The following is a guest post from Michelle from The Vegan Bee.
For our recent Science lesson about fish, I wanted to have something crafty that gave the children an aquarium experience, but without actually setting up an aquarium. Having had 50-gallon and 30-gallon freshwater tanks until a long-distance move required us to dismantle them (the main resident, Kitty the Catfish, now resides at Flint River Aquarium in south Georgia), I really had no interest in setting up even a 5-gallon fish bowl for educational purposes.
I am a firm believer in the usefulness of Mason jars for pretty much anything. So I decided to use them for miniature aquariums. Our “fish” residents were simply printed pages of fish (any flash image of fish will do) that were colored and then laminated to make them waterproof. A laminator is helpful here, but for the size of the fish, simple self-seal laminating pouches work great.
The laminated fish were cut out, and then placed into a small Mason jar which contained 1 inch of aquarium rocks (add a bit more if you are using larger jars). There are plenty of colors of aquarium rocks available so it’s easy to personalize this aquarium. The laminated fish can be nestled into the rocks or hot glue can be used to secure to the side of the glass.
As a simple craft, the Mason jar aquarium is complete. Additional embellishments, such as fake aquarium plants or structures, can be added if your jar has room. Adding water is optional.
To make this craft a little more useful for science observation, you can use the aquarium for semi-aquatic plants. Simply add some semi-aquatic pond or tank plants that are usually available at your local pet store. Remove the plants (separate if necessary as more than may come in one tube) and nestle into the aquarium rocks. Add a couple of inches of water, leaving the top part of the leaves exposed to air. This can be useful for learning about the needs of fish, without having to set up a home aquarium or worry about the trauma of finding “floaters” in your tank.
Fish essentially need food, water and light (ideal water chemistry is a little much for young kids to really grasp) and we can use our Mason jar plant aquarium to teach children about these needs. Our semi-aquatic plants will need fresh water added, occasional water exchanges, and access to sunlight (these are perfect for windowsills).
While aquarium plants get some of their nutrients from the rocks and water, they also get some nutrients from food pellets that break down and (ahem) fish poop. To keep the plants happy, the occasional algae tablet or a couple of fish food flakes should add a nutritional boost (add a tiny amount since the “tank” is so small).
To make sure your plant has air, either punch holes in the lid, or make a screen lid using screen mesh and the Mason jar lid ring. Our newly adopted Boxer was kind enough to shred our screen door, so I just happened to have plenty of screen material available for this project. I used the lid as a guide to cut a circle out of the screen. I then used my glue gun to glue the screen onto the bottom of the lid ring. Let the glue dry completely before putting the lid back, or you might have some trouble removing it.
These Mason jar aquariums can be as simple as a craft, or a complex as a semi-aquatic plant aquarium. It really depends on how much effort parents (and children) want to put into them.
You can read about Vegan life and homeschooling at The Vegan Bee.