By growing plants in an aquarium, you have the joy of observing a self-sustained, maintenance-free ecosystem

So you think aquariums are pretty cool things to have? It is nice to watch colourful fish sashay around? Beats staring blankly at the telly any day right? If your aquarium with its pretty fish and shiny, smooth pebbles and curly shells can be looked at a microcosm of nature, then you might have to rethink the plastic plants that you have in the aquarium. Yes, sure plastic is unfortunately clogging everything around us but hey you can go completely natural by growing plants in your aquarium.

The ecosystem in a planted aquarium is a prototype of the multiple support mechanisms. For a planted aquarium, you need to know how to balance lighting, carbon-di-oxide (CO2), plants, substrate, aquascaping and appropriate fish. Takashi Amano (http://www.amanotakashi.net/), is an avid aquarist based in Japan. He has written extensively on freshwater aquarium plants and aquascaping. His quest and passion for aquariums inspired him to create as wide as 13-feet spread resembling the natural ecosystem.

Nature in miniature

The setting up of a lushly planted tank to replicate nature is a work of passion. “Aquascaping is an art which tries to replicate vast natural beauty in the confined space of an aquarium,” says aquarium enthusiast and designer, Mohan Kumar. “A scientific approach helps make it a complete, close-to-self-sustainable and maintenance-free ecosystem,”

Lighting is a very important requirement. As a thumb rule, six to seven watts of light per gallon is recommended for lush green growth. CO2 is equally important. Studies show that insufficient lighting can be compensated to a certain extent with carbon-di-oxide.

The type of filter plays a major role in retaining the dissolved CO2 level. Externally mounted filters, such as a hang-on or canister would serve the purpose. Internal power filters disturb the water surface and cause a reduction in the concentration of CO2. The selection of plants primarily depends on light, CO2 availability as well as aquascaping elements such as foreground plants, midground plants, background plants and also plants that grow on rocks and driftwood. The type, size and depth of substrate to support the plant should be based on the types of plants. Scissors and tweezers for plants are excellent tools to maintain the aquascape and are easily available in the market.

It is advisable to have an open-top aquarium which helps good gas exchange at the water surface and keeps it cool. In case of a closed-top tank, a fan should be provided. The aquarium may have automated lighting and food dispensing to maintain a steady pattern of light and food availability. This will help the tank be stable and make it possible for the tank to be left unattended for weeks together. “A balance between light, CO2, type and number of plants and substrate will keep the aquarium healthy. Any imbalance will induce algae growth,” says Mohan Kumar. Other things to keep in mind include using soft water, appropriate type of community fish based on their behavioural pattern and the area inhabited by the fish in the tank.

Mohan Kumar can be contacted on aquabangalore@gmail.com.