outdoor aquarium plant tub

Setting up an outdoor aquarium plant tub (The set up)

The summer is slowly creeping around the corner and my garden is getting lots of sun. Time to set up an outdoor aquarium plant tub to take full advantage and experiment.

A standard plastic tub, that sits outside in direct sunlight, and grows aquarium plants. It’s more of an experiment to see if it will work. However, it may still be a bit too cold. We want to set this tub up, and leave it out as it is, with next to no maintenance.

There are a few issues we come across when trying to grow plants.


Plants need lots of light to grow. Normally we set up a lighting unit such as an LED light on a timer to replicate natural sunlight. For my outdoor tub this should be fine, as the garden gets direct sunlight for most of the day. The only issue is whether it’s actually warm enough for the plants to grow, so it’s best to try this in summer, (or nearly summer) like I am.


Plants need nutrients. Normally in the aquarium we would add an array of fertilisers and other chemicals but for an outside tub I don’t really want to be going out there everyday adding fertalisers and testing water. So what I have done is added a layer of compost to the bottom of the tub. Another idea would be to add fish, howeverI’m so sure the fish would survive. Fish survive in a pond because the pond is normally at least 2ft deep in the ground and is insulated, whereas this bucket is sat out in the open. A future idea would be to put this tub inside a greenhouse to keep it at a more stable and warmer temperature. I might do this and add fish in the future, if the plants succeed.

I’m not sure what compost is best I just used what I had and we will see what happens. Also I used some stones to cap of the soil rather than aquarium substrate, this was to save money. I don’t want to be putting much money into this experiment as it may just end up a big mess. The stones aren’t the best thing to use as it doesn’t really cap the soil off very well. As soon as I added water all the soil came up and the water turned black. Not an issue, it’s an outdoor aquarium plant tub, not a living room display tank.

outdoor aquarium plant tub outdoor aquarium plant tub

Water Flow

When I realised the outdoor aquarium plant tub will need water flow for the plants to flourish, I panicked. Without any water flow the water will become stagnant, build up algae and the plants wont do so well. But I don’t want to run a pump into this tank. One because it’s outside, and two because it will cost money to run. I don’t have an outside plug. I did a quick search and found a fantastic solution (if it works). A solar panel pond pump. This pump will run off pure solar panel and only costs around £12. I haven’t received it yet, and if it does work, then fantastic. The one mentioned is the #1 best seller on Amazon.

outdoor aquarium plant tub


So at the moment I have added tiny amounts (a single piece) of Vallis, giant Vallis, Java Moss, Water Sprite and a piece of Frogbit. It will be fun to see if these survive, and how much they grow. I will do an update on the outdoor aquarium plant tub very soon.

Update: They didn’t do well at all, I didn’t use the solar pump, the water went cloudy and nothing grew. The Vallis stayed alive but didn’t do much. I think maybe in the future I will try again using different methods. I think water circulation is a must.