Aquarium Terrarium

While my seedlings are growing and the weather has given some indication that it remembers what spring is, I still find myself itching to get some real gardening in.

Case in point, I was at Goodwill the other day (I love Goodwill. It is even better that my Goodwill is also next to a Marc’s – which sadly for all of you non Clevelanders, is an awesome but only local chain) and found the coolest old bottle. The cap says Gallo (as in the wine maker) but the bottle is shaped like an apple, with a window.

For some reason, when I saw it I thought “that would make a really neat aquarium.” Yeah, logic and my bright ideas don’t really mesh sometimes.

But I was determined and I plunked down the $4 for the bottle (Goodwill is getting pretty pricy these days) and brought it home. My husband, the supportive, dream crusher that his is, immediately informed me that with no way to aerate the water and only a narrow opening at the top, my fantasy fish would be dead in a week.

Plus, he reminded me of another issue that I have. (If you are a member of PETA, skip to the next paragraph) I tend to forget to feed small animals that don’t make noise of some kind.   Which thus far, has only been fish. We are an anti-hamster household and the dog, cat and children get pretty noisy if I don’t feed them.

But, for the record, while I have not been able to keep fish alive in the house, I have been very successful at keeping them alive in my small pond. My secret to keeping them alive is to simply forget that they are there (which means that I get to be delighted every time I look at my pond.   Oh lookie — FISH!)

So how do the feral fish do it, how do they survive summer and winter in my pond that has no aeration system and no fish flakes?  Because I have pond plants.

I then started thinking about these spheres I saw as a kid that were marketed as self contained world. There was a plant and a fish. What happened after the fish died was a mystery to me, but in theory this tiny aquarium had all that a fish needed to survive.

So off to the pet store I went.   I bought a $2.50 fish and $25 in aquarium plants. Such is the addiction that afflicts a gardener.

What I found odd was that a great many of the “aquatic” plants they had there were in fact houseplants that had simply been submerged. Luck bamboo, what I would swear was hosta and peace lilies to name a few.

But they also had genuine aquatic plants. As a matter of fact, a significant portion of my plant costs came out of the fact that I bought a marimo — AKA Japanese aquatic moss ball.   It looks a little like a tribble that was exposed to too many gamma rays.

So, thus began my experiment in enclosed aquatic gardening. So far Castle (the fish — as in Little Plastic) is a happy and productive goldfish. I bet this week she has swam around the bottle at least 300 times and has yet failed to be amazed that there is an angry tribble in the water with her.   I think now that a week has gone by, and Castle is not dead or swimming upside down (as I have told my children in the past that fish are apt to do) that this experiment looks to be successful.

Now, if I could just train my goldfish to grow some underwater tomatoes, I would really have an amazing aquarium terrarium.

13 thoughts on “Aquarium Terrarium
  1. Mary on

    You crack me up! Thats a great idea though. I just had a bad experience with my kids and carnival goldfish. I’ll look forward to updates on Castle.


  2. That’s too funny! I love that you tell your kids fish are prone to swimming upside down. I have silent pets too and the only reason there are still 3 of them left is the fact that its a 50 gallon tank and it makes noise with the water and all. Otherwise….


  3. This is why I blog! I can get all my witty thoughts out and share them with people who think the way I do. You are hilarious, and I have a hubby who poo-poos at some of my ventures but is supportive at the same time snarky but cute. (I’ll keep him) LOL
    Keep doing what you do I learn a lot and get a good laugh sometimes too while reading your posts.


  4. “feral” fish…made me (and my girlfriend) laugh…good luck with castle…my guppies are similar…thank god they are livebearers (and have been known to eat their young) and reproduce rapidly…that way i never really notice if one is missing – and we have no kids to have to explain about the circle of life 🙂 peace.


  5. John H on

    That is one well planted wine bottle.

    Will the gardener gold fish have a reprising role on the blog?

    Carpe de-bowl-em


  6. Eekies! If your fish survives on the plants alone, then the problem I see is that the fish will grow larger than the bottle opening. Thus, if you wish to change the water or clean, the only way to get him out would be to break the bottle! Very novel idea, but not a long-lasting one.

    I agree that Goodwill is getting pricey these days…


  7. patty in Cleveland on

    “Oh lookie – fish”…LOL that was awesome!


  8. Torin on

    Now that is a cool fish tank!

    A lot of the big pet stores sell ‘aquatic plants’ that aren’t really aquatic at all, so you have to be careful- dracaena is one I see there all the time. Will not grow under water >.< Make sure you've got enough light on there, too- most aquatic plants won't thrive with less than 2 watts/gallon, more in smaller tanks (< 10 gallons). Java fern, java moss, water wisteria and cryptocoryne are all nice low-light ones.


  9. Laura on

    I love your posts, and you make me laugh, but please don’t put any more fishies in that “tank”. (I know that the gold fish didn’t make it, as gold fish are very hungry and very messy, and they need much much more room to grow.) Keep them in your pond and stick to the plants hon. 🙂 Or, do a tiny bit of research on how to care for fish. There is a learning curve to them, just like gardening.


    Hanna Reply:

    The goldfish is still alive and very happy actually. Swims around and does not hover near the top (which I am told is a sign that the water is plenty oxyginated) This is the longest I have ever gotten a fish to live indoors (5 weeks). And I am also very surprised at how clean the bottle is (I had a turkey baster all ready to use to clean it). I think the little green moss ball is acting like a natural filter.

    Sometimes it is fun to break the rules just to see if it will work. In this case the fish had as much of a chance at surviving this tank as it did my learning curve. 😉 I think I will continue using this approach to all things in life, not just what I know.


  10. Laura on

    If you do want to keep up with the idea of the tank though, there are some great little fresh water shrimp that would probably work great in that sort of set up. 🙂


  11. Kelli on

    I did a Google search on aquatic plants and terrariums since someone just gave me an idea for one, and I was delighted to find your post! I am *very* jealous of that bottle, but I’m glad to see that your aquatic terrarium is doing so well, complete with fish! I’m going to bookmark your site for inspiration when I find an appropriate terrarium to use.


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