Monday, 30 December 2013

108 Litre "Puddle Garden" Outdoor Balcony Pond - Week 3 Update + Koi Sanke Swordtails

Its been around 2 weeks since my initial post on the "Puddle Garden", all the plants have grown fast and filled in very quickly within that time.

Its now starting to become more like looking down into a dense forest canopy...


The Hygrophila Difformis and Ludwigia Repens bunches have grown so much that they now fill substantial sections of the base area. 

Bacopa Caroliniana have started to develop a reddish hue on its new leaves, most likely in response to ample sunlight.

Limnobium Laevigatum (aka frogbits) keep growing fast enough that i have to remove a portion every few days, or else they'll start to cover too much of the surface and shade the other plants.

Cyperus Haspan continue shooting long stems upwards, we'll have to see at which point they start to develop their characteristic emersed mop head of flowers.

Got abit bored with not being able to observe much of the Boraras Brigittae, as they are very small and slim fishes, when viewed from above i could only seeing tiny shadows moving around, not very interesting... they are much nicer to view in an aquarium instead, so i shifted them back to my planted tanks.

After much deliberation, i decided to just go ahead and get some Xiphophorus Helleri var. Koi Sanke (aka Koi Sanke Swordtails)...


These fishes have vibrant colors with nice koi sanke style body patterns, and they look superb when viewed from above.


Due to their larger size (compared to Boraras Brigittae), i'll have to do more regular water changes to maintain water quality and hopefully the established dense plant mass can help handle and process the increased bio-load too.

After an extended period of drip acclimatization, i introduced them into the container pond.


I guess for those without the space for large ponds to house real Koi fishes... these specially bred Swordtails could be an interesting alternative. :)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

108 Litre "Puddle Garden" Outdoor Balcony Pond

This is my latest balcony water garden project which was started a few weeks ago...


Its basically made from a re-purposed fiberglass tank and wrapped with artificial grass to make it abit more "garden" like. Though compared to actual ponds, this is more like a puddle... hence the project name. :)

The concept is to cultivate pond/marginal plants and allow them to grow above the water with emersed leaves and flowers, while at the same time creating a self-sustaining aquatic ecosystem in the water.

For this particular setup, there is no substrate used and the plants are not potted in soil, they are all simply tied to pieces of wood, this makes it easy to move them around anytime without creating a mess. All the plants used were chosen based on their fast growth characteristics and ability to grow without soil. When such plants are grown in a soil-less hydro-culture method, the plant roots adapt to drawing nutrients directly from the water column, thereby cleaning the water more efficiently than if they were potted in soil.

There is no filter as i don't have an electrical point at the balcony area, so i'll have to rely on a higher plant density to perform the bulk of the natural filtration. I also decided to use a solar powered pump with a fountain head to provide abit of circulation and surface agitation during daylight hours.

Due to the filter-less setup, i maintained a very low bio-load by just adding a few Boraras Brigittae to help eat up any mosquito larvae or bugs that may breed in the water, and a group of Neocaridina Heteropoda as plant cleaning/algae management crew.

During this initial period before the water garden's ecosystem is fully established, the fauna are fed very lightly twice a week to maintain a balance in water quality and nutrients for the plants. Once the ecosystem is mature, there will be much less feedings required.

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Here are the water garden stats:

Tank Size: L90cm x D60cm x H20cm (Fiberglass Tank)
Substrate: None

Filter System: None
Filter Media: None
Water Feature: Solar Pump
Temperature: 29-30°C (Day) / 25-26°C (Night)

Lighting: Natural Sunlight (Shaded Balcony)
Co2: None
Fertilizer: None
Fan/Chiller: None

Water Change Regimen: 20% Weekly

Water Parameters:
Tested using API Freshwater Master Test Kit
pH = 6.8
Ammonia = 0 ppm
Nitrite = 0 ppm
Nitrate = 0-5 ppm

Flora:
Hygrophila Difformis
Bacopa Caroliniana
Ludwigia Repens
Cyperus Haspan

Limnobium Laevigatum

Fauna:
Boraras Brigittae
Neocaridina Heteropoda


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I'm currently trying out a small solar powered pump which operates when there is sunlight (there is no battery storage capability in this model, but i may upgrade it soon).

As this solar panel didn't come with a mount, i just used an acrylic A4 stand to prop it up at the right angle to catch the sunlight, along with some clips to help secure the attached cord to the pump.


The solar pump is rated at 180 l/ph, but in reality the actual flow rate depends on the amount of sunlight that the solar panel receives. As the balcony is somewhat shaded, it only gets partial sunlight so the flow tends to be more of a trickle. Its still good enough to provide some gentle surface agitation and abit of ripple effect though, which helps reduce the buildup of surface film.

Here is an example of how it works in an overcast afternoon:


I've tried placing the solar panel under direct sunlight on a clear bright sunny day and the pump flows faster with more water height, but due to my balcony placement i can't mount it that far outside, so i'll just have to work with the lower water flow.

One factor that i noticed in an outdoor balcony pond setup is the much wider fluctuations in water temperature (compared to indoor tanks), in the day the water temperature averages around 29-30°C... but at night it can drop to as low as 25-26°C, which i guess is due to the direct exposure to much cooler outdoor temperatures.

Plant-wise, i was expecting slow growth since there isn't any fertilization or Co2 injection... but it seems the combination of naturally fast growing pond/marginal plants and natural sunlight was enough to encourage surprisingly fast and healthy growth. An example is the Ludwigia Repens that i added recently, it took less than a week for the bunches to grow up and above the water line.


Here is a photo of Cyperus Haspan, most aquarium keepers buy these from shops and add them into their tanks because they like the unique look of it, but its actually a pond/marginal plant. These plants will naturally grow long stalks up to 3ft above the water and sprout emersed leaves and flowers.


Some of them have already begun to send up stalks in the above photo.

I'll probably add more varieties of plants in the water garden, and hopefully see them grow emersed forms and flower soon. :)