by MARCI LINN | photo by JULIEN & LAMBERT PHOTOGRAPHIC SERVICES
Today’s contemporary spaces, more and more, seem to incorporate a little bit of Mother Nature right alongside the modern conveniences and styles. A great method of bringing some of that great outdoors to your indoors is to set up and maintain a miniature underwater habitat, complete with live, growing plants and aquatic life.
There are many methods of creating an underwater biotope, and tomes have been dedicated to the art and science of it, so please explore all those options if the idea strikes your fancy. For the sake of brevity, here’s a simple, inexpensive project to help get your thumb wet in the wonderful world of planted aquaria. Not only will you benefit from the soothing ambiance of a tiny underwater world, but you just might discover a whole new hobby that you really enjoy and move on to larger and more complex systems.
To set up a basic freshwater, planted aquarium, choose a small glass or acrylic container, be that a ready-made aquarium or a uniquely shaped clear glass or acrylic receptacle. Just ensure that your chosen aquarium has as large a surface area as possible, which enables more oxygen exchange at the surface (in other words, no tall, narrow vases, which, despite the popularity of the “vase betta” craze, are just not good for the fish).
Place your chosen habitat on a flat, level, sturdy surface near an electrical outlet. A countertop in the kitchen, a bar top, side table, dresser, nightstand, or even a bathroom vanity are all good choices. Add an aquatic soil substrate, formulated specifically for growing plants, about three inches deep.
Fill the tank carefully by pouring water gently into a saucer to avoid disturbing the soil. Any cloudiness will likely clear overnight. Be sure to add water conditioner to neutralize any chemicals added by the water treatment plant. Your local pet store can help you select the appropriate one for your area. Next, you’ll need to add a very small heater to keep water temperature stable. Again, your local pet store can assist you in choosing the correct-sized heater for your needs, based on size of your aquarium and your ambient room temperature.
Your mini aquatic jungle will require a suitable light source to help your plants thrive and grow. For the scope of this project, I recommend a small, clip-on, full-spectrum LED lamp. Long lasting, efficient, and cool running, they come in a vast array of styles, shapes, and colors to appeal to all tastes and can be purchased for less than $30. A simple air-driven sponge filter will complete your required equipment, which can be obtained for around $25.
Fill your aquarium with easy-to-grow, forgiving, hearty species such as the following:
• Shorter Plants: Java fern, Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana), Dwarf hairgrass (Eleocharis parvula), Anubias nana.
• Taller Plants: Bacopa caroliniana, Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis.)
• Free-floating plants: Water sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides), Marimo moss ball (Aegagropilalinnaei).
Plant utilizing the taller plants in the back and shorter plants in the front. Accessorize to your heart’s content: perhaps an Asian theme with little red bridge or a Buddha statue; a magical fairy garden; your child’s favorite cartoon character; an ever-changing holiday theme; or a scattering of pretty trinkets from your travels, like seashells, pebbles, or driftwood (fish safe, of course).
Mini aquariums are rather limited in what types and the numbers of fish they can house, but some possible options, depending on your container’s water volume and surface area, are small tetras, rasboras, endlers guppies, killifish, dwarf cories, or tiny ornamental shrimp, which all come in an kaleidoscope of patterns and colors! A single male betta is also a great choice, often becoming so tame it will take food from your fingers.
Small, regular water changes, plant trimming (scissors work), and a bit of liquid aquarium fertilizer are all that are required to maintain this setup. Until you’re ready to invest in water-quality test kits, most local aquarium stores will test a sample of your water for little to no charge.
Mini planted aquariums are really quite simple to set up and easy to maintain, without the expense or time andspacecommitmentofalargeraquarium.Theseren.e beauty they bring into your home more than repays what little effort is required to maintain them. Give one a try!
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