Lotus flower in full bloom. Also the red plant is looking awesome today.

A little something different today. One of my hobbies when I’m more settled is keeping fish and plants. Plants I’m not so good at, and I am perpetually overwatering or underwatering them, and when they start to suffer and I look up what’s wrong with them, it’s always that I’m over or under watering: one or the other, but I’m never sure which. The inevitable consequence is I make the wrong guess and put the plant in more critical condition. When that happens, there’s an emergency care solution that often works, which is just to take the plant out of the soil and put it in water. And some plants — a lot of them — will do better in water than in soil, provided you put fish in with them. Surprisingly, it’s easier to keep fish and plants together than to keep either by themselves, provided you pick the right plants and fish.

Three varieties of terrestrial plants happy in fish water. Note pool off to the right side.

Above is another one of my outdoor pots, with three different kinds of plants growing in it (four if you include the water plant). Curiously, the plants seem to also be able to handle more direct sun if they are in water rather than soil, perhaps because they are never going to get thirsty.

Looking into the fish pot.

Above you can see some guppies in the pot. Guppies are the perfect fish for pots. You don’t need a bubbler or a filter. You don’t need nothing! The beauty of putting plants in with the fish is the symbiotic relationship that occurs. The plants clean the water, and the fish fertilize the plants.

Guppies give live birth, and they don’t as a rule eat their babies. If you start out with 4 or 5 guppies, you can end up with a whole colony within months. There’s a little problem getting healthy ones from the pet shop on the front side, and that’s just because guppies tend to be taken for granted, bred in bulk, and are often weak. Their babies, however, are very strong. If you can get guppies from someone else who has a surplus (ex., someone like me), they are virtually indestructible. You really have to screw up to kill a healthy guppy. They are also beautiful, and come in a stunning array of colors, patterns, and fin shapes. Usually they are dirt cheap.

As for feeding them, any old fish food will do, and if mosquitoes dare to try to lay eggs in their water, they will surely be greedily consumed, as will the mosquitoes themselves if the fish see them. Guppy pots will help curtail mosquito populations!

I moved one pot inside. That plant is only HALF of a tiny plant I bought in the supermarket.

I live in SE Asia, and I can keep my plants and guppies outside year round, but I brought the one above inside for observation. I have a handful of orange guppies with red tails, and so I put them together in the hopes of breeding more. They are, uh, segregated into this pot. Uh, um, er, you can do selective breeding to create certain strains. It seems to be working. If I get enough orange ones, I want to breed the blue-tails next.

The inside of the pot.

I also like to mix up different kinds of guppies to see what new combinations arise. Guppies are great for that. Sometimes I just scoop some out of my largest pot to see what varieties have evolved. Note that I get super cheap plastic pots because they are very light, and can’t break. If I were staying anywhere long term — as in I knew I was going to stay for sure for more than a couple years — I might invest in more attractive pots.

You can also keep plants in large glass jars with fish, but in this case you only want a few at the most, or a loner type fish, like a Betta. I wasn’t trying to capture him, but there’s a very personable blue Betta in the jar in front. With these smaller environments, you have to change the water much more often. When it comes to the outdoor ones, I don’t change the water more than a few times a year. With my largest pot, with the lotus in it, which has inches of clay at the bottom, I never change the water. Don’t need to.

We can all get a lot more sophisticated about what plants and fish we keep — I also have a shrimp tank — but it’s nice to do these simple, hardy combos that are most likely going to work spectacularly.

OK, I wasn’t going to include the shrimp tank — because the post is about pots — but it has another kind of plant that was dying and which surprisingly does every well in water.

The plant in the upper right with holes in the leaves was always a meek individual. Not anymore. Now I’m worried about what I’m going to do with it when it grows high enough to hit the fluorescent bulb above it, just outside the picture frame. Oddly, the bamboo is NOT doing as well as the terrestrial plants. Go figure.

So, if you want to try growing plants in water, with fish, you can refer to this post to see what kinds of plants adapt amazingly well to a watery, fishy environment.

I didn’t get any good pics of the fish or shrimp. They are best captured in video, and this post is more about the plants and the power combo. If you do decide to keep fish, do a little research about their care, but really, just make sure to NOT add water until it’s sat at least 24 hours (to get chlorine out), don’t change too much water at a time, and don’t give the fish more food than they can eat in a few minutes or less.

~ Ends

17 replies on “Fish & Plant Pots

    1. Good luck,k with that. I can only guarantee it works with the plant I’ve already tried. That also definitely includes philodendron and pothos plants. In other cases putting plans in water will revive hem, but then once their roots start re-growing, you have to put them back in soil. I prefer at this point to raise that plants that grow in water, because then, well, you never have to water them again.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What a delightful post! Yes, over/under watering is always a problem. I live in the opposite environment of yours – desert – and I keep a lot of succulents, so when in doubt I try to err on the side of less water.

    And yes, I successfully sprouted some Romaine lettuce in a cup of water. It was growing new leaves and everything. When I tried to transfer it to a pot of soil, it died.

    Last year, before we moved, I had gotten my son a fish tank. Our goldfish kept dying on us. Apparently it’s very hard to get the Ph balance in the water just right. Also, I hear tell that goldfish from the pet store aren’t always hardy stock. Anyway, thanks for the tip about guppies. Perhaps I’ll try them next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jennifer:
      Guppies are much easier than goldfish because they are smaller, so they need less space, and they are a lot less messy. When introducing a new fish, it’s important to set up their new environment first so that it has a chance to settle and develop some healthy bacteria in the water, and for all the chemicals to evaporate. Most people who kill their fish do so using water straight from the tap without letting it sit first for at least a day. Best to set something up a week before, preferably with a plant in it, and some sort of substrate like some pebbles. If the guppies one purchases are in decent condition, they should thrive.
      However, often they are not in good condition at your average pet store. I’ve bought guppies and they died within 2 days, but you often get pregnant females, and so a female would birth some babies before dying. The babies would then be absolutely robust. You can order guppies online, and THAT may be preferable to buying them in the store. Guppy breeders are going to sell higher quality fish, but one might pay more for their fish, which will tend to be a bit more fancy.
      When I lived in Chiang Mai, where lots of people keep guppies, I just went out and stole a few from people’s overpopulated pots and pools and whatnot. Later, I had so many guppies that I did sporadic releases back to the same places, and others. Those guppies always survived.
      When people get goldfish or guppies from events like fairs or what have you, those fish will be lucky to survive at all. They’ve been traumatized being put in the little bags, and most people will put them directly into a new bowl (which is too small) and fresh tap water (which will burn their gills and finish them off ).
      If one just knows the bare bones basics and doesn’t make the worst beginner mistakes, guppies can be super easy and lots of fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is actually really cool. 🙂 I have a lot of plants at home, but most of them are orchids and they’re really easy to care for. But, a tip for keeping plants in dirt. The issue is almost always gonna be overwatering. Because, basically all plants take being too dry better than being too wet, simply because when the dirt gets too wet, the plant suffocates and the roots rot. I discovered this is true even for plants that have a description that claims it must never fully dry up. Like the Begonia Rex. They die immediately if you overwater them… like, they become literal mush in hours. XD But they can survive getting pretty dry. And if they get too dry their leaves will hang so you can clearly see when they need water. Of course, best if you water a little bit before they get hangy. 😛 So I’d suggest, next time a plant gets unhappy. Give them less water. Or give as much water as usual, but less often. Feel the dirt with a finger before watering. It should be dry on the surface, but not super dry a bit down.
    If I had space, I think I’d like to try the fish thing. I have a friend that breeds fish, so I could get some cheap I think. 😀 Anyway, cool post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the tip. I probably water some plants too much. I get confused because my spider plants like tons of water, and it took me a while to figure that out. But, yeah, safe to under-water. Will go with that general bit of wisdom.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely! I have always had fish and I love water plants, it’s really an enjoyable hobby, but here in Cali we are pretty much always in a drought, and water is too expensive, hence, I can’t keep them anymore. So, succulents it is!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear ya’. These pots require very little water, though. I just top them up once a week to make up for evaporation. But, yeah, if one had really big pots, and several of them, that might start to use a lot of water.


  4. You seem to have fish management down pat. Although you are cheating on plant management (putting them in water for Pete’s sake) it all works out quite well. In your situation, I would forget about trying to grow plants in soil at all. Whatever works!

    Liked by 1 person

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