Recycle an old aquarium into something new!

While fish have the reputation of being low-maintenance, some find that keeping an aquarium healthy and happy is more work than they’ve bargained for. If this happens, what is one to do with the tank itself? Before you decide to throw or give away an old fish tank, check out these ideas for fishless uses that can breathe new life into an aquarium.

Try reptiles or amphibians.

Snakes, lizards, frogs and turtles are all pets that are fit for an aquarium habitat. With the exception of turtles, which enjoy some time in the water, most reptiles will be happy in a warm, dry tank. Frogs will also need a nice amount of water, although some are strictly aquatic.

Build a terrarium.

Let’s say you’re not in the mood to raise any more animals–how about plants? A terrarium makes for a low-maintenance garden you can keep in your home, like a tiny greenhouse. They’re also fun to make!

First, pick some small, humidity-tolerant plants that you’d like to use. After cleaning your aquarium, throw in some gravel and activated charcoal for drainage. Add a layer of moss, then soil. Now that your foundation is set, you can add your plants and whichever decorations you like. Finally, add a small helping of water.

It’s up to you if you want to cover your aquarium; if uncovered, be sure to water about once a week. If yours is closed, be sure to let some fresh air inside every now and then. And don’t forget to trim away any sick or dead plants.

Make a holiday display.

If a holiday is coming up, try to think of fun seasonal displays. For example, put a layer of cotton down with a wintry village display for December. You can make a Halloween village as well, substituting Spanish moss for snow and using spooky model homes instead. For springtime, we’ve shown you how to make a fun Easter centerpiece that can be done with a square tank.

Make a candle display.

You can make a beautiful display of candles very quickly and easily with your old aquarium. Set down a good layer of stones or sand, then arrange candles of varying heights in the center of the aquarium. Voila! A glass-enclosed display makes this decoration safer than free-standing candles.

Turn it into a table.

If your aquarium is large, you can turn it into a coffee or end table. The aquarium will serve as a base, so fill it with whatever you see fit–stones are a nice option, but you can get creative with whatever you have lying around the house. Whatever you choose, you’ll want it to be sturdy.

Once your base is full, simply throw  stained or varnished wood on top.

Grow an indoor herb garden.

An aquarium makes for a great container for a small herb garden that you can keep within reach in your kitchen! Pick out herbs you find yourself using often, and pot them in your repurposed glass planter. For a drainage layer under the soil, follow the directions in our terrarium tip. Be sure to put your garden in the sunlight!

Show off a collection.

Collectors can use an empty aquarium as a display case to show off whatever they would like. Do you have a rock collection, insect collection or something else? This is a great way for kids to proudly display a collection they’ve worked on, and can have educational value depending on what’s put inside.

Make a worm farm.

It may sound gross, but a worm farm will produce great, natural fertilizer for your organic garden. All you’ll need to do to give them a happy habitat is layer moist, shredded newspaper followed by garden soil. Red worms are great for farming, so move them into your aquarium and place some fruit and vegetable scraps for them to feed on. Avoid citrus fruits and other acidic food, and don’t add in meat that can spoil and attract flies.


This post is adapted from the March 15, 2014 episode of Home Wizards that was released on iTunes March 16, 2014. You can find this segment during hour one of the podcast.