also find epoxy paint. But you need to follow the proper directions before returning your fish to the water after using it. Pond Armor is an epoxy-based paint specifically used in fish ponds and aquariums. To prevent harming your fish, you must let it cure before putting water back in. 

Sealants are another option for ensuring your fish's safety while spray painting their aquarium. Use a waterproof sealant and allow it to cure to prevent paint chips, flaking, and releasing toxins. Just be sure to double-check that the sealant is non-toxic as well to make them aquarium safe paints. 

How To Correctly Paint An Aquarium 

If you’d like to spray paint plastic to aquarium backgrounds, it is not recommended to paint on the aquarium glass inside the tank.

To ensure your fish’s safety, paint on the outside of the tank instead.

Exterior acrylic paint is not aquarium safe or not preferable to use inside of the fish tank. To do this, you'll need the below tools. 

  • Fish tank 
  • Your choice of paint - acrylic, epoxy, spray paint, etc. (following fish safety guidelines) 
  • Paint roller or large paintbrush 
  • Sealant 
  • Newspaper, cardboard, or an old cloth to place under the tank as you paint 

Painting the tank is pretty simple. 

  • 1
    Choose your color and use a paint roller or paintbrush to spread even coats on the glass 
  • 2
    Allow the acrylic paint to dry between layers 
  • 3
    Add the sealant 
  • 4
    Allow to cure (this usually takes around a week) 

To paint decorations for the inside of your aquarium, you’ll need to gather the same items as above. You'll also need sandpaper, alcohol wipes, primer, and smaller paintbrushes. 

Now you can follow the below steps to paint your decorations! 

  • 1
    Prep your decor by wiping it down with the alcohol pads/wipes to clean off any dirt 
  • 2
    Optional: Sand and/or prime your decor for better paint adhesion 
  • 3
    Apply thin layers of paint using your paintbrush, allowing it to dry between layers. Depending on how opaque you want the color, add between 2-7 paint layers. 
  • 4
    Allow the paint to cure/dry 
  • 5
    Add the sealant 
  • 6
    Allow the sealant to cure (this usually takes around a week) 
  • 7
    Wash off the decor with unchlorinated water (to avoid contaminating the aquarium’s PH balance 
  • 8
    Place decor in your tank 
Bottles of Acrylic Paint

What Should You Do If You Use The Wrong Paint

If you're reading this and thinking, "I messed up," here's what you can do to save your aquarium! You can try using dish soap and water to break down the paint.

But depending on the type of paint used, it may be more beneficial and time-saving to buy new decor instead. 

To remove paint off the glass in an aquarium, you can use a paint scraper. We suggest softening the paint first by using acetone.

Make sure to move your fish into a clean and safe habitat before attempting to remove paint from the old aquarium. 

Common Aquarium Painting Questions 

What color is best for an aquarium background? 

Many aquarium builders use black for a background to allow the fish to stand out better. However, if an aquarium has more dark-colored fish, green is a perfect color to use instead. It allows the fish to pop without being too bright and distracting in the background. 

What type of paint is toxic to fish? 

Paint that is not labeled as waterproof, non-toxic and animal/pet safe will be toxic to fish, dogs, cats, birds and other pets. Stay away from paint labeled as “mold-resistant” as well. This is particularly toxic in aquariums. 


So, is acrylic paint toxic to fish? Some are, and some aren’t. You have to do research on your chosen brand. Acrylic paint can be safe for aquariums, but only if used correctly. 

Never use brands that do not specify that they are non-toxic in your aquarium paint. Use a non toxic acrylic paint, animal-safe sealant if you want to paint your aquarium or decor. That way, you can have a beautiful aquarium and keep your fish safe.