Are 3d Printed Objects Aquarium Safe? A Complete Guide

Are 3d Printed Objects Aquarium Safe? 3D printing has been growing in popularity for many years now. There are many different types of 3D printers, but the most common ones use PLA or ABS filament to create their prototypes. It is important that you know what type of material your printer uses before starting a project because not all materials are safe for aquariums.

This article will help you determine if your 3D printed objects can be used as decor in an aquarium or if they need to be redesigned first. 

To see an example of a project created with this information, check out our blog post on how to create a coral reef from scratch!

We hope this was helpful and we look forward to hearing from you soon!

On This Page


Are 3D Printed Objects Aquarium Safe?

If you’ve been around the aquarium industry for a little while, you might have noticed that 3D printers are becoming more and more popular. While this technology is still in its early stages, it’s already being used to make a variety of things, from custom fixtures to replacement parts. Of course – some people want to use these printers to make their own tank equipment, which has lead many people into asking the question: “are 3D printed objects safe for my aquarium?”

The short answer? It depends on what you’re printing. If you need help figuring out if your project will be okay or not, read on!

PLA vs ABS Filament For The Aquarium Industry To produce 3D printable objects, two types of filament are most commonly used: PLA and ABS. Both products have a wide variety of uses, but they’re not both equally suited to aquarium use. In this article we’ll be going over which material you should use for the best results.

how to make a 3d aquarium background

Are 3d Printed Objects Aquarium Safe?


PLA is short for polylactic acid, which is a biodegradable plastic derived from plants such as corn or sugar cane. When it’s made, the compound chains that makeup PLA are bonded together by lactic acid, which comes from converting those plants into sugars with heat and pressure.

This means that when your item finally starts to break down, those lactic acid bonds will be broken back down into their original plant sugar components. Since these plant materials come directly from the earth, they will not contribute to any off-gassing.

PLA itself has a low melting point (180C or 356F), which makes it prone to heat damage. However, when mixed with other materials such as wood pulp, cornstarch, carbon fiber, or recycled ABS plastic; PLA can be processed into extremely durable objects that are still 100% biodegradable. This means you’ll get the strength of regular PLA filaments AND the biodegradability of them too.


ABS is short for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene – which is also known as engineering plastic under US laws. Unlike PLA plastics that come from plants, ABS comes from petroleum and natural gas. In order to produce ABS, chemicals such as n-hexane and acetone are mixed with petroleum oil compounds to create the thermoplastic that is then chopped into flakes for processing. Since it can be derived from various sources of fossil fuel, there’s a wide range of costs that greatly affect the price of raw ABS; which means you’ll get vastly different qualities depending on where you source your filament from.

While PLA has only two carbon atoms in each monomer (monomer = repeating unit), ABS has three – giving it many more uses than PLA does while providing strength through its extra bond. This makes ABS much more durable than PLA filaments but still lets it maintain its biodegradability too – making it perfect for aquarium use.

can you 3d print aquarium decorations

Are 3d Printed Objects Aquarium Safe?

Which Filament Is Best For Aquariums?

As you can see, PLA and ABS are both great for the aquarium industry – but they’re not equal. There’s a variety of factors that need to be considered when deciding which filament is best suited to your personal project, but in most cases ABS will produce better results. If you want something watertight or made to withstand heavy vibrations, always try to use pure ABS or an ABS-PLA blend without any other additives. Since many 3D printers have issues with bridging large spans of empty space on big projects, this can prevent problems later down the road too! If you prefer more flexibility about what kind of items you print though, PLA will offer good enough results for your fish tank filaments needs.

One thing that ABS doesn’t have going for it though, is its lower shrinkage rate when cooling down after printing – which can lead to warping problems if your heating bed isn’t perfectly level. For this reason, PLA has become more popular in recent years; but both materials will produce great results if printed correctly (this article goes into detail on how to do that).

However, there’s one last option…which happens to be an alternative 3D print material called TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) filament! Unlike PLA or ABS, TPU doesn’t naturally come from plants or fossil fuels (but it does come from organic compounds); making it the only filament option that’s 100% synthetic.

Drawbacks To Using A TPU Aquarium Filter When printed at the right temperature and speed, TPU filaments can give you an extremely durable product that’s resistant to most liquids for a perfect replacement of PVC or rubber items. Unfortunately though, there are two major issues that will prevent many 3D printers from being able to produce this flexible filament properly – especially when using it in fish tank filaments applications! First off is the fact that its elasticity prevents it from sticking well to build plates; causing large parts with close tolerances to come loose or separate during printing. The second biggest drawback with TPU is how much friction it produces when passing through your extruder – which means you’ll need to get a stronger motor to drive your filament through. Some 3D printers are unable to use this material successfully because of these two problems, but that’s not the case with all brands or models.

how to make your own 3d aquarium background

Are 3d Printed Objects Aquarium Safe?

Do I Need A TPU Aquarium Filter?

The simple answer is no – ABS and PLA both work perfectly well for aquariums! There are some cases where TPU might be preferred though…such as when you want an item with 100% watertight seals (without any chance of leaks) or don’t mind spending the extra time on printing at slow speeds in order to get parts with close tolerances. The high price of TPU filaments doesn’t help too – often costing more than 3 times what other types do per kilogram.

As always, use this information to help you make informed decisions about your 3D printing projects; but try out these filaments yourself if they sound like something that could work for you! Whether you’re trying to find the perfect aquarium filter or want a replacement for PVC pipes, filament materials are the first step towards success at every step of your next 3D printing journey. Enjoy!

how to make a 3d fish tank background

Are 3d Printed Objects Aquarium Safe? (cre: quora)

Is PLA filament waterproof?

No. pla is not waterproof, but it can be waterproofed with special additives at the extrusion stage of the process. These are usually based on PVA and need to be properly engineered which is probably way beyond most people’s ability and willingness to implement. I’ve also heard that some filament manufacturers add wax or similar coating to their filament, but I don’t know how effective this is.

You might find some success with a few coats of polyurethane or acrylic sealer on the finished print, but it will only ever be as good as the sealer and you’ll still get moisture creeping in where the surface can’t wick away. The filament powders and pigments may also absorb water and cause further problems, so what we need for a truly waterproof print is not just one barrier or coating, but several that work together.

Can You 3d Print a 80 Percent Lower

Are 3d Printed Objects Aquarium Safe? (cre: prusaprinters)

What is pla 3d printer filament? 1.75mm?

Pla 3d printer filament is the most common and popular material to use for a desktop 3d printer. It sticks well to acrylic and other print surfaces.

Pla stands for Polylactic Acid, it’s a strong biodegradable plastic that melts at about 200c-220c depending on its color (the pellets will have a different color from its printed part). This material has been very effectively used by the whole RepRap community as well as all those companies who commercialized 3d printers based around RepRap designs such as MakerBot,up!,solidoodle etc…

It comes in a huge variety of colors available in 1kg or 2.2lbools with 1.75 or 3mm diameter.

Pla is easy to use, very good for first-time users, and also for experienced users. It comes on a spool or more recently on large coiled tubes made of plastic that can be cut into smaller pieces.

It has moderate warping which can be minimized by using a heated print bed (some people never bother with warping because it’s not very noticeable on the final part) as well as excellent layer adhesion. Although pla doesn’t stick as well as abs, it sticks better than petg(see “best filaments review” here), so no need to buy glue or tapes or hairspray unless you want your prints to have the best possible finish..

It’s a bit harder than abs so it’s perfect for moving parts as well as cosmetic parts, but not so good for mechanical parts because it might be too rigid and break if the part is very thin.

It has a higher melting temperature than abs (starts to break down at about 160c-180c) which means that it’s more difficult to extrude compared to ABS. However, at these temperatures, you can also print with rubber-like materials such as Tpu and Flexible filament (see “best 3d printer filaments review” here). Also at this temperature range, you can use metals and ceramics and even carbon fiber composites!

connect monoprice 3d printer to computer

Are 3d Printed Objects Aquarium Safe? (cre: forbes)

Does Pla filament absorb moisture?

There are some great answers below, but I want to add one more of my own. Since you can’t see it, how do you really know that moisture has gotten into your filament? Unless there is a fogging or another visible moisture marker on the print, then any absorbed water damage will not be evident until the item is brought back to ambient temperature. At that point, your part could warp audibly as all of the water in the filament suddenly condenses back out into humidity in the air.

If you work with filaments long enough and have too many failures caused by this problem, then take it upon yourself to monitor your materials. If you are running several printers off of just one spool, then consider color-coding your filament with a highlighter (or another number of marking techniques) so that the users can monitor their own material.

If you’re working on an open-source printer, then I’m sure someone has already developed filament monitoring software. If it doesn’t exist, then here’s your chance to be part of something that could eventually help every open-source 3D printer user out there!


Are 3D Printed Objects Aquarium Safe? The answer is yes, but there are some caveats. 3D printed objects can be used in aquariums, as long as they don’t contain any toxic materials or have moving parts that could break off and get lodged inside the fish tank. Keep this in mind before you buy your next decorative object for an aquarium to avoid potential problems with your pets!

Further Reading: 

Leave a Comment