3D Printed Aquascapes: Are PLA, ABS & PETG Safe for Fish?

3D printed creations have stormed into various spheres and places, and one intriguing area is their utility in fish tanks and aquariums. The question is, when you use materials like PLA, ABS & PETG for 3D printing, how compatible and safe are they for aquatic environments? Whether you’re a marine enthusiast or you love having an ornamental tank to elevate your room’s ambiance, aquariums have become a sought-after piece of decor. Their charm lies in their ability to recreate marine ecosystems in a controlled environment.


Beautifying Your Aquatic World

Crafting a stunning aquarium is more than just about the fish. To elevate its beauty, consider infusing it with ornate decorations – think plants, rocks, and more. With 3D printing, you have an affordable gateway to craft tailor-made decorations, from intricate pump covers to mesmerizing coral imitations. But before you dive in, it’s essential to understand the materials at play. So, let’s plunge into the ocean of 3D printing materials!

Diving into 3D Printed Materials for Aquariums:

Are 3D Printed PLA Materials Fish-Friendly?

PLA is a favorite in the 3D printing community, primarily for its non-toxic nature, making it an attractive option for aquarium use. But when choosing PLA, it’s essential to be aware of potential issues. While pure PLA poses no threat, during the production phase, harmful additives might creep in. These can disrupt the delicate balance of your aquarium. Hence, always opt for authentic PLA brands or those labeled as food-safe.

Another aspect to consider is PLA’s biodegradability. In an aquatic setting, especially in saltwater tanks, this can become problematic. However, you can always resort to specific waterproofing treatments post-printing to prevent degradation.

The Safety Quotient of 3D Printed ABS:

ABS, while being a robust petroleum-derived plastic, has mixed reviews when used in aquariums. It’s paramount to choose the right ABS type, as some can release harmful chemicals into the water. A few variants, such as the natural “white” ABS, have been given the green signal by the aquarium community. The advantage ABS holds over PLA is its non-biodegradability, but they aren’t inherently waterproof. Vapor smoothing is a popular method to make them water-resistant.

Is 3D Printed PETG Aquarium-Compatible?

PETG stands out as a top choice for those seeking non-toxic and durable 3D printing materials. Given its origin from PET plastics, known for their safety in food packaging, it’s a reliable choice. Still, always stick to reputable brands and opt for clear variants for assured safety.

On the strength front, PETG is a powerhouse. Plus, its hydrophobic nature acts as a built-in defense against moisture. A word of caution, though – PETG can absorb moisture from its surroundings, so storing them appropriately is crucial.

Choosing the Ideal Aquarium-friendly Filament:

Several filaments have received nods from the aquarium community, and they have extensively experimented with them. Among the popular choices are eSun PETG and 3D Solutech for PETG, HATCHBOX and 3D Solutech for PLA, and Gizmo Dorks and Hatchbox for ABS.

Unleashing Creativity – Top 3D Printed Aquarium Decorations:

Castles: Treat your fish to some royalty with intricately designed castles, perfect for those marine royalties.

Pirates: For the adventurous souls, create an underwater pirate treasure hunt, complete with LED mysteries.

Zen Garden: Underwater tranquility? Yes, please! Introduce bonsai trees, moss domes, and even Buddha statues to achieve that serene underwater Zen environment.

Ensuring Waterproof Magic:

When introducing 3D prints into your aquarium, making them waterproof is crucial. Employing post-printing treatments can help achieve this. Two widely recognized methods are:

Spray-On Sealant: This provides a protective, rubberized coating. For aquariums, always select non-toxic variants such as Zinsser Shellac Spray or Krylon Acrylic Spray.

Epoxy Resin Coating: A darling of the DIY community, epoxy resin provides a glossy, waterproof finish. Always choose food-safe brands, like MAX CLR, to ensure your fish’s safety.

By marrying technology with a love for aquatic life, you can craft bespoke, safe, and beautiful environments for your marine friends. Dive in and explore the wondrous world of 3D printing for aquariums!