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!

98 Responses
  1. ❤Yisin

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

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

  2. figgys

    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!

  3. Codruta

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

    hugs from Romania

  4. Skrekk & Gru

    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!

  5. Skrekk & Gru

    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!

  6. Ellemme

    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!

  7. Kerry

    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!

  8. Make mine Mid-Century

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

  9. Lilou the Frog

    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) :)

  10. Jenny Hillman

    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 :)

  11. Joel Henriques

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

  12. Anitra Cameron

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

  13. sunny smiles

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

  14. Lori Henriques

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

  15. Me salen alas (si me paras los pies...)

    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.

  16. Julie

    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!

  17. Jellybeanlupin

    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.

  18. Joel Henriques

    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.

  19. qi*

    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

  20. Andrea

    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.

  21. Joel Henriques

    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.

  22. Bonnie

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

  23. Anonymous

    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!!!!

  24. tifmarkir

    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.

  25. Sew Flippin Cool

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

  26. Joel Henriques


    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.

  27. Nick, Molly, and Lil Will

    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!

  28. Joel Henriques

    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.

  29. […] I just designed some coloring sheets for a cool little restaurant, Blackfish Cafe, at the beach in Lincoln City.  So here are some more fish!  If you want to try them out, click on the images below.  After coloring, you could even cut them out and use them in your Box Aquarium. […]

  30. […] Window Valance via in my own style Cardboard Faux Logs via Design*Sponge Hex Light via Von Tundra Wall Hanging Box Aquarium via Made by Joel 3-D Cardboard Star via grey luster girl Moon Scraplights via […]

  31. […] tak sme doobedie strávili výrobou akvária. To naše ani na začiatku nebolo také elegantné ako to, ktoré ma inšpirovalo, a okrem toho už malo niečo za sebou, kým som sa dostala k foťáku, ale aj tak malo úspech. […]

  32. […] Magazine & Blogs, Kids, DIY, Kinder | Kreatives Recycling ; )  Leicht zu realisieren – die Fische können auch die Kleinsten mit einer stumpfen Schere schon schneiden oder zumindest malen und dann ausschneiden lassen. Und beim Aquarium  selbst kann ja etwas Hilfe gegeben werden… We like! Gefunden auf  dem Blog Made by Joel. […]

  33. 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

  34. eileen

    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?

    1. 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!

  35. eileen

    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.