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PLA Printing for Aquarium Decor

Discussion in 'Projects' started by Doug Gebhart, Mar 23, 2015.

  1. Doug Gebhart

    Doug Gebhart Member

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    I have 3 cichlids in my freshwater aquarium, and as they grow bigger, it is really hard to find aquarium decor that they can swim into/through. I was thinking that 3D printing would be perfect for this, but I was wondering two things. First off, could PLA be harmful to the fish? I would lean towards no, because many plastic parts are used in filters, etc. Second, will PLA degrade in an aquatic environment? If it matters, my aquarium is kept at about 78 F and at 7.6 pH.
     
  2. Printed Solid

    Printed Solid Volunteer Admin
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    The PLA will probably degrade eventually, but you can just print another :). The products of the degradation should not be harmful.
    The more annoying thing is that it will be a nice growth site for stuff in the tank. Maybe you could seed it with something so that it is growing things you want. Or you could coat it with some silicone or something so you don't have all the crevices for things to grow into.
    For safety, I'd advise sticking with natural and buy from a supplier who is willing to provide a material datasheet. The PLA may not be toxic, but colors and additives are a different story.

    Another option may be to go with natural PET (colorfabb XT or T-glase) both can be vapor smoothed and will not be affected by the water.
     
  3. Joe H

    Joe H Member

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    i don't think the PLA would be harmful, nor would it degrade at a rate that you would notice too much. one idea though, would be to coat your printed object with an aquatic safe silicone. like the sealant used to seal the corners of a glass tank.
     
  4. milks

    milks Member

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    It'd probably want to float unless you had a high infill density; alternatively if you had a low number of perimeters and few top/bottom layers the water should eventually work it's way into the internal air pockets
     
  5. Stephen Capistron

    Stephen Capistron Active Member

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    Good point on floating. Could leave a hole in the bottom and run a SS bolt into the part to weigh it down.
     
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  6. Doug Gebhart

    Doug Gebhart Member

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    I tested some other prints, and even at 20% infill it seems to not float, assuming there is no trapped air spaces. I am also leaving tabs on the bottom so I can cover it partially with gravel. Anyone have any further knowledge on the toxicity of the dyes that may be used? Is this something I really need to worry about? I don't have any natural PLA and I don't want to buy a new roll. Plus colored looks nicer. BTW, here is the file I am considering printing for my tank. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:739215
     
  7. lemuba

    lemuba Active Member

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    In water, PLA at every infill amount will suck water like a sponge.
    Look for ESUN PETG or similar an be happy. Easy printing as PLA, hydrophobic, not degrading...

    Drinking water bootles are made from PETG...

    Br,

    Matthias
     
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  8. Ryan TeGantvoort

    Ryan TeGantvoort Active Member

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    @Doug Gebhart Thanks for uploading that Castle! I was actually just thinking about starting to design and print some stuff for my tank. I got a huge Red Tailed Shark and she will not fit in anything I have. She was actually stuck inside my Tiki Hut! :) So I had to remove it because she kept trying to go back home. Now I have a huge empty space and need to fill it. I wanted either a Castle of some sort or a big piece that looked like drift wood. I also have a Volcano that she used to live in before she outgrew that.

    I have been trying to find some information as to which material to use, but I have received mixed reviews. Some say PLA is good but could degrade, some say ABS is bad because of the fumes when printed, some say ABS is good because you can use vapor fumes to seal it. People have said don't print at all because some nozzles can leave trace materials behind. Color seems to be a big factor in whether or not its safe. I like the idea of using PETG, seems like the best bet.

    One person stated its best to soak and rinse the part for a week or more before installing in the tank. I would also assume printing with 100% infill would be best?
     
  9. WheresWaldo

    WheresWaldo Volunteer ( ͠° ͟ʖ ͡°)
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    As long as you have enough perimeters and the model is manifold then you can print with any infill that gives you enough support. Be aware that a part might actually be buoyant and float! PETG would be a good choice since it doesn't produce any harmful outgases and is normally used in liquid bottles for human consumption.
     
    Ryan TeGantvoort likes this.
  10. Doug Gebhart

    Doug Gebhart Member

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    I actually ended up going in a completely different direction. I took some huge (4") PVC pipe tees and coated them with aquarium rock using fish safe epoxy. It worked great, though I tried putting them in after 2 weeks of curing and it poisoned my fish. (They are big, so it didn't hurt them permanently). I took them out and then let them cure for 3 months, and then it was fine. I use them now and my fish love them. I actually never got around to printing my castle, because I did the PVC instead.

    However, when I was planning it, I was planning to print in natural PLA, because it absorbs water and would not float. I figured it would degrade eventually, but I could always print another. I chose PLA because it is made out of plants, so it can't be too bad for fish, right?
    I think ABS would work fine too, as long as you let it cure for a long time. I believe many filter parts are made of ABS.
    Either way, I would suggest putting it in a small tank with some feeder fish first to make sure it is safe. I used my 10 gallon quarantine tank to test the PVC things I made. My fish were happy because they got some tetra treats when I was done with it!
     
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  11. corndog

    corndog New Member

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    I made a boat and it does not hurt the fish, in fact, they love to play with it. if algae is a worry then just reprint if it gets to bad.:)
     
  12. mark tomlinson

    mark tomlinson ༼ つ ◕_ ◕ ༽つ
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    PLA is fine for that there is nothing deadly in it from the fish perspective.
     

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