1. What are the full names of the plants you suggested?
2. Can you suggest any carpeting plants that coincide with your advice?
3. I'm having a TERRIBLE time finding small quantities of aquascaping materials, like driftwood or rock. Do you have any suggestions where I can get a few, preferably black lava rocks, without spending $30 for tons of pounds of rocks?
4. With no heater, would it be safe for a couple of snails? I see no heater is probably fine for shrimp and plants, but didn't want to kill any snails without the option of eating them too, maybe covered in tons of butter and garlic.
5. How about the subject of water movement? I image my cat, like yours, will be happy to assist with that, but is it important in a planted tank? I know it's essential in a reef tank, and is really the only real reason I'm avoiding making this a reef. I don't know of any good solutions for a tank this size and shape. Is it something I should even be concerned with for this application?
Going from the bottom up...
5. With larger tanks, water movement is helpful, preventing 'dead zones' that lack nutrients. Less movement is needed in freshwater tanks than reef tanks require, and usually filters can provide enough flow (sometimes too much flow!).
With a bowl this small though, there shouldn't be any issues. I've found that small tanks and bowls don't require artificial movement.
4. If you can find a way to kill snails with cool water, I'd love to know. I've had a variety of snails hanging out in my container pond in ~40 degree water with no issues. I've had shrimp do nearly as well at the same temps (somehow everything ends up in my pond)
3. If you want black lava rock, try looking at a home improvement store, although you might end up with quite a bit more than you need. Otherwise, you might be able to use rocks from your backyard, presuming you have one. Parks, trails, and unsuspecting neighbors can also be surprisingly good places to gather hardscape. Please be ask before taking though, normally people won't mind a handful of rocks going to a new home. Though they might not look much like ADA hardscape materials, it's really hard to beat a price tag of free.
You can still make a very nice scape without using brand name materials.
Avoid rocks that have paint, rust, or other chemicals on them. Avoid limestone and rocks that flake or crumble in the water, or that fizz and bubble when vinegar is dripped on them. Out of courtesy and respect, avoid taking rocks from national parks.
2./1. A partial list of fairly easy plants that might fit in pico tanks: (anyone else feel free to add more or correct)
For the record, I'm not going to go into what people consider low/medium/high light, that's its own discussion.
Cryptocoryne sp. (Crypts)
- A popular genus of root-feeding plants. Normally very hardy once established, but may go through a period of 'melt' when introduced to new tanks or conditions. Generally only needs low light, but will appreciate more, and often slow growing. Spreads through roots, and may send out daughter plants when mature or happy. Healthy plants will have thick white roots. May cause an intense desire to collect all species.
- Crypt Parva
- One of the smallest varieties (1-3" tall), it is very popular. Slow but hardy and reliable.
- Crypt Lucens
- Taller than Parva (4-6" tall) and a nice green color.
- Crypt Wendtii
- The most popular of all crypt species, there are dozens of varieties in all sorts of colors and shapes. Greens, browns, bronzes, and reds are all available, and can be good contrast plants. Growth and spreading also depends on variety. (5-12" tall)
Echinodorus sp. (Sword plants)
- Generally large, vigorous and hardy root-feeders, there are a few that may work for smaller tanks. By large I mean over 24" long, some species can grow huuuuge.
Known for growing large root systems. Often sold in their emersed (out of water) form, and will take some time to grow submersed leaves. May look crummy during this time. Growth can be anywhere from slow to fairly fast. Healthy plants have lots of white roots and bright green leaves with no damage.
-E. Parviflorus 'Tropica' (Rosette Sword)
- A small sword plant (2-6" tall) that has compact growth patterns. Leaves are an oblong shape, and it tends to spread out as wide as it is tall. Very hardy.
-E. Angustafolia 'Vesuvius'
- A tall, thin sword (6-10") with particularly interesting curling foliage. Spreads through runners, though personally it never spread much for me.
Marselia sp. (Four leaf clover)
- This tough little root-feeding foreground plant spreads though horizontal growth. Technically marselia is a fern, and the horizontal 'runners' are the rhizome where energy is stored, and where the leaves and roots come from. Tolerant of low light, but much prefers medium to high light. Older leaves may get algae. Slow to moderately fast growth, with faster growth once established. Healthy plants should have bright green foliage, white roots, and green rhizomes. Usually sold by 'nodes' which are leaf/root segments.
- Seems to be the smallest of the marselias (.5-1"), with smaller foliage than M. Minuta
-M. Minuta (MM)
- A low growing foreground plant (.5-1") that I have failed to kill multiple times. Grows in a straight line from the rhizome, so might be hard to get a dense carpet with.
- largest of the common marselia sp. (2-6"), may have floating leaves or leaves above the water. Remove these if you want, I'm not sure anything can kill marselia. Also seems to be more likely to have 4-lobed leaves underwater.
Eleocharis Parvula (Dwarf Hairgrass, DHG)
- A very popular foreground plant (1-2"). Rootfeeding, but also likes co2, medium light needs. Relatively hardy, but growth rate seems variable. I personally haven't had much luck with it, but for other people it grows like a weed. Spreads through underground runners. Thin hair-like leaves.
Lilaeopsis Brasiliensis (Microsword)
- Very similar to DHG, but slightly slower growing. (1-2") Rootfeeding, but likes co2, medium light needs. Quite hardy, I accidentally grew some in an outdoor container pond where it did fantastic. Spreads through underground runners. Wider, grass-like leaves.
Water Column feeders/ Stem plants
Hydrocotyle Tripartita 'Japan'
- A rambunctious low growing plant that would be overjoyed to take over another unsuspecting tank (.5-3"). Needs medium light or more. Very rapid growth when happy, but quite attractive. Often sold by nodes, and can be planted by node.
- An unusually tough group of rooted plants, and technically a fern growing from a rhizome. Usually grown tied or glued to rocks or wood, and the leaves will take nutrition from the water column. The roots are primarily to secure the plant to its home. Do NOT bury the rhizome, but otherwise there are very few difficulties with this plant. Slow growing but extremely low-light tolerant, older leaves may gather algae. May cause and intense desire to collect all variations.
-Anubias Barteri 'Nana'
- likely the single most popular of all anubias. Small, compact growth with roundish leaves (leaf size ~1"x2"). Several color variations on this variation, including golden, stardust, variegated, snow white, and white exist. White, Snow White, and Variegated are expensive as all get out. But very pretty.
-Anubias Barteri 'Nana' 'Petite'
- Smaller than Nana, dime size leaves, more or less
-Anubias Barteri 'Nana' 'Micro'
- Smaller than Petite. Seems to be some sort of competition to grow the smallest anubias.
Hygrophila sp. (Hygros)
- Often fast growing stems that are highly adaptable. Illegal in some states because of being so fast growing and adaptable. Good for algae control because they are nutrient hogs. Most grow too large for pico tanks, but can be used temporarily for algae control. Can be trimmed to size by cutting stems between leaf nodes. Will happily take any and all light you have.
-H. Polysperma 'Sunset'
- Possibly illegal depending on where you are, but very useful, and quite attractive looking. One of the few plants that doesn't need high light to turn reddish, instead just needing extra nutrition. Can still grow perfectly healthy without it. (1-3" wide)
-H. Difformis (Water wisteria)
- Quick growing, with unique foliage. (1-3" wide)
- hardy stem that only need moderately low light, but appreciates more. May turn reddish with higher lighting. A very forgiving stem plant in general (.5-1.5" wide)
- a fine-leafed stem needing only moderately low light, but again, appreciates more. Also may turn reddish with higher lighting. Can be planted in clumps or groups of several stems and doesn't seem to mind crowding as long as there's enough light. (.5-1" wide)
Bacopa Caroliniana (Lemon Bacopa)
- Easy forgiving stem with round leaves. Medium light needs. (.25-.5" wide)
Bacopa Monnieri (Moneywort, water hyssop, brahmi)
- larger, with thick round leaves. Medium light needs, but otherwise easy care. (.25-1" wide) Edible.
- Generally slow-ish growing and low light tolerant. Can be tied or glued to rocks or wood, or even just allowed to float around. Can be used as a carpet by tying bits to small rock pieces and laying them around the tank. The best friend shrimp could have.
- Very common, very popular, very easy to grow. Has a stringy appearance and can look somewhat messy, but can look very good when controlled or when a jungle-y feel is desired.
Christmas Moss (Xmas Moss)
- A somewhat more refined looking moss, it has a triangular growth pattern that looks vaguely like a christmas tree. Again, quite easy to grow, quite popular.
- not a true moss, but grows like one. Very interesting seaweed-like look, and can be hard to remove once it decides to move in.