DIY aquarium in glass jar – A nice decoration for your shelf

Sometimes having a tank with real fish just isn’t in the cards. Perhaps you travel for work or live on the road. No matter the reason, this mason jar aquarium project is fun for the whole family and can make wonderful decorations for a window sill or bathroom surround.

A DIY fake aquarium is the best alternative to real fish, and in some ways, it’s even better. Once you have finished assembling it, you will have a beautiful blue sea friends tank that does not require any maintenance.

what will you need

This fish tank does not require filters, chemicals, or any of the other things that traditional aquariums do. But there are a few things you’ll need to make this simulated aquarium a reality.

  • Jars with Lids – I used a ball jar and a jar I recycled from some Farmer’s Market pickled beets I bought a few seasons ago. I always save my jars and lids because I know I will eventually put them to good use, even if they end up being drinking glasses.
  • Aquarium Pebbles -When I decided to make this, I noticed I didn’t have any aquarium pebbles, but I remembered I had some rocks that I use when potting, so I decided to use those. This was not the best idea, which I will talk about later. But, for a clean look, get pebbles designed specifically for aquariums.
  • aquarium plants
  • Toy fish or sea creatures
  • Glycerin – This will help the glitter float on the water.
  • Water – Tap water can look cloudy, but you can filter it first if you want. I filled a used bottle from the tap.
  • Glitter – It had various shades of blue glitter, as you can see in the picture, but I went with water since it’s supposed to be an aquarium.
  • Blue Food Coloring

How to make a fake aquarium

To create this interesting and unique craft, all you need to do is do the following.

Step one

Put the pebbles in the jar. As I mentioned, I used stones for landscaping and that was a mistake because they are dirty and dusty, so when I put the water in, which is still a few steps away, it was dirty. So, I had to drain it all and rinse the rocks with a colander.

I still found that rocks used to be a problem, so I’ll risk redundancy when I say to make sure you get the kind of pebbles needed for an aquarium.

Second step

Now it’s time to place your plants in the jars.

I’d recommend trying to secure them under the pebbles, but all your work doing so will be wasted effort, which you’ll see in a few minutes.

I decided to only use one plant per jar, but this is where you can let your imagination run wild. Looking back, I wish I had put in a lot more to give the jars that deep seaweed look.

Step three

Fill your jars with water. This is the part that I had to repeat several times. And, no matter how many times I rinsed my rocks, they were dirty. If you want to use landscaping rocks, I would suggest cleaning them first.

Also be careful not to fill the jars too high with water. You want to leave room to add fish and glitter, plus there should be air space once you close the lid so you can shake it when you want to see the glitter float.

Step four

Time to add your fish. This was one of the most challenging steps in this task. The fish did not want to stay on top and seemed to continually plummet onto the rocks. I tried to put them in the middle of the plants to hold them but they always found their way back to the bottom of the tank.

step five

Add your food coloring. As with any type of coloring medium, the more you add to the water, the darker your tank will become. I made a few drops for the larger jar but lost control with the smaller jar and the results were water so dark I could barely see anything inside my aquarium.

To fix that, I poured in some colored water and added clear until the water took on the tint I was looking for.

step six

Add the shine. I only added a tiny bit and when it came time to shake the jar I could barely see it. So don’t be shy about the glitter. Since this aquarium is fake, you don’t have to stick with blue or aqua glitter. You can create an underwater world where the water is yellow with a purple glow hanging off it. The details are completely up to you.

step seven

Now it’s time to add the glycerin. This additive is perfectly safe to use but it is not required, if you decide to remove this step it is completely up to you.

But the instructions I read said that a few drops of glycerin was enough to help the glitter float on water. I found it took quite a bit longer than that, but I’m not complaining. He had a lot and didn’t plan to use it for anything else.

step eight

Seal that lid and then shake that jar.

Ideally, the water should have moved but, as I was shaking, I realized that I never hit anything, and all my pebbles, my plant, my fish and my glitter, went flying through the water and the contents of the jar seemed confused when I was done.

When I put the jar down, the plant was upside down and the fish were buried under the pebbles. This is hardly how most people would want their fish tank to look. I opened them and reached in to fix the fish. This was the point where I learned the hard way about the water level.


While this project didn’t turn out as perfect as I would have liked, I still love my new fake aquariums and plan on displaying them for quite some time. I would suggest finding a way to at least secure the plant so that the only things that move with the water when you shake it are the stones, fish, and glitter.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this post on how to make a simulated aquarium. Eating fish is good for stress relief and if you can’t eat the real thing, this might be a suitable substitute.

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