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El Natural Diana Walstad's low-maintenance, soil-based 'El Natural' method for keeping plants and fish.

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Old 05-14-2006, 09:18 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 6 Gallon Hex NPT

I set up a new natural planted tank at work (on 5/2) and thought I'd document the process.

It's a 6 gallon plexiglass hex that I picked up for cheap at a local club meeting.


The first step was to add about an inch of topsoil. I used a cheapo topsoil from Home Depot called EarthGro. We went thru it and removed some sticks and broke up any clods.


Then sprinkled a layer of crushed oyster shell over the top, mixed it in and then evened it out.




Next I ran a layer of gravel (pool filter media) around the outer edge of the tank.


and then started setting in plants. I had some bronze crypt wendetti potted in soil already, so I unpotted those and plopped them in the center of the rear of the tank. Stripped the bottom leaves off some sunset hygro.

and planted that on the right of the crypts. On the left, there's limnophilia and in front of the crypts are a stem of hygro difformis. e tennelus was planted around the front and middle of the tank.



Then using a small plastic dish to deflect the water, I filled the tank with several inches of water.


There wasn't any cloudiness happening, so I moved the tank into my office and finished filling it. It's a little hazy, but not bad at all. I also added some najas grass and hornwort to take up the slack while the rooted plants are filling in. and added some java moss. I also ended up with MTS, pond and ramshorn snails in the tank.

Here's the front


and the side




More pics are here.

This tank has a powerhead built into the hood, so I left the sponge filter it came with in over nite to remove the haze.

It has one of the incandescent bulbs in it. I plan to replace that with a compact fluorescent bulb. It will be getting direct sunlight in the afternoon, so it'll be interesting to see what it takes to adjust the blinds so it doesn't get boiled but still gets plenty of sunlight.

Tested the water on 5/3 and it's ready for fish!
pH: 7.8
KH: 4dh
ammonia: a trace *maybe*
nitrIte: 0ppm

Here it is on 5/4 and the tank is lookin great!! I removed the sponge from the filter cuz there shouldn't be that much debris happening with some snails and a betta.





The najas grass is pearling under direct sunlight in the evening.

I stopped by a LPS this morning and picked up a crowntail betta boy. Here's the lucky betta. He's a little manly man! Keeps seeing his reflection in the side of the tank and is determined to run that other betta off.






Last week, I replaced the incandescent bulb with a 20 watt 6500K fluorescent bulb. I may drop back to 15 watts since it's also getting direct sunlight in the evenings.

Also, my coworker has been keeping a betta in a vase. I had a 2.5 gallon bowfront that was sitting around--another local aquarium club steal, and set that up as a NPT for her betta.


Plants include e tennelus, sag subulata, sunset hygro with najas grass and hornwort floating. There's a little powerfilter in the tank for water movement with no filter pad in it. It has an incandescent bulb in it and we're looking for a small CF bulb to replace it with. It's also getting direct sunlight in the evening.

Here's her veiltail betta boy, Will-E. He wasn't very cooperative, but I got a somewhat decent pic. His finnage is awsome.
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Old 05-14-2006, 10:00 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Hi Betty,

This is a great thread! Thanks for sharing. I'm sure many folks here at APC will benefit from your step-by-step setup photos. I'm setting up a one gallon hex for my betta now too!

I love the arrangement with crypts to one side for swimming space and all the floating plants surrounding.

About the sunlight, I have a 10g NPT with 30W and direct sun in the evenings and it does just fine. So far there haven't been any algae issues. Heat may be an issue for you, but if your workplace is cool inside maybe not. Those CF spiral bulbs do get a bit hot.

Keep us posted as it grows. BTW, gorgeous, lucky betta! And thanks for educating a co-worker on how to keep a betta happy. Those vases are awful!

Javalee
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Old 05-14-2006, 11:03 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Cool.

Yea, I'm planning on turning it into an article to go along with my other summary of doing Walstad-type natural planted tanks.

It's just so perfect for a betta at work. Low hassle. Low bioload. Perfect! And I can leave him live daphnia for weekend munchies.

I'm leaving the little feeding flap on the hood open and have the A/C running. So far the tank has gotten up to the low 80s. It gets HOT here in the summertime, so I think I'll need to lower the blinds and let slivers of sunlight hit the tank at some point instead of allowing full sun. Don't want boiled betta!
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Old 05-14-2006, 01:21 PM   #4 (permalink)
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BTW, my betta did the same thing once there was a light over his hex! He flared the entire day and night at the sides of the tank! Previously, he was in the same tank with no light over it and he watched all the action in the room and flared at us. Hopefully, he'll figure out it's his reflection before he stresses-out.
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Old 05-14-2006, 05:09 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I am sorry, but why no filter pad in it?
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Old 05-14-2006, 08:58 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I'm only using the filter for water movement. The natural planted tank doesn't need a cycled filter because the plants and bacteria in the soil take care of ammonia. Also since there's not much bioload in it, it really doesn't need mechanical filtration either. Any extra fish food and poop end up feeding the plants.
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Old 05-15-2006, 05:53 AM   #7 (permalink)
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What a lovely tank! That is a very lucky Betta. Does the hood have an open area (it looks like it from the pictures but I'm not sure)? If it does, you could grow a forest of flowering Wisteria, Sunset Hygro and Limnophila, and the tank could be an aquarium and vase of flowers in one!

From Alex.
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Old 05-15-2006, 09:45 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks Betty for the great pictures-- setup, etc.
And that Betta rules!
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Old 05-15-2006, 05:27 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Java: he's calmed down now. Which is a shame cuz I wanted some more pics! :lol

Thanks Diana.

Alex: Interesting idea.
The top is two pieces. one houses the filter and the other the light. Given the indirect sunlight from the window and the direct sunlight in the evening, I was thinking about leaving it uncovered because during the day, the hood shades the tank (or at least it did till I added the new PC bulb). The filter is just a little powerhead with an intake strainer on it and a tray to the outflow, so I was thinking about taking it off of where it's mounted and adding a foam prefilter and trying to use it like a powerhead. dunno whether it's submersable or not tho. Also, I suspect I'd get a lot of evaporation with it uncovered and I hate having to do things to tanks all the time to keep them happy.
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Old 05-15-2006, 09:53 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Very beautiful.

I have a 2 gallon Betta Bowl at work which now is looking the way I have hoped for quite some time.
I hope to learn how to create another one where I do not need to do a Daily Dosage Schedule
and yet have it look as good.

I realize that means learning some new skills.
Skills which I am willing to test on small bowls ( 2 gallons or various Goldfish Bowls)

My tank at work does not have a filter on it.

Why do you need water movement?
Or do you just enjoy the wonderful relaxing sound that the water makes?

And besides a Betta, what other fish can I try in a small tank without a filter?

Being in the Northeast, I realize that I will always need a heater in my tanks.
But if I could try other fish in bowls without a filter..... That would be great.

I continually learn so much every day I am on this site.

Last edited by Jimbo205; 05-17-2006 at 10:24 PM..
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