Ikea Aquascape on the cheap $12

Picture of Ikea Aquascape on the cheap $12

Quick and easy mini-aquascape for decoration. I became obsessed with the idea of an aquascape a few years ago. I built one with fish, a CO2 pump, and a lot of plants, but the snails took over, the fish had babies, and everything went nuts. That isn’t a problem with this setup.

The idea of an aquascape is essentially an underwater garden that releases oxygen into the room. You can make them into mini-biospheres (ala Make 10), but this one won’t require you to pick things out of a pond.

Step 1: Aquire the Materials
Picture of Aquire the Materials
There are four things needed for this project. Two can be purchased at IKEA, but the same two can be acquired nearly anywhere.

You will need a container (glass jar, bottle, cup) about $6 for mine
Gravel (Ikea has small bags for $2, enough to make two of these)
Plant bulbs (I picked these up at Wal-Mart(BOO, HISS) for about $3
Water (I used distilled water for fear the chlorine mine kill the plants) $1

You can easily substitute anything but the bulbs. The water could be purified or treated water (for an aquarium). I would advise against pond water for the micro-organism count, and the smell. The distilled water won’t have many of the same problems. I waited to post this until the plant had grown to see if there were any problems with the distilled water sucking the nutrients out of the plant, but I don’t see any problems so far.

The taller the container, the more elegant the plants will look. Wal-Mart sells two types of plants, Aponogeton and Lily bulbs. The first is what I used, the second has a different color and shape of leaves. That is about the only difference, they will both work.

Growing from bulbs eliminates the chances of snail infestation. It will also make it easier to setup.

Step 2: Wash and soak the gravel

As with any aquarium/colored gravel, there will be a lot of dust. Use a strainer or cloth of wash the gravel and eliminate as much of the dust as you can. I originally tried to put soil beneath the gravel for the plants, but this did not work at all, and I wouldn’t advise it. After the gravel has been cleaned, place a couple inches of it at the bottom of the container and fill just a bit above the gravel with distilled water.

This step may not be necessary, buy any chemical residue from the dye or bleach should leech into the water and can be poured off the next day. Shake the gravel/water every few hours and let stand for 24 hours (give or take) prior to completing the project

Step 3: Start the bulbs

This step will take you less time than it did to read it. Take a glass (not your jar) and fill it with a couple inches of distilled water. Place your bulbs in the glass and set it aside. There is no reason to add all of the bulbs to the aquascape if some of them won’t sprout!

In a few days, you’ll see the sprout start to work its way out. When this happens, it’s time to transplant it to the gravel.

Step 4: Transplant the bulbs and enjoy

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Fill the display jars with the cleaned gravel and just a bit of distilled water. Remember that you want to be able to manipulate the bulb into the right position prior to filling the jar. For this, I used bamboo skewers(for kabobs) that reach just below the top of the gravel.

Carve a shallow trench in the gravel and orient the bulb so the shoot it up. After the shoot grows a little taller, you can fill in the trench over the majority of the bulb.

It won’t quite look like a real aquascape, but it will add a touch of elegance to your living room or desk. I will probably add a couple shrimp or fish to my aquascape, and maybe give the real deal another try. I don’t know for certain excess oxygen will bleed into the room, but it makes a nice excuse for assembling such a simple and pretty display.

If I could do it over, I’d like to use a taller container. I’m sure at a 99 cents store or somewhere else I could find a vase or jar that meets the order, but IKEA is so darn convenient.