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Lockdown activities with the kids -Volcanos, grow your own and science
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Lockdown activities with the kids -Volcanos, grow your own and science

Lockdown activities with the kids

Lockdown activities with the kids.

As many of you will know, we have had various fish tanks over the years and a fairly large one in our living room. You will have probably seen it in some of the videos and pictures I share. 

Sadly, just before Christmas, we lost our last and most loved fish, Spike. He had done well and was about 11 years old, so it wasn’t a huge shock. However, this would give me the opportunity to remodel and aquascape the tank. Spike clearly thought he was an interior designer and would constantly move decorations, plants and ornaments around the tank, so anything too flashy would be fruitless because it would be moved around and destroyed overnight. 

Anyhow! In an attempt to gain some ideas, I stumbled on a YouTuber called MD Tanks. If you are a bit geeky like me and into beautifully designed fish tanks, I highly recommend you check out his channel. 

Lockdown activities with the kids.

While gathering ideas for the big tank, MD Tanks inspired me for a series of blog posts and gave me an amazing idea to do with the kids over lockdown. Without realising he also convinced me to purchase another tank, Which has been aquascaped and is currently cycling. Sitting proudly on my desk. But more about that another time. 

Back to the big idea. I noticed with glee, that on a couple of his videos, he had managed to get plants to grow out of the top of his tanks. So, completing off a rather nice aquascaped tank with more traditional indoor plants popping out of the top. 

So why am I being so fish tank geeky and what is the big idea?

It’s all about science. Oh, and eating.

To cut to the chase. The kids and I are learning all about aquaponics. But not the traditional type of growing plants in a water system. We are using a fish tank and we will attempt to learn the art and grow different types of plants. However, to keep it on topic with the blog, we are going to try things you can eat. 

Grow your own.

Yep! Dad’s Delicious Dinners is growing our own! Granted on a small scale and with it being winter still,

Lockdown activities with the kids
Lockdown activities with the kids

we are starting off with just herbs. However, come Spring we have plans for salads, strawberries and the middle boy wants to try chillies.

I have also been keen to keep to a budget. Fortunately, I had spare nano tank in my garage, that had previously been used as UK rock pool style marine aquarium. I also had a few spare rocks and aquarium soil from previous tanks we have had over the years.

Aquascaping. 

I have attempted aquascaping unsuccessfully before. So, rather trepidly I made a start. First thing first was to clean the old tank and make sure it was still watertight and that the filter and heater worked. 

Next up, was the design and build. I wanted it to be fully planted. So I placed a layer of aquarium soil in first. Gradually deepening it as I got to the back. This gives the tank some depth when looking at it (just one of the geeky things I have recently learnt).

I carefully arranged some rocks. Attempting (and failing) an Iwagumi style aquascape. However, I was fairly satisfied with the outcome. It gave off a peaceful vibe and essentially that was what I was going for. I had already decided that I wanted the tank to be planted. Initially, I placed a few low plants in, followed by some taller growing variants. Currently, it looks a little sparse, however, given time I hope to have a full carpet of plants covering the entire bottom and the taller ones coming out from between and behind the rocks. 

As previously mentioned, the point of the exercise wasn’t for me to branch out and become a fish tank blogger. More to learn about aquaponics. 

Planting technique.

In case you were wondering. It isn’t quite as simple as just chucking the plant in the top of the tank and see what happens. Firstly we need to get the plant out of the pot and remove all of the soil, careful away from the roots. The soil would be harmful to the water in the aquarium and potentially harmful to the fish. We then trimmed the roots with some scissors. The reason behind this? Once the roots are submerged in water they grow slightly differently and we wanted to encourage them to grow and immediately get used to their submarine environment. 

Ideally, you want the stem to be above the water and the roots below. So to help with this, we grabbed some of the pots that the aquarium plants came with. These have lots of holes in, we then placed the plants into them and carefully pulled the roots through the bottom. We then filled the pot with crushed lava rock to hold the stem in place. We then used a combination of clothes pegs and suction cups to hold the pot just above the water level in the tank, allowing the roots to flow underwater. 

Volcanoes

Lockdown activities with the kids
Lockdown activities with the kids

Lava rock, as you may have guessed is the solid form of volcano lava. It is the stuff you sometimes see in gas barbeques or at the base of some fire pits. When crushed to smaller bits, it can be used as a media in your aquarium filter and is widely used as a growing media for plants. 

So, what have we learnt?

It is early days and given that it is still winter, we have been somewhat limited. However, Basil seems to cope and grow fairly well. Parsley is loving it and growing quicker than it would in a pot with compost. Coriander sadly (as its the most used herb in our meals) didn’t take very well to the new way of living and in the future, I will stick to growing it in pots on the window sill. 

What’s the science behind it?

Aquaponics is used the world over to successfully grow plants. It encourages faster growth and also is a much more efficient use of CO2. For the aquarium, it helps filter the water and takes nitrates out of the water column and acts as a filter to keep the water cleaner and safer for fish. So basically,  it seems to be a winner!

What’s next?

We have already taken some rosemary cuttings from the garden and are attempting to grow them on. On

Lockdown activities with the kids
Lockdown activities with the kids

top of the fruit and veg already mentioned, we have discussed trying some other plants, such as miniature bamboo and some grasses. 

The kids have really enjoyed this and hopefully, we can try lot’s of new things with this now christened ‘The Blog Kitchen Fish Tank’. Along the way, we have discovered knowledge in aquaponics, but also some other snippets about volcanoes, water cycles, bacteria and nitrates too. 

You may recall I mentioned being inspired to set up another tank on my desk. Well, I won’t bore you with the details but I am rather proud of how it turned out! It is approximately 100 litres and consists of some rocks, plants and bogwood. With a Peace Lilly growing from the top.

Lockdown activities with the kids

Desk aquarium with peace lilly
Desk aquarium with Peace Lilly

Currently, both tanks are cycling before we can add fish. When ready the one by the desk will house a friendly and active community, while the kitchen one will house a Betta fish (siamese fighting fish). So watch this space for regular updates.

In case you were wondering. The large tank, that started all of this, is currently empty while I decorate our lounge. Ironically, when I started this new adventure, I planned on getting inspiration to turn that into a planted aquarium. That has now changed. So keep checking back, because we have exciting plans for that and it looks like it may be getting even bigger!

So if you are looking for some lockdown activities with the kids and have a fish tank at home, why not try and grow some plants? Just remember to let me know how you get on.

Featured photo by amy lynn grover on Unsplash

About Author

Part time Gardener | Part time Blogger | Dad

(2) Comments

  1. RIP SPike. What an awesome idea and inspiring blog post. I’m tempted to try growing things we can eat as well. All I need is a fish tank! May start scanning Fcebook for someone who has a cheap one they’re looking to get rid of.

    1. Thank you. eBay and Facebook are a great place to start the search. Let me know how you get on.

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