Planted Aquariums and Konrad Lorenz’s Ring of Solomon

Before the weekend a friend asked a group of us how to set-up a Planted Aquarium. Over the years when I spent a great deal of time keeping fishes I handled almost all sorts of aquariums, both private and public. And when this question was asked at back of my mind I thought of this passage from Chapter 2 of his book:

It costs almost nothing and indeed wonderful: cover the bottom of a glass tank with clean sand, and insert in the foundation a few stalks of ordinary water-plants. Pour in carefully a few pints of tap water and stand the whole thing on a window-still. As soon as yhe water has cleared and the plants have begun to grow put in some little fish, or, better, still, go with a jam-jar and a small net to the nearest pond — draw the net a few times through the depth of the pools, and you will have a myriad interesting organisms.


And essentially this is still true.

Lorenz was a famous Naturalist from the post World War II age. I first encountered Lorenz througha photo essay of him being a surrogate mother to water fowls. And the other time was when I got his book – King Solomon’s Ring, translated from German. And it was a treasure trove of the Naturalist’s ideas – including his interest in keeping fishes.

How To Set-Up A Natural Aquarium

Materials Needed:
One (1) Aquarium
Washed Pebbles or river sand
Fish Net
A dinning plate
Water Pail
Water Dipper


Corner Filter
Airline Hose
Air Pump
Aquarium Light

Plants, Fishes and Invertebrates:

Plants ( 10 Stalks of Vaëllisneria, Hydrilla, Eloidea – enough to cover 5 % of total aquarium area.)
Fishes: Swordtails, platys, Mollys, Leopard Danios or Zebra Danios

Plants: Echinodorus (1), Cryptocorynes, and. Lily
Fishes: Corydoras, Gouramis and certain Dwarf Cichlids
Invertebrates: Ram’s horn snails.

1. Decide on what type of natural aquarium would you want. Would you want to replicate a specific aquatic environment or biotope; or would you want a collection of plants, fishes and invertebrates?

2. Select a place in your place where there is suitable light and minimum draft.

3. Set-up the aquarium. Make sure it is on a level plain and underneath the aquarium should be a styrofoam bottom- this prevents the aquarium from cracking.

4.Install the sand or pebbles inside the aquarium. Aquascape it.

5. Place a plate on top of the sand. Pour the wter into the plate. This will let you fill up your tank er aquarium without disturbing the sand and mucking up the water.

6. Plant your aquatic plants. For Hydrilla, Elodea, and Cabomba remove the leaves at end of the plant that you will anchor into the sand or pebble. For Vallianeria you can anchor them directly into the sand/pebble (Do not remove the roots). Space each plant one inch from the other. This gives room for the plants to grow and spread.

BREAK – Wait for five days before you add the fish.


1. Install the corner filter and connect it via the airline hose to the air pump. (Place the air pump above the aquarium. This will prevent the air pump from getting flooded with water when the air pump is shut off or unexpectedly there is a power outage.

2. Install lights above the aquarium. Better to install hanging above the aquarium.


1. Buy fishes. Make sure they are active, healthy and with no wounds.

2. Acclimate fish to the conditions of the aquarium by gradually adding water into the fish container every two minutes until thirty percent of the fish container has been filled.


1. Trim the plants and remove the algae every two weeks.
2. Feed fish every day. Remember though that fish stomach is as big as its eye.
3. Be careful in adding new plant, fish and invertebrates to the aquarium. It would be helpful to have a quarantine tank or aquarium. Better do research before you buy and add.

( NOTE: Although optional a corner filter is useful not only for basic filtration but also for activated carbon or peat filtration.)

Personally, this was the best aquarium book I have. Lorenz captured the secret to keeping aquarium before it was complicated by the advent of aquarium technology. The secret behind successfully keeping aquarium is keeping everything in balance. He has another chapter entitled Poor Fish, and focus on the interesting behaviour of Sticklebacks and Fighting Fish; and this brings out one reason why there are people who keep fish and do not eat them, because fishes, plants, invertebrates are interesting.

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