30cm Low Tech Cube - El Natural - Aquatic Plant Central

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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 07-12-2018, 02:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 30cm Low Tech Cube

Howdy! I kept nano marine tanks for years but after my beloved watchmen goby (had him for 4 1/2 years!!) jumped I let my tank fade away. I bought a 12" Mr. Aqua cube years ago and drilled it intending for it to replace my 8 gallon biocube. It has a 2.5 gallon refugium and a Coral Compulsion 14K full spectrum dimmable par38 that has barely any use.

I'm very interested in turning this tank into a low tech planted beginner tank with maybe some shrimp and a betta.

The bulb specs are:
2 Deep Blue 455nm
4 Neutral White 4500k
2 Cool Blue 470nm
2 True Violet 420nm
1 Deep Red 660nm
1 Cyan 495nm

Would this be acceptable for easy to grow freshwater plants? I was thinking of going with the Walstad method since I'm very new. Water changes won't be a problem for me to do since I'm used to the pain in the butt process of mixing salt water. Any feedback from the community is greatly appreciated!

Here are some old pics of the tank (it's still sitting in the same spot 4 years later lol so it's a bit dusty now)



Thanks for looking! I'll set up a legit tank thread when it's up and running.
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Old 07-12-2018, 03:37 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default re: 30cm Low Tech Cube

Welcome to APC!

Hoppy is our resident lighting expert, so I will let him comment. The fact that the light is dimmable is a big plus. Re the Walstad method, I think is a great way to learn about planted tanks and I have never felt the need to do anything else. But if you do want a high tech tank later, you can convert a Walstad tank by increasing light, and adding fertilization and CO2.
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Old 07-12-2018, 04:18 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default re: 30cm Low Tech Cube

Welcome
Any tank is capable to grow plants.. even a 0.000001 gallon tank!!!!! (ok lets not get insane) As for the light I agree w/ Michael, hoppy is the expert ATM- but my guess is it would be great for low-medium tech, possibly even a high tech light. Walstad is a good method Sometimes its better for newcomers, sometimes not, however it seems to be the first thing newcomers go to so I cant complain lol (ive never done one).

Again welcome!
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:17 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks for the welcome! I've always loved planted tanks but got bit by the soft coral bug for a while. Expensive stuff 😂

Any recommendations on beginner plants and substrate? I have everything for this tank and could get it up and running pretty quickly (but definitely have the patience to wait for the cycle to complete before adding fish). I do need to pick up a test kit as all of mine are for reefs.

If I end up loving planted tanks I have a drilled 40 breeder and a huge T5-HO light that is begging to have a purpose. One step at a time.
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Old 07-13-2018, 08:42 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default re: 30cm Low Tech Cube

I enjoy working with lights, but I don't believe I know enough to qualify as an expert. My opinion is that the primary reason the type of lighting you described isn't "good" for a planted tank is that it looks very abnormal, and doesn't let you see the real colors of the plants and fish. I much prefer to use natural white with some additional 660 nm light to better show off the colors, and add a bit more of the light that plants seem to do best with. Also my preference is to use about 35-45 PAR lighting, no higher, unless you want to be able to grow the "difficult" plants, and want to get as much of the potential red in the plants colors as is possible. When you go that way you also need to use pressurized CO2 to fill the plant's need for enough carbon to support the faster growth the higher light intensity will cause. And, of course, the more light you have, the more likely you will spend more of your hobby time fighting algae.
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Old 07-13-2018, 09:33 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoppycalif View Post
I enjoy working with lights, but I don't believe I know enough to qualify as an expert. My opinion is that the primary reason the type of lighting you described isn't "good" for a planted tank is that it looks very abnormal, and doesn't let you see the real colors of the plants and fish. I much prefer to use natural white with some additional 660 nm light to better show off the colors, and add a bit more of the light that plants seem to do best with. Also my preference is to use about 35-45 PAR lighting, no higher, unless you want to be able to grow the "difficult" plants, and want to get as much of the potential red in the plants colors as is possible. When you go that way you also need to use pressurized CO2 to fill the plant's need for enough carbon to support the faster growth the higher light intensity will cause. And, of course, the more light you have, the more likely you will spend more of your hobby time fighting algae.
Thanks for popping in, Hoppy! I was wondering how green plants would look under these lights (although my green star polyps in my salty tank looked electric under this light I'm guessing green plants wouldn't have the same look). I'm not really looking to do anything too difficult yet so red plants would be on the back burner for now. Is there a light fixture you would recommend for a 12" cube? Aesthetics are important (i.e. not hanging over the edge too much) to me, and also I'm on a budget since my wife knows my tendency to drift in and out of hobbies.
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Old 07-13-2018, 09:59 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default re: 30cm Low Tech Cube

https://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/f...cube-32-a.html is my latest attempt to make my own light. This one is still working very well - granted this is the second week of its life. There is enough information there to figure out how to get the light intensity you want, if you are a DIYer. If this was going to be visible I would have made a simple enclosure for it with 2 inch aluminum angle, and used the heatsink as the top of the enclosure. Other than that, no I don't have a good recommendation for a 12" cube tank.
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Old 07-13-2018, 10:10 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default re: 30cm Low Tech Cube

Quote:
Originally Posted by hoppycalif View Post
https://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...cube-32-a.html is my latest attempt to make my own light. This one is still working very well - granted this is the second week of its life. There is enough information there to figure out how to get the light intensity you want, if you are a DIYer. If this was going to be visible I would have made a simple enclosure for it with 2 inch aluminum angle, and used the heatsink as the top of the enclosure. Other than that, no I don't have a good recommendation for a 12" cube tank.
I love BioCubes! they have such a clean look. I have an empty 8 gallon in my shed but I'm pretty sure the bottom is cracked (unless it's just extra black silicon in a cracked pattern which is unlikely). I'll probably try to use my light since it was pretty expensive but will definitely keep it dimmed. I'll also have it mounted in a goose neck to I can always raise it up off of the surface a little more. I'm fully prepared to fight algae as it was a constant battle in my salty tank. Again, thanks for popping in and offering your help.
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Old 07-13-2018, 12:08 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Does anyone have any opinions on what substrate to use for the soil layer? I'll probably go with black blasting sand for the cap layer and just use a razor blade for algae removal on the glass.
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Old 07-13-2018, 12:28 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default re: 30cm Low Tech Cube

Like to cap it?
Nothing better than BDBS or PFS
But if you mean what soil- I used Aarons method here on APC pretty much- except I made my own tweaks to it. EcoScraps (in the orange bag only) is the soil I used.
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