DIY Planted Aquarium

It’s Monday again, so let’s do something productive!

Okay, I will say this is not the best way to post a DIY because I am doing so completely after the fact. I didn’t think anything of it a couple weeks ago when I set my aquarium up, but after having it for a little bit and absolutely loving it I’ve decided I have to share. But keep in mind, if you try this at home, it does require upkeep!

Actually, let me give you some background.

Why did I even want a planted aquarium in the first place? How did I even come across the idea?

Well, back when I was little my mom and I had Betta fish in vases with plants floating on top (they ate the roots!), and my dad kept massive (I’m talking like 50-100 gallon) salt water tanks. So I’ve had fish around for most of my life. Late last semester, I spontaneously decided I wanted a Betta fish in a gallon mason jar on my desk. So I got a gorgeous Betta, named him Soleil (he looked like the sun in eclipse because he was dark blue with yellow fins), a mason jar, and an aquatic plant. They lived on my desk for about two or three months until my Betta got sick and died, then I just had a jar with a plant in it. After staring at this jar for a couple of weeks I started looking into what went wrong with my Betta and what it would take to have a proper planted aquarium.

All of that being said, where did I begin? Well, I searched planted aquariums on Pinterest, got some general ideas of what it could look like and went from there (as far as creating an aesthetic image goes). Then I searched Betta needs and plants which work well with them on the ‘ol Google. I learned that although Bettas can live in small aquariums, they are far happier in something at least 2.5 gallons (preferably 5 gal+). I also learned that they love heavily planted aquariums (they sleep and rest on the leaves). This was perfect for me because I love plants! After I decided all of that I spent hours searching for what I wanted online and realized I would be happier starting from scratch myself (and probably end up spending less for better things). Here is the final product I ended up with:


If you’d like to create your own, first you have some things to decide:

  • How much space do you have?
  • What do you want to show off? Fish? Plants? Decor?
  • What kind of fish do you want? (although this relies heavily upon how much space you have, fish need more room than we tend to assume, ~1 gallon per 1 inch of adult body size)
  • What kind of plants do you want?

My suggestion is to find your nearest mom-and-pop aquarium shop and stop by. They should have a tank full of plants (that would be how I ended up with 7 different kinds of plants). They also should have a lot of what you need, I found things far less expensive in the shop than online (quite shocking I know).

Here’s the shopping list: (I’ll link things I can find online that are similar or the same to what I have)

  • Seamless aquarium/tank 5+ gallons (mine is ~7.5 gallons)
  • An in tank heater
  • An over the tank filter (I went with over the tank rather than in tank because I wanted to hear the water, I also chose clear rather than the more traditional black because it kept with the seamless appearance)
  • An LED Light (I chose a cheap clip on one, something about it’s aesthetic appealed to me)
  • A power strip (unfortunately each thing requires its own cord, you could find a filter/light combination but the reviews I read weren’t great)
  • Plants!!! Any plants you like (I’ve linked my Pinterest page for aquariums to this one, it’s full of aqua plants)
  • Substrate (aka the gravelly stuff. The black is specific for helping plants grow, while the larger cream colored rocks are for looks, helping create beneficial bacteria, and as a heavier substance to keep plants from floating off)
  • Decor! (I personally purchased a large rock and some driftwood, but you could go with pretty much anything. Avoid plastic though, it can cut fishy fins)
  • A Gravel Vacuum (for the occasional deep cleaning)

That’s pretty much it! Once you have all of the goodies, you can assemble. If you purchase driftwood, make sure to presoak it for 24 hours, or until the water no longer looks like tea. Once you have your plants how you like them and your decor in, let the filter work for about 7 days and you can add fishies. There’s something called the nitrogen cycle, I don’t fully understand it, but it has to do with the nutrients that build up and cycle through tank water. Once you have a fish, or a few depending on what you decide (remember the 1 in = 1 gal rule), change about 20-30% of the water weekly or biweekly if you have lots of fish. Once a month or once every few months, take your fishies out, and use the gravel cleaner to clean out the excess food and poop from the gravel, then refill with fresh water and put your scaled friends back in and enjoy the tank some more. An important thing to note about water: tap water has chlorine, which harms fishy gills. They make water additives that dechlorinate the water, or you can use filtered water, or bottle spring water. This detail is slightly less important for Bettas, as they have makeshift lungs, but it’s still harmful overtime to them.

Another cool thing about Bettas specifically is they actually have personalities. My Thoth recognizes when I walk up to his tank and swims to the top for snacks. He builds nests frequently, you can peek an example on my Instagram page. Overall, having a little aquarium is a blast.

Here are a couple more looks into my tank:

Thanks for joining me on this little adventure in DIY land




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s