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amyhartofey 02-24-2013 03:31 AM

"No-tech" pico jars/bowls
Hello! This is my first post after a few weeks of lurking :D

These "tanks" are basically experiments where I wanted to see what I could achieve on essentially no budget. I've only been in the fish keeping game about 7 months, gradually building up from an unplanted betta cube to planted nano tanks. I can't afford to go any bigger and currently 2/3 of my tanks are second-hand or cast-offs. (Next year, god-willing, I should be working for Real Money and then I'm gonna go nuts)

Anyway, I saw lots of incredible pico tanks on here and other forums and I love them. I also hate throwing out perfectly good plant clippings and I happened to have a ton of jars lying around so, about three weeks ago I made these:

Each contains a thin layer of gravel and a couple of pond snails. The round one:

... has a small round piece of plastic mesh with java moss sewn in. This picture is about a week old and now the moss is growing along with a lot of thin, hairy algae (some of which can be seen on the left here)

The square one:

... is pretty damn tiny as you can see! It houses a tiny ambulia cutting which I've left to float - most of the floating ambulia in my other tank has put down roots to reach the gravel and I want to see if this will/can do the same.

There's only one snail in here and it seems to be doing pretty well:

(The water needed a change!)

I'm doing a water change about once a fortnight, plucking out the snail and swilling around some fresh water from my fish tanks. Everything so far looking healthy if algaeish.

Neither jar is getting any direct sunlight but the garden is pretty sunny. I was worried about overheating the snails!

I was wondering if anybody had any suggestions for making these more interesting, or increasing the likelihood of success? Am I doing anything drastically wrong?

I also have another wee bowl set-up that I threw together yesterday (it's much prettier than these!) but I don't have the photos yet. Watch this space :)

Thanks for your interest :D

mosspearl 02-24-2013 04:02 AM

Nice. :) I'm very intrigued with setting up bowls and jars of aquatic plants. So far I have several gallon jars holding excess frogbit and water lettuce.

Kehy 02-24-2013 06:17 AM

I have a solar-powered jar that's been going for about 2 years now. At first it just had a single scrawny dwarf sag, about .25" of dirt, and a couple snails. After about a year, the snails had doubled the depth of the substrate, the dwaft sag was a jungle, and there was continually a huge amount of hair algae during the changing seasons. All critters remained very small, despite their age. About 2 months ago, I added enough fine black gravel to make 1" of substrate, and somehow a small red rili shrimp had made its way to the jar. It's grown very slowly, but it's now 3/4" long, and developing a saddle, but has fairly bad color, as to be expected. Now I try to imitate life in a tiny pond, including adding food (maybe once a month), "rain fall", "droughts", and an animal feeding on the plants, removing them. There's a rich diversity of life, less hair algae, or large amounts of algae in general. I'll add pics tomorrow, when there's some sun

amyhartofey 02-26-2013 11:50 PM

Thanks mosspearl :) I love things in miniature especially so this project is really calling to me!

Kehy, that sounds incredible! Do you think I need dirt/soil in mine or will the gravel do? How often have you done water changes? Also, how much direct sunlight does yours get - and does this change a lot with the seasons? (Can you tell how much I love this concept :D)

Also, newbie question here, but do pond snails eat hair-algae? They seem to be eating SOMETHING and it's not the plants so I assumed it was that.

amyhartofey 02-27-2013 12:35 AM

This is my other no-tech bowl. I was going to get a couple more pictures but they came out awful so this will have to do :)

I found this bowl/vase (it's prettily off-centred so I reckon it was meant to be a vase) in a second-hand shop a few months ago. I put this together the other day after rescaping my minnow tank and having lots of moss, gravel and snails left over as well as this weird angular rock that really didn't fit with the river-bottom theme I was going for in that tank. It looked awesome in the bowl, though!

It's about a litre and a half of water and it gets about two hours of direct sunlight a day without apparently killing the snails. It also looks really pretty :) The full-room shot (please ignore the mess):

It currently has about 10-15 pond snails in there, all happily motoring about on the surface tension of the water and, hopefully, munching on whatever algae they find. I wish I could have a shrimp or two, but sadly they're illegal to import to this part of the world or sell in stores. The only legal way to get shrimps is to catch the local freshwater varieties and apparently they are very delicate to keep :(

The only problem I am seeing so far is that a lot of the moss has shoots of black/brown-coloured algae growing on it and the snails don't seem to be interested in eating it. Should I be concerned? What can I do?

Thanks for looking :D

mosspearl 02-27-2013 01:38 AM

I think I saw this last bowl on Tumblr. :)

amyhartofey 02-27-2013 02:26 AM

I expect you did! I'm just discovering the aquarist community on tumblr and it's awesome :D

Kehy 02-27-2013 04:58 AM

My jar doesn't get any direct sunlight, only indirect. Its definetly easy to tell the changing season though, I get intense hair algae for weeks until the light stabilizes a bit. As for water changes...I think the last one was 4 months ago? As for adding dirt, be careful, you will get inevitable greenwater and intense clouding. It goes away after a while (I did 3 daily water changes in the first week to take care of clouding from the dirt) fortunately, and the snails mostly take care of algae on the sides of the jar.
The jar is about .5 liter, I took the pics under a desk lamp. When I added the extra substrate, I pulled a couple D. sag for one of my tanks...and the entire substrate came up. Hence adding gravel, hahaha

amyhartofey 03-05-2013 09:12 AM

That is so neat, Kehy!

GMYukonon24s 03-05-2013 04:12 PM

Beautiful jars!

manzpants92 03-05-2013 10:15 PM

Great idea! really like it

10gallonplanted 03-05-2013 10:23 PM

You neeeeed skreeeeemp!

amyhartofey 03-06-2013 08:05 AM

Jars update :)

Not sure why that picture is so brown? Anyway, there's been a population EXPLOSION among the snails in the larger jar. We got babies EVERYWHERE:

They are so tiny! Lord knows what I will do with them as they get bigger and infest the jar. Cull them I expect :(

As you can see we're developing a ton of nice algae but the java moss is growing very slowly indeed. Should I be removing the algae - is it stopping light getting to the moss?

Look at this little cutie taking a rest :) I love my spotty little snails

I've only had one real bid for freedom - found a dry little carcass beside the jar on day three - so I think they're all doing okay. As for the little jar, the single inhabitant is churning out so much poop there's practically a dirt substrate:

Otherwise not much to report as yet. I just bought a turkey-baster yesterday for water changes (tipping-out is a serious no-no with the gravel, and all my siphons are much too big). We'll see how it goes!

Thanks for all the comments and interest, this forum is awesome!

amyhartofey 03-06-2013 08:12 AM


Originally Posted by 10gallonplanted (Post 2736418)
You neeeeed skreeeeemp!


As I mentioned, shrimp are illegal here :( I'm sorely tempted to make a collecting expedition (local varieties, caught wild, ARE legal) but there aren't any freshwater streams very close to my house, only brackish mangrove swamps. I don't think I'm quite ready attempt that!

So yeah, pond-snails are really all I have access to. But 1) they are FREE, 2) they are really cute and pretty and gold-coloured and 3) it was this or cull them so I chose this :)

TonyK 03-07-2013 08:34 PM

Great looking jars!

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