Aquariums are an easy, relatively low-maintenance way to keep a pet at your home. If you’d like to create a fun twist on this aquatic environment, try renovating a gumball machine with special aquarium supplies. Once you’ve cleaned out your gumball machine and made a few cosmetic changes, use power tools and sealant to trim and install aquarium flooring in your new tank. After you’ve attached the filter and added in some fun lights and decorations, you’ll be ready to introduce some fish into your new tank!
[Edit]Cleaning the Gumball Machine and Getting Supplies
Remove any candy or gumballs from the machine. If you’re repurposing a machine that used to hold various sweets, focus on getting rid of any extra gum and candy. Remove the lid and scoop out any leftover sweet treats until the tank is completely empty.
Square or rectangular gumball machines work best when you’re trying to create an aquarium.
While the candy and gum has a great color scheme, you can’t keep these items in your future fish tank.
Try to use a large gumball machine for this project. The average goldfish is happiest in a tank that’s . If you can’t find a gumball machine close to that size, try using the largest tank that you can find.
Twist or pull off the lid from your gumball machine. Before you start cleaning or making any adjustments to your gumball machine, take a moment to remove the lid from your rectangular or circular tank. If your machine is rectangular, try lifting off the lid to access the inside of the tank. If your tank is circular, try twisting the lid to loosen and remove it from the gumball machine.
If your gumball machine has a lock on the lid, use a heavy-duty drill bit to work through the metal and break the lock.
Wipe out the gumball container with warm water. Soak a rag or paper towel in water and rub down the sides, lid, and bottom of the gumball machine. Wipe down every visible surface to get rid of any leftover sugar, dirt, or grime that’s in the tank. Try to avoid using soap for this, as soapy residue can hurt your future fish population.
Pick up aquarium supplies for a small fish tank. If you don’t know the gumball machine’s exact dimensions, don’t sweat it—instead, purchase supplies designed for a small, tank for a small gumball machine. While you’re at the supply shop, grab some aquarium sealant, a small filter, as well as gravel, waterproof lights, and other decorations. Additionally, visit a hardware or home improvement store to pick up some polycarbonate sheeting.
You’ll be making room for a tank filter later on.
[Edit]Modifying the Lid for the Filter Cord
Sketch out a rectangular portion of the lid to remove. Take a ruler and measure the length and width of your new filter. Take this measurement and mark it along the side of the gumball machine lid. While the filter will be on the outside of the tank, you won’t be able to fit the lid securely over the clip-on device. Because of this, you’ll need to cut a small rectangular portion of your metal lid off.
Depending on the size of your filter, the rectangular section might be as large as .
Wear gloves and safety glasses before using power tools. Before trimming your fish tank lid, slip on a pair of durable gloves, as well as a set of safety glasses or goggles. Since you’ll be trimming metal, you don’t want any loose specks flying into your eyes. If you want to take extra precautions, use a ventilating mask as well.
When working with power tools, always stay in a well-ventilated area. Ideally, this project should be done outside.
Drill along the edge of this sketched rectangle. Take any drill bit and start drilling holes on the long stretch of line that you marked off on the lid. Continue forming holes along this area, as this will cause the metal to become weak, brittle, and easier to remove. Depending on the size of the lid, try drilling at least 5 holes along the reference line.
Each drill hole should be about 4-5 millimeters apart.
Weaken the outer edge of the metal with a handsaw. Apply a small amount of pressure to the vertical lines of your rectangular mark-up with a hand-operated saw. While this tool won’t finish the job, you can use it to weaken the vertical ends of your rectangle. Keep working the saw in a back and forth motion until the metal edge feels looser.
The handsaw won’t remove this section of metal completely, but it will make the metal come off more easily.
Chisel off the rectangular piece of metal from the lid. Place a chisel along the horizontal edge of the rectangle, next to the holes you drilled previously. Hit the end of the chisel with a hammer to apply pressure to the cuts and fissures that you’ve already formed in the metal. Continue hammering along the edge of the rectangular shape with the chisel until the metal piece falls off!
Don’t worry about sanding this edge of the metal, as you only removed the metal so the filter could fit properly.
[Edit]Creating a Watertight Seal
Saw off the central metal pole with a rotary tool. Use a handheld rotary tool to cut off any metal mixtures in the middle of your tank. Try to remove as much of the pole as you can, so you can cover its base with a piece of polycarbonate sheeting later on. If you don’t remove this piece of metal, you won’t be able to seal your tank properly.
Trace the perimeter of your gumball machine onto a polycarbonate sheet. Set a sheet of polycarbonate material on top of your fish tank. Using a permanent marker, trace a rough line around the edge of your fish tank. Aim for your sketched lines to be almost exact with the actual perimeter, so the polycarbonate can fit snugly in the tank.
The polycarbonate will serve as the base for the aquarium.
It’s okay if your polycarbonate section is slightly smaller, as you’ll be going over it with sealant momentarily.
If your machine is circular, trace the rounded opening on top of the tank.
Cut your outlined shape with a handheld rotary tool. Take your electric rotary tool and saw in a slow, smooth motion around the outline you drew. Try to keep the edges as smooth as possible, so the sheeting fits comfortably into the tank. Since you’ll be placing this at the bottom of the gumball machine, you don’t need to sand off the edges.
Ideally, you don’t want any jagged cuts or edges on this polycarbonate sheet.
Cover the bottom screws of the gumball machine with aquarium sealant. Find any screws that secure the tank portion of the gumball machine to the lower mechanism. Next, open your sealant bottle and squeeze a large drop of product on top of each screw to prevent any leaks around these areas.
Depending on your gumball machine, you could have 4 or so screws on the bottom of your tank.
Squeeze a line of sealant around the bottom perimeter of the gumball tank. Take your tube and apply a line of sealant along the linear or curved edges of the tank. If you have a rectangular gumball machine, focus especially on the corners, and any other straight edges that look weak and less watertight than the others. As you work, try to keep the sealant as close to the edges and corners as possible.
If the sealant isn’t flushed along the edges and corners, your tank might not be watertight.
This sealant will help connect the polycarbonate sheet to the bottom of the tank.
Press the polycarbonate sheet firmly on top of the sealant. Take your fitted sheet and center it along the bottom of the tank. Next, arrange the edges along the sealant, then push the sheet into place. Apply a lot of pressure as you do this to ensure that the sheeting is secure.
Add a second line of sealant along the upper edge of the sheet. Take your sealant tube and squeeze out another line of product along the edges above the installed sheeting. As you did before, keep the sealant close to the edges of the tank, as this will provide an extra layer of watertight security to your aquarium. Use this extra layer of product to fill in any gaps around the sheeting.
Wait 2 days for the sealant to harden and set. Instead of replacing the lid on the tank, let your gumball machine stay open on a flat surface. Let the sealant dry for at least 48 hours, or it won’t block out water properly. Keep track of the date you sealed the tank, so you can add water later in the week.
Don’t add any decorations into the tank until the sealant dries.
In the meantime, focus on acquiring your other decorations and supplies for the tank.
[Edit]Filling the Tank with Necessary Items
Stick waterproof lights beneath the lid of the gumball machine. Take an adhesive light and stick it to the underside of the tank lid. Additionally, look for long, horizontal lights that you can stick or connect to the inside of your tank. If you’re trying to create a fun color scheme, consider purchasing lights in different fluorescent colors.
Don’t worry if you have extra wires dangling from the tank light fixtures. Keep a power strip on hand so you can manage all of the cords with your gumball machine aquarium.
Use low wattage lights for your aquarium, as most fish don’t like excessive brightness.
Clip the filter along the side of the tank. Take your simple filter and secure it with a clip along the outside of the tank. Arrange it in the same place where you cut an opening in your metal lid, so the lid will fit properly later on. Make sure to plug the filter into an outlet or power strip, so you can keep the aquarium water clean.
You can arrange your filter before pouring in the aquarium water.
Some filters come with special tubes and other miscellaneous parts. Read the instructions that come with your filter to make sure that you install the device correctly.
Line the bottom of your tank with aquarium gravel. Pour at least of gravel along the bottom of your fish tank. Arrange the gravel before placing any other decorations, since it forms the bedrock for the rest of your tank decor.
If you’d like to go for a colorful theme in your tank, purchase brightly colored gravel at your local pet store.
Arrange different plants and decorations into the tank. Take fun plants and props and place them along the bottom of your aquarium. Try choosing a fun variety of different objects, including rocks and other items that the fish can swim through. As you decorate the tank, aim to create a fun and engaging environment for your future fish.
Avoid using decorations made of plastic and ceramic, as these can harm your fish.
Fill your tank with water. Take a pitcher of filtered water and pour it into your gumball machine aquarium. Aim to fill at least 80% of the tank, leaving of space or less at the top. Turn on your power strip or outlet to power the filter, and your tank will be ready for new fish occupants!
Check the instructions that came with your filter and see if the device needs to run for a certain amount of time before you can add fish.
Operate your tank lights and filter with a power strip. Check that your filter and wired lights are all plugged into 1 power strip. Make sure that this power strip is turned on, so the filter is functioning and actively cleaning the water. Whenever you clean your fish tank, make sure that this power strip is turned off.
If you don’t have a lot of cords on hand, feel free to use a wall outlet instead.
Add a small number of fish into your tank. Go to your local pet store or fish supply store and look for a small fish that would be a good fit for your tank. Look for smaller fish that won’t take up as much space, like neon tetras. Unless your gumball tank holds at least of water, only add 1-2 fish total into your aquarium.
Talk to the pet or fish supply store associates to see which types of fish get along swimmingly, and if there are any predatory fish that you should watch out for.
Place the lid back on the gumball machine tank. Secure your lid, or “hood,” on top of your gumball tank. Always keep this item in place, so the fish aren’t tempted to leap out of the water. Since you have a waterproof light attached to it, keep the lid in place to provide a consistent glow in your tank.
[Edit]Things You’ll Need
Paper towel or rag
Small handheld rotary tool
Polycarbonate aquarium sheet
Fish tank filtration system
Waterproof tank lights
Ventilating mask (optional)
Some manufacturers sell gumball machine fish tanks. If you’re in a rush or don’t feel like going through the construction process, consider purchasing one of these.
This gumball machine should be rather large(at least 2-3 gallons) as a small machine will not provide enough space