I am a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad person! I promised this post over two weeks ago, and am just now getting around to it. In my defense, I’ve been working hard on a lot of different projects, working hard at my present job and working to get a new job, which I will be starting next Monday! In this post, I confess my bad habit of neglecting animals and plants, and now you all know how deep the problem really runs – I can be sadly neglectful of a lot of things, including this blog. What I lack in quantity, though, I hope I make up for in quality! So read on for the much-awaited tutorial on building a beautiful planted aquarium.
In addition to being a plant fanatic, I am an unabashed animal lover. Some of you might remember that I have a bengal, Stash, who is like a (semi-neglected) child to me. We also have a female mantis named Mandi, and a betta named Finch because, hey, why shouldn’t we welcome members of all phyla into our home?
Finch was handed to me almost a year ago now, at a farmer’s market in San Diego. She was a female and, being less showy than her male counterparts, hadn’t been selected at a booth where bettas – instead of the more common goldfish – were being offered as prizes. I took her home and put her in a vase up out of reach of the cat. And then, being the somewhat forgetful parent that I am, she endured sporadic water changes, infrequent feeding and much too long stewing in her own poo.
Still, she hung in there and never asked too much of us. When we made the drive up to Oregon this past January, she was stowed in a water bottle, rode between our seats and came in out of the cold each time we stopped for the night. After all that, I finally decided she deserved a home she could be content in. As I started researching basic aquarium setups, I realized that one needs to choose between using real and fake plants. It never even occurred to me that most aquariums are not planted with real plants! Of course, I knew from the outset that I wanted to use live plants. Today, I’m going to share with you the process of setting up a planted tank and what I learned along the way!
Finch’s previous home. Attractive, but not too stimulating.
As with all things, there are pros and cons to a planted tank. Depending on how involved you want to get, a planted tank can be more expensive and require more maintenance than a non-planted tank. However, I’m going to show you how to put together an affordable, low-maintenance planted tank: no additional lighting or CO2 required. When managed right, a planted tank should create a generally stable ecosystem: fish waste, uneaten food and decomposed plant material fertilize the plants, which remove harmful nitrates from the water and suppress algae growth. All that is required from you is monitoring the health of your tank and periodic water changes.
This project took me the better part of an afternoon, but I also had to stop after each step to try and snap semi-decent photos while holding the camera in one hand and [insert tool here] in the other. Just the same, make sure you set aside at least a couple hours for this project, and work in an area that you don’t mind getting messy. I also suggest placing the tank as close as possible to it’s final resting place before hand – I planted my 2 gallon tank on the floor, and after it was full of water and rocks, it took the both of us to lift it. In retrospect, I should have moved it before I filled it entirely with water, but I wanted to snap some photos of it before it was set on our hideous blue kitchen counter. Luckily, you can learn from my mistakes! Read on for the supplies and how-to.