I picked up the vase in this project at a local thrift shop. After it sat for some time, I finally figured out what I wanted to do with it - an aquatic setup.
I used a base layer of Zoo Med Excavator® Clay Burrowing Substrate - I've found this substrate to be very useful in "holding" items in place. On top of the clay substrate, I added fine, white sand for appearance purposes. I wanted to give this piece a bit more flair, so I added a piece of sagebrush wood I collected from the Idaho desert.
On top of the sagebrush wood I added ivy cuttings, Callisia repens [chain plant] cuttings, Pilea glauca cuttings, and moss. These cuttings have already rooted into the water below. These roots will feed the plants by in-taking excess nutrient from the water produced by the snails, freshwater plankton, and other bio matter - a.k.a. - natural filtration - this is in addition to the aquatic plants. [I have listed below the plant species used in this piece]
The aquatic plants are thriving! I have had to trim some of them down to thin out the growth; this will also encourage thicker growth (which is a good thing). The trimmings from the aquatic plants were recycled into another project (post to come). I try to recycle all plant trimmings whenever possible; those that aren't able to be reused are mixed in a small worm composting bin (these worms go to feed my savannah monitor lizard [it's kind of like the circle of life]).
There are ram's horn and pond snails living the good life in this pico aquatic world. They help breakdown bio matter, algae and the fish food I feed them. I feed them fish food because I want to encourage faster breeding by providing excess food. The snails are doing just that - using the plants and sagebrush wood as nurseries for their jelly egg sacks. As the snails hatch and grow, they also feast on the fish food and other bio matter. This gives them a boosted growth rate, which is desired because the snails are being raised to feed my school of pea puffers.
Daphnia and cyclops - tiny freshwater crustaceans - also thrive below the waterline. Upon close inspection, you can see these tiny creatures zig-zagging through the water column. These tiny crustaceans were collected from a nearby fishing pond off the Boise River called, Parkcenter Pond. Also from Parkcenter Pond are small detritus worms that are now thriving; these growing worms are periodically collected from the vase with a small syringe and fed to the pea puffers (bit of a pattern here). I try to make sure each piece I make is not just natural looking, but also serves a purpose.
There isn't much maintenance to be had with this piece. I do not do water changes; instead I top-off the water as needed from evaporation and plant usage. I do not have a problem with algae as the natural plant filtration (and daphnia) takes away the ability for algae to thrive. This vase receives lighting from strip LED lighting used on the undersides of the bookshelf shelves; the bookshelf upon which this piece and other aquatic environments I have created sit.
Have questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below or on Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook.
I found this thick, square glass bowl at a local thrift shop. When I first saw it, I immediately thought it would make a nice wabi kusa bowl. After I purchased the bowl, it sat for some time until I found the right "something" to go in the bowl. This is typically how it works - I find a piece that speaks to me and then it sits until it's paired with the other "speak to me" objects.
Using a cool lava rock found in the desert, I painted the rock with Zoo Med Eco Earth® Coconut Fiber Substrate; this substrate is excellent for retaining moisture and holding its shape. I covered the substrate with various species of moss, which grows very well in the coconut fiber. In the base of the bowl, I added a layer of sand to keep the bowl off the glass and to allow the the rooting of the aquatic plants used.
Up top on the moss layer, I planted a variety of plant cuttings [plants used listed at end of post]. These cuttings have rooted well in the moss and coconut fiber; the coconut fibers draw moisture from the water in the base of the bowl, feeding the roots of the cuttings. In addition, many cuttings have sent roots into the water and sand below.
To assist in the success of this micro ecosystem, I added freshwater plankton consisting of daphnia, cyclops and other micro organisms in addition to detritus worms, which are now cultivated for my pea puffers and other fish. Pond and ram's horn snails were also added to aid in the cleanup of decaying organic matter. The snails have begun multiplying and are also used to feed the pea puffers and various loach fishes.
Being that this is a living piece of art, it is not free of care and maintenance; however, the minimal care and maintenance it does require, is quite enjoyable and relaxing. The plant cuttings require regular pruning to encourage branching and compact growth. The pruned plant pieces are not gone to waste; some are recycled back into the mix for a thicker appearance, while the others are kept until used in other projects.
Water evaporates and is used by the moss and plants above, so regular water top-offs are required. I periodically add fish food to the water in the base for the snails and worms; this eventually turns into plant food.
Want to see more? Be sure to follow the #squarewabikusainspiredbowl hashtag on Instagram. You can also find me on my YouTube channel, Peace of Nature.