Everybody loves bubbles! Kids love to pop ’em, they make your soft drinks exciting, and they transform champagne into an elegant beverage. You can also incorporate bubbles into your custom aquarium — you just have to know how to create a bubbly aquascape.

No, I’m not talking about air pumps or machinery. You can make your aquascape resemble a carbonated beverage simply by creating a verdant, plant-filled aquascape. Unfortunately, saltwater aquariums aren’t able to pull off the same effect. Phytoplankton, microscopic plants that live in the world’s oceans, generate oxygen in such tiny quantities that it isn’t visible to the naked eye. Freshwater plants, on the other hand, can create a constant stream of jittery bubbles.

The hobby term for this phenomenon is pearling. It’s an apt name — the bubbles clump together in tiny bead-sized pockets of air that cling to the stems and leaves of plants. You can kind of think of them as reverse water droplets. A drop of water will gradually collect water at the lowest point before it gets too heavy and it plummets downward. Likewise, a bubble will gradually grow bigger and bigger until it’s large enough to break free of the plant.

If you think that these bubbles are absolutely captivating, then there are a few tricks that you can use to help your plants generate as many bubbles as possible. The general rule of thumb is to make the perfect environment for freshwater plants  That means giving the plants plenty of illumination so that they can use photosynthesis to convert light into energy. It also means that you have to maintain a fairly high concentration of CO2. What oxygen is to us, CO2 is to plants — they suck up the carbon and use it to grow before releasing the free oxygen.

You’re also going to need to make sure that your tank is populated with the right kind of plants. Some plants grow a lot faster than others, and the faster the plant grows the more bubbles it will create. You might also want to consider adding fertilizer and plenty of plant nutrients in order to make your aquarium a veritable smorgasbord for your plants.

Hottonia Palustris Pearling

Image source: Aquascape-aquarium.blogspot.com

Now that we’ve covered the plant side of things, you also need to be careful about the other features of your aquascape. Plants need time to pearl, which basically means that they have to be left undisturbed while they’re growing. Active fish that like to hide in plants will disrupt the process and break the bubbles free long before they’re fully mature. I also recommend that you avoid creating a strong current with water pumps, built-in waterfalls, or other mechanisms. The currents will move the plants and cause all of the bubbles to break free. Stick with placid animals like shrimp, snails, or fish that avoid plants.

Follow all of these rules, and you’ll have an aquascape that looks a little something like this:

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