Newbie question- ammonium spike? - 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 07-20-2020, 05:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Newbie question- ammonium spike?

Hi

New member starting my first tank in years. I have had tanks off and on for 40 yrs. some saltwater and some freshwater but never a NPT. The first tank I saw as a kid some 50 yrs ago was a NPT at the dentist office. Didnít realize it at the time but that first tank got me hooked on aquariums.

Recently moved and decided to start a new tank. After some research I wanted to recreate that first tank I remember so a NPT was the obvious choice.

Purchased a Fluval Flex 32 g tank. Bought some Natures Choice Organic potting soil( really struggled on what to buy).

I put the soil in a container let it soak for 2 hours - scooped off anything that floated. Did this two more times then let it sit on the hot Tennessee sun for a week.

Set up my tank with 1 inch soil and 1 inch cap on Saturday. Been monitoring the ammonium and expected to see a spike. After 48 hours still reading zero with a test kit.

Is it too soon to see a spike?
Is it too soon to add fish?

Thanks




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Old 07-20-2020, 06:18 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Newbie question- ammonium spike?

Yes, I think it's too soon. The think is, I don't think you will see a spike unless you actually add some ammonia to the water. You can add a couple guppies, or a piece of raw shrimp and let it decay, or some people actually add a small amount of ammonia. Without SOME ammonia, it's hard for nitrifying bacteria to grow. And your plants might benefit from some ammonia too. I think your tank will eventually cycle on it's own as some of the soil breaks down, but it may take a while. And you may not actually experience an ammonia spike that way. I'm fairly new to this too, so take what I say lightly.
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Old 07-20-2020, 10:23 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Newbie question- ammonium spike?

I add my fish after 2 weeks of tank setup and they seems fine. I remember Ms. Walstad stated in the book that she adds fish immediately after the setup.
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Old 07-20-2020, 11:34 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Newbie question- ammonium spike?

I would probably add more fast growing stem and floating plants (at least for the beginning) - they will help with any ammonia/nitrite/nitrate spike which might occur especially with soil substrate. If you are using plants from nurseries, they must go through emersed -> submerged transition, which is going to release some nutrients (old leaves will basically rot away eventually) and it takes a while. During this time, plants don't really fulfill their role in waste removal.

I would be cautious with adding fish at this point, though you can add a few "feeder" fish (some consider it cruel) and/or a bunch of "pest" snails. Wait for a week or two and measure ammonia and nitrites, if they're both 0 and you see new healthy growth in plants, your tank should be ready.
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Old 07-21-2020, 09:01 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Newbie question- ammonium spike?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlatfishTanker1 View Post
Yes, I think it's too soon. The think is, I don't think you will see a spike unless you actually add some ammonia to the water. You can add a couple guppies, or a piece of raw shrimp and let it decay, or some people actually add a small amount of ammonia. Without SOME ammonia, it's hard for nitrifying bacteria to grow. And your plants might benefit from some ammonia too. I think your tank will eventually cycle on it's own as some of the soil breaks down, but it may take a while. And you may not actually experience an ammonia spike that way. I'm fairly new to this too, so take what I say lightly.
Thanks - I was thinking that the soil itself would provide the ammonia
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Old 07-21-2020, 09:03 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Newbie question- ammonium spike?

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Originally Posted by Phatboyaa View Post
I add my fish after 2 weeks of tank setup and they seems fine. I remember Ms. Walstad stated in the book that she adds fish immediately after the setup.
Thanks - that is what I understood also but was really expecting to see some ammonia from the soil, i has surprised me that there was none
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Old 07-21-2020, 09:04 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Newbie question- ammonium spike?

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Originally Posted by mysiak View Post
I would probably add more fast growing stem and floating plants (at least for the beginning) - they will help with any ammonia/nitrite/nitrate spike which might occur especially with soil substrate. If you are using plants from nurseries, they must go through emersed -> submerged transition, which is going to release some nutrients (old leaves will basically rot away eventually) and it takes a while. During this time, plants don't really fulfill their role in waste removal.

I would be cautious with adding fish at this point, though you can add a few "feeder" fish (some consider it cruel) and/or a bunch of "pest" snails. Wait for a week or two and measure ammonia and nitrites, if they're both 0 and you see new healthy growth in plants, your tank should be ready.
I bought all the sword plants my LFS had in stock last week - planning on going back this Saturday and getting some additional plants
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Old 07-21-2020, 09:13 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Newbie question- ammonium spike?

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Originally Posted by sm_56 View Post
I bought all the sword plants my LFS had in stock last week - planning on going back this Saturday and getting some additional plants
Echinodorus is great at keeping substrate oxygenated, so that was a good choice. It just doesn't grow very fast and is considered to be mainly root feeder, so nutrients in water column might need to be removed by other means (stem and floating plants or plain old water changes).
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Old 07-21-2020, 02:32 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Newbie question- ammonium spike?

Please, most Echinodorus species are incredibly fast-grower when provided with a rich substrate and hardwater--enough calcium. Studies have shown that aquatic plants--even when in a rich substrate replete with nitrogen--prefer to get their N from the water not the substrate (my book, p. 106).

Thus, the absence of N in the water doesn't surprise me. Your swordplants are very busy removing ammonia from the water. Soil nitrifying bacteria are probably helping a bit as well.
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Old 07-21-2020, 08:51 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Newbie question- ammonium spike?

My bad, I always consider category of plant (fast/slow grower) optically. Echinodorus species grew 1 new leaf per week at best, whereas stem plants are able to grow in length and also side shoots pretty much every day. But it's true that I never compared the dry weight, so Echinodorus might win even if optically it doesn't look like it.

I had better success with substrate fertilizing vs. water column one for Echinodorus species (mainly micronutrients), but it might be due to bigger competition with other plants.

Edit: OP mentioned that he/she is monitoring for ammonia only, so there can be still plenty of NO2 and/or NO3 which needs to be dealt with. Or maybe not, sm_56 can confirm.

Last edited by mysiak; 07-21-2020 at 09:39 PM..
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