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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 01-06-2012, 08:15 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Hello I am a newbie with plants in the tank

I've decided to give a try keeping live plants in my tank and have never done this before. Somehow I stumbled upon using top soil in the tank and thought that this really does make sense as plants actually grow in soil, haha! Anyway, I broke down my 90g and relocated some africans that were housed there. I was able to save the water and start the 'planted' tank. I'm not one to get high tech with things so I only have soil-gravel-lights-and for now the 2217 eheim that was running in this tank with the africans. As directed from internet 'research' I'm using about 1.5" soil and 1.5" gravel but it's not an exact measurement in various places in the tank ....I have 2 6500K compact 30watt lights with those aluminum 'bell' reflectors just sitting on egg crate from a big box outfit. The plants have all been obtained from a public pond and so far they are reaching for the lights. The tank is 4 days old atm. I have about 45 tiny fish a 4 xtra tiny crawfish and some grass shrimp tossed in there. So far the water is normal except for a slight nitrite reading of 0.05 but I believe the bacteria in the eheim should take care of this shortly and convert that to nitrate (fingers crossed) Well here is a picture of my tank and if this one does well in the next few months then I will likely do the same with the 125g I have up and running. Live plants in aquariums with fish are amazing when it all works out right!

I've attached some pictures of the tank and the suppiles I'm using.

For now I have 5 varieties of plants, some are planted and others are floating. I'm not sure what the plant is on the far left of the picture. I just saw it growing in the water and will give it a try in the tank. I can identify the hornwhart and parrot feather, but the others are a mystery atm. As seen in the picture, I do have open space to the left and to the right that will eventually be planted but for now we'll see how this baby turns out.
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Old 01-06-2012, 09:07 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Hello I am a newbie with plants in the tank

Here is a closer shot of the 'lilly' pad leaf and the long leaf plants. I'm not sure of the names of either plant. Is the long leaf plant is meant to be submerged. The 'lilly' pad leaf's diameter stays small but will grow to the surface and has nice rust colored splotches to it.
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Old 01-06-2012, 02:03 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Hello I am a newbie with plants in the tank

I do not have an aquarium yet, i am reading and waiting for my soil to get mineralized so I have no experience whatsoever but from what I've read I can say that you need more plants.
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Old 01-08-2012, 01:48 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Hello I am a newbie with plants in the tank

I agree on more plants needed, but I'm not sure if this is exactly an el natural tank using only soil gravel lights and the eheim filter. I'd like to know if keeping the ceramic bio media in the eheim canister will cause problems for the water chemistry? I've also noticed air pockets in the soil in a few spots. So far the plants fish and water quality is fine.
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Old 01-08-2012, 06:15 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Hello I am a newbie with plants in the tank

Nachos, welcome to APC!

I suspect that you will need to add two more lights to your tank. You are probably getting medium-low light directly under your fixtures, but the areas in the middle and at the ends may be too dim. The egg crate is also reducing the light a little. Can you hang the lights instead, or cut holes in the egg crate underneath the fixtures? That said, I've found sprial compact fluorescents to be quite effective lighting for planted tanks.

You do need more plants to help with ammonia and nitrite uptake and biofiltration. Fortunately, the hornwort is an excellent plant for this purpose in new tanks, so just collect some more of it. Your "lily pad" does look like a member of the water lily family, but I can't tell which one.

What part of the country are you in? This might help us identify the plants. The long leaf plants might be sagittaria, a common aquatic plant in many parts of the USA.

Using the bioballs in your Eheim is good.
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Old 01-10-2012, 05:36 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Hello I am a newbie with plants in the tank

Thanks Michael, I am still deciding on how to do the lighting as the plants are emerging out the top of the water now. Maybe suspend the lights and let the plants grow over the top tank trim or maybe just drop the water level as to see the waters edge through the tank glass to see the emerging vegetation. I guess it's a matter of preference. I'm in New Orleans where I've been collecting the plants. Good news, my friend has a backyard pond and has welcomed me to get a few new plant specimens for my tank YES!
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Old 01-12-2012, 07:10 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Hello I am a newbie with plants in the tank

Here is the tank at 10 days since setting it up. So far I'm happy with the results of my efforts. Just add mud and plants
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Old 01-15-2012, 01:28 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Hello I am a newbie with plants in the tank

Looking good! Keep us posted.
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Old 01-16-2012, 08:14 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Hello I am a newbie with plants in the tank

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Looking good! Keep us posted.
ICH

1/13/12 did a 60 gallon water change added 8 tsp instant ocean and raised the temp from 74 to 84 fish seem to be unaffected by the salt and temp increase.
1/14/12 did a 14 gallon water change adding another 8 tsp instant ocean kept temp at 84 fish seem unaffected by the additional salt but the crawfish are comming out alot more since the salt and temp increase.
1/15/12 did another 12 gallon water change and added 2 tsp instant ocean, removed the 4 crawfish, removed 6 big cups of the cichlid gravel since it seemed to be too much covering the soil, "burped" the soil and cichlid substrate, water temp is still at 84 degrees, with the temp increased and instant ocean added all the plants seem ok and all fish are acting "normal" and the ich spots are actually gone from all but two of the fish for now. Will keep the tank like this for the next 10 days without doing more water changes but will attempt to get the water temp up to 86 degrees and monitor all fish especially the cardnial tetras for signs of high temperature stress. Since the temp is increased I'll also decrease the time the lights are on hopefully to prevent an alge out break.
1/16/12 water temp is still at 84 degrees and the fish seem fine and there are no more visible ich spots on any of the fish. will continue to monitor the tank for the next 10 days.
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Old 01-19-2012, 02:33 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Hello I am a newbie with plants in the tank

UPDATE
1/17/21 water temp is finally at 86 degrees, and so far the only thing I noticed was that the lily plant stems are going up but the leves are staying closed on their way up.
1/18/12 today noticed more fish with spots so I Added 8 tsp instant ocean, increased heater to 88 degrees (water temp back at 84 degrees since it got colder inside and outside last night), added glass tops to hold in the heat better, added powerhead for top water aggitation/oxygenation.
1/19/12 added 8 tsp instant ocean, water temp holding at 86 degrees, all fish and plants still holding on and visible ich spots still present.
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