I want to start a small aquatic garden but low on funds!

ink.417April 22, 2014

Hey all, I am new to this forum, and gardening which I absolutely Love!
I really want to do a small aquatic garden but I want to keep it simple, and not to expensive...I was hoping that I could get some ideas, tips or advice on doing that.
I live in AZ so its nice and hot... but not really a lot of water:) Can I just get a bucket and maybe like a fish tank heater?

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This caught my eye and I was thinking about a possible attempt at a pond in a pot this year.

Here is a link that might be useful: Waterside Nursery

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 1:04PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I got started years ago with a half whiskey barrel with a liner. I sank it about 2/3rds of the way into the ground, to keep it cooler. I had a small water pump and several marginal plants. I also put 2 gold fish in there.

I'm still using containers, but bigger ones.......like 300 gallons.
But you can use almost anything. I use Rubbermaid stocktanks, but I also use some Tuff Stuff containers for dwarf lilies and marginals. there's no limit to the possibilities!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 1:08PM
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kashka_kat(z4 WI)

I would suggest rosy red minnows - they are small, short lived fish, that would be happy in a smaller container. Goldfish get 8-12 inches long, lifespan 10-20 years, eat and poop a lot so require lots of filtration (can be a bit of a difficult learning curve), require at least 30-50 gallons per fish. (Its a myth that they stay small to fit the container - more like their organs deform and they die early. Disregard the "gallons per inch" formula - fish grow rapidly.)

They are often thought of as "starter fish," but they really are not easy fish - their needs are starting to get more recognized but unfortunately the memo hasn't reached the pet store industry yet.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 1:43PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I agree with kashka. I should have added that after my first barrel pond, I didn't get any more fish. The one goldfish that survived in that first pond, I had to bring inside for the winter. He/she lived to be about 9 years old, and 10" long! (in an aquarium).
I don't have fish in my ponds now, although I wouldn't mind some minnows. I'm more into plants.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:22PM
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Thank you I really appreciate the responses...do I have to have fish in there?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:32PM
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Fish are good mosquito control. But with no fish, you can get mosquito dunks (a tablet that kills mosquitos and larvae) and just break as much as you need for your water volume.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 6:55PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Some people really like having fish, but I prefer not to. I do use mosquito dunks, but if you have a little pump going, you probably won't have mosquito larva problems. You might attract frogs too! I really like having frogs around.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 9:14PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

I kept small ponds in San Jose CA like people are talking about.

30 gal, 6' x 3', 10-12" deep:

3" deep, 10" in center, 100 gal:

Worked great. Kept Mosquitofish in both no problem.

10 years ago I moved to Phoenix. Had to throw out my Sunset Western Garden book and forget everything I'd learned about gardening. I can't even watch gardening shows any more because the info just doesn't apply at all. Had to start over. Pond keeping did stay the same for the most part but small ponds are not possible. I tried one which was pretty deep (18") and shaded and only put in Mosquitofish. They died in short order. It's just too hot here. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it would take some thinking and experimenting. Larger ponds do work about the same.

However "ponds" without fish do work very well. I had these in San Jose and loved them there too.

You can buy "foam planters" which often don't have any drain hole which is perfect. You can use Great Stuff (red can not blue) to fill holes if needed. Fill it with regular soil from the yard and plant marginal type plants. Initially water until there is standing water. After that only water when the top starts to dry out a bit. Most marginals do not do as well in standing water, "wet feet" at most.

Or you can dig a regular type pond and add a liner and do the same...fill with soil, marginals and water but no standing water.

Sun location is key. Pots can't have sun on them. The soil gets so hot it's actually too hot to touch like when I'm dividing plants. In the winter it's OK to move them into the sun.

In ground can be in the sun, but just morning sun is way better. Different plants handle the sun differently.

Once a year divide the plants and if possible fill the pot/bed with new soil. Salt builds up in the soil and can become an issue. If you rotate the soil it gives the soil a chance for the salt to wash out.

These do reduce water use compared to regular in ground planting. Reduced weeds too since the ground next to the pot/bed remains bone dry.

Plants selection...When I first moved to Phoenix I walked neighborhoods to see what kinds of plants were used here and how well they did. I was very surprised to see many pond plants (marginals) used here as regular landscape plants. One of the worst turf weeds here is brown nut sedge, a pond plant. The deal is that many "pond plants" are really more of a vernal pool type plant meaning they can live in water but also can live for a longer period after the water dries up by storing water in tuber type structures.

Pretty much all these plants are considered very invasive, but no problem in pots/lined beds.

No standing water so no algae or mosquito problems. These beds are pretty easy.

Plants I've tried so far...

Canna. My fav. I have several pond beds and pots with Canna in different sun exposures. Full sun is pretty hard on them, but part sun is great. Bloom all year including thru the winter. Just need frost protection for those few weeks in the winter. Have to be divided every year and fertilized. I have one bed that is watered only from my washing machine and they grow great.

Most retail Canna have a virus (at least last time I checked) so I only get Canna locally off Craig's List or friends.neighbors. These are likely to have been isolated and virus free. I plant them separately at from my other Canna for a few years before I feel they're virus free.

Umbrella papyrus work very well even in full sun. Not sure exactly what kind I'm using since I dug it up out of a neighbor's yard. I see different kinds in yards so I think any kind will work.

Brown nut sedge..the weed. I plant these in a bed by themselves. It creates a very green dense bed that most people think is grass. Takes full sun. Should you not want to water it for awhile it will go brown and easy to pull off the dead tops. When you decide to add water again it comes right back. Great for spots of green in small pots around the landscape.

Cat's claw vine, Macfadyena unguis-cati is thee go to vine here in Phoenix and it will grow in these no drain pots/beds. These can get 50' high and dense so they have to be controlled.

Mexican petunia, or Purple Showers, Ruellia brittoniana works very well even in sun. There are lots of other kinds of Ruellia to try.

Tomato plants do very well but in summer fruit production stops and the plants have a harder time. Growing tomatoes here is not as easy as people say. It's a relative thing that I run into a lot. When people say tomatoes grow well here we're talking about a plant that people in the rest of the world would consider very poor. People here will also say things like "that plant will grow all year" and when I ask "even in summer?" they look at me like I'm from Mars and say "of course not". Summer here is like winter in other places plant wise...few things growth, many go dormant.

Elephant's Food, Portulacaria afra does great in shade, I haven't tried full sun yet. This is more of water once a week rather than keeping the soil fully wet all the time. I haven't actually had a problem with rot for too much water yet, so not sure. But it does seem to grow better when the soil isn't always fully soaked. That's true for all marginals I've ever used.

Mesquite trees grow great in these which was kind of surprising. I grow them from seed and have had them for more than 5 years in these pot/beds. Again, not fully soaked 24/7 is best. When I've pulled them out of pots their roots where down at the bottom of the pot in standing water so they can take this and do well.

Horsetail reed, Equisetum hyemale works great.

Even cactus. Yup, The trick here when to water. Depends on the type, some can take wet soil most like to dry out. For a long time I was under watering and some were dying. Then I ran into a nurseryman who watered his potted cactus everyday. Cactus in the wild have very large root systems and don't always live. In our landscape they need water to grow well. So they're like vernal pool plants, can take water when available and store water for dry periods.

There isn't a plant I wouldn't try. Just vary the amount of water and sun to find the sweet spot.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 3:20PM
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steiconi(12a-Big Island, HI)

I'll bet there's a Mexican pottery place near you; a giant ceramic pot without drain holes would make a beautiful water garden.

I've also found pre-formed ponds and stock tanks at Home Depot fairly cheap; both are good for water gardens.

This post was edited by steiconi on Tue, Apr 29, 14 at 4:13

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 4:10AM
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