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Mr. Smarty Plants - Water Gardening

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Monday - February 28, 2005

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Water Gardens
Title: Water Gardening
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I took the landscaping class several years ago, and now would like to put in a section of aquatic plants. Starting small, I was initially looking for a ceramic bowl-type container, and I need to know what I have to do to make sure that the material used or the glaze will not injure the fish that I put in. What is the name of those little native fish that you use? Is my best bet a galvanized tub like you use there?

ANSWER:

As long as the ceramic container is properly sealed, there should be no problem with it leaching anything that will harm the fish. However, there are a couple of other concerns for a small, ceramic container. First, if it freezes, the container is likely to crack and leak. Second, a small container will limit the number of fish you can have without adding an aerator. Although your plants will help oxygenate the water for the fish, as the fish numbers increase the oxygen may become depleted and the fish could die. You could handle this problem with an aerator like those used in fish aquariums.

The fish in the ponds at the Wildlife Center are Gambusia, mosquito fish. We have had good success with galvanized tubs at the Wildflower Center. Although some people question whether zinc might be leaching from them and poisoning the fish, we have had Gambusia, dragonfly larvae and other aquatic fauna thriving in our galvanized tanks for at least four years now.  In areas with different water chemistry, leaching of zinc might be an issue, but it has not been a problem for us. You could add a liner, such as ones available at Aquatic Eco-systems, Inc., to the galvanized tub to be on the safe side, however.

The Wildflower Center has a 2-page PDF article on "Water Gardening" that you can download from the Native Plant Library. Also, both Clemson Extension and Colorado State University Cooperative Extension have interesting articles on water gardening in containers that you might like to read.
 

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