Last April I was obsessed with breeding the tiny Everglades pygmy sunfish, Elassoma evergladei- a tiny blue-spangled fish from Florida that requires a small fish tank choked with live vegetation. My kitchen was littered with my various pygmy sunfish boudoirs: ½ gallon betta tanks and random glass vessels fill with growing aquatic plants. The fish were happy with the arrangement and the males could be seen courting the females through the undergrowth. Pygmy sunfish romance was the background to my morning coffee making routine.
Once I had succeeded in breeding the fish, I found my interest in them waning (though beautiful and delightful in every way, the pygmy sunfish absolutely need tiny live foods and are very energy intensive pets). I sent the breeders off to a friend in California who was eager to give them a go. The fish were gone but their tanks remained in the kitchen through the summer. I was just too busy to take them down but I found myself enjoying the jungles of emergent vegetation leaving the feral aquariums and taking to the air: water sprite fern fronds unfurling towards the light, red ludwigia creeping over the sides.
Familiar with Takashi Amano’s wonderful “wabi-kusa” concept, i.e. artfully designed, minimalist gardens of emergent aquatic plants placed in stylish glass vessels, I decided to “hey, why not make a wabi-kusa? ” and emptied the contents of one of the aquariums into a open shallow glass dish that I picked up at the local Ikea and placed it under the glow of a compact fluorescent chick brooder lamp.
So here it is. The accidental wabi-kusa. I’ve been enjoying this creation so much; it is rapidly becoming my favorite “fish tank”. Everyday, plants are taking to the water surface and morphing their leaf shapes in forms that are totally novel to me. Nearly every day, I add cuttings of plants from my other aquaria to the accidental wabi-kusa and add to the diversity of my garden of emergent plants. It’s an inspiration of constantly changing life and growth. Unlike the high maintenance fish that previously dwelled among the accidental wabi-kusa’s plants, the accidental wabi-kusa is the most low maintenance “aquarium” I have ever maintained. I simply top off the water every couple weeks as it evaporates. The light turns on and off by itself with the help of a light timer. Plants grow. I sit back and enjoy the show. That’s it. Pure aquarium zen.
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