Trying something totally out of the box...a pair of hydroponic Bonsai weeping willows out of an aquarium

Magnum Man

Supporting Member
Tank of the Month 🏆
Fish of the Month 🌟
Jun 21, 2023
Reaction score
Southern MN
so... I'm already doing house plants rooted in aquariums... in general, the faster a plant grows, moisture & fish pollutants are more quickly pulled from an aquarium...

typically a Bonsai tree is slower growing, but I found a place that sells willow sticks specifically for Bonsais ( they use willows, because the sticks root easily, & a thicker stick, becomes the tree trunk much faster )... of course if left un-trimmed I would have a full sized tree growing out of a tank, & the willow is one of the fastest growing.... good for removing pollutants... but may become too much work to keep trimmed up into a bonsai... time will tell there... but once rooted, the tree can be transplanted outside if it becomes too much work...

I'm not just going to put the stick in a tank, but rather have got an idea for 6 inch square corner pots, to better contain everything, & allow easy removal for all the trimming... I've been using ceramic filter media for my house plants to root into the pots, that I've been using, those hang in side the tanks ( all pots freely exchange water flow to the aquariums )... I'll be doing the same for the Bonsai trees ( filling the pot with ceramic media around the willow stick ) I will likely have to trim roots, as much as I'm trimming the tree branches, but I think this will be an interesting natural filter project... if it doesn't work as planned, I have a place outside I can plant the trees into...

the tanks they are going in ( I have provisions for 2 ) are going to be my Tilapia breeding & holding tanks... I structured the lighting to facilitate over flow of light going to the corners I planned to put the trees into, & there is a fair amounts of natural light in the room, albeit most is from a large picture window on the north side of the room, so I should be able to keep the tanks algae under control...

glutton for punishment??? thoughts???
Last edited:
That is an idea.

I met a fishfarm guy who had one end of his greenhouse in a southern US set up full of mangrove trees. He had no other filtration, and the largest healthiest sailfin mollies I've seen outside of the wild.

Willow though - big trees.
of course they don't list the species of willow... maybe they are dwarf to start with... but they specifically sell them as Bonsai's
Sounds awesome! I wouldn't even know where to start with something like this, I'd love to have your zest for the experimental. Looking forward to pictures!
I am big in to bonsai and got a big chunk of willow last year and left it in water till it rooted which didn't take long and planted it up. Unfortunately its a spiral type of willow that doesn't lend itself well to bonsai and tbh willow isn't used much for bonsai as its not that well suited to it as the branches generally die off etc
One thing I did learn is that willow has something within it that the water you use to root them in has amazing rooting qualities for other plants and cuttings
Yes I knew about willow water as a rooting compound

Funny because I had a dream last night about taking branch cuttings from some really good apples to grow… typically that type of thing is grafted ( that wasn’t part of my dream ) but wondering just now that you mentioned it, if you could root other tree branches using willow water??? I only have heard of it rooting non woody plants…

These willows for Bonsai, are best I can tell just sections of green ( live ) sticks with no greenery, that roots, and starts sprouting into a new tree
Last edited:
Bonsai normally have their roots cut to stop the plant getting too big. If you leave a willow to grow uncontrolled in an aquarium, you could end up with an actual tree in the house.
Bonsai normally have their roots cut to stop the plant getting too big. If you leave a willow to grow uncontrolled in an aquarium, you could end up with an actual tree in the house.
It can be left to grow as normal otherwise itll remain too small and thing and when big enough and when taking it out of the trunk cut the roots back a lot at repot time in spring. I cut my roots back quite harshly on most plants at spring when I repot
my 1st thought here, it to trim roots as they start growing out of the 6 inch square pot, keeping the roots totally emersed in aquarium water, but contained within the pots... thinking that should be about the right size... & being hydroponic... thinking I can probably just do main root trimming annually, or as visibly needed, & then anything that grows too far outside the box, & into the tank as needed... I still want it a little aggressive, to pull "stuff" out of the water
Last edited:
So my willow sticks are percolating… they sent me 2 live sticks about an inch in diameter, and about 8 inches long, and included 3 more of smaller diameter, that actually already had budding sites on them…

They are in a pair of 6” square stainless pots, that I drilled many holes just slightly smaller than the ceramic media, placed in the back corners of the tank, and have a sponge filter bubbling up actually into the pots ( going through the holes, and bubbling through the media ) now just waiting for them to root and sprout… then the bonsai part starts…
I’ll add more ceramic media… just leaving it not very full to start with so I can view the rooting process
looking at the pictures on my computer... pretty realistic looking background I picked for these 2 tanks... there are no fish in here yet :)
Last edited:
Bonsai trunks are starting to root… in less than 1 week
Last edited:
Looked into the pots before I left the house for work this morning... roots are sprouting everywhere, below the water line, on all the sticks...

some of the smaller sticks that had budding sights on them, are starting to grow out & root as well ( thinking those will be transplanted into regular pots later & then go outside next spring )...
Last edited:

Most reactions