Can You Paint Your Scuba Tank?

Scuba tanks are essential to keep a diver alive by delivering oxygen to a special mask that the diver is wearing. These tanks should be kept in good working condition to help the diver in uncharted waters. There are ways to keep your scuba tank healthy and ways to ruin your scuba tank.

Can you paint your scuba tank? Yes, the scuba tank can be painted. However, it is recommended that the scuba tanks are not painted. There are various reasons for not painting your tank, such as: 

  • Paint cannot withstand saltwater and diving
  • Paint causes corrosion
  • Failing annual inspection
  • Damage the undercoat
  • Removing paint causes damage

Scuba tanks are on the list of diving necessities. Divers should treat these scuba tanks as equipment and should take care of them. If scuba tanks are not taken care of, the diver could be putting their own lives at risk when diving in the sea. For more on tank markings and buying advice, check out our article “How to tell the size of a scuba tank.”

Withstanding Saltwater and Diving

Scuba tanks are designed specifically to hold air in. These tanks have gauges and valves on them that need to be intact to deliver the air to diver’s masks. Scuba tanks can go in the ocean with saltwater and stay whole.

When a diver decides to paint their scuba tank, they are putting that tank at risk. Once the paint is on the tank, it adheres to the undercoating of the scuba tank that is usually made of materials that can withstand saltwater and diving. Paint is not made for saltwater or diving and will start to deteriorate. 

Once deterioration starts on the tank, this will eat away at not only the paint but the undercoating layer as well. This will damage the scuba tank and make the tank weak in spots. 

Corrosion Damage

Painting the scuba tank can be harmful to the tank itself. It is dangerous to paint the tank for a lot of reasons, but the most important one is corrosion damage.

The problem with corrosion is that once it starts to happen, it can be hard to correct. The first thing that needs to happen is that the paint has to come off the tank. That will be hard, depending on which type of tank you have. If you have an aluminum tank, you will need to remove it with a paint stripper. If you have a stainless steel tank, you will need a wire brush.

Another issue it is hard to tell that corrosion is happening under the paint unless you remove the paint. This can cause the corrosion to keep happening under the paint and the divers not knowing. This could cause the diver to risk their lives when diving with painted tanks. The diver will go under the ocean with a corroded tank, and the oxygen might be leaking out. This is extremely dangerous. 

Annual Inspection

All scuba tanks are to be inspected annually for any defects or issues. This is helpful to divers to make sure they are being safe when out diving. Annual inspections are done by the local dive shops by a professional. 

Inspections

Inspections are done once a year by the professional at the dive shop. They are trained to look for damages or failures to the scuba tanks. The annual inspection looks for failures and injuries to the tank that paint might cover-up.

Inspectors must be able to look in and out of the tanks with nothing getting in the way. Paint might stop the inspection to be complete or comprehensive. The inspection will take around thirty minutes, depending on the professional and tank. 

Failure and Pass

Some of the failures that scuba tanks might have are superficial and able to be seen upon this inspection. Cracks in the tank walls, cracks in the threads, corrosion and pitting, wrong valves, heat damage, and wrong burst disk. These failures sometimes cannot be fixed, and the tank will fail inspection.

If the tank fails inspection, it will need to be destroyed, which some dive shops will take care of for you. If the tank passes inspection, the dive shop will give the tank an evidence of inspection sticker. 

Damage to the Undercoat

Damage to the undercoat could happen when someone paints their scuba tank. Paint is not made for the rigors of scuba diving. The paint has issues with salt water, which can cause corrosion. If this happens, then there will be damage to the undercoat.

Undercoat material

The undercoat of scuba tanks is made of two different materials. There are scuba tanks that are made of aluminum alloy. There are other scuba tanks made of stainless steel. Each undercoat comes with issues of their own without adding in the damage of paint.

Aluminum alloy is not as durable as stainless steel. Aluminum alloy can be easily damaged from external factors such as dents, dings, or cracks in the tank. These tanks are lighter to take on dives. 

Stainless steel scuba tanks are durable, but they are the heavier option. They are tougher in the dive and can be more resistant to any damage from the outside. However, they should be taken care of to avoid internal rust to the tanks. 

Add Paint

Adding paint to the undercoat of the scuba tank, you are risking the scuba tank as well as the diver. The paint can cause the external material of the undercoat to corrode, crack, or pit. 

Another damage to the undercoat could be when the tank owner takes off the paint. Stripping away paint from the scuba tank could compromise the undercoating material, whether aluminum alloy or stainless steel.

Removing Paint

So, let’s talk about what would need to go into the removal of paint from the scuba tank. Removing paint would need to happen if the scuba tank damage has started or the diver does not want the paint to be on the scuba tank any longer. 

There are steps to remove the paint in a less harmful way. The owners of the tank do need to be extremely careful not to heat the tank in this process, as it will harm the tank.

Steps to Removing Paint

There are a couple of steps that someone can follow to remove paint from a scuba tank. There should be caution used when doing these steps as there will be chemicals used as well as wire brushes. The steps are as follows:

  1. Gather materials together:
  2. Tape the tank 
  3. Scour the tank
  4. Chemical stripper
  5. Paint thinner
  6. Finish with a wire brush

Be careful when removing any paint with the chemicals as they can be an issue when it comes in contact with skin, eyes, etc. Also, the person stripping the paint off of the tank should practice good patience as this process will take a long time. 

Customization

While it is not recommended that scuba divers paint their scuba tanks, there are ways that the scuba tank can be customized. One idea is to use sharpies on the scuba tank. This will give the person personalization to the tank without causing any damage. Sharpies will hold up underwater for awhile as well. 

Another idea is to put stickers on the tank. While this is not as popular of an idea as sharpies, it is less damaging than painting the tank. Most likely, the stickers will need to be removed for the annual inspection. 


Sources:

Hornsby, J (1999, November). Tank Safety and Professional Inspection. Northwest Dive News, Vol. 3 Issue 11. Retrieved from: http://www.visualplus.net/TankSafetyandProfessionalInspection.htm

Dive, Buddy (2009, March). Painting Tanks. Scuba Forum. Retrieved from: http://www.divebuddy.com/forum/8830/painting-tanks/

F., Chris. (2008, March). Stripping/Removing Paint from Scuba Tank. Retrieved from: https://www.travelingfeetz.com/2008/03/stripping-removing-paint-from-scuba.html

PADI (n.d.). Scuba Tanks: The Essentials. Retrieved from: https://www.padi.com/gear/tanks

Articles contain affiliate links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. The site is also an affiliate for other brands covered in our the content. We may earn a small commission when readers purchase through these links at no extra cost to the buyer.

Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

Recent Content