Working As A Farm Hand Enabled Me Create My Self-Cleaning Aquariums

In 2002, I apprenticed on Muyiwa Adediran’s Belewo specialised fish rearing farm for a period of about six (6) months. This was in line with my plan to acquire skills and knowledge to eventually startup my own Integrated Fish Farm later on. During this time I would come in on specified days (usually Sundays) to work full time – 7.00am till 7.00pm – as a farm hand.

Learning By Working As A Farm Hand

In 2002, I apprenticed on Muyiwa Adediran’s Belewo specialised fish rearing farm for a period of about six (6) months. This was in line with my plan to acquire skills and knowledge to eventually startup my own Integrated Fish Farm later on. During this time I would come in on specified days (usually Sundays) to work full time – 7.00am till 7.00pm – as a farm hand.

My daily activities included cleaning the concrete ornamental fish breeding tanks, checking the tanks containing paired male and female ornamental fish (Gourami’s and Paradise mostly) for floating bubbly masses of fertilised eggs etc.

If I found any, I would quickly remove the male(s). If I noticed hatched fries in a tank, I would use a hose to siphon them into a plastic jar, which would be used to move them into glass tanks in the nursery section of the farm.

I also checked the water quality and level in the concrete ponds holding adult catfish – making necessary water changes and topping up with fresh water where necessary. Then there were the wooden vats containing catfish fries, which I checked for dead fries or fingerlings, removing any that I found. Over the course of the day, I would prepare and add appropriate feed to the different fish groups in the respective sections.

Putting What I Learned To REAL-LIFE Use

Not long after I completed my last week on that farm, I began preparing marketing flyers offering aquarium building services to individuals and business. One Friday afternoon, I visited the business premises of a well known and highly successful alternative medicine practitioner.

During my presentation, I explained how my natural aquariums NEVER go green with algae growth, due to the balanced ecosystem I am able to establish by taking advantage of natural processes like the Nitrogen cycle. That process deliberately cultivates friendly bacteria (in a gravel bed), along with live aquatic plants.

Pix of a 6 gallon wood framed natural aquarium - donated to a Fish Farmers organisation. Click now to learn more about how our aquariums work. Pix of a 12 gallon wood framed natural aquarium sold to a school in 2004. Click now to learn more about how our aquariums work

He got curious and asked if the same principles could be used to “clarify” the water in the waterfall/fish pond at his house, which had gone so green that the fish in it could no longer be seen. I responded in the affirmative.

He invited me to his home, the next day (Saturday), where he commissioned me to do an evaluation of the problem, and propose an action plan. Realising that I lacked the field experience to successfully carry out a project of this scope on my own, I promptly contacted Muyiwa Adediran, briefing him on the problem, with a view to enlisting his help towards doing a competent evaluation.

Muyiwa was able to find time to go to the site with me, and with his guidance, I prepared a report for the client, stating the findings and proposing possible lines of action to be followed to correct the problem.

Below, I offer highlights of the ideas contained in the report, which you may find useful for application to your own situation:


During the Preliminary inspection visit conducted, I made the following observations:

a. That the water in the fall’s “basin” was colored by green algal growth. As a result, transparency/visibility was severely impaired making the fish difficult to observe.

b. That the sides and bottom of the water fall “basin” were also covered by algae.

c. That there was floating debris (appearing to be mainly leftover fish food) on the pond water surface.

The findings of the MAJOR/ROOT CAUSE of the algae growth and water discoloration were given as:

Green algae proliferation caused by excessive light entry into water in basin. This was deduced especially because the waterfall was located in an open area, where the wind-transported spores of algae could readily gain access to it.

Other Possible contributors that could be investigated were also mentioned viz:

a. The type of fish food used; the feeding regime observed and also hygiene practices employed. For instance, I asked what happened to residual food not eaten up by fish in the event of overfeeding.

b. The nature/source of water could also contribute to the problem. I suggested that it probably had high amounts of essential plant nutrients favored by algae. (The report however emphasised that this could only be verified AFTER aquatic plants had been introduced to compete).

The SOLUTION proposed: The following were proposed for mitigation or possible eradication of the problem:

a. The base/sides of the water fall “basin” to be covered up with epoxy-resin layer of a thickness to be specified. The objective was to create contrasting underwater background that would enhance water transparency, and fish visibility.

b. Dense luxuriant growth of live aquatic plants like Vallisneria spiralis (Water Grass), Cabomba Caroliniana (Water Fan), Lagarosiphon Muscoides (African Elodea) etc to be initiated. The plants introduced will mostly be fully submerged. (Measurements had already been taken during the preliminary inspection)

The upper layer of water in the “basin” would be left free of vegetation to allow for easy sighting of ornamental fish varieties present. The luxuriant plant growth would filter out some of the light, while simultaneously consuming most of the essential nutrients in the water, so that the green coloring algae could be “starved” and their growth drastically reduced.

c. If fish food type or feeding regime/hygiene practices were identified to contribute to problem, necessary recommendations/guidelines would be given as appropriate.

d. The client might wish to consider incorporation of underwater lights to better accentuate waterfall beauty/fish visibility – especially at night. In this regard, the concept proposed was similar to that used in swimming pools.

e. The client might wish to consider applying gloss paint to the railing/walls that run around the waterfall. This would make cleaning of those surfaces (due to its proximity to wet soil) easier if/when need for it arose.


It is important to note that the report presented to the client proposed adoption of a NATURAL solution to the identified cause of the problem. Other options were considered. But none were evaluated to be as reliable, affordable and long-lasting as the natural method.

I offer the above report content summary as possibly useful reference information for persons who may encounter a similar problem in the course of managing similar water based facilities – including their aquariums.

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You can learn more about my Natural Self-Cleaning Aquariums For Schools, Offices, Homes and Hospitals here.

NB: This article was first published online on this page of Tayo’s Farm Business ideas mini site, on 17th November 2009.

[IMPORTANT: This blog's contents are being updated following the transfer to www.tayosolagbade.com from my former domain - Spontaneousdevelopment.com. As a result, some parts of it may not work properly for now. Quick Tip: If a link contains "spontaneousdevelopment.com", simply change it to "tayosolagbade.com" - and it should work. This applies to article links as well as image links. Work continues to update the links(in over 500 articles). Tayo K. Solagbade.]

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