February 2020

Phase 2: Design

2.2 Live Aquarium Model

Objective: Create a circular prototype for an aquarium with live plants and animals.

One of my hobbies is keeping planted aquariums. Planted aquariums are fish tanks where living plants are a significant feature in the tank and play large roles in maintaining water chemistry. A planted tank is an entire balanced ecosystem.

This is my 20-gallon, home to houseplants, aquatic plants, tropical nanofish and freshwater shrimp since approximately December 2020. Creating this tank taught me how to monitor growth and levels, and gave me experience in creating live aquascapes.

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To better demonstrate the vision of SeaWeaver, I will create a living diorama of a miniature circular structure in a small cube tank with live plants and animals, using the equipment and experience from my aquarium hobby. This model is for demonstration purposes, so it will be a freshwater setup rather than salt water, which is far more difficult in small volumes.

Attaching Plants

For my "seaweed" I chose micro sword, a small aquatic grass whose individual shoots somewhat resemble kelp on a small scale. For this demonstration model, I manually inserted the plants into each weave cell. It was initially difficult, but after some testing I developed a method that was easy and quick. The weave centers provide a small amount of hold around the shoots, and as the plants grow they should develop new roots around the ropes.  Almost all shoots remained in place in the weave and survived the process, so I am moving forward with creating the round weave.

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The model

The live aquarium weave is almost identical to the previous circular model, only scaled down and with a smaller strand of paracord. The smaller size made handling it more difficult, so this model was slower to complete weaving. The anchoring features proved to be a challenge; I did not know where to find stones cut to candy bar sizes. I first tried casting the blocks out of silicone (pictured below), but this did not pass water chemistry tests and was affecting parameters even after excessive curing time. I replaced these with small mosaic tiles I found in a pre-fabricated sheet.

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Closing Notes:

Most of the challenges of creating this model were due to its size: weaving the smallest strands was more difficult, and suitable anchoring elements are less available in tiny sizes.