How to Make a Cardboard & Paper Aquarium

Things You'll Need

  • Cardboard box
  • Tempera paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Scraps of paper
  • Thread
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Butter knife
  • Rubber cement
  • Plastic food wrap
  • Gravel or sand
  • Scrap styrofoam
  • Silk leaves

Making a cardboard and paper aquarium is a fun project, whether your child is just looking for a way to artistically express himself, or whether it is part of an educational unit on fish or sea life. This craft is easy to do and requires inexpensive materials and scraps.

Collect some different types of paper scraps for this craft, such as old wallpaper scraps, leftover wrapping paper, tissue paper, scrapbooking paper, and construction paper.

Find a box with a cover, such as a cardboard file box. Paint the outside of the box with tempera paints in whatever color you would like. Paint the outside part of the box cover as well.

Turn the box on its side. The opening will be the "front" of the aquarium, where the "glass" that you look through will be. The back of the fish tank is what used to be the bottom of the box. The floor of the fish tank is what used to be a side of the box.

Paint the inside of the box blue, or you can paint an underwater scene on the back wall. If you want it to sparkle, sprinkle a pinch of glitter onto the paint before it dries. If you prefer, you can glue paper inside the walls of the box instead of painting it.

Create your fish in one of two ways. The first way is to just freehand draw fish in any way you would like on your paper scraps. Draw or paint some details on them. The second way is to use a template with fish images from a craft store, or to find fish images in magazines, coloring books or the Internet and cut them out to be used as a template. Use them to trace the shapes onto your paper scraps.

Make your fish double-sided by decorating both the front and the back of the image, so that it is attractive no matter which side you are looking at.

Use some scrap Styrofoam and a butter knife to create some interesting fake rocks or coral. If you like, you can get fancy and carve something more intricate such as a treasure chest, sunken ship or undersea castle. Paint the Styrofoam with tempera paints to decorate them. Glue them with rubber cement to the floor of the fish tank, along with a few silk leaves for plants.

Cover the floor of the fish tank with a layer of rubber cement, or a thick paste. Spread it around any of the plants or Styrofoam shapes you may have used. Sprinkle a layer of gravel or sand onto it. Allow it to dry and shake off the excess.

Glue or tape a piece of thread to each fish. Vary the length of the thread. Tape the other end of the thread to the inside top of the fish tank so that they hang down and your fish appear to be floating inside the tank. Space them out sporadically.

Tape a piece of plastic food wrap to the front of the tank. Be sure to pull it taut so it looks like glass and you can easily see through it. Cover the top of the fish tank with the box cover.