How To Turn An Aquarium Into A Pet Mouse Enclosure

The very first step before buying a mouse (or two!) is to ensure that you have the perfect place for your new furry friend to live. Since saving money is always an excellent idea, why not turn an old aquarium into a mouse cage? Chances are you have an old one laying around or know someone who does.

Here is how to turn an aquarium into a mouse cage:

  • Find an appropriately sized aquarium
  • Clean the aquarium very well with bleach and water
  • Obtain or make a well-ventilated lid
  • Fill the cage with mouse supplies and bedding

It is very simple to make a mouse cage out of an aquarium, so keep reading and find out more about this great DIY project for your new mice!

Turning an Aquarium into a Mouse Cage

Adding a new furry member to your family is a big decision to make. Before you can do so, you need to ensure you have a proper place for them to live.

How to change an aquarium to an enclosure for your pet rodent

While browsing around for good mouse cages, you might find that they are just a little too pricey for your liking. Especially since there are so many other things that your mouse is going to need besides just the cage!

That is where the aquarium comes in. You can buy a standard aquarium for very little money, but it is highly likely that you will be able to find someone who has an old aquarium laying around.

It is an extremely simple project. Follow these steps and you will have the perfect little home for your mouse in no time!

Find an Appropriately Sized Aquarium

When searching for an aquarium, first make sure that is the right size for you mouse. It is important to remember that mice need plenty of room to be able to play and run around.

Mice are relatively small throughout their entire lifespan, but this does not mean that the smallest size aquarium you can find will suffice. It also does not mean that having a huge cage is the best option, either.

They each have their downsides:

  • Too small of a cage can cause serious health problems due to how quickly filth and waste can build up inside it.
  • If the cage is too big, then you could face problems with air circulation, which could also cause serious health problems in your mouse.

What Size Cage Does a Mouse Need?

It is recommended that when you are trying to find the perfect cage for your mouse that you allow at least .5 cubic feet space per mouse living in the same cage.

You could always go a little bit bigger than that, if you would like to, but since we are using an aquarium as a cage and there are no large air holes all over the sides, it is important to be sure that the cage is not too tall to ensure good air circulation at the bottom of the cage.

Basically, look for an aquarium that is large enough for the number of mice you want, but not so tall that there will be poor air circulation at the bottom.

Clean the Cage WELL.

It is likely that you are going to be using an old, used aquarium for this project. Even if you are using a brand-new aquarium, you still need to be sure to clean it out well.

Here is how to clean a new aquarium in preparation for a mouse:

  1. Rinse the cage with water. You will want to do this to your new aquarium just to clean out any dust or dirt that has gathered inside of it.
  2. Sanitize the cage with bleach and water. For this step, you should always use bleach and water to effectively kill any bacteria that is inside of the cage. You can get a spray bottle and fill it up 90% of the way with water and 10% with household bleach. Spray this inside of the cage and let it sit for a few minutes.
  3. Use a clean cloth for stubborn spots or to dry the cage. After a few minutes, you can wipe up all of the bleach solution and even give an extra scrub to any spots that you see left on the cage glass.
  4. Rinse the cage twice. Rinsing the cage out twice will ensure that you are removing any bleach that could be left behind. Bleach is a strong chemical and is not good for your mouse to breathe it in, especially since aquariums do not have as much ventilation as regular mouse cages.

Cleaning a used aquarium is slightly different:

  1. Rinse the cage. Since this cage has had other animals living inside of it before, you will need to rinse it out, before doing anything else, to rid the cage of leftover debris.
  2. Let the cage soak in a bleach and water mixture. You will need the same bleach solution, which is 90% water and 10% bleach, for the used aquarium as well. After you have sprayed it heavily, allow the solution to sit for about 15 minutes. This will make it easier for you to clean stubborn spots that have been sitting in the cage for a long time and kill bacteria.
  3. Use a cloth or glass razor scraper for stubborn spots. It is now time to start scrubbing the cage clean. You can do this with a clean cloth, or if the mess is really hard to get clean, then you can use a glass razor scraper. Make sure that your glass is wet before using a scraper for the best results.
  4. Rinse the cage twice. After you have cleaned the cage very well, rinse the cleaner and gunk out. Be sure to rinse the cage twice, ensuring that there is no debris or bleach solution leftover.

Even though the cleaning may be a bit of a tedious task, it is well worth it for your little mouse to live safely and comfortably inside its new home.

Obtain a Well-Ventilated Lid

Mesh screen for top of pet enclosure
Mesh screen for top of pet enclosure

As mentioned before, aquariums are not as ventilated as the standard mouse cage is. This is because aquariums’ sides are all made of glass rather than wire with lots of air holes.

Along with making sure that your cage height is not too high, you will need to make sure that you have a lid that will encourage excellent circulation of airflow throughout the cage.

The cage lid should be able to keep the mouse safely inside of its cage, with no chance of escaping, but also have holes large enough for air to flow through, efficiently. This Zilla screen cover is a perfect choice.

Adding Another Level to Your Cage

What’s even better for your new friend than a well-ventilated lid? How about a whole new level to play in! Instead of just using a regular lid, you can buy what is known as a tank topper.

Kaytee Tank Topper
Kaytee Tank Topper | Image Credit: Amazon

A tank topper looks like a regular mouse cage without the solid base part. The base of the tank topper is left completely open so that you can place it on top of your cage, adding a new that level that is open to your mouse and provides better air circulation.

Tank toppers will usually come with accessories like:

  • Shelves and safety ramps
  • Food dishes
  • Water bottles
  • Hides or other cover for your mouse

For example, this Kaytee tank topper is a great addition to an aquarium. Putting a little of the money you saved by using an aquarium into a tank topper will improve your mouse’s quality of life!

How to Make your own Lid

If you are thinking that your mouse will be fine if you just leave a lid off of the cage, think again. Mice are incredibly smart and active creatures.

If they see a chance of being able to escape and explore new places, then you can bet that they are going to take it. If you don’t want to buy a new lid, or can’t find one that fits your aquarium, then you can just make one yourself!

This is how to make your own mouse cage lid:

  1. Measure the length and width of your cage.
  2. Purchase a sheet of Half Inch Galvanized Mesh.
  3. Cut out the amount of mesh that you need, but also add 1 inch extra on each side to fold down over the top of the cage.
  4. Lay the mesh flat on the cage and mark where it hangs over the edges. A sharpie works well for this. Use these marks to bend the wire.
  5. Bend the wire along the marks you made. This will make it so the wire topper fits over the aquarium snugly. You can use a vice if you have one, otherwise the edge of a table can work well.
  6. Check the fit, then cover the edges of the mesh with tape or fabric. Once you know it fits, make sure to cover the edges of the mesh with strong tape or fabric. They are sharp and could accidently cut or poke you or your mouse!

You should now have the perfect lid for your mouse cage. Check out the link to watch a full tutorial on how to make your own lid for a mouse cage.

Fill the Cage with Supplies

After you have found and cleaned your new mouse cage perfectly, you can begin filling it with all of the essentials your mouse will need.

The items you supply the cage with is just as important when it comes to bringing your mouse home. This will be safe, warm, and comfy home that your mouse will become familiar with before anything else.

So, what should you put into your mouse cage?

Make Sure to Use Proper Bedding

Mouse in bedding
Mice love to make nests to keep warm | Image Credit: Brianna Gaskill

Bedding will be the first thing to go into your mouse’s new home. It is the stuff that goes on the floor of the cage. Whichever bedding type you decide to with, be sure to layer it between 1 and 2 inches on the cage’s floor.

Bedding is critical for your mouse cage for these reasons:

  • Absorbs Waste- The bedding acts as a type of toilet paper, if you will, that will absorb the waste from your mouse, keeping things sanitary for a longer period of time.
  • Your mouse will want to dig- While trying to make your mouse cage comfortable for your new little friend, you will want to make sure it has things to do that are similar to activities it would do in the wild. Mice love to dig so that is why you should layer the bedding 1 to 2 inches thick.
  • Cushion for falls- Mice are highly active and love to climb around on things. But that does not mean that they do not slip up from time to time. The bedding will help them land comfortably rather than hitting the cold, hard bottom of the cage and possibly hurting themselves.
  • Warmth- Since mice are mammals, they like to be warm. You will want to be sure that they have something to kind of snuggle into, and bedding is the perfect “snuggling up” material.

There are so many different types of bedding that you can choose from your cage. It is recommended to steer clear of cedar and pine wood chips because they can damage your mouse’s liver.

Aside from that, you can talk to your veterinarian about the type of bedding you should put on your cage or just try a few out until your mouse seems satisfied.

Supply Adequate Food and Water

Pair of heavy feeding bowls
Stoneware feeding bowls | Image Credit: Amazon

Just like any other living creature, your mouse will need food and water in its home.

Since you will not be able to hang a traditional water bottle on the side of the cage like you would in a regular hamster cage, you can just use a heavy, shallow bowl to place in the floor of the cage.

You should also use the same type of bowl for food, so that your mouse is not knocking its food and water over every 2 seconds.

Mice really do not care about what they are walking over, so be sure to change out the food daily, and the water needs to be replaced as much as possible to avoid any type of contamination.

Exercise Equipment is Important

Mouse in exercise wheel

Let us face it. The exercise equipment for a mouse is basically just toys. Mice do not exercise because they need to keep up their beach bods; they do it because it is fun to them.

There are a few toys, though, that are really perfect for keeping your mouse active and maintain its health.

Here are some examples of exercise equipment for your mouse cage:

  • Running wheel
  • Ladders
  • Ropes

Your mouse will really enjoy playing with these things and will be in great shape at the same time!

Mouse Toys Keep them Busy

There are a few toys for mice that do not make them appear as though they are preparing for a marathon. As you know, mice are extremely active and just need things to stimulate their minds and keep them from sleeping all day long.

Here are some fun toys for your mouse:

  • Toilet paper rolls (Tunnels, as they see them)
  • Balls
  • Chew toys
  • Little See Saws

The options are endless for toys that will make your mouse as happy as can be!

A Few Helpful Tips to Care for Your New Mouse

Chances are if you are converting an aquarium into a mouse cage, you may be a new mouse owner! If so, we will go over some basic helpful tips that every owner should know.

Make its Home Comfortable

You may think that since a mouse is just an animal that you will not have to do much in its cage to make it feel comfortable. While you are correct that it does not take much, there are specific items and certain ways that item should be used in order to help your mouse feel comfortable.

Making its home comfortable is the first and most important tip because your mouse is going to be very timid when you bring it home. Its mouse cage will need to be the safe place that it knows it can depend on.

Ways to make sure that you are making the cage comfortable are:

  • Add the right amount of bedding
  • Add a little house or some tunnels inside the cage that your mouse can hide it when frightened.
  • Add plenty of toys so your mouse has something to keep it busy.
  • Always make sure there is clean water in the cage.

Just adding these things to your mouse cage will make your mouse feel at home in a very short amount of time.

Give Your Mouse Some Space

As mentioned earlier, the first couple of days after you bring your mouse home it is going to be scared. Moving to a new place is nerve-wrecking for anybody, let alone a little-bitty mouse.

It is recommended to limit the amount of time you spend with your mouse in those first couple of days, just to allow it to become familiar with its surroundings. Once your mouse realizes that its new home is a safe place, it will be easier to make it more comfortable with you.

Just try to have some patience and let your mouse calm down for about 2 days, then you can start trying to gain its trust.

Give Treats to Gain Trust

For the days that you are supposed to be giving your mouse some space, it is okay to give it a treat when you are going into the cage to change out food and water.

After those couple of days, you can give your mouse a treat as much as you would like, just keep in mind that you do not want to overfeed it. Treats are the best way to get your mouse more comfortable with being around you.

Because who doesn’t love food, right? Mice are no exception, and if you give a treat every time you enter the cage then it learns to associate you with the positive feelings of food.

Spend as Much Quality Time with Your Mouse as Possible

You will want to be around your mouse as much as you can. Not only because it is so cute and loveable, but also because it helps your mouse become familiar with you and your scent.

If you are a busy person, it important that you set a designated time every day to spend time with your mouse. Mice are very social, and it would not be fair to leave them all alone in a cage and never play with them.

During this quality time, be patient in building trust in your mouse. It may not happen overnight, but with hard work and dedication, it will happen.

Try playing as many games as possible with your mouse. It will be an amazing bonding experience.

Why Not Just Buy a Mouse Cage?

Mouse dreaming of recycling

Since most of us are accustomed to being able to get things in the snap of a finger, it can be really hard to resist the urge to just go out and buy a mouse cage that is ready to go.

In the spirit of not being wasteful and trying our hardest to be more resourceful, it is the better option to use an old aquarium as a mouse cage rather than to go buy one.

We should always try to recycle anything that we can, and an aquarium is just too perfect for mouse cage to throw in the trash.

You will be able save a few bucks and know that you actually put some special, homemade effort into making sure your mouse has a great home.

Best Place to Keep your Mouse Cage

You probably have not put much thought into where you should keep your mouse cage. The obvious answer is “As close to me, as possible, at all times.” While it would be hard to argue with that, it is possible that that may not be the best idea.

Take these tips into consideration when are trying to find the best place for your mouse cage:

  • Keep your mouse cage far from loud noises. Avoid placing your mouse cage in high traffic areas, especially if you have younger, louder children. Since mice are sensitive to high-pitched sounds that humans do not normally hear, be sure to put the cage somewhere away from electronics and household appliances.
  • Make sure your mouse cage is getting indirect natural sunlight. Vitamin D is an important vitamin that most animals need to be healthy. Since your mouse will be inside of your home all day, every day, it is important that it is getting an adequate amount of sunlight. If the cage is taking on direct sunlight, then the cage could rise to dangerous temperatures and harm your mouse.
  • Keep your mouse cage in a room with a comfortable temperature. If you are one those people who can not sleep unless it is freezing in your room, then I am sorry to tell you that your mouse will not be able to live in your room with you. Mice are mammals and need to be warm (but not too hot!).

Use your best judgement to decide if the place where you put the new cage is going to comfortable for your mouse.

How Often Should You Clean your Mouse Cage?

When it comes to keeping your mouse cage clean, there are many elements that go into making sure it is actually clean.

Calendar and clock
Regular cleaning of your mouse cage will lead to happy pets.

It is extremely important that it is kept clean in order to keep your mouse from getting sick or contracting any infections. It could also become a hazard for anyone living near a dirty cage.

Things you should be cleaning in your mouse cage:

  • Change the bedding.
  • Sanitize the floor of the cage.
  • Wash the food and water bowls.
  • Replace food and water with a fresh supply.
  • Sanitize all toys and exercise equipment.
  • Be sure not to leave behind any cleaning residues in the cage.

The frequency at which most of this is to be done is dependent on several different factors. It is always a good idea, though, to try and clean everything at least once a week. It also helps to scoop up noticeable wastes daily. This will help prevent ammonia build up.

When purchasing or making toys for your mouse, try to get plastic or rubber ones rather than cardboard, so that it is easier to disinfect them.

Following the above tips will help keep you and your mouse’s home clean and sanitary.

Turning an Aquarium into a Mouse Cage

To sum it all up, turning an aquarium into a mouse cage is so simple that it would be a waste not to. There are only a few things that you need to do such as:

  1. Find an appropriately sized aquarium.
  2. Clean the aquarium turned mouse cage, very well.
  3. Obtain a well-ventilated lid.
  4. Fill the cage with mouse supplies.

After completing the steps, you will have the perfect mouse cage!

Lee Cameron

When I was younger, I had guinea pigs and hamsters as pets. There was limited information back then as to how to take care of rodents, and indeed information on the various types of rodents that could be kept as pets. In this website, I hope to make it an easy, one-stop information portal on raising rodents!

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