Your own mini water garden!

Your own mini water garden!

Most urbanites do not have the fortune of being close to a natural waterscape, nor do they enjoy the luxury of space and resources to create one. So how can one still enjoy the benefits of being close to an invigorating waterscape? The answer lies in learning to enjoy the benefits in miniature. A miniature water garden or container pond is ‘pond with a purpose’. It is easy to build and maintain, uses less water, is portable and can be customised to suit any budget.

A semi-open porch, patio or balcony, which receives ample sunlight for at least two to three hours a day is a good place to establish a water garden. Here are the resources required:

Container
An ideal miniature water garden with aquatic plants and rockwork can measure anywhere between six and 24 inches wide, with a minimum height of six inches. If you would like to include fish or keep the water garden outdoors, then a minimum height of 15 inches is recommended.

While you can fill soil and plants directly into the chosen container, it is recommended that you use planters or baskets to separate the different groups of plants. This will avoid aggressive plants from overcrowding the water garden. Using planters will also help you create different levels. It will also help you change plants or repot without disturbing other elements within the water garden.

Fillers for planters
Start by adding a layer of gravel or baby jelly in the planters. Then, add a layer of sand. Continue by adding a final layer of heavy clay soils. Create a small pit in the centre to add the chosen plant and cover with heavy clay soil. This will ensure the plants are held firmly. Do not use organic compost or cocopeat, as these will float or cloud the water.

Plants
Aquatic plants will be the main character of your water garden. A good balance of plants mentioned below will oxygenate the water, control algal growth and provide shelter to the fish.

Filter & spout
An internal aquarium filter plays an essential role in the water garden’s health especially if you have fish. The sponge in the filter provides a surface for beneficial bacteria to grow which break down ammonia produced by the fish. A filter will also collect debris, circulate the water, oxygenate the water, control algae growth and breeding of mosquitoes. The filter must be laid horizontally on a tile. A pump and spout can be used to create cascading features.

Pebbles & rocks
Rocks and small boulders are more than just aesthetic addition. If you have birds coming to drink the water, they can use it as their landing. Ornaments can be placed on the rocks. Fish can also hide between crevices from predators. Coloured gravel lightens the water garden floor and helps show the fish.

It creates a barrier between the fish and soil, preventing fish from disturbing the soil and turning the water cloudy. Gravel also acts as an anchor for the aquatic plants, preventing them from being uprooted.

Ornaments
While enhancing a water garden further is not always necessary, it can certainly add to the charm. Ornaments can be made of terracotta, stone, ceramic, wood, metal or resin. Figurines of aquatic birds, frogs on lily pads and snails are usually the popular choice. Lanterns, zen figurines, vintage hand pumps, cherubs, fishing gnomes are some other options.

Fish & other life
While it is not necessary to add fauna into your water garden, they add movement, eat mosquito larva and support the water garden ecosystem. While turtles, freshwater shrimps and snails are few of the species that can live in a miniature water garden, fish are highly recommended, especially for beginners. While there are many kinds of fish suitable for conventional pond habitats, only a few fish will do well in a container pond. Don’t be tempted to add bigger spectacular species of fish. The conditions required for them are completely different and you could harm the fish unknowingly.

The plants in your water garden must be well-established and the water must be ‘cycled’ before you introduce your fish. Let the filter run for 30-45 days without any fish. Initially, introduce a quarter of the total number of fish your water garden can hold. Before releasing the fish from the bag, keep the bag in the water garden for one hour and then release. Give your fish plenty of crevices and hiding places between vegetation and rocks. Fish are very swift and know how to evade predators so you do not have to worry too much. Or you could try to dissuade the predators by placing a net over your water garden, especially if you are not home for long periods or using decoy animal statues.

Many species of plants and fish used in aquarium set ups are not native. If you are using such species, care must be taken not to discard or release them into natural waterscapes, where they may become invasive. Use of native or acclimatised species reduces the chances of negative impacts and reduces maintenance as well.  
Dos

Daily
*Check for water loss from evaporation and top it up often during summers.
*Check the water for mosquito or other insect larva.
*Feed the fish but take care not to overfeed.

Weekly
*Remove one-fourth water and then top up to usual level.
*Remove the sponge of the filter and rinse in the water removed above, do not squeeze or scrub it. Fit it back carefully.
*Remove any debris or dead leaves.
*Spray water on foliage — it will remove the dust, dislodge pests and make the leaves look fresh and clean.
*Check for any pests on the plants or fish. Remove any diseased plants. If a portion of the plant is affected, remove that portion with a sharp tool. If any of your fish are diseased, quarantine them in another container and treat them until they recover.

General
*In winter months, add luke warm water to keep the water warm enough for your fish. Do not, however, add warm or hot water, fish cannot handle sudden variation in temperatures.
*Allowing friendly wildlife such as frogs, fish and lady bugs will keep your water garden healthy by keeping pests at bay.
*If you have grass like plants, cut them back once in six months and give way to new shoots.

Don’ts
*Keep moving or exchanging plants.
*Keep changing and disturbing the gravel.
*Use soaps, detergents or any chemicals in the water garden or around it.
*Stop running the filter pump.
*Feed low quality food to your fish, you could end up inviting diseases.
*When you spot any urban wildlife that you consider harmful, always call an emergency line dedicated to handling such incidents, without trying to trap or kill the wildlife.

A step–by–step guide to creating a water garden

Step 1
Sketch your layout.
Choose the right place.
Ensure the place is levelled.
You will need a power source nearby.

Step 2
Place your pre-planted pots or baskets.
Use blocks to create different levels.
Three different levels will add more interest.

Step 3
Fill the gaps between the planters.
Fill all the way till the brim of the tallest planter.
Use pea gravel, baby jelly or coarse sand.

Step 4
Place a small tile at the rear of the garden or in between the planters.
Use the tile as the surface to place the filter.

Step 5
Start layering pebbles of a light colour over the filler.
Ensure the spout of the filter is not obstructed.
Cover the visible rim of planters.

Step 6
Place larger rocks to add interest.
It is in these crevices that fish can hide or rest.
Use aquarium quality silicon glue to bind these rocks.

Step 7
Add water from the side or over a rock.
Ensure not to disturb the soil.
Make sure all electrical connections are dry.
 

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