Many wetland plants are beautiful and, with the right conditions, can be easy to grow. Among the most complex and interesting are the carnivorous sundews which trap and eat insects using sticky leaves. The Fork-leafed Sundew and the Spoon-leafed Sundew have both become quite rare around our cities and suburbs but by converting an old fish tank into a mini bog-garden you can grow these strange plants and see them in action!
Build a bog garden
Half fill an old fish tank with a 1:1 mix of sphagnum peat moss (not to be confused with sphagnum moss) and coarse river gravel, then add water until the substrate is nice and boggy. Plant your new mini bog garden with Fork-leafed and Spoon-leafed sundews and position it for at least 3 hours of direct sun each day to encourage growth. Try planting the threatened Swamp Everlasting Daisy to add some diversity and help safeguard this declining wetland wildflower. Remember to keep the soil wet at all times!
Pond bugs make up perhaps the richest diversity of species in our wetlands and ponds. Among them, different species act as herbivores, decomposers, prey for other animals and predators; they're crucial to our freshwater ecosystems. Common pond bugs include dragonflies, water beetles and pond-skaters. By creating a wildlife pond, (such as the one on our frogs page), a myriad of pond bugs can be attracted. Despite their aquatic habits, many pond dwelling insects fly as adults and, given enough time, will colonise your pond naturally.
Create a pond bug paradise
Choose a small (~1m diameter) pre-formed pond liner and dig a hole to accommodate it. Line the hole with sand to ensure the liner doesn't move around once installed. Add a mix of sand and unfertilised soil and fill with water. Plant the area around the perimeter of the pond with Flax Lillies, and add native water plants to your pond such as Native Water Lily and Water Milfoil. Plant semi-submerged sedges for dragonfly nymphs to emerge from.
Many of our small native fish have declined in recent years due to changes in water availability and flow in our local rivers, streams and wetlands. Pygmy Perch, Galaxias and native Gudgeons are a few you can help protect in ponds. You can also create ‘Pond-in-a-Pot’ mini habitats. Although they may need supplementary feeding in these small areas, they're far more interesting than goldfish, and unlike goldfish (which damage our local waterways), they need your conservation help.
Create a pond-in-a-pot
Take a large ceramic pot without holes and put it in a shaded and sheltered part of your balcony or patio. At the bottom of the pot place a 1:1 mix of sand and unfertilised soil and then fill your pot with water. Plant with Native Water Lily and Water Milfoil and semi-submerged sedges. After about a month, when the plants are growing and the water pH is around 7, add a couple of small native fish such as Murray Rainbow Fish. Feed them small crickets dropped on the surface of the water once a week in the summer and less often in the cooler months.
Native turtles clean up carrion in the water and prey on pond bugs and small fish. One of the most common species is the Eastern Long-necked Turtle, which occurs from Queensland down to Victoria. Although turtles are unlikely to live in suburban ponds, they can be attracted to large ponds and dams on big properties in the countryside if provided with suitable basking spots (e.g., semi-submerged logs or floating ‘turtle islands’).
Freshwater species can be incredibly sensitive to pollutants such as insecticides and herbicides, so avoid using these around the home and garden as they can quickly kill off your pond bugs, carnivorous bog plants, and native fish.
Eastern long-necked turtle in Australia