Linda Tomlinson

Linda Tomlinson

Gardening: Fish and plant tank project

Christmas holidays are a time to relax and enjoy each other’s company. It can be good to have a couple of child friendly activities on hand that include the whole family.

Know the people involved and choose an activity that everyone will enjoy. It should be challenging enough to keep everyone’s interest but still be fun.

One project that most children enjoy is building an environment to house both betta fish and plants. It is a symbiotic relationship where the fish fertilizes the water and the plant helps oxygenate and clean the water.

Note that the relationship is not complete and the fish will still need to be fed daily and their water changed occasionally.

Materials needed include: A large clear glass or plastic container with a 10-15 cm (4 in.) opening on the top, a clear plastic plant saucer that fits the opening, a plant that will live in water, newspaper and a sharp pair of scissors or a knife. Spathophylum or patho vines tend to be easy to find and thrive in a water.

Start by removing all the soil from the roots of the plant. This is a slow process as care must be taken not to damage the roots. First remove the pot and gently squeeze the rootball to loosen the soil. Next dunk the root ball into water and swish it back and forth. The soil will begin to wash from the roots. Keep doing this until most of the soil is removed. It may take a few tubs of water.

When most of the soil has been removed, place the plant in the sink under warm, slow running water and wash away all the remaining soil.

Once the roots are clean remove all pieces of plant and root that are ripped or broken with a sharp pair of scissors.

Place the roots in water before going on to the next step as roots that are exposed to air, for any period of time, dry out and die.

Take the clear plastic saucer and cut an ‘X’ in the centre. The cuts should measure approximately 5 cm. in length. Snip out the tips of the points. The saucer supports the plant and keeps the leaves above the water with the roots in the water.

The plant will have to be threaded through the ‘X’ or hole in the plastic saucer which has sharp edges. To avoid the plant being damaged, lay a piece of newspaper on a flat surface. Place the plant at a corner and tightly roll the plant in the paper forming a tight tube.

Take the tube and work it through the hole in the saucer until the area between the roots and top is at the saucer level.

Fill the clear container with room temperature water, leaving 2 cm at the top for air. And place the plant and saucer in the container. If the plant leans to one side, place weight on the saucer to keep the plant in an upright position.

Leave the container overnight and change the water if it is murky.

Once the water stays clear and it is at room temperature, the fish can be added.

Place the container with or without a fish in an area out of direct sunlight. The plant will thrive in low light levels and the water will stay cleaner than if placed in full sun.

With proper care, the fish and plant can both live and thrive with this arrangement for a couple of years.

Linda Tomlinson has gardened in Central Alberta for over 30 years. She can be reached at