Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dollhouse Aquarium...

So I’ve been wanting to make a “real” looking aquarium for awhile…a few experiments with different epoxy resins didn’t turn out quite so successful but I’ve finally done it I think.

Materials Needed:

-Course Sand/Tiny Gravel for substrate

-Clear Plastic Paperclip Holder
( $1.37 at Wal-Mart)

-2 Part Epoxy Resin

(I used an Acrylic Water Kit from the Floral dept. from
Wal-Mart, it's cheaper ($5.50) usually in stock as opposed to
many times I've gone in search of Castin' Craft Mix..
Essentially they are the same thing though--so either
one is fine for our purposes....)

-Tiny Shells/Rocks
(Can be found in Craft Dept or you could also use shell beads!)

-Plastic Plant Snips
(I just stole a few snips off of actual fake aquarium plants--plastic doesn't bleed the color like
cloth might, so I stuck strictly with plastic.

-Pewter Fish Charm
($1.47 at Hobby Lobby)
(Jewelry charms are great for can usually take a pair of nailclippers and snip the
hook right off....)

-Screw Base Bulbs
($3.99 at Hobby Lobby)
(two to a package, I used a single one)

First of all--this will take you a few days to make. If you've ever used epoxy before, you know that it takes 24-48 usually to set. If you didn't know know it know I guess =P

There are a couple of things I should also probably mention--working with this stuff can be a pain in the There are a couple of things I should also probably mention--working with this stuff can be a pain in the There are a couple of things I should also probably mention--working with this stuff can be a pain in the There are a couple of things I should also probably mention--working with this stuff can be a pain in the $&$ because of the possible mess you can make...You do need to be careful and should wear gloves when handling and glasses wouldn't be a bad idea either. I always tend to be a bit of a klutz and despite my being as careful as possible, I still manage to spill the stuff. It is caustic and can cause skin irritations and should be rinsed off immediately if it comes into contact with your skin. It's great to let the kiddos help decorate their tank, but when you begin working with the epoxy, that part should really be left up to mom and dad..

That being said...don't let my dire warnings scare you. It's just like working with cleaner or paint thinner....You're fine as long as you practice common sense precautions.


After removing the black lid and emptying the paperclips, I wiped out the inside of my clear plastic "tank"....I lined it with a thin layer (about 1/4' in thick) of crushed gravel I found by the accent stones/pebbles section of Wal-Mart. I wouldn't suggest fine sand as it may become mixed in with the resin and cause the final result to be cloudy. The finest gravel you can find works well (rinse it off first though) as it still has enough weight that it doesn't rise once you've added the epoxy.

The next step was adding small shells and pebbles. I used these shells and pebbles to anchor down tiny snippets of plastic plants which I simply shoved into the substrate. You may wish to superglue the snippets of plants to a tiny piece of gravel to ensure that it doesn't rise up when your epoxy is curing. I didn't do so as I was checking this pretty consistently to make sure everything stayed in place, but if you're unable to "babysit" your tank's progress, it will help prevent a "floating" plant in the end.

After I fixed my decorations exactly as I wanted them, I mixed up enough resin to partially fill my tank to midlevel. I spooned the epoxy mixture in and made sure that all my accent pieces were still in tact. I then unbent a paperclip and with a tiny dab of glue, attached the top of my fish charm's fin to the paperclip. After the glue dries, suspend the fish partially submerged in the epoxy resin and hang the paperclips edges of the side to support it. It's important to NOT get any epoxy on the part where the charm and paperclip are glued as you will need to removed the paperclip later. Word of warning--painting the charm may cause the paint colors to bleed into the epoxy mixture so I would use a substance that won't bleed or leave it as is...

Keep checking the tank to make sure nothing has shifted, you will need to poke things back into place if a plant has coming up from the bottom. After 24-48 the mix has usually hardened enough so that nothing will move any longer and you can add the final layer of epoxy.

Another thing worth noting---This method may or may not leave you with a noticable line. If you'd rather not risk the line, you can simply fill your tank up entirely the first time and simply suspend the fish from the top or try clear nylon thread to hang him halfway down. You will need to suspend the fish somehow or he will sink though.

So the paperclip top (the black part has a circular opening at the top...there are a couple of ways you can decide to finish it. You can run the light bulb cord under the edges and place in a corner of the top of the tank and leave it "open" on the top OR you can take a tiny round piece of wood and simply place the light inside the tank and cover with the wood. Paint the wood black and it will look seamless!

Grand total for materials I used is around $6.00....


Morgan said...

This is way too cool. I linked to it in my blog. I will definitely give this a try!

lmdm65 said...

This is the best miniature aquarium tutorial & or instructions I have found on the web ! Thanks again for the tips...

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, I really admire your creativity. Probably going to try this.

kathi said...

Very creative! Love it!

Anonymous said...

Very creative. Going to try this. Thanks!