Tutorial for my Gumball Machine Betta Tank

 Taking this $25 (key-less) vintage gumball machine that I bought on Craigslist from this…  …To this!    The obvious (but unnecessary) is the paint, but I just couldn’t handle the incredibly dated look of the green and the wooden base, so I had to paint!

 Like I said, I bought it on Craigslist on the same day I decided to try something like this. There were a few listed, but this was the cheapest because the key no longer worked. Anyway, I hauled it to a locksmith and he said he couldn’t help because he didn’t work with that style of locks. Just wonderful, considering I didn’t have a plan B.

Luckily for me, my boyfriend pretty much has a whole shop full of all sorts of tools and was able to drill it out fairly easily. Any auto shop will have the drill needed for that, so for those of you that aren’t quite as fortunate, I’d recommend taking it in there and asking for them to drill this. (I didn’t do this part so I’ll get these details soon and update later.)

Once the key and center bar were drilled out, it was really simple to disassemble, so this is where I took it apart and painted with some basic multi-purpose spray paint from Lowe’s. I also bought silicone sealant and one sheet of thin plastic-y fiberglass, nothing too heavy duty since I’d have to saw through it myself.

While my painted pieces were drying, I put together the base of the tanks starting with something I already had in my kitchen, corks! I just cut then in half because it so happened that they were the exact height I needed.I mounted set the cork pieces up to support the fiberglass I was about to cut. Not the greatest picture but the fiberglass couldn’t be laid on the bottom because of the holes supporting the metal prongs and the massive gap the extends into the wall of this piece. The corks work perfect because they can be cut and sized easily. They aren’t super aesthetically pleasing here but I knew I’d cover this up with gumballs anyway. Next I measured out the shapes for the fiberglass by tracing and cut into it with a jigsaw. You have to do a really good job of supporting it evenly though, or it’ll snap (see under my outlined shape). It’s easier if you have someone handy with tools helping you 😉This part really does look like a finer art than it actually is. Mine wasn’t even close to symmetrical when I finished, and the edges were all jagged, but as long as it fits into you’re base piece with just enough space for the sealant to fill any gaps here, you’re golden!

 The sealant I used is pictured above.

You’ll then seal the fiberglass to the gold base piece with the fish tank sealant. One thing to note is you actually want to paint the seal all along the metal rods to avoid rust. This is super time consuming and sticky. And it sucks because by now you are probably just wanting to throw some fish in, but trust me and take your time. I had to do mine two or three times before it was covered completely, and I definitely had some rust issues because of it. I suppose you could do this step with a brush or something, but with the angles and how sticky this stuff is, I found it easiest to use my hand. Don’t do this step if you have a fancy dinner or anything planned. You may have goo on you for a little while…

After this, my pieces had dried, but I waited overnight before assembling. You should have five distinct pieces– the wooden base with the individual bases for the quarters to be stored screwed in, two separate globes with gold base sealed to the bottom, and two lids.

The pieces just fit together, but you could seal them together too. I didn’t, because it makes it much easier to clean when you can just pull the globe part off of the base (where the money would go) and carry it wherever to clean. 

I also bought some mini led tealights off of Amazon. They were intended for wedding decor or something I believe, but since I didn’t want any random wires hanging out the back of my tank, they were really the best solution I’ve come up with. I actually just hot glued two to each lid. They are twist-on lights so they can be turned on still when glued down, and they’re super cheap so whenever they run out, I just glue new ones in. I rarely even turn the lights on honestly, but I wanted something. If I come up with a better solution for lighting I’ll update this!To finish it off, I really wanted to put gumball shaped rocks in the tank. It took some major scouring on the internet, but I finally found the perfect solution! Jumbo Chinese checkers marbles. I found this wonderful seller on eBay with some perfect sized ones, and actually got a discount for making a double order, so yay! 🙂 I found one order per side to be just perfect just FYI. More wouldn’t hurt though! The site for those marbles is below. 


Please let me know if this is at all confusing! Thanks for reading. I’d love to see pictures if anyone else makes their own!