The Ecology of the Aquarium – And How It Led Me to Permaculture

“…my fish tanks were essentially wastelands!”

I have had an aquarium (or two) in continuous operation since 2004 – a large goldfish tank and a small betta tank. However, between 2004 and 2010, my aquariums were really “fish tanks” by advanced aquarium hobbyists’ standards – meaning that they were focused on fish, with an artificial, decorative environment. Plastic and silk plants, plastic gravel substrate, and heavy mechanical and chemical (activated carbon) filtration were all in play in my tanks, even if I did use the occasional decorative natural stone or gravel. The “artificial, decorative environment” is a very common setup that is condoned by pet stores, aquarium stores, common knowledge and popular culture.

Goldfish aquarium

About the closest I got to an “ecology” in my fish tanks was to utilize – as all aquariums and fish tanks do – biological filtration via nitrogen-cycling bacteria as part of my filtration system (converting harmful ammonia from the fish’s waste to less-harmful nitrate). Also, various volunteer species of algae would spontaneously appear over the years, which I usually scrubbed off the glass and fake plants in order to keep the tank “clean.” These fish tanks were fairly high-maintenance, in that they required weekly water changes, monthly algae eradication, and frequent cleaning of the filter media and moving parts – all standard recommendations for aquarium maintenance. But from an ecological and biodiversity standpoint, my fish tanks were essentially wastelands!    Continue reading “The Ecology of the Aquarium – And How It Led Me to Permaculture”