Creative Ideas For Repurposing Empty Fish Tanks – Easy DIY!

Updated: | Author: Kierstie Miller | Affiliate links may be present.

There is something very satisfying about recycling an old piece of furniture and finding a new use for it. If you’re looking to repurpose a fish tank, there’s no shortage of options to breathe new life into it.

Whether you want a decorative new end table or a practical miniature ecosystem, there is a wide range of creative and unusual ideas for repurposing an old fish tank.

Decorative Ideas

If you can’t bring yourself to throw away a perfectly good tank just because you have an aquarium without fish, consider turning it into a new piece of decor for your home.

End Table or Coffee Table

If the structural integrity of the tank is still good and the glass doesn’t have any scratches, consider turning your old tank into a coffee table or end table.

You can make the theme whatever your heart desires. Purchase some decorative rocks, like these glow-in-the-dark ones, and some LED lights for a mystical garden theme. Or fill it with sand and shells for a beach theme.

Once you’ve filled the empty tank with your decorations, create a wood frame to place around it and add the top of the table. It’s not recommended to place the table top directly on the tank, as it could lead to it shattering.

Display Case

This is another simple idea and works well if you’re a collector of certain items or you have memorabilia you’d like to display.

Create your own museum-style display case by just arranging your items on the bottom of the tank. You can add wallpaper, lights, or paint the back panel to add your own touch. You can also glue down certain items to the bottom if you want to prevent them from moving.

Mount it on a wall using appropriate hardware, or keep it on a sturdy hallway table so you can show off your new creation.

Lightbox or Fairy Garden

This is a fun rainy day activity for kids, but lightboxes can also be used for permanent decor as well. Have them cut out shapes and designs on construction paper or use a pencil to poke holes in the paper to spell out their names.

Either glue or tape the paper on the inside of the tank, put the top back on, and add rope lights.

To turn your lightbox into a fairy garden, leave one pane of glass untouched and add whimsical elements like fairy figurines, plastic flowers, fake mushrooms, and rocks. Also, opt for delicate string lights instead of thick rope lights.

Then just turn off the lights and watch it glow.


This one requires a bit more work but the end result is stunning. Create a glass cage to envelop hanging lights to give your dining room an instant facelift. It’s important to note that the hardware you use needs to be able to withstand the weight of the fish tank.

You can either purchase a handful of decorative hanging lights or if the tank is large enough to fit around your current fixture, remove the bottom pane of glass and attach a sturdy cord to each of the four corners. Hang it up and you’re done!

Table Centerpiece

This works well if you’ve got a smaller, shorter empty fish tank. If you want, you can remove the bottom of the tank but it’s not always necessary. Purchase some stencils and glass paint to create any kind of design you want.

Place it around decorative candles for a modern farmhouse aesthetic. You can also swap out the decorations for seasonal ones, making them easily coordinate with your other holiday decorations.

Unusual Alternative Uses for Fish Tanks

Aside from unique decorative options, there are also practical uses for an empty tank.

Pretend Fish Tank

It might seem counterintuitive to set up a fish tank without fish, but if you simply want the aesthetic without the responsibility, setting up a faux fish tank is a viable alternative. This can also be useful for parents who wish to teach their kids about caring for a fish before purchasing an actual fish.

Set up your fake aquarium just as you would set up a real one with rocks and decorations. You can fill it with normal tap water and add a few drops of blue food coloring to give it a more realistic appearance.

When you’re done, purchase some toy fish and attach them to the top of the tank using a fishing line or thread. If you add an airstone (which creates the bubbles you see in fish tanks), your toy fish will seem to bob in the water, just like they are real!

If you want to teach kids to feed fish on a schedule, set a timer for them every day and give them a few grains of salt to sprinkle in the tank. It will dissolve easily without harming the display or settling.

Clean the tank thoroughly to remove any salt deposits and food coloring before transitioning to live fish.

Miniature Terrarium or Greenhouse

City apartments and harsh climates can make it difficult for many people to have a physical in-ground garden. Small space gardening is a popular option for those who live in areas without much access to useful land.

If the tank has been used, clean it thoroughly with bleach and then again with water. You don’t want any chemicals interfering with your plant growth. You can keep the original hood top for the tank or purchase a single pane of glass to go on top.

The goal is to make a miniature ecosystem within your tank. To do that, it needs to be (mostly) enclosed and wet. Just like water is recycled on earth through evaporation and precipitation, the plants will continue to recycle the water in the tank.

Start your seeds in biodegradable containers with either soil or peat pellets. Give them plenty of sunlight and regular misting until they grow large enough to transplant into larger pots.

If you don’t want to grow vegetables, you can opt for some decorative succulents & cacti, flowers, or herbs.

Shelving and Storage

Most aquarium tanks are made from either glass or acrylic and are designed to withstand immense water pressure. This makes them a fairly sturdy piece of furniture to an extent.

IMPORTANT: Before proceeding with shelving and storage fish tank ideas, be sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications on how many pounds of pressure the tank is designed to withstand.

If your empty tank is small enough to hold with one hand, consider using it for organization and storage in your pantry, garage, or closet. Enough small fish bowls filled with candy on your countertop can be useful!

For larger tanks, you can turn it vertically and attach hinged doors to create a new glass-sided cabinet. On the inside, you can stack DVDs, books, or even cut pieces of firewood to keep your pile neat.

Final Thoughts

Fish tanks in general can be expensive, and getting rid of a bulky glass box can sometimes be a hassle. So consider repurposing it instead and making it a useful or a decorative addition to your home.

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About Kierstie Miller

Kierstie is a homeowner, gardener, DIY-er and food preservation specialist from Texas. As a mother of two, she understands the importance of self-sufficiency and taking pride in your work. She's also a believer in frugality and enjoys the knowledge gained through taking on a project on her own.

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