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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 06-30-2020, 08:36 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Semi Low Tech tank

Hi everyone.

This is very first attempt to go "low tech". Unfortunately I learned about the Walstad method after my tank was well established. I didn't want to tear it apart and start over so I decided to slowly convert it to a natural tank. This is a 12 gallon tank. The substrate is just white sand, lots of plants and two pieces of drift wood. There are 6 cardinal tetras, 2 Threadfin rainbow fish, one pleco, 2 corries, 4 cherry shrimp and a few snails.

This tank was started the traditional way. Lots of maintenance, water changes, plants not doing well, etc...

The very first step I took after reading "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" was to incorporate the light siesta mid day. The plants responded wonderfully to this and are doing much better. Then I turned the filter to the lowest flow possible and have been monitoring the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels daily. I am happy to say it is all under control. The plan is to eventually remove the filter.

Since there is no soil underneath the substrate, I add Seachem Flourish twice a week. The plan is to also stop using it. Since I stopped changing water and vacuuming the substrate, my hope is that the whole system will support itself via fish food, detritus and decomposition.
There are some trumpet snails moving through the substrate, so hopefully they will keep it from going anaerobic.

I was a little apprehensive at first, but I must say the tank looks much better, the fish seem happier, and all parameters are stable and under control. Let's hope it stays that way.
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Old 06-30-2020, 09:32 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Semi Low Tech tank

No, you need the dirt. It drives everything.

Your tank looks pretty good for a low-tech non-dirted.
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Old 07-01-2020, 11:16 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Semi Low Tech tank

Your tank looks very good!

In ancient days, we encouraged a reasonable amount of "mulm" to accumulate in the gravel. I know now that this partially mimicked the role that soil plays in a Walstad tank. There are ways of adding soil to an established tank. You can make pellets of clay and compost, let them dry until hard, then push them under the gravel with forceps. Similarly, you can freeze thin layers of wet soil in an ice cube tray, then put those under the gravel. Don't make the soil pellets or cubes too big, and just do a few at a time.

In one of the William T. Innes books of the mid-twenteith century, he suggested using rabbit droppings the way we use fertilizer tabs! I've never tried it, but it might work if not overdone.
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Old 07-01-2020, 01:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Semi Low Tech tank

Eventually you will want to restart the tank when this happens upgrade to at least a 20g long and use soil with the new tank.

Or use soil if you choose to relaunch this tank.
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Old 07-01-2020, 05:20 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Semi Low Tech tank

Quote:
Originally Posted by Regis View Post
I was a little apprehensive at first, but I must say the tank looks much better, the fish seem happier, and all parameters are stable and under control. Let's hope it stays that way.
Very pretty tank! Nice selection of plants. I think you've hit a sweet spot with careful management--Siesta, good plants, low filtration, balanced fish load, allowing detritus to accumulate, burrowing snails, etc.

If you can get something this nice and enjoyable without soil, good for you!
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Old 07-01-2020, 08:05 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
You can make pellets of clay and compost, let them dry until hard, then push them under the gravel with forceps. Similarly, you can freeze thin layers of wet soil in an ice cube tray, then put those under the gravel. Don't make the soil pellets or cude too big, and just do a few at a time.
Michael, this is great advice. I will definitely do this... perhaps the frozen method. It seems it would hold together better for the first couple of minutes as it touches the water as opposed to the dry dirt method. I really love the way this tank turned out and don't want to take it apart to add soil. But now I know how to do it. Thank you again.
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