As more and more people get involved in fish keeping, we have noticed a spike in the number of questions from the community about using PVC in an aquarium recently.
PVC can act as a cheap aquarium accessory that works out to be considerably cheaper than some of the other plastics and materials that are commonly used helping to keep your budget low but it does have its drawbacks.
With there being so much misinformation online about using PVC in your aquarium as well as so many people reaching out and asking about it, we have decided to publish this dedicated article going over using PVC in an aquarium.
Our hope is that we will be able to help as many of our readers as possible while also clearing up some of the more common myths and misunderstandings that we see time and time again from the community.
We have added a table of contents below as we are going to be trying to cover a number of different questions in this single article too.
It makes more sense to try and make it into an ultimate guide on using PVC in your aquarium so including as many of the commonly asked questions that we see from the community is probably the best route to take.
Is PVC Safe In An Aquarium?
PVC plastic is safe in most aquariums and provided it is professional grade PVC and that you have cut it correctly if you had to do any customization then there should be no major problems with using it in your aquarium.
The main hazard of using PVC in your aquarium comes from cutting it incorrectly so the tiny PVC fibres get into the water and potentially harm your fish but this is very easy to avoid and most people don’t cut the PVC themselves anyway.
Although a large number of people do still use PVC plastic pipe and tube for different places to hide for their fish, it will usually float unless you take steps to weigh it down.
This is why more and more people are making the switch over to using ABS plastic or something like terracotta pots as they will easily sink and serve the same purpose as PVC in an aquarium.
ABS plastic does usually win out in a direct comparison for aquarium use when compared to PVC as it is usually black too offering a hide for your fish that tends to feel safer for them.
This can help to reduce the stress and anxiety in your fish without you having to take any additional steps but keep in mind, both PVC and ABS plastic do come in different sizes so always make sure you get a range of sizes that are all suitable for the fish you keep in your aquarium.
Uses For PVC In An Aquarium!
There are a number of uses for PVC in an aquarium but the most popular one by far is to use it as a quick, easy, and cheap hide for your fish.
If you have aquatic plants in your aquarium then you are also able to use the PVC as a gravel or soil bed too if you don’t want to have the substrate covering the bottom of your aquarium too.
As we mentioned above though, PVC plastic does have the downside of it floating unless you specifically take steps to secure it to the bottom of your aquarium.
If you are wanting to use PVC tubes as soil pots for your aquatic plants then the soil should be enough to keep it at the bottom of your tank but if the PVC is for a fish hide then you will have to weigh it down in some way.
This is why so many people are using ABS plastic instead of PVC plastic these days.
On top of that, some people will try to paint their PVC to make it darker to help the fish in their aquarium feel safer but this can add another potential toxin to the tank.
This helps to score points for ABS plastic as it is black rather than white and looks more like a natural fish hide that a fish would use on a reef to hide from potential predators.
Is PVC Reef Safe?
PVC piping is reef safe and is commonly used in reef aquariums by a large number of people for a number of different uses.
Although PVC piping usually gets the blame, the main risk to a reef aquarium from using PVC is the glue that you use on the PVC when constructing what you require as the glue presents a toxin so always use a reef safe glue if possible.
You really do have to be careful with the glue that you use on any PVC in a reef aquarium with Seachem Reef Glue usually being considered the best glue for reef aquariums.
Although there are a number of competing glue products on the market, some of them are terrible and offer little to no use as glue while sometimes having a price tag higher than Seachem Reef Glue.
The general PVC piping presents no risk to a reef aquarium but if you have been cutting the PVC into custom shapes then you really should be sanding down the cuts if possible.
The small PVC fibres can cause problems with fish gills, some aquatic plants and corals, and the aquarium filter so try to ensure any custom cuts on the PVC are clean prior to adding it to your aquarium.
Is PVC Saltwater Resistant?
PVC is saltwater resistant meaning that you are able to use it in any saltwater aquariums you have as fish hides without having to worry about the salt in the water breaking the PVC down.
This does offer PVC an advantage over some other types of plastic that saltwater can break down over time making PVC an obvious option.
Just like PVC piping, ABS pipe and tubing is also resistant to saltwater too while offering the various advantages that we have spoken about earlier in our article.
The same can’t be said for terracotta though as the red color comes from iron and it can cause some problems in saltwater tanks so it is usually best to avoid using any terracotta pots if your tank is saltwater.
The same tends to do for all other types of metals that people commonly use in freshwater tanks as the metal tends to react badly with the saltwater.
This is why using something like PVC or ABS plastic in a saltwater aquarium is becoming more and more popular as it is easy to use, doesn’t react with the saltwater while also being cheap too.
Is PVC Glue Toxic To Fish?
Some of the glues that people use with PVC can be toxic to fish and is the main reason that using PVC in aquariums initially got a bad rap a few years back but people have since realised that the problem was the glue the were using, not the actual PVC.
There are a number of aquarium safe glue products on the market now that you can use with your PVC to keep it safe for your aquariums.
We usually recommend that our readers go with Seachem Flourish Glue for freshwater aquariums and Seachem Reef Glue for any reef or saltwater aquariums.
They really are the best products for the job and have a huge user base within the fish keeping world due to their reliability, low prices, and excellent performance.
There are some other suitable glue products that are safe to use in your aquarium but there are also a number that are marketed as being aquarium safe when they really aren’t.
Our general rule of thumb for aquarium glue is to only use Seachem products due to the great reputation that they have managed to rightfully earn for themselves in the community over the years.
That brings our article going over using PVC in an aquarium to a close. We hope that you have been able to find the answers to your questions about using PVC or other plastics in your aquarium in our article and that we have been able to help you make the right choice for your needs. Although PVC is a decent option to take, we feel that ABS is better for most use cases but understand that ABS plastic can be difficult to find in some areas of the world.