DISCLOSURE: This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I receive a commission if you decide to purchase through my links. This at no extra cost to you.

How To Remove Scratches From Aquarium Glass – Methods & Guide

How To Remove Scratches From Aquarium Glass

Glass aquariums are much more affordable than their acrylic counterparts. The longer lifespan and scratch-resistance of glass tanks are their main selling points. But they’re not scratch-proof. Learn how to remove scratches from aquarium glass yourself, and do it on a budget when the inevitable happens!

You can remove scratches from aquarium glass using an electric drill, a buffing wheel, and your polish/filler of choice. We’ll go over tried & tested methods in this aquarium glass repair guide.

A front & center scratch on any aquarium can easily distract the eye from the awesome aquascape you’ve worked so passionately on. Even with fine scratches, you can’t unsee them once you’ve noticed them once.

You can always get professional help to repair a deep scratch on a massive glass display tank. But, if you’re willing to put in some elbow grease, you can definitely manage to remove fine scratches on your own.

When it comes to deep scratches, it’s sometimes better to learn to live with them and find ways to hide them.

Attempting to remove a deeper scratch from aquarium glass can leave your tank with a weak spot.

This aquarium glass repair guide will equip you with all the ins and outs of the process for a successful buff-out session. Remember that the goal is to remove scratches and still have a fish-safe aquarium by the end of this DIY project.

Safety first!

Make Sure To Buff Out The Scratches Very Carefully

The process of buffing out scratches of off glass with an electric buffer and an abrasive polish sounds pretty straightforward. But there are plenty of ways to mess it up if you’re playing it by ear.

Using the right products and tools is essential. So is following a technique that will allow you to buff out imperfections without damaging your tank.

What can go wrong?

–  Aquarium glass can turn hazy if the pad on your buffing wheel is too coarse;

–  Tempered aquarium glass can overheat and break if you don’t keep the surface cool and wet;

–  Fish can suffer if you’re not doing a thorough job with the after-buffing clean-up;

–  You can create a fish-eye distortion in aquarium glass if you don’t check on your progress often;

–  You can leave a weak spot behind by attempting to buff out a deep scratch. This can permanently ruin your glass tank’s structural integrity. 

It’s important to pay close attention to the steps provided in this article so that you won’t damage your aquarium.

Basic Precautions Before Attempting To Remove Scratches From Your Glass Tank

cerium oxide aquarium glass

First things first, you should never attempt to buff scratches out of a water-filled and stocked glass aquarium. Even if the scratches are on the outside of the glass panel, the tank needs to be empty.

Bits of abrasive materials, liquid polish, and other debris will be flying everywhere in the process. So, make sure you perform this task in an appropriate space.

Here are the basic precautions you need to keep in mind, no matter which scratch removal method you end up going with:

  • Start with a clean surface

Remove the fish, and all the plants, equipment and decorations, out of the glass tank. Thoroughly clean the tank, inside and outside, regardless of where the scratch is located.

Even a grain of gravel can cause havoc if it gets caught in between the glass and your buffer wheel. After using an aquarium glass cleaner, a final rinse with fresh, clean water should do the trick.

You can use masking tape on the opposite side of the panel that you’ll be working on. Marking the area that you’ll be buffing out makes it easier to check your progress along the way.

  • Use an electric hand drill on its lowest setting

Using an electric drill or a battery-operated hand drill is highly recommended to make the process as smooth as possible. To prevent overheating, and to have better control over how deep you buff out aquarium glass, use your tool on its lowest setting.

  • Make sure the glass doesn’t overheat in the process

This precaution is a concern when you’re using an electric drill on tempered aquarium glass. Glass can easily overheat as you work on removing scratches.

To prevent accidents (cracks, shattering, etc.), keep your buffer pad damp at all times. Spray the surface you’re working on with water as needed, and allow the glass to cool in between buffing sessions.

  • Apply even steady pressure to avoid the fisheye effect

Avoid focusing on just one area or pushing too hard on your electric drill. Steady pressure, and circular motions, are ideal when trying to remove scratches off of aquarium glass.

The fish eye effect is created when buffing out just one spot intensely, which will cause visual distortion. This can, in turn, be even more of an eyesore than the scratch that you just removed.

  • Check on your scratch-removal progress often

Ideally, you’ll want to stop the buffing process as soon as the scratch becomes hardly visible. Going past that point can leave a weak spot in aquarium glass.

It’s not worth removing scratches if you’re going to be left with an unsafe aquarium in the end.

  • Wipe aquarium glass clean using clean water to remove all polish residue

This step is crucial, especially if you’re working on removing scratches off of the inside part of an aquarium glass panel. Polish residue, and any leftover chemicals, can be deadly for your pet fish, even in trace amounts.

Make sure you thoroughly clean your glass fish tank, rinse, and rinse again once you’ve finished removing any unsightly scratches.

  • Wear protective gear!

When working with any of the abrasive chemicals listed above, make sure you wear the appropriate protective gear to stay safe. Glass particles, cerium oxide residue, and specks of liquid resin will be flying off left and right during the buffing process.

A dust mask and goggles are must-haves when trying to remove scratches from aquarium glass!

Perform this DIY project in a well-lit and appropriately ventilated area!

Pre-Buffing Prep

Before getting starting with any of the scratch removal methods, you should do the following:

  • Clean the empty glass tank using an aquarium cleaner and a soft microfiber cloth. Make sure there are no sand/gravel particles left behind. 
  • Get all the tools and products you’ll be using readily near your workstation.
  • If you’re buffing out scratches using an electric drill, have a squirt/spray bottle with clean water on hand. You’ll need it to cool down the glass, so it doesn’t overheat. 
  • Put new and clean pads on your buffer wheel to avoid adding more scratches with any abrasive residue from previous projects. 
  • Start working on dry aquarium glass. 

Method 1: Polish Aquarium Glass With Cerium Oxide

how to restore fish tank glass

Cerium oxide is a non-water-soluble powder that’s commonly used as a glass polishing agent. This aquarium glass repair method will work on ultrafine and fine scratches.

Jewelers also use it for fine retouches on stones and jewelry pieces.

A cerium oxide paste is one of the most efficient abrasive liquids you can use to remove scratches from aquarium glass. To create this polishing compound, you’ll need a 2:1 water to cerium oxide ratio.

Items needed

Step-by-step guide

  1. Clean the aquarium glass panel you’ll be working on thoroughly, and pat it dry. 
  2. Put together your cerium oxide solution by combining 2 cups of water with 1 cup of cerium oxide powder.
  3. Put the mixture into a bottle/container that you can easily squeeze the solution out of as needed.
  4. Prepare your electric drill by attaching a buffer wheel & pad to it.
  5. Dampen the buffer pad using the cerium oxide solution.
  6. Turn on your drill, and start buffing out the scratches. Use circular motions and even pressure.
  7. Pour more of the cerium oxide solution directly onto the aquarium glass periodically. Remember to shake the bottle before pouring each time. The powder will tend to settle at the bottom of the container.
  8. Keep an extra spray bottle filled with water. Spray the glass if you feel it overheating. You can stop for a few minutes to allow the glass to cool down and take a break once in a while.
  9. When spraying the glass with water, check your progress. Depending on the depth of the scratch, you might be done buffing it out before you even realize it.
  10. Once you’re satisfied with the results, clean off any cerium oxide residue using fresh, clean water.

Method 2: Fill-up Scratches With Liquid Glass Resin

Filling up scratches on aquarium glass with a filler, like liquid glass resin, is a less conventional method. It’s typically used to fix cracks in a car’s windshield, and it has the advantage of not distorting the clarity of glass.

This scratch removal technique will work best on medium-depth scratches on aquarium glass.

Items needed

Step-by-step guide

  1. Clean and pat dry the area you’ll be working on.
  2. Use rubbing alcohol to be sure there isn’t any glass cleaner residue left behind. Any oily residue can prevent the liquid glass resin from grabbing onto the surface of the glass.
  3. Prepare your resin by following the instructions on the product’s label.
  4. Use the syringe to fill in the scratches, careful not to over-pour.
  5. Allow the glass resin to cure for 24 hours.
  6. Buff out the excess resin to level the surface of the glass panel. You can follow the same steps listed in the cerium oxide repair process.
  7. Clean off any residue using fresh, clean water.

Method 3: Multi-Purpose Metal Polish

Most multi-purpose metal polishes will work to remove fine scratches from aquarium glass. 

These polishes are usually marketed as brass, bronze, chrome, or copper repair polishes.

Items Needed

Step-by-step guide

  1. Clean and pat dry the area that you’ll be working on.
  2. Use the metal polish the same way you would use the cerium oxide solution.
  3. Dampen your buffer pad, buff out the scratches using the lowest setting of your electric drill.
  4. Remember to take breaks and spray the glass with water if you feel it starting to overheat.
  5. Add more polish, buff, and repeat, until you’re satisfied with the results.
  6. Clean off any polish residue using fresh, clean water.

Professional Glass Scratch Repair Kits

A glass scratch repair kit will provide you with everything you need to remove a scratch on aquarium glass, except the electric drill.

There are buffing pads, polishing pads, a universal drill attachment, abrasive discs of varying grits, and a glass polishing compound. Some kits even come with protective gear.

It’s up to you to decide if the upfront cost of the kit fits your fishkeeping budget.

Professional glass scratch repair kits come with their own user instructions and will even provide video tutorials for you to follow.

How To Prevent Scratches On Aquarium Glass

how to get scratches off fish tank

Most scratches that don’t happen when you first set up a glass tank will happen when you’re trying to clean it. Aside from accidental scrapes, the most common culprits behind scratches on aquarium glass will be your cleaning tools.

Here’s how you can prevent scratches on a glass tank:

Make sure your cleaning tools and accessories are clean before you use them on the glass panels. 

  • Use soft microfiber or cotton cloths when cleaning the tank. 
  • Use aquarium glass-safe cleaners and polishes. 
  • When removing algae with a scraper, hold it flush against the glass and never at an angle. 
  • Avoid stirring up the substrate, sand, or gravel too much when siphoning it. 
  • Use the right products to remove mineral deposits (barkeeper’s friend, vinegar) rather than forcefully scraping the glass. 
  • Staying on top of a regular maintenance routine will help you avoid having to scrub a glass aquarium.

 Can You Remove Deep Scratches From Aquarium Glass?

If you can catch your fingernail in a scratch on aquarium glass, that’s a telltale sign that it’s not worth attempting to remove it on your own.

You run the risk of damaging your glass tank past a certain point, making it unsafe for fishkeeping. 

 If the scratches are too deep, there are three things you can do:

  1. Get professional help from an aquarium glass repair company.
  2. Figure out if you can hide the scratches, or at least make them less noticeable.
  3. Get a cut-to-size replacement panel and remove the aquarium glass panel that’s too damaged to be safe. This is a choice that makes more sense if we’re talking about a high-volume display fish tank.

How To Hide Deep Scratches On Aquarium Glass

Are the scratches on your glass tank too deep to buff out on your own? Would getting the glass panels repaired by a professional cost more than replacing the aquarium altogether? 

 Here’s how you can hide deep scratches on aquarium glass:

  • Flip the tank around if the deep scratch is on the front panel. 

 You’ll need to do some aquascaping changes to make the new set-up match your vision.

  • Use vinyl to black out the back of your glass aquarium. 

 This will make scratches in most areas less visible.

 Algae tend to fill up scratches on the inside of a glass tank. 

 If you don’t remove these algae patches, they can make the scratches even more visible. 

  • Move your glass tank’s light fixture to a different position. 

You’ll be surprised how much of a difference a change in lighting can make. 

This can make even the deepest scratches harder to see at first glance. 

Deep scratches located in an extremely unfortunate area (front and center on a curved glass tank!) are the hardest to deal with. You’ll either have to settle with just making the scratches less visible or resort to replacing the damaged panel altogether.

How To Replace A Panel On A Glass Aquarium

If a scratch on your glass aquarium is too deep and isn’t in an area where you can conceal it, a replacement panel might be your last resort.

Taking apart a glass tank, replacing the damaged panel, and resealing the entire set-up is quite the ordeal. That’s why replacing a panel on your own is rarely worth the time or effort.

For a glass tank smaller than 30 gallons, it makes more sense to just replace the entire aquarium. 

You can always use a too-scratched-to-display tank as a hospital or as a nursery.

This solution is targeted more towards larger display tanks (30+ gallons), where the investment in a replacement panel is smaller than the cost of replacing the entire set-up.

Step-by-step guide

  1. Purchase a cut-to-size replacement glass panel
  2. Take apart the damaged aquarium and remove all the old silicone
  3. Put the glass tank back together, including the new scratch-free panel; Reseal the tank using 100% silicone
  4. Allow the silicone to cure for 36-48 hours
  5. Fill up the tank with water and monitor to see if there are any leaks.

Conclusion

Aquarium glass is considered to be scratch-resistant, especially when compared to acrylic. 

But accidents do happen, especially when you’re trying to remove other eyesores, like hard water stains or lime deposits.

Depending on the depth of the scratch, there are safe ways to remove a scratch from aquarium glass. Granted, the efficient methods are also labor-intensive.

The view of a scratch-free glass tank is 100% worth the effort!


Recommended Reading: