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David_L 04-16-2019 06:40 PM

I know just enough to know I know nothing at all!
Hello all,
Iíve been lurking the forums for the past couple months and finally made an account and decided to post. Iíve been reading up on NPT, intending to make a Walstad tank. Full credit to Foo the Flowerhornís multiple tank series on YouTube for introducing me to the concept. I have answered some of my questions just by perusing the forums here but I still have some that are looming before I feel confident enough to get started. Wall of text incoming! Iíve been bargain-hunting for used gear on the usual sites (5miles, FB Marketplace, Craigslist, etc) and have acquired Stuffô!

The list so far: 20 gallon long (coated in algae and in sore need of a good scrub) with a lid and a nice little stand, Black Diamond Blasting Sand substrate ďwith fertilizer in it alreadyĒ, an ďaquarium plant packageĒ whatever that entails, and a Finnex 24/7 SE LED 30Ē light bar. So, on to the questions!

1) Black Diamond Blasting Sand! I like the look of it, as well as how nicely it fills around new plants when planting, but my concern using it as a cap for the soil (I plan on mixing sifted top soil with Safe-T-Sorb, about 60/40) is that it might be too fine grain and wonít easily allow for nutrients (Fish poo, food, etc) to make it to the soil layer. I understand thereís different gauges/grit sizes to this stuff but without a frame of reference, Iím not sure what I have. If there IS a grit size that would work in a Walstad set-up, what is it and Iíll go buy a bag. Best case scenario I can discover that what Iíve got is the right size and worst case I will already have something to replace it with.

2) Aquarium Plant Package! Is there any way to go about identifying what all this is? It came with the bundle, so Iím accepting it, but if itís sketchy/not worth it then itís not skin off my nose to huck it in the bin. I already plan on having E. Amazonicus(Amazon Sword), H Difformis(Wisteria), M. pteropus(Java Fern), C. caroliniana(Cabomba), and maybe V. Americana(Corkscrew Val), and foreground carpeting with H. callitrichoides(Cuba/Dwarf baby tears). All of this is subject to availability, of course, though I REALLY like how Amazon Swords and Cabomba look so Iím more willing to stretch for such things. Probably at opposite ends of the tank though. Aquascaping aside, is there a resource to help determine contents of a plant package?

3) Back on the subject of aquascaping, actually, Iím mildly interested in creating a slope on the floor of the tank. My concern is that I donít think I can just have more dirt, nor substrate, on one side without that affecting tank balance? The depth of both the dirt and substrate is fairly specific per what Iíve been reading and I assume thereís sound science behind this. If I put something on the bottom of the tank before laying down dirt to accomplish this, what parameters/stipulations are there to try this kind of thing? Nonporous? NPT topography recommendations VERY welcome here.

4) Lighting! Iíve read through the subforum a bit on this topic and feel like I need to back track because there are terms and measurements that are full-on Greek to me. If thereís a good Barney-style break down kind of link someone could toss my way, that would be great. Especially as I understand this LED bar that Iíve stumbled into seems to be pretty high tech, and I am a total beginner on this aspect of the hobby and itís certainly a major factor in getting my plants going while NOT encouraging massive algae growth. Iíve discerned enough to know that much, just turning the light on full blast is asking for algae! I also think I understand that half of what Iíve been reading is talking about fluorescent bulbs and that LEDs are a whole other ball of wax? Is this accurate?

5) Filter! So as I mentioned before, Foo is how I got turned on to this whole thing and I really fell in love with the idea of a silent tank with no filter running. As I have read here, of course, it seems that Diana Walstad herself now recommends a filter. Iím not really clear on WHY, per se, so a link to a discussion or reference about that would be appreciated. Does this mean that a silent tank is not really viable anymore? Especially since a 20 gallon isnít in the realm of ďnano tankĒ like the ones Foo has made. I also, on a related note, have been waffling on using a heater and a powerhead/pump. I am pretty certain that, since my tankís centerpiece will be a betta, a powerhead is a bad plan. I understand that they get worn out having to swim constantly? But I think SOME kind of water movement is prudent, and seeing the plants wave in the current is cool! Thoughts? Links to discussions Iíve missed?

I know this is a massive first post, so thank you to those of you who have read this far. Thank you as well to any and all of this wonderful community for the questions you have already answered in the archives here, as well as answers for these questions now ^_^ Iím so pleased to have found such a cool group of folks!

Michael 04-17-2019 12:06 PM

Re: I know just enough to know I know nothing at all!
Good questions!

1. Black Diamond will work well. Locally Tractor Supply sells the medium and fine size particles. Almost everyone who buys for aquarium uses gets the largest particle size they can get, so you probably have medium. If you are concerned, it is only about $9 for 50 lb.

2. Your plant package should come with a list of species. If so, it is pretty simple to look for photos on Plant Finder, and match them up with the plants you receive. If you are stumped, post a photo in the Plant ID forum. One caution: a full size Amazon sword will quickly outgrow at 20 long, so if you have a choice, get one of the smaller species or cultivars.

3. If you want to create a significant slope build up the high portion first with something solid and inert. Ceramic tile or flagstone work well. I like ceramic tile because yoiu can easily break it into pieces and stack in layers to get the shape you want. Don't make the slope too steep or you have have problems keeping the cap and soil in place.

4. I am fairly familiar with the Finnex fixtures, and a 24/7 over a 20 long tank will give you too much light for a Walstad tank. I use a Finnex Stingray over a 20 long, and that is plenty. Does the 24/7 allow you to dim the light? If so, start out at 50%. Otherwise, raise the fixture or use screen and/or floating plants to reduce light.

5. The main purpose of a filter in a Walstad tank is to provide circulation. This distributes nutrients, CO2, and O2 evenly throughout the tank. A powerhead or simple submersible pump will do the same. I use filters on my tanks so that I can put mechanical filtration medium in the filter to remove particles from the water. Normally I do not use any chemical or biological media unless there is a specific problem with a particular tank. Sometimes I just run the filters with no media at all.

Plants do an excellent job of removing ammonia and reducing flow if you have enough of them. In a well planted tank, a betta can always find a quiet spot to hang out.

Do you really need a heater? Unless your home is unusually cool at night you probably don't. I don't have heaters in any of my tanks. For an excellent article on the subject, go here:

Good luck! On 28 April is the next meeting of our local club. More information here:

DutchMuch 04-17-2019 12:59 PM

Re: I know just enough to know I know nothing at all!

Originally Posted by Michael (Post 997167)
Good questions!

1. Black Diamond will work well. Locally Tractor Supply sells the medium and fine size particles. Almost everyone who buys for aquarium uses gets the largest particle size they can get, so you probably have medium. If you are concerned, it is only about $9 for 50 lb.

this and PFS (pool filter sand) i highly recommend and can vouch for.

i used pfs (SUPER, fine, like as fine as u can get) and had no issues for a few years. You can just look at my journal if you want on the journals sub forum :p

David_L 04-18-2019 07:19 PM

Re: I know just enough to know I know nothing at all!
Thank you for the replies! So my take-aways are that;

1) even coarse sand will work as a cap and allows for mulm to make it down and air bubbles to make it up?

2) while I like Amazon Sword, I need to find alternatives! In that vein, anyone have any recommendations for plants better suited to a 20 gallon long? Part of the appeal the Amazon Sword had for me is that establishes relatively quickly (important in a Walstad set up early on) and roots in well! So anything that fits that bill but more suited for the size I have.

3) So the relatively minimal amount of dirt that fills in around the ceramic tile shouldn't be an issue? I may scrap this idea for my first tank and revisit it later, but it's good to know.

4) My light will need to be dialed down, and to answer your question about if it's adjustable, the answer is yes. It came with a remote that allows for an amazing amount of adjustability/customization. White, red, green, and blue diodes are individually dial-able, and you can have settings change in 3 hour increments to mimic day cycles. The amount of customization is admittedly part of why I feel a tad overwhelmed, but I did it to myself.

5) I'll have to look into some quiet or slim options for pumps or powerheads, but it's good to better understand that it's about water movement and resource distribution. Thanks for the reassurance about quiet spots for the betta, too.

I wish I could be at the meeting, but I'm scheduled to work. I hope to being able to make it to the next one? How far in advance do y'all schedule such things?

hoppycalif 04-18-2019 07:46 PM

Re: I know just enough to know I know nothing at all!
This crypt, , should work similar to a sword in a smaller aquarium. And, there are other lower growing crypts that would go well with it. is a very good little "powerhead" that would work well in that size tank, for just circulating the water, especially if you modify the outlet a little to spread out the flow a bit. I used it on a 65 gallon tank!

David_L 04-19-2019 07:03 AM

Re: I know just enough to know I know nothing at all!
Hoppycalif, thank you for the recommendations! I have ordered the powerhead, that's exactly what I was looking for! As for the Crypt, I'm only hesitant because of how variable the growth pattern is. Since I'm fully new to all of this, I'm not confident in my ability to regulate light to the tank in such a way as to ensure the Crypt doesn't grow completely flat. The Amazon Sword that it would be replacing in my line-up would be a background plant, there to grow tall. The height of the Crypt(12"-18") seems pretty ideal I just worry that it may flatten out instead of growing tall.

hoppycalif 04-19-2019 10:27 AM

Re: I know just enough to know I know nothing at all!
I haven't yet figured out how to make a crypt grow up instead of laying down on the substrate. I'm guessing it depends on how bright the lighting is, but I'm not sure. When I have had them they sometimes grow up and sometimes grow horizontally.

David_L 04-19-2019 02:35 PM

Re: I know just enough to know I know nothing at all!
Yeah, that doesn't inspire confidence. Any other recommendations? Currently looking at having a spiderwood stump surrounded by a cabomba forest in the back left, a Java Fern dead center in the back and some Wisteria in the back right, with dwarf baby tears (or maybe dwarf hair grass?) carpeting all the way across up front. If this is not enough, or a bad combination, I'm still in the planning stage so I appreciate all input (like kiboshing the Amazon Sword as it'll get too tall for the tank).

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