Freshwater aquatic ecosystems is the concept of a planted aquarium that combines elements of landscaping and natural ecosystems in the confined space of an aquarium. Plants and fish live symbiotically in harmony, aiding one another within the ecosystem.
If the aquatic ecosystem is established correctly, it is self-sustaining and requires little to no maintenance to upkeep its health and aesthetics. This self-sustaining attribute that aquatic ecosystems have is due to the benefits provided by live plants. Plants act as filters that absorb excess nutrients, organic waste, and even heavy metals. Thus aquatic ecosystems hold cleaner water and healthier aquatic life than any other aquarium.
A common problem found in most freshwater aquariums is algae. However, you will rarely find any algae in aquatic ecosystems because plants can out-compete algae for nutrients. Algae will only grow in environments with excess nutrients and light. The more plants there are growing in an aquarium, the less likely you will see algae growing in that aquarium.
Other than the better quality of health in aquatic ecosystems, the more obvious quality in these aquariums are the aesthetics. With so many vibrant colors and different possibilities for layout compositions, aquatic ecosystems are definitely more aesthetically pleasing than the regular freshwater aquarium.
There are several aesthetic components seen in an aquatic ecosystem. One of the first things you may notice is the presence of wood and stones in these “scapes” or aquarium layouts. Some scapes may use driftwood by itself or stones by itself. Some scapes may use both driftwood and stones simultaneously. Usually mosses and ferns are attached to driftwood, causing it to have a very “soft” look.
On the contrary, stones have a very “strong” look due to their sturdiness.
Selection and arrangement of driftwood and stones are very important for the style of the layout. In the picture below, both driftwood and stones are used, each complimenting one another in perfect balance.
In aquatic ecosystems, plants play a vital role not only to the aesthetics of a layout but also to the health of the ecosystem. Healthy growing plants are a good indicator of a balanced ecosystem, which is the main goal in every nature aquarium. Plants are like trees underwater; they soak up carbon dioxide, excess nutrients, and heavy metals while releasing oxygen. By soaking up excess nutrients, plants combat algae outbreaks. The more plants and variety of plants placed into an aquarium, the more stability it has in terms of health and beauty.
Selection of fish in aquatic ecosystems are different from what many people may be used to. Instead of larger types of fish such as cichlids, smaller types of fish are placed into the aquarium. Tetras, rasboras, and rainbows are some examples of the fish selected. Instead of fish being the center pieces in an aquarium, they act as complimentary pieces to the entire layout. Again, in aquatic ecosystems, balance is the key.
In addition to fish, invertebrates such as shrimp are also placed into an aquarium. These are the bottom feeders of the ecosystem. However, shrimp are just as important as the fish; shrimp help keep algae under control as well as eat any uneaten food leftover by the fish.