How to Build Your Own Self-Sustaining Aquatic Ecosystem

There are numerous projects you can choose from to work on in your free time. Perhaps you’ve thought about building a self-sustaining aquatic ecosystem, for example. A fun and educational activity, you can choose to build an aquatic ecosystem in a terrarium with plants of your choosing, or a fish tank. The focus of this article will be on a putting together an aquarium ecosystem in Cass County, IA. It’s important to understand that while the process is simple enough, finding the balance between organisms can be tricky.

Let’s talk about the definitions of an ecosystem and a self-sustaining ecosystem. An ecosystem is an area where living organisms (animals, fungi, plants and viruses) interact with each other and their non-living environment (water, soils, light, air and temperature). A self-sustaining ecosystem is a mini ecosystem in some sort of clear container. A good example of this is a small fish tank that you don’t need to add anything to or feed because it does everything for itself. It only needs light.

Here are the steps you need to know to build your very own self-sustaining aquarium ecosystem in Cass County, IA:

  • Choose the size of your ecosystem: The smaller the container, the harder it’ll be to maintain the environment. A good beginner container is a glass bowl. It may be more difficult to sustain, but it’s better for novices and doesn’t take up much space. Medium aquariums offer more space, typically in the range of 10 to 30 gallons. Large containers between 60 and 200 gallons can contain the most growth and diversity, but they also take up a lot of room. No matter the size of your container, make sure it’s clear so light can get in.
  • Expose it to light: Make sure to expose the tank to fluorescent lighting, not incandescent lighting. The right type of lighting is important for ecosystem plant growth. Plan to provide 2 to 5 watts per gallon of water for freshwater aquariums.
  • Establish the substrate: This is in reference to the soil of the aquarium that allows the plants to root and grow. Establish the substrate before using—a small bowl needs one inch of sand and half an inch of pea gravel on top, while a medium to large tank needs two inches of sand and one inch of pea gravel on top.
  • Fill your container with water: The fish and other organisms in your self-sustaining ecosystem need food and water. Fill the container with distilled water mixed with fish flakes to encourage growth and establish essential nutrients.
  • Select a variety of plants: Choose live plants that pair well with fish and other creatures, including hair grass, corkscrew grass, lotus, duckweed, phoenix moss and others.
  • Add fish and micro-critters: Once your plants are well-established, let them grow and root before adding fish or micro-critters like small pond snails and micro-planarians. Finally, add small fish and/or shrimp. The larger your container, the more fish you can keep, and the greater variety.

Contact or visit Fish Store Pet Shop today to learn more about building your very own aquarium environment in Cass County, IA!

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