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Self Sustainable Fish Tank: A Great Teaching Tool

Self Sustainable Fish Tank: A Great Teaching Tool

When people find themselves looking for a pet they might opt for something stress-free and with minimal fuss, like a few fish in a tank.

After a short time, they realize that having fish is anything but, and there’s a whole lot more to do to take care of them than they first thought.

Among the daily chores included in taking care of a fish are checking pH levels, feeding them, cleaning tanks, and making sure their filtration systems are in order.

With this many tasks to do, it’s no wonder the concept of the self-sustainable fish tank was invented, as a way to reduce some of the stress of owning this marine pet.

What is a self-sustainable fish tank, though?

These low maintenance aquariums are designed to reduce some of the responsibilities of fish owners, with unique choices in plants and accessories helping with filtration and feeding.

These fish tanks allow the fish to take care of themselves without any intervention, and depending on their features can be as hands-on or hands-off as you want.

If you’ve always wanted to own fish or are looking for a greener alternative to pet ownership, the self-sustainable fish tank might be for you. This guide will cover the basics of these types of tanks, their pros and cons, and how to create one for yourself at home, changing the way you look at home aquariums for good.


What Are Self Sustainable Fish Tanks?

A self-sustainable fish tank is one that relies mainly on aquaponics to run, relying very little on human interaction.

Aquaponics is a system that combines aquaculture with hydroponics, resulting in a symbiotic relationship where the plants feed on the fish’s waste, and in return, they filter and clean the tank for them.

A sustainable fish tank can come in many shapes and sizes but at its core, there should be an element of sustainability in there.

You’ll still need to feed your fish and check on their health status as well as the other parts of the aquarium, but the plants will take care of the filtration for you which means minimal cleaning, and you won’t have to feed them anything as they’ll be getting their nutrients from the fish.

The Components of a Sustainable Aquarium

The Components of a Sustainable Aquarium

Although they can take care of themselves somewhat, the parts of a self-sustaining fish tank are relatively similar to a standard type. If you want to build your own sufficient aquarium at home, these are some of the things you’ll need.


Any size tank will work for this, but to get the best ratio of plants to water, you’ll want at least 30 gallons in size.

The shape doesn’t matter, provided you can comfortably fit the rest of your supplies in it.

Filtration system

Although the plants are providing a lot of filtration and do a good job of sucking up waste, you may want to add something else to keep cleaning to a minimum.

This will depend on the size of the tank you have and how many fish, and it may not be needed at all.


These types of tanks might have plants above and plants in the water. For those in the water, choices like Java Fern and Java Moss can be a food source for the babies.

On top, you’ll want easy to grow choices that do well in the planned living conditions, with microgreens and herbs being popular choices.


The purpose of the pump in this type of tank is to deliver the waste from the fish into the lid, where it then delivers nutrients to the plants. Choose one suitable for the tank’s size and purpose.


The right substrate is an integral part of any fish tank and if you want ones that are good for plants as well, choose one rich in minerals.

A substrate will help cultivate good bacteria, keep everything in order, and provide nourishment for plants, so it’s essential to get right.


Depending on the fish you choose, there may be certain requirements for water. Make sure that it meets pH requirements, as well as temperature, salinity, and anything else required.

How to Make a Self Sustainable Fish Tank

To create a self-sustainable fish tank, it’s simply a matter of assembling all of the parts in the right order. You’ll need to spend some time cleaning the tank to get it in the right shape before you can add the substrate layer, which is crucial for a healthy living experience.

If you plan on adding plants inside of the tank, add these next, and if you need rooting then you can add some more substrate. From there, you can add the filtration systems and monitoring systems if you’re using them, as well as the air pump that will deliver the nutrients and water to the plants above.

Finally, add the lid of the tank with the plants in place, starting with just sprouts or seedlings if you can.

Place some growing stones made of glass to help them grow, similar to those found in other hydroponic setups, and check that the water pump is working. With everything in place, you can then add your fish safely and comfortably.

The Downsides of Sustainable Aquariums

These unique aquariums have gained a lot of traction recently for being an eco-friendly alternative, but there are some potential downsides to consider.

Check out these cons before you install a self-sustainable fish tank at home to make sure you’re prepared:

  • There is still cleaning required with these tanks, and you’ll need to check the pump regularly to make sure it works.
  • They are not always as green as marketed, because you have to purchase all of the parts for a fish tank still.
  • Fish still have to be fed each day and inspected for signs of disease or infection, so it’s not completely hands-off.
  • You may have a learning curve trying to find plants that work in this type of setup and the fish that suit it.

A Teaching Tool for Sustainability

A Teaching Tool for Sustainability

If you’re looking for a way to get your children more involved in eco-friendly living or want to teach them about sustainability, this fish tank is a great way to do it.

At its core, the sustainable fish tank is showing them how things can operate without the intervention of humans, and how we can rely on nature and its natural processes to get things done.

As an added bonus, these tanks are a great place to grow plants, which includes greens and herbs. You’ll be able to use them in your daily cooking and food preparation, so it’s another valuable lesson for children to see.

This sustainability can be transferred beyond just the fish tank and into your everyday lives, making it invaluable.

Investing in a fish tank, or having any type of pet, is a great learning experience for children, and this is one of the best ways to do it with minimal stress.

You’ll still need to do some basic tasks like feeding and cleaning, but compared to a standard fish tank it’s a lot less, with all of the good teachings about environmentalism thrown in.

Related Questions

A self-sustainable fish tank is a great teaching tool and a fun way to own a pet without the usual strain on the environment.

However, there’s a lot to learn about these types of tanks if you want to become a responsible pet owner. Check out our FAQs on sustainable fish tanks to see what they’re all about.

What Size Self Sustaining Fish Tank is Best?

Although there are smaller sizes of tanks available, to get the most from a self-sustaining fish tank they should be between 30 and 200 gallons.

Aquariums in this size will have the best water to plant and fish ratio that enables filtration from the plants and healthier, happier marine life inside.

How Do I Make a Low Maintenance Fish Tank?

If you don’t want to go as far as making a self-sustaining fish tank, there are some ways you can make it low maintenance and eco-friendly.

Installing more filtration systems, positioning it away from direct sunlight, and doing partial water changes more regularly rather than emptying the whole tank can make it easier to care for.

What is the Best Fish for a Self-Sustaining Tank?

Choosing the right fish for a self-sustaining tank is key as you’ll want species that are adaptable and easy to care for.

Mollies are a popular choice because they get along with most other fish, don’t require any maintenance, and can adapt to all kinds of living conditions, like the unique ones in a self-sustaining tank.

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