Need advice on 2,000G public tank


Junior Poster
Jan 11, 2008
Hi all-
I work at a major botanical garden that has recently installed a native Florida habitat. A 2,000 gallon "vivarium" was installed with the purpose of hosting turtle species, but the idea had to be abandoned. Now they want it to be planted and have fish, all native to Floridian (fresh) waters.

I have experience with planted aquaria in the home, so I was assigned the task of figuring out how to make this work.

I have many questions, and I'd be happy if any one of them could be answered or if someone could point me in the right direction-

1. Do I need a heater for South Florida freshwater fish? Do they make heaters for tanks that large?

2. Can I plant submerged plant species in five foot deep water? It is in a greenhouse, so there is plenty of natural light- the front of the "tank" is a wide bow front.

3. If I *can* plant stuff that deep, do I need supplemental CO2, or is movement of water via powerhead sufficient?

4. If I *can* meet the above requirements, how often will I need to drain the vivarium in order to be able to remove dead leaves from the plants/perform maintenance?

5. The walls are made of limestone, but I'm assuming that with that volume of water, pH could be easily controlled via chemical addition if monitored properly?

6. Does anyone know of any sources for strictly native Floridian submerged plants? I've contacted The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, and am awaiting their response.

Many thanks for any help that you are able to give.

Tom Barr

Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
The folks at Tampa are pretty good with over tank displays, I like their work.
Charlene at the TN Aquarium is good with submersed planted tanks, I do larger displays for private or public clients.

Many aquatic weeds are native to FL, as well as exotics........
Banana plants(Dwarf lilies), Water lily, Vals, Sags, Ludwigias, Prosperniaca, Bacopas, Myriophyllum heterophyllum, Fontenalis moss, Spatterdock etc.
A few floaters.

Take a light meter(LiCOR) and go to the bottom of the tank, or where you plan on having the plants, and measure the light at midday, if it's less than 25-30, you will need more light.

Measure all over.
A public aquarium ought to have a light meter(PAR meter).

I'd plan on flushing and doing a 50% water change at least once every 2 weeks.
This makes working on the tank without scuba possible.

Limestone is fine, Florida is mostly lime not mess with the pH with chemicals(less work for you and not important if you do the water changes).

I'd pass on CO2, but if so, use a mazzei venturi valve a 100lb CO2 gas tank and about 1200gph at least of flow through it.

More CO2= more growth, more work for you.
Careful what you ask for.

If the ambient temp in the place is 65F or higher, maybe even 62F, you are likely okay.

Add a nice collection of smaller fish and Gar. Even a big school of mullet or bass, or panfish can look neat.

You can toss an otter or small gator in there as well:)
Turtles are messy, eat and destroy plants, and make good food for gators.

Tom Barr