Build a Better Aquarium Plant




Introduction: Build a Better Aquarium Plant

About: I am a former zookeeper. One thing you may not know, zookeepers often have to make their own specialized tools, enclosures and supplies. It's just part of the job, because there aren't really any box store...

Aquarium decorations are ridiculously expensive.  In this Instructable, I use hydraulic cement and some scraps of aquarium gravel to make a base and turn a cheap-o aquarium plant into a better plant that would cost a lot more at the store.

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Step 1: Collect Supplies

  1. 1 cheap-o aquarium plant
  2. a few handfuls of aquarium gravel (optional)
  3. hydraulic cement
  4. a small tub to mix cement in
  5. latex gloves
  6. plastic wrap to protect your work surface
  • The plant in this Instructable was $1.99 plus tax. (I also got a pack of four large and small plants for $10.99, which I used for a couple of larger arrangements.)
  • The gravel was free in my case because I have lots on hand.
  • Where I live you can get a whole 20lb container of hydraulic cement for $12.00. I used about a pound for this project, so $0.60 worth of cement.
  • I used a recycled tub to mix cement in, so it was free in this case.
  • Where I live a box of 100 latex gloves costs $8.00 at the hardware store, so I used $0.16 worth of gloves.
  • The cost of the plastic wrap is negligible in this case.
Grand total of 1.99 + .60 + .16 + 8% tax  = $2.97 approximately.  Comparable plants at my pet store cost at least $8 and up. 

WARNING: DO NOT RINSE HYDRAULIC CEMENT DOWN THE DRAIN!  Even just small amounts will collect down there and harden a little bit at a time until the plumbing is completely ruined.
  • To protect my plumbing, I use disposable gloves to work with the cement.  If I get any of it on my skin, I wipe off all that I can using a paper towel.  Then, I wait for whatever is left on my hands to dry completely and brush off all that I can remove that way.  Finally after I've removed every bit that is possible, I wash my hands in a utility sink with a deep trap so if it ever does collect in there, replacing the pipe will not be too difficult or expensive. 
How to mix hydraulic cement:

Step 2: Take Off the Plant Base

Step 3: Lay Down a Layer of Gravel

Approximately match the size of the plastic plant base

Step 4: Add Two Blobs of Cement

Put the cement on top of the rocks as two piles - see photo

Step 5: Working Quickly, Wrap the Cement Around the Base

Add water if necessary to work the cement around the ends of the base


Step 6: Add a Layer of Gravel (optional Step)

You can work quickly and embed some gravel into the existing cement or you can mix another small batch and use it to build up the edges some more and embed the gravel that way

Step 7: After About 30 Minutes, Clean Up

Before the cement is completely hard, use an old toothbrush and gloved hands to clean the loose cement off of the aquarium gravel.  It's important to be gentle, or the whole thing can fall apart at this point.  However, it will be much more difficult to clean it up and expose the gravel if you wait until the cement hardens all the way.

In the photos you can see that I also gently broke away the sharp edges around the bottom perimeter.

Step 8: Attach the Plant

If you left the center area clear of cement, the plant will snap right into place.

Step 9: Put Your Plant Into Action

Wait for the cement to harden some more, then give it a last brush off and hose-down before putting it into the aquarium. 

WARNING: DO NOT RINSE HYDRAULIC CEMENT DOWN THE DRAIN!  I keep saying it because it's worth saying. 

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    9 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Are you sure this hydraulic cement isn't harmful for fish?


    1 year ago

    A good instructable. I prefer natural plants in the aquarium, but when you can't or don't want to, it's a good and cheap solution. Thank you for sharing.


    3 years ago

    try and make loads more and add them in, you could make an underwater woodland area! LOL :-)

    amohd yusoff
    amohd yusoff

    6 years ago on Introduction

    white Cement mixed with aquarium sand is safe enough. Same ingredient used to make artificial live rocks for marine aquariums for years already. But be sure to soak the final piece in fresh water(Changing the water frequently)for at least a month to cure it and make it safe for aquarium use. If this is not done,cement will leech out something that will cause pH swings. If I remember correctly. All in all,great Idea!

    dead hawk
    dead hawk

    6 years ago on Introduction

    really good idea, I used hot glue and various rocks, and gravel, it works great but cement might work awesome too


    8 years ago on Step 4

    how much cement would u use 4 this ?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    great idea! I've been having so much trouble keeping my fake plants in place when I clean my grave.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, you want good looking plants in your tank full of dead fish. :p

    Is the cement safe for fish, particularly scaleless fish? I've read metals are dangerous to fish, so I'd think that the iron and such in cement could pose a risk here.