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Thread: Starting an Utric Aquarium

  1. #1
    ChronoKiento's Avatar
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    Starting an Utric Aquarium

    Hi all!

    I've recently re-caught the CP bug now that I'm done with school and actually have time.. so one of my new experiments is to make an utric aquarium. I'm starting off with something small, just a 5.5 gallon aquarium which I've filled with distilled water and some peat moss (which I really hope decides to sink some time in the next few days). The first addition to this aquarium will be U. gibba mostly because it's easy to grow. So if I manage to kill that, I know that I have a problem. But I'm really looking at making like a working ecosystem with some non-cps and maybe even some fish if I can get it going stable. I'm intending to keep it outside for the summer as long as it doesn't prove to be too difficult keeping the water level high enough. So it's basically just going to be an open aquarium sitting outside. I wasn't intending on putting a filter or anything like that on it either if I can get away with it. I'd like to try to create a self-preserving ecosystem of sorts to keep algae levels low, the water aerated, and the CO2 levels high enough to grow some utrics and -maybe- I could try aldrovanda again sometime if I feel confident in it enough. I'm not sure if it's really possible to simulate an ecosystem well like that, but I am going to try. My main concern is algae. I've tried having similar aquatic setups not entirely unlike this in the past and it ended up not working out too well because the algae just took over ridiculously fast. At the time I was only trying to grow aldrovanda in it as well so I was more or less doomed from the beginning. That's part of the reason that I'm starting with something a little simpler.

    So I'm looking for some tips on what kind of plants/critters I can add to help create my little ecosystem (duckweed, hornwort?) and keep the algae at bay (snails?). I'm also really interested in seeing what kind of setups some of you guys have so I can get some ideas of what works and what might not work.

    Any tips or pictures of your setup that you can share would be greatly appreciated!
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    BS Bulldozer SubRosa's Avatar
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    Good luck! In small systems exposed to full sun, algae can be murder. My best suggestion would be to use rainwater, ro or distilled only, and add some peat to drop the pH and tint the water, both of which will help inhibit, but not prevent algae. Snails won't do very well under those conditions, but some fish will. Enneacanthus species, the Blue Spotted (which is PA legal) the Banded (PA extirpated, illegal) and Black Banded Sunfish (PA endangered, illegal) I often find in NJ under the conditions described right alongside U. gibba. Redfin Pickerel as well, but they require large tanks. Pygmy Sunfish would be great, but aren't cold hardy this far north, and you have to be right on top of them to appreciate them However any fish will contribute nitrogenous waste, which will help fuel algae. 40+ years as a hobbyist and 25+ working in the aquarium trade have shown me the futility of trying to maintain a "self preserving ecosystem", at least on the scale under discussion. If you want something reasonably maintenance free, dig a small pond. Or simply accept the fact that you will be cleaning this yourself.
    Last edited by SubRosa; 04-22-2014 at 06:18 PM.
    Judge not lest ye be judged creates a cesspool. Judge others and prepare to be judged by them.
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    First of all, let me say it will be pretty to difficult to grow Aldrovanda well without additional CO2 supplementation. I have a utric tank with three species that all do well for me but if I add Aldrovanda in there it inevitably declines after a while. The tank is not supplemented with CO2. The peat moss will sink eventually, but you can speed up the process by moving the container back and forth to make the heavier clumps fall to the bottom.

    Duckweed will help control algae by removing excess nitrates from the water but you will need to cull it from time to time to prevent it from taking over the tank. I'm not sure if hornwort does that as well, but it might be worth a try. Personally I would not add fish to the tank. Their waste products would add to the bio-load in the tank and you would probably need to supplement the tank with oxygen, which would be detrimental to your plants. On the other hand, Daphnia would provide food for your Utricularia and help with algae. Snails that don't eat your plants will probably eat the rotting parts of them, so I don't think they would be helpful in combating algae.

    I find that if the water is acidic enough, algae is usually not a problem. I set up a plastic tub outside with 2 inches of peat moss at the bottom and added some macrorhiza that had been overrun by algae, and within a week most of the algae had disappeared.

    I don't think gibba, nor most aquatic utrics, are going to die in your setup. They might stop producing bladders if your conditions are not ideal, though. I find that to be a good indicator of whether or not I am providing what my plants need.

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    Axelrod12's Avatar
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    I'm gonna pretty much agree with what's been said.

    Hornwort should work well to absorb nutrients, pretty much any floater will do the same job though. Water lettuce, frogbit, duckweed (which is a pain), etc.

    As said before algae is probably inevitable in full sun. I would try to shade the tank. Have you considered something near a window? Or lighting a small indoor setup with something like a desk lamp. I don't know the exact light requirements of all aquatic utrics, for example u. graminifolia may not do as well under lower lighting, but I would think there are quite a few that would do fine.

    I have set up several "aquatic vases" using either desk lamps or just overflow window light. I didn't use just low light plants either and everything did just fine. I even kept a few ramshorns in one of the vases with no problems. I can't transfer the pics directly here right now because I'm at work but here's a link to the thread on a diff forum:

    http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...393&highlight=

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    Quote Originally Posted by Axelrod12 View Post
    u. graminifolia may not do as well under lower lighting
    http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...393&highlight=
    It does just fine under the low watt power compacts, 9W or so is plenty to get some nice growth. I've only tried to grow a few Utrics out doors and all have ended badly, but its gets really hot in the summer here.

    I think you would be happier with U. graminifolia instead of U. gibba if you were only going to grow 1 utric.

    Swap the duckweed for Salvinia if you can find it and its not on your states bad weed listing. For a floater is a lot easier to control and generally better all around. But is illegal is a lot of States due to the invasiveness of the species.

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    ChronoKiento's Avatar
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    All right, so based on everyone's information. I definitely won't add any fish to the mix, just some daphnia and whatever other little critters I can find. I think I will also move the tank to the shaded side of my deck so that it will only get direct sun in the morning. I'll keep it there until I'm confident that I have the algae under control. I considered moving it to a windowsill but I don't think it will be nearly enough light. I don't want to move it there until it gets too cold to keep outside. It's more of a backup plan I suppose, but we'll see how it goes.

    I do want to add some duckweed because I kind of like it and because of the reasons stated by everyone else, but I'll look for salvinia too. At the moment I don't know where I'm going to acquire either of them. I have been warned that it can get crazy (though I've heard the same about U. gibba) so I'll be sure to prune and give away the trimmings.

    I have seen some amazing tanks of U. graminifolia and I love the way it looks so I'm going to see if I can get some of that growing at the bottom. Other than that, I haven't decided what other utrics I could add (if there is even any room for more) but I'm not going to add aldrovanda unless I somehow happen upon some. In my old tank I had a cheap CO2 bubbler that was a pain to maintain, so I'm pretty turned off from that at the moment. I just enjoy the challenge.

    Thanks for all the information and the pictures! I love seeing other people's setups. It helps motivate me to make mine look just as nice. I'll post updates when they come. Right now it's just a big tank of black water with a peat hat so I'll hold on the pictures for the time being, haha.

  7. #7
    Axelrod12's Avatar
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    I don't think I have any salvinia left. I kinda killed it all off on purpose since it was getting out of control. If you want I can send you some frogbit and possibly a couple water lettuce though. They will probably come with some lesser duckweed as well. I can't seem to get rid of it no matter how hard I try. Let me know if you are interested. U. gibba can get a little crazy but is much easier to control than duckweed. It just has a habit of getting tangled in other plants. It's permanently ingrained itself into a bunch of java moss in one of my tanks.

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    BS Bulldozer SubRosa's Avatar
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    One consideration about your choice of Utric. Does U. graminifolia get traps large enough to take mosquito larvae? A consideration if there are no fish to eat them.
    Judge not lest ye be judged creates a cesspool. Judge others and prepare to be judged by them.
    Just know when to keep the verdict to yourself.

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