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> I've wondered for a while why nobody has attempted to try something like
> that in freshwater.
I have, for one. I would be surprised if others (Moontanman and Rhonda
Wilson come to mind) haven't also tried some "live" materials in their
I started with some stones and wood pieces, thinking the wood would be
the closest thing I could get to the reef keepers' live rock and that
the stones might carry something. I took them out of the river, carried
them home in a bucket of river water and transferred them immediately to
a sunlit tank populated with otos and common guppies. The stones
carried a little algae which the otos polished off very quickly. The
wood had some very small insect larvae and crustaceans and those were
guppy food almost immediately. Both the stones and the wood stayed part
of the decor for a few years. One of those wood pieces later hosted a
beautiful algae colony that from other peoples' description was probably
Cladophora. I'm not positive that the algae came in with the wood, but
it's possible. I also don't know if the wood and stones innoculated the
tank with any extraordinary microbeasts.
My second attempt was with sand. I previously used river sand as a
substrate in a couple tanks, but that sand was cleaned and stored for a
while before I used it. I removed about 1/3 of the substrate from a 55
gallon tank, then grabbed a shovel, a bucket and a daughter to help and
headed for the river. We brought back a full bucket of coarse (for the
Rio Grande) sand and water and transferred it directly to the aquarium.
No cleaning. No delays.
I didn't notice anything at first. About a year later I started finding
clams. The tank was unfiltered, which suited the clams. The largest
individuals I found in the tank were about thumbnail-size, which is
their usual size when I find them in the river. Last fall I started
filtering the tank and since then I have found only empty clam shells.
In fact, quite a few empty shells. There were more clams in the tank
then I ever knew about.
I don't know what sorts of microbeasts I introduced to the tank.
Nothing detrimental, anyway.
In short, most of the critters you bring in with "live" sand, rock or
wood are likely to become fish food fairly quickly; those that don't may
be interesting and there's some chance of bringing in some detrimental
creatures. That's also true with marine live rock and sand. Algae that
you bring in is probably going to be eaten; if it doesn't get eaten then
it probably won't survive anyway. The algae you find are adapted to
live under the conditions you find them in and most won't thrive under
aquarium conditions. From my experience it's far easier to transplant
wild plants then it is to transplant wild algae.