Wall Hanging Box Aquarium

I really like using boxes we get in the mail for other things before recycling them, so I made this small aquarium toy.  Instead of taping the fish to the top of the box, I decided to make it more interactive by cutting slits in the top and tying buttons to the threads.  This way the fish can be moved around like puppets.  It’s actually really beautiful to watch.  When you slide the buttons, the fish spin and dance, creating a happy swimming effect.  It’s a great recyclable toy.  You could leave the back and sides of the box attached.  I just wanted to create a space that was open and light.  It would be fun to paint the inside of the box too though.  Try it out!

Update: You may also use my Blackfish Cafe Coloring Sheets to create your marine life.  Just color and cut them out!


  1. ❤Yisin
    June 1, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Yay! i'm the first to comment.. hehe...

    This is so cute!!! definitely make one for myself! :D

  2. Sarah
    June 1, 2010 at 5:27 am

    This is lovely, your kids are SO lucky. Thanks for sharing!

  3. figgys
    June 1, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Brilliant. My boys have been wanting an aquarium for so long and I just can't seem to cage any type of animal/fish so this is Perfect!
    Thank you!

  4. Codruta
    June 1, 2010 at 5:29 am

    So many ideas, I'm always impressed by your projects, they are very inspiring. Love this home made toy too :)

    hugs from Romania

  5. Paty
    June 1, 2010 at 6:39 am

    I love your blog! full of creative ideas!

  6. Skrekk & Gru
    June 1, 2010 at 6:41 am

    As a marine biologist I really like this aquarium - it´s beautiful and fun to watch. And I like you blog too - so many interesting ideas you have!

  7. Skrekk & Gru
    June 1, 2010 at 6:41 am

    As a marine biologist I really like this aquarium - it´s beautiful and fun to watch. And I like you blog too - so many interesting ideas you have!

  8. Ellemme
    June 1, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Oh it's funny! I made something really similar, when I was young, but instead of pisces, there were elements of the picture of Juan Mirò, Harlequin's Carnival, and there weren't mobile. I'll make yours one day, it's so lovely!

  9. Jumie
    June 1, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Its wonderful!!!
    Thank you for this idea!
    Jumie from Germany

  10. Oum_Nawel
    June 1, 2010 at 7:17 am

    a new idea to explore with my son Malik !
    Thank you

  11. Kickcan and Conkers
    June 1, 2010 at 7:21 am

    This is great - love the fish shadows it makes.

  12. Kerry
    June 1, 2010 at 7:35 am

    Oh, Joel... I think you might be the most creative man in the universe. I LOVE this beautiful aquarium - and everything else I've seen on your blog!

  13. Stephanie
    June 1, 2010 at 7:46 am

    That is so creative!!!

  14. Anonymous
    June 1, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Just great!
    (like all your blog... thank you from Spain)

  15. Catherine Hansen Peart
    June 1, 2010 at 8:04 am

    ok, I am getting tired of writing 'genius' here....lol.

  16. Make mine Mid-Century
    June 1, 2010 at 8:36 am

    I don't know how you keep coming up with these gorgeous creations. They are all so neat and simple and full of love!

  17. Pablo
    June 1, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Excellent! I have a box here that I will be using to try that out today.

  18. Mutsuko
    June 1, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Excellent !

  19. Temps perdu
    June 1, 2010 at 9:58 am


  20. Golubka
    June 1, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    What a lovely idea! It's wonderful that the fish move.

  21. Lilou the Frog
    June 1, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Easy and brilliant as usual ! Tu es incroyablement créatif, c'est un vrai bonheur de découvrir tes nouvelles idées au jour le jour ! (I would have been able to do it in english but... well... just to test your french) :)

  22. Jenny Hillman
    June 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Cute! Looks like it would have the potential for becoming a different sort of shadow-box puppet theatre, with a different theme, etc. I could see my older kids making backdrops and curtains...
    Jenny :)

  23. Joel Henriques
    June 1, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Thanks for all of the nice comments everybody! There are so many cool things to do with boxes!

  24. amesh
    June 1, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    you're inspirational!

  25. Miriam
    June 1, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Love it! Great idea.


  26. Anitra Cameron
    June 2, 2010 at 1:28 am

    What a great idea, and I can almost see the adaptations to "other things you want to move around"!

  27. sunny smiles
    June 2, 2010 at 5:08 am

    Your blog is one of my favorites! Very inspiring creations! Thanks so much for sharing your talent.

  28. Claire
    June 2, 2010 at 5:37 am

    It's so clever! Thanks again for a great idea!

  29. Lori Henriques
    June 2, 2010 at 7:37 am

    incroyable! un autre projet si beau & magnifique!!! i have to come over tomorrow just to play with this! :) and your creatures have such personality...

  30. Me salen alas (si me paras los pies...)
    June 2, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Hi!! I know your site today and its lovely!!!
    You have a fan from today ;D ¡¡me!!
    I´ll follow your clue
    Kisses from Spain.

  31. Anonymous
    June 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Joel, this is super great! thanks again


  32. Julie
    June 2, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Perfect! My girls have been begging for a fish (Siamese fighter or fancy guppy) for a year now. I've said that once they demonstrate an ability to maintain a reasonably uncluttered dresser top for more than a week (a place to house the fish), I would be ready to oblige. Needless to say, it's not happened...yet. This, however, may be the perfect solution. No fish-sitters required during our summer travels!

  33. Jellybeanlupin
    June 3, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Wow yet another fantastic idea and so beautifully executed. Sooo inspiring. Thanks.
    Et je trouvais que le commentaire en français était inattendu et poétique, entouré d'anglais comme il l'était.

  34. Amanda Pedro
    June 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    seriously, you should be a toy designer!
    Now to find a box!

  35. OhMyAmpersand
    June 3, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    This is going to be the next crafty project with CBear! I LOVE it! :)

  36. marie-louise
    June 3, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    simple and nice!

  37. Dilla
    June 5, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    tx for sharing your great idea :)

  38. medina family
    June 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    We made one! Although yours is much better and your pictures are too...but here it is if you want to take a look:


    Thanks for the great ideas!

  39. Joel Henriques
    June 8, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks everybody!

    medina family - That's a really great one! I like the black box. And I see you used the fish from the coloring sheet. That's turned out really well! Thanks so much for showing me.

  40. bezgeli
    June 10, 2010 at 8:25 am

    mükemmel bir şey bu elelrinize saglık paylaşım icin

  41. Allana
    June 15, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Great idea thanks! Will definately do this soon :)

  42. tscd
    June 17, 2010 at 1:07 am

    Thank you for this brilliant idea!
    I love your blog so much that I linked it to mine and used one of your picture (credits to you, of course). I hope you don't mind.

  43. qi*
    June 18, 2010 at 9:10 am

    WOW! cool! oh oh maybe u could add a silhouette of a cat peering into the tank, upside down from the front of the tank as well! :D

  44. pyesquire
    June 18, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Super COOL can't wait to make one Thanks!



  45. Andrea
    June 20, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    I love this project and would love to use it at the summer camp I work at. Just one question: How is it attached to the wall?? I just can't seem to figure it out.

  46. Joel Henriques
    June 20, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Thanks everybody!

    Andrea - If you open the box flaps on the back of the box, you can turn them out and trim them and just tape it to the wall with masking tape, or you can use pins or tacks. If you want to keep the back of the box closed (so you can paint on it etc.) then you wouldn't have the flaps open to turn out and tape, so you'd have to just use thumb tacks to pin it to the wall, or just set it on a table and leave it "mobile" so you can play with it wherever. Hope that helps. It makes more sense if you just start making it - so just go for it and try it out yourself before the camp.

  47. Scott
    June 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    I love the "mobility" of the fish. Great idea!

  48. Bonnie
    July 5, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I am so making one for my grandson with the addition of a yellow submarine (a current obsession).

  49. Karen
    October 12, 2010 at 4:59 am

    We made it, here, from Brazil. Me and my six years old daughter. We just add some colours.
    Thank you, for the great idea!!!!
    If you want to take a look:

  50. Joel Henriques
    October 12, 2010 at 5:22 am


    Karen - That's a great one! I love the starfish on the bottom too. Coo!

  51. Anonymous
    November 19, 2010 at 4:37 am

    I love this. I am an art teacher...and this would be a perfect project for my students...so many possibiliites...zoo...space...on and on. Thank you so much for sharing!!!!

  52. tifmarkir
    November 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    All is looking so great!
    Very proud. Very proud.
    Now, all I need is to get preggos, so I can use these awesome tools you've shared.

  53. Sew Flippin Cool
    December 28, 2010 at 12:08 am

    are your fish made from cardboard, too? I'm having some trouble cutting the little shapes out. Maybe my exacto needs a new razor. :)

  54. Joel Henriques
    December 30, 2010 at 4:17 am


    Sew Flippin Cool - I think my fish were made from a slightly thinner cardboard. You could also just use thick paper, which would work well.

  55. Sew Flippin Cool
    December 30, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Well, here's how it came out - http://wp.me/pkcUM-xg

  56. Joel Henriques
    December 31, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Ooh, that turned out great. I love the turtle! The nesting doll puppets are awesome too!

  57. A tai-tai
    January 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Hello and Happy New Year from Spain!! I really admire your creativity, and that's why I have introduced your blog in an entry on my tiny blog, showing some of your projects and liking to your page. I hope you don't mind. Here you can see the entry: http://gasanguesway.blogspot.com/2011/01/un-papa-con-mucho-talento.html

    Thank you

  58. Nick, Molly, and Lil Will
    January 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Love this! I tried it with my toddler, but my slits weren't so clean and the thread kept getting snagged. What did you use to make your slits so clean and straight? Thank you!

  59. Joel Henriques
    January 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    A tai-tai - Thanks for the kind post!

    Nick, Molly, and Lil Will - Yes, I used a craft knife and a straight edge. (a small metal ruler.) It made it very easy to get a nice cut.

  60. Julieta
    May 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Me encanta todo lo que hacés! Aplausos desde Argentina :)

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  62. June 1, 2011 at 11:40 am

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    [...] Unterwasserwelt hat man ruckzuck gemacht. Ein Aquarium im Karton mit Knopfaufhängung. So wie hier: http://madebyjoel.com/2010/06/wall-hanging-box-aquarium.html Für die Innenausstattung hatte ich wieder meine Fachkraft. Die exotischen Fische haben auch Namen: [...]

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  70. August 10, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Hello, I'm Japanese. I found your website by chance. You have plenty of ideas. It's excellent !! My daughter is 5 years old. We made your aquarium. Thank you so much for sharing ♡  P.S. I hope that you visit on my facebook / photos and look at them. http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.134352253321495.30138.100002401647626

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  77. July 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks for this great idea !!! :) I was waiting for my boy to be old enough to enjoy it. Now he's 3 so we built an ocean box. :) He loves it ! You can see it here : http://petit-homme.over-blog.fr/article-ocean-box-made-by-petit-homme-107776138.html

    1. July 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm

      Very cool aquarium! I love the background you cut into the box too. Awesome!

  78. July 30, 2012 at 12:27 am

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  79. October 2, 2012 at 8:37 am

    AMAZING, so wondeful that you take the time to do these things for your kids its a rare things thiese days. I need to try this one for my son caleb he would LOVE it

    1. October 5, 2012 at 9:15 am

      Thanks Kelly! Yeah, try it out! I still have ours folded away. I'll have to get it out for our little daughter soon.

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  81. November 7, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for all your excellent ideas ! I do this with my little girl, it was very funny. You can see it here :http://leblogdelali.blogspot.fr/2012/11/diy-deco-enfant-un-aquarium-recup.html

    1. November 8, 2012 at 9:50 am

      Ah, that's a fantastic one! I love the little creatures that you made! Great repurposing of materials around the house!

  82. eileen
    December 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Help I'm having trouble with the string, yarn, / dental floss getting stuck of the cut edge of the slots...Is it my low level exacto knife skills? Any suggestions? Thanks

    1. December 17, 2012 at 9:11 pm

      hmm, yeah, that's no fun. I used a metal ruler and craft knife to make my slots, so they were pretty smooth. maybe you could just put the fish on the end of a popsicle stick and use them like puppets that way. Or a bent, straightened out paper clip. Good luck! Joel

  83. eileen
    December 17, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Thanks very much for the reply Joel. I believe the problem is that I used a heavy duty corrugated box. Back to the drawing board. I've cut out quite large aquarium for use at a preschool with a small group of children. This idea is wonderful and I'm hoping to reuse the box with different themes.

    1. December 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      Cool, I'd love to see it when you're done! If you take a photo, feel free to upload it on the facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/madebyjoel

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  86. February 21, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    We were snowed in today - so we made our own theater from a tissue box. Space themed. So. Much. Fun. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. February 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm

      Cool! I'm working on a space theme project even as we speak. Nice!

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