Introduction: The Shoebox Aquarium

Looking for a fun and easy craft to keep your child active on a rainy day? Or are you a busy college student looking for a way to take a brain break? This could be just what you are looking for.

The Shoebox Aquarium is an exciting project for young children, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and intellectually stimulating for a college student as well. The project should take about 35-45 minutes with the upside of being longer for your own personalization. It uses very convenient materials that might already be in your possession and if not, it is extremely affordable. It’s your Shoebox Aquarium and it’s your sandbox of endless possibilities.

Disclaimer: We recommend using a hot glue gun to glue everything together. For example, this will make the pipe cleaners much easier to glue on. Since this is targeted towards young children, we advise adult supervision with the use of a hot glue gun. It is possible to use liquid glue if that is all that you have available.


1 Shoebox size may vary but we used an 11 X 7

1 Package of multicolored construction paper

1 Hot glue gun or liquid glue

Paper towels (use as needed)

1 Pencil

1 Package of 20-30 pipe cleaners

25-30 Small rocks

1 Black Marker

1 Package of 20 or so googly eyes

1 Package of sea creature stickers (optional)

1 Pair of scissors

Step 1: Setting the Stage

Take the lid off of the shoebox and put it to the side. Take a piece of dark blue construction paper and cover one side of the paper in glue. Push the paper on the base of the inside of the box. Smooth out the edges so that there is a little bit creased up on each wall.

Step 2: Working on the Exterior

Fold a piece of light blue paper in half hot dog style. Open it up and cover the inside of the paper with glue. Place the crease on the edge of one of the long sides of the shoebox, covering both the inside and outside, this will be the top of your Shoebox Aquarium. Refer to the diagram above to help with what side to cover.

Step 3: Working on the Interior

Grab another piece of light blue paper and fold it into thirds like a brochure. Cut off one of the sections along the fold, using scissors. Take the paper with two sections and cover a short side the same way you did in Step 2. Repeat on the other short side. Refer to the diagram in Step 2 for help on which walls to cover.

Step 4: Creating the Ocean Floor

Take a piece of brown paper and fold it in half hot dog style. Cut it in half along the fold, you should have two separate pieces at this point. Take one of the sections and measure it against the bottom, cut off enough on the smaller side so that it fits perfectly in the inside without going up onto other walls.

Step 5: Adding Fish

Grab a piece of construction paper of the color of your choice and begin to draw fish like the one in the picture. The desired number of fish is up to you but we recommend doing anywhere from 6-8, varying in sizes and colors. Another creative sea animal is a starfish. We made them but it is up to you if you want to!

Step 6: Giving the Fish Life

Cut out each fish you just created and take one googly eye and glue it onto where the eye of your fish would be. Then, draw a fin and a mouth using a black marker. If you decided to do starfish cut these out as well, draw a mouth and glue two googly eyes on.

Step 7: Giving the Fish a Home

Apply glue to the back of the fish and place them in your desired spots.

Step 8: Making the Corals

Step 8: Grab three pipe cleaners of different colors and put them together. Cut them ranging in size from a quarter to a third of their regular length. Twist the pipe cleaners two rotations, leaving an inch at the bottom to use as a base. Add glue to the bottom of each of the three one inch cleaners so that they will stick to the aquarium floor.

Step 9: Adding the Ocean Rocks

Step 9: Take the rocks one by one and add a small amount of glue to the bottom of each one once you are ready to place it in the aquarium. Scatter them throughout the bottom of the ocean floor, until you are satisfied with the amount you have. You do not need to use all of the rocks.

Step 10: Congratulations!

Step 10: If you think it is necessary add sea creature stickers in places you feel need filling. Step back and look at your finished product because you just made a Shoebox Aquarium!