Instructables

Ikea Aquascape on the cheap $12

Featured
Quick and easy mini-aquascape for decoration. I became obsessed with the idea of an aquascape a few years ago. I built one with fish, a CO2 pump, and a lot of plants, but the snails took over, the fish had babies, and everything went nuts. That isn't a problem with this setup.

The idea of an aquascape is essentially an underwater garden that releases oxygen into the room. You can make them into mini-biospheres (ala Make 10), but this one won't require you to pick things out of a pond.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Aquire the Materials

Picture of Aquire the Materials
There are four things needed for this project. Two can be purchased at IKEA, but the same two can be acquired nearly anywhere.

You will need a container (glass jar, bottle, cup) about $6 for mine
Gravel (Ikea has small bags for $2, enough to make two of these)
Plant bulbs (I picked these up at Wal-Mart(BOO, HISS) for about $3
Water (I used distilled water for fear the chlorine mine kill the plants) $1

You can easily substitute anything but the bulbs. The water could be purified or treated water (for an aquarium). I would advise against pond water for the micro-organism count, and the smell. The distilled water won't have many of the same problems. I waited to post this until the plant had grown to see if there were any problems with the distilled water sucking the nutrients out of the plant, but I don't see any problems so far.

The taller the container, the more elegant the plants will look. Wal-Mart sells two types of plants, Aponogeton and Lily bulbs. The first is what I used, the second has a different color and shape of leaves. That is about the only difference, they will both work.

Growing from bulbs eliminates the chances of snail infestation. It will also make it easier to setup.
flying pie3 years ago
can u use this for a biosphere w/ shrimps
cwellems4 years ago
You seem to have more experience growing aquatic plants than I do, so maybe you can help me. I have a year-old tank with a variety of plants and fish. For the first six months the plants grew like crazy, and then eventually everything slowed down. The plants still grew, but nothing took over the tank. In the last two months, though, all the plants are dyeing. Only duckweed grows -minimally. Even algae isn't growing.
My lighting is three 24" 20-watt bulbs, and I use Flourish Iron fertilizer. Any suggestions as to the cause of this problem?
It can be a hundred different things. Too much light, not enough nutrients, not enough water changes, wrong ph, etc etc etc. If you have too much light in your tank without enough nutrients, the plants will struggle to grow with whatever they have on hand. Contrary to popular belief, fish poop isn't the only thing plants need. ;) With all the light you have, a plant is able to photosynthesize like it's supposed to as long as it has food AND CO2. Fish only produce small amounts of CO2. Your filter helps remove it by oxygenating the water.

Also, if you choose plants that grow from bulbs, that can be part of the problem. The reason a plant grows a bulb is to store nutrients for a later date. A lot of the time, an aquatic plant may only be under water for 6 months at a time and the rest of the year be completely dry. The plant has a kind of "internal clock" that tells is to start dying off for the start of a dry season. And if you don't supply the nutrients a bulb needs in the long run, it will use itself up completely and the plant then dies.

Something else can be the plants themselves. If you pick out plants that are picky, they might do alright at first, but in the long run, they end up just completely horrible. I kept jungle val for a long time, but it kept dying off. I found out it was a calcium defficiency. A plant. Needing calcium supplements. Yikes. :P

You can also be adding too much iron. You use Flourish, so instead of iron, go out and grab some flourish EXCEL(which is an organic CO2 made from liquid that you just pour in) and get yourself some Flourish root tabs. That helps put a lot of basic must-haves back at the plant's disposal. This was long winded of me. :P Try this site if you're still interested:

aquaticplantcentral.com GREAT site with friendly people. :) Good luck!
sleighbedguy (author)  cwellems4 years ago
I'm none too experienced when it comes to growing anything, but the basics are generally pretty simple. If nothing is growing and you have not changed anything else, it stands to reason something is out of whack. Perhaps too much fertilizer is shocking the plants, there is too little diffused CO2, or the lights may be too intense for the plants. It would stand to reason the best approach may be replacing a larger portion of the water, and laying off the fertilizer for a while. That and temporarily putting a bubbler or CO2 pump might be worthwhile. Again, I'm not an expert at all, but if the plants started wonderfully and have steadily dropped off and are now struggling...I have to assume the problem has built up for a long time. If the plants have not been able to process the fertilizer, I'd imagine they would be shocked just as houseplants are. It is at least a good starting point...
xVAGUE5 years ago
What do you use as a light source?
sleighbedguy (author)  xVAGUE5 years ago
Z Sun...The aquascapes sit above my sink which gets a little indirect light everyday. One side does better than the other, so I switch them occasionally. Be careful with using direct sunlight due to algae. I don't know if the distilled water limits that issue, I suppose it can be tried and altered as necessary. It has never been a problem for me. Anyone have any knowledge of algae and growing in distilled water?
Thanks!
NeilLizard5 years ago
I have done this before. I took a clear glass bottle and bought an aquatic plant at petco. I planted the plant in some old aquarium gravel(which I cleaned)and added water. I just dont know if the aquatic plants will survive in the lower water pressure compared to that of an aquarium.
Do you have to add any sort of special nutrients to the water to keep the plant healthy? Or does the plant just absorb everything it needs from the water anyway?
sleighbedguy (author)  MissPennyFarthing5 years ago
As long as the jar is not completely closed off from the air, everything seems to be alright. The aquascape recycles the majority of the nutrients, so little is lost. Mine has been growing strong for nearly a year.
That's good to know, thanks! So it really is low-maintenance! Cool! I just wondered with you using distilled water, as I know that distilling removes a lot of the minerals, etc. (I think that's why doctors don't recommend drinking it for long periods of time.) Thanks again! :)
Miss World5 years ago
thank you for the cool instructable :) been curious on how to make those, now I might just give it a try!
JonGery5 years ago
beta fish?
Gnome6 years ago
Great instructable! Could you perhaps give us a link to the original aquascape's instructions or info? I'd love to make one for a fish! I'd try to keep it simple though :)
sleighbedguy (author)  Gnome6 years ago
I have been unable to find the site for years! I know it is on the Amateur Telescope Making webring. It was a private site, and a link I accidentally clicked on within his site. All I can tell you is it was a site about an 8" Dobsonian telescope build. There isn't much to it though, and there are a lot of sites out there about it. There are websites that sell plants, plans to build CO2 injectors and everything in between.
CO2 injectors are SUPER simple. get a 2 liter soda bottle, fill with sugar water, toss in some yeast(bread, beer and wine all work just dandy). Drill a hole in the cap, hot-glue an air tube into it, and run the tube into the bottom of your aquarium. The happy little yeasties will go on producing CO2 for weeks at a time. If the sugar water stops bubbling, or the water goes green, unscrew the cap, toss the bottle, and start with a fresh 2-liter. If the soda is cheap enough, you can add the yeast straight to it!
Cool! So you could just dump beer in a container filled with sugar water and the yeast will produce CO2? Have you tried this before? It looks too simple to be true!
sorry, it's not that simple, unless you brew your own beer. in which case, just hook a hose to your air-lock and run the other end into the tank with all the plants. The issue with using bottled beer as your source of yeast is, every commercial beer I know of has been pasturized. AKA, they killed off all the swimmies. the good ones, AND the bad ones. "fresh" homebrew would work, but you're better off drinking your beer, and getting a 25cent packet of yeast from the grocery store.
I think that yeasts FOR bread or beer and wine was intended, I know I was thinking that using beer or wine as a starter was advised, the comment was oddly worded... We use potassium metabisulfate to kill off yeast before bottling our wine.
Thank you so much! I think I'll try this out. Great info!
Haraisuru6 years ago
Soil definitely does not work well, but there are many great alternatives to gravel.

I personally hate pea gravel especially the rainbow brite colored junk at most pet stores. I have a 55 Gallon tank at home that is planted with live plants of various types and use a product called Flourite. Flourite really emulates the look and texture of soil very well. Flourite is actually made especially for planted aquariums and so it is not only really good for plants but it is also fish safe too. I don't endorse Petsmart in any way, but I wanted to give an example of the what I am talking about. They were the first link at the top and I am lazy so....

Anyways..

If anyone is interested and I can make the time (when I get home from work) I could post a picture of my aquarium so you can see what Flourite looks like in application.
nepheron6 years ago
put some sea monkeys in there
Is that a VOSS water bottle?
Zetheros6 years ago
Alas, if only humans were as self containing as guppies...
laradioken6 years ago
If you do this with live plants and don't mind having fish, get yourself a Clown Loch. They love eating the snails. With enough snails, you won't have to worry all that much about feeding 'em either.
cekayak6 years ago
I've been making these things for years with my first graders. We use 2 liter soda bottle, plants from the river, gravel from the play sand section, guppies and snails. The snails never overran the bottle. The plants will kill and dissolve the guppies within three days if there are not enough nutrients in the water, named urine, etc. It's a bio sphere, completely self contained. The weeds produce oxygen, the guppies produce CO2 for the plants. The gravel acts a filter, the plants act as aerators. It all worked. Guppies didn't need fed, they lived for 1 1/2 yrs. If you're not lucky you'll have to make new bottles for the baby guppies. But actually guppies are canbalistic so that wasn't much of a problem. Ummm...food source. Sorry just a litttle teacher humor.
trebuchet036 years ago
the fish had babies, and everything went nuts.

Tis the fate of society :p
So true.... Too true.... This is a pretty nice project to work on, I have this tall water bottle made of glass that I bought a while ago and I think this is a perfect way to reuse the bottle. (I got the bottle at 7-11 :P )
OOoooh...There's a tall cylindrical vase outside my apartment that I've been wanting to use for something fish-related for a long time. Thanks for the reminder. Hint hint: if you know how to use chopsticks they're good for rearranging stuff in aquaria. Get some really long ones from the kitchen utensil aisle in a Chinese grocery or something.
What kind of fish would you recommend? And what happens with the fish poop? Would you have to feed the fish?
sleighbedguy (author)  brownsug109876 years ago
In my HUGE 5 gallon aquascape I had two mollies. Three days later I had 20 some. The problem here is that comets (el cheapo feeder fish) give off a lot of ammonia and fecal matter, just to prove that the cheapest solution isn't always the best. In Make 10 they talk about using ghost shrimp since they more or less take care of themselves. I imagine I will either use these or tetras. There really isn't much room in the new setup. With one or two, the feeding/fecal situation should be fairly easy to deal with. I'd check on Makezine.com and scout around the internet for what organisms are used in aquascapes and mini-biospheres.
Tetras aren't the best choice, many tend to be very delicate (the ever popular neon tetras are an example). Labyrnth fish like bettas, honey or sparkling gouramis which remain small and are hardy. Or one apple snail (Pomacea bridgesii) they don't eat live plants. Another cool choice is african dwarf frog.
Syrcen6 years ago
Set tap water out in a cabnit overnight in an open container and the clorine will 'evaporate' out of the water. If it is a huge anount of water, if could take longer, but a gallon jug of water will be ok for use in most fresh water fish tanks after a single evening.
CapnChkn6 years ago
Really!

It's hard to do this one right, you need just the right balance between temperature, light, plant, animal, and microorganism to make it all work. I salute you!

If you can keep outer organisms from invading, you will have a really workable system going there. I ended up with a lot of blue-green algae sliming everything. This is part of the problem with people using real plants in their aquariums.

You aren't the first to add a lamp to the machine Cheese! You probably wouldn't want to use fish Brownsug, there's and article written in the early 80's from "Mother Earth News"talking about the same as Sleighbedguy here. The biologist used Anacharis and Ghost shrimp I think.
Very simple, looks really good. An idea, incorporate a light (led or not) put a lampshade on it and you have one SWEET looking lamp
Nice idea!
thanks
jsweeks6 years ago
You can purchase this clay called laterite--I recommend the balls, not the powder. Just push a ball or two into the gravel. You could do this right before you add the bulb(s) Check your online aquarium supplier.
MrT1ki6 years ago
is there any upkeep in making one of these? such as do you need to clean out the water every so often
sleighbedguy (author)  MrT1ki6 years ago
There hasn't been any so far. I swapped out the water when the sprout was about an inch out. The lid keeps the evaporation low, and the distilled water keeps mineral rings from forming. I haven't seen any algae so far. It's been a couple months.
Pro

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?

close

PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!