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Paper Plate Aquariums - Easy Craft Project

Updated on August 27, 2016

Paper plate aquariums make nice wall art

An Easy Craft for All Ages

This is a simple enough craft, but may take a little patience when cutting out the parts or fitting the plastic cover over. It is good for all ages and is useful in group activities in a community center, library or school.

You can change the scenery to your own variation: space theme, dinosaurs, a family portrait etc. You can have a design in mind to start with - it always helps - or be spontaneous and let your creative neurons flow.

Give yourself 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours for this craft.

15 minutes for setup

60 minutes for activity

10 minutes for clean up

Supplies Needed

Get your items together and make sure you have a nice clean surface to work on. You may want to setup newspapers on the floor.

For this activity, you will need:

  • Two paper plates
  • Glue
  • Crayons, markers or paint
  • Colored paper
  • Clear plastic wrap
  • Scissors
  • Stapler


  • Pipe cleaners
  • Glitter
  • Cotton balls
  • Stickers
  • Colored beads
  • Photos
  • any other craft objects you may want to include

Get your supplies together first! It makes things easier

Step 1: Begin Cutting Your Plate Cover

1. Take one of your paper plates and cut the center out of it. You may want to fold it over and cut it from the side because you ideally want to keep the outer part whole. If you are using foam plates, you may want to make your cut with an exacto knife.

Make sure that children under 12 are supervised with this activity.

Step 2: Color your scenery

2. Color the bottom 1/3 of the paper plate like sand or the ocean's surface. I would recommend brown or grey. In the photo, I used orange because I did not have a darker color available.

Color the upper part of the plate blue like water - or the color you choose.

The aquarium background

You can use brown or grey for the "floor".  I used orange because it was the closest color to brown i had
You can use brown or grey for the "floor". I used orange because it was the closest color to brown i had

Step 3: Add some scenerey

3. Add some scenery like flowers or rocks. If you are doing an aquarium scene you may want to put a clam or crab on there. If you are using smaller plates like i am, you might not have room.

For my "plants" I used pipe cleaners. You can also cut them in colored paper or draw them in yourself. Or you can use some other object that resembles a plant in color and texture.

Adding objects brings gives your aquarium an authentic appearance

Plants made out of green pipe cleaner
Plants made out of green pipe cleaner

Step 4: Bring in the fish

4. Now you have to add some fish. At first I was going to try an origami fish. They are fun to make and are a lot nicer looking. In the aquarium they can have a three dimensional appearance.. I just cut mine out using the origami paper, and added some fins.

The origami fish would work better with a larger surface - you would need a much bigger plate. . You can add scales to yours or put in bubbles too for effect.

A fish is swimming in the aquarium

add some rocks if you want it to look more realistic
add some rocks if you want it to look more realistic

Step 5: Your aquarium starts to come to life!

5. Add more fish to your tank. You may want to put in a sea horse, diver or a sunken ship The options are up to you.

I used marker on these because they are not as messy as paint. Crayon will work too, but might be too dark. It's really up to you. I kind of slapped this together for illustrative purposes. This is your art - you be the artist.

another fish keeps the first one company
another fish keeps the first one company

Step 6: Cover your tank

6. Slip a piece of the saran wrap over your "tank". Make sure it is big enough to wrap around the back. You want to leave it a little loose so it gives the appearance of glass.

Step 7: Get ready to put on the cover

7. Now you are ready to cover your aquarium. Take the outer part of the paper plate you cut out and set it over the top face down. Most paper plates are convex (maybe concave, I get those two confused) - meaning they are bent slightly inward - you want the "bottom" of the plate to face you.

You may want to color it to give it distinction.

Staple, glue or tape it to the other plate after lining them up. Stapling works best.

Final Step: Display Time

You have now completed your project. Feel free to display it on a wall or with other artwork.

Your tank makes a great accessory to any room.

with giraffes and other art
with giraffes and other art

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