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The Earth Goods Native River Tank

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The Earth Goods Native River Tank is a unique aquarium - holding 128 gallons of water, it offers a near-perfect view of what the Rockfish River looks like beneath the surface.

Every plant, rock, stump, and grain of sand are all native to the Rockfish, as are all of the aquarium inhabitants, and the "layout" of the aquarium painstakingly replicates what you would see should you don a mask & snorkel and take a gander at the real thing (interested in doing this? Check out our seasonal "River Walk" Nature Therapy Outings!)

Wondering what the purpose might be in having a Native Tank? Well, for one, we love the outdoors, and especially the waterways (with the Rockfish being the favorite). Replicating a slice of the native habitat not only provides a tremendous chance for study, but it also brings the river to us on the days when we can't get to the water or when winter sets in.


The second reason has to do with the Earth Goods purpose - helping folks to remember their connection to the natural world. Visitors to the cabin can't help but to be affected by the calming effect of watching the fish dart about while the plants sway in the currents and the sounds of the water eclipses everything else in the background. There's a big comfy chair located across from the aquarium - visitors invariably are drawn to it, curling up into the seat or throwing their legs over the arm while they watch the tank in silence. You can literally feel them relaxing as they sit there, mesmerized by the meditative effect of the water bubbling and the fish at play.

Compare our Native River Tank to the real thing ...

(as soon as I can get the damned videos loaded)

Native River Tank

A short video of the Earth Goods Native River Tank

Rockfish River

A short video below the surface of the Rockfish River

Creating the River Tank

See below for a brief overview of the tank's creation, if you're interested in that sort of thing...

Getting Started

Legwork: We knew that we had to find a big tank that was affordable. Enter Craigslist - Bingo - got what we needed! Then we needed filtration and lighting - everything else would come directly from the river. We settled on an Eheim external canister filtration unit and an LED lighting strip. While those things were on the way, we picked up the tank and brought it home.

One of the first things that needed to be done was to reinforce the floor beneath the tank - weighing in at about 1,400 pounds once fully set up and occupying only 10 square feet of floor space meant that the footprint was going to be loading up that small section of floor beyond what we were comfortable with. After shoring and reinforcing, the tank was checked for level - it was spot on in all directions - we were ready to get to the fun stuff.

Day 1 - Prep

We had been "harvesting" from the river all summer. Driftwood and large rocks were in piles all around the cabin, and bags of small stones and sand were brought in the day before the tank arrived. All items that were harvested were scrubbed with a soft bristle brush and clean water to remove mud and silt, and the sand/gravel was "washed" in the river through a screen.

We began to add materials to the tank, very carefully placing them as to replicate the river bed as closely as possible.

By the way - that's Jack over there checking out the tank, He is a constant companion and is the "Official River Dog" of Earth Goods.

Day 1 - The First Lift

After placing a large portion of the substrate in the tank ( but planning to add more as inspiration struck), we began the first "lift" of water. The tank would be filled in periodic increments of 25% (with highly filtered water and a "safe" hose) so as to allow equalization of stresses both within the tank and under the floor of the cabin. Wait times in between lifts would be at least an hour (waiting was the hardest part!)

Day 1 - Final Touches

Once about 90% of the water was added to the tank, we worked on some "finishing touches", adding native plants both inside and outside the aquarium. These plants were harvested early in the year and carefully cared for until the tank was up and running. They were then transplanted to their new home.

The final 10% of the water needed to fill the tank would come from the river when we went to catch the first fish that would go into the tank. We wanted to "seed" the tank with beneficial bacteria, so between what critters we transplanted with the driftwood & gravel and what we would add in the final stage, we should be able to closely replicate the river environment not only at an aesthetic level, but also at a bacteriological one, which would be beneficial for the inhabitants.

Day 1 - First Inhabitants

The time to go to the river and bring back a few fish had finally arrived! Our intention was to return with only a handful of small fish to begin the "cycling" process of the tank, which would take anywhere from 3-8 weeks. The tank would be monitored daily by testing for pH, high pH, Ammonia, Nitrates, and Nitrites in order to keep the fish safe during the process, and any imbalance in natural chemical levels would be maintained ONLY through water changes.

We returned with a 3-1/2" Spotfin Shiner (pictured),4 smaller Minnows, about 15 snails and approximately 10 freshwater clams. Wahoo!

Week 2

At the conclusion of the second week, all organics were well in balance, with an increase only in Ammonia of nearly an immeasurable amount. All of the original fish were doing GREAT, thriving on a diet of brine shrimp, bloodworms, and the little critters that they picked off of the plants and out of the rocks. We decided to introduce another (very) small group of fish. We returned from the river with a small Redtail Chub, a variety (less than 6) of small minnows, a Brook Lamprey (non-parasitic) and two small Shield Darters.

Pictured is the original Spotfin Shiner, enjoying the morning sun coming through the cabin window.