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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi folks,

So I set up my very first walstad tank yesterday. I decided to use the miracle grow performance organics in ground soil. On the advice of some fellow posters, I did cut the soil with an inert fluffier shrimp sand at an equal margin. It's been capped with aquarium gravel. i have a sponge filter (only up to 40 gallons to provide a backup) and a power head to produce water movement.

So this morning my water is now cloudy. It looks like the pics of a bacterial bloom. I know this is normal for a cycling tank. is this going to be a problem for the plants? I have a pretty strong light (why yes it's a fluval 3.0.) and I am dosing the tank with fritzzyme 7 daily.

numbers are:
ammonia around 0-.25
nitrite: 0
nitrate: around 10.



Thanks for the help!
 

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You should be aware that what you set up isn't a Walstad method tank, but a modification of that method. You wouldn't use the mixed soil you used, if you were following the Walstad method. And, you wouldn't be dosing it with anything, nor would you have a filter. I'm not saying that you can expect troubles as a result, just that when you describe your set-up it is best to include these details and not just use "Walstad method tank" as a short-cut. I think your aquascape looks very promising, but with a Walstad tank you would have a lot more plants, and maybe more species of plants.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'm planning to get moss for the tree to add more. Unfortunately my lfs didnt have everything I wanted. I'm gonna get some more plants tomorrow when they get their shipment. The sponge filter is as a backup since this is a display tank and I wanted to be sure it would be successful. Also since I'm super new to the hobby (I started in January) and didn't feel confident in what I was doing, I wanted to have that extra layer of protection. My only other tanks are a 5 gal and a 10 gal.
I had cut the soil on the advice of another forum member as I could not find appropriate soil at the home depot I went and i was unable to look at any other stores in the time constraint i had.
Now my next statement is absolutely made in all seriousness with no sarcasm and please don't take it that way. I'll revise my previous question.
Is this bacterial bloom in my 54 gallon that I've based on the walstad method? If so, is there anything special I should do to help this clear up or ensure that the plants are ok?
I am planning to add a few more plants tomorrow night as well as add the moss when it arrives in the mail. Will that help speed the process along? This is my first tank with bacterial bloom.
 

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I think your tank has a reasonable chance to make it. This bacteria boom is okay, should go away sooner than later. Will not hurt plants. If the cloudy water does not go away in 1-2-3 weeks, then I'd start to look for the root cause.

I don't know if adding sand to the soil was a good idea.

According to the soil label, there are added fertilisers in this soil, but that might be OK and not a huge issue (still, would be much better if there wasn't...). I managed to start tanks with soils that have added fertilizers. It was a little bit more hassle in the beginning and I put the shrimp / fish in later than I normally would do.

I think having a sponge filter is OK with an NPT as long as you do not make the water circulate too much (i.e too strong air bubbles). At this stage there is a good chance that occasionally there is more CO2 in the water column than the equilibrium level. This can help your plants grow if you don't drive it out to the air.

DO NOT DOSE that tank with liquid fertilizers, especially not at this stage. Soils normally contain tons of nutrients (see book), and now your tank is not deficient of any of those. In fact, probably there is too "much" in the water column from some of the micro/macro. Liquid fertilizers in some cases can cause algae and other issues with such tanks.

At this point, you will want to look for new growth on the plants. If some old leaves die off, that's okay. Still, you should see some growth in the next 1-2(-3) weeks. If you have larger areas where plants are not growing but dying off, then you'll want to do something about that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I think your tank has a reasonable chance to make it. This bacteria boom is okay, should go away sooner than later. Will not hurt plants. If the cloudy water does not go away in 1-2-3 weeks, then I'd start to look for the root cause.

I don't know if adding sand to the soil was a good idea.
I was trying to find something inert to cut down on the strength of the soil. I couldn't find any kitty litter and my LFS isn't super huge and didn't have turface or the other thing the other poster recommended. So we tried this sand. It was expensive. it's shrimp sand, larger grain size. the product is german. I probably cut it somewhere around 40 sand/60 soil or 50/50 but I definitely favored the soil more so.
Found the type! https://www.garnelenhaus.com/dennerle/nano-garnelenkies-sulawesi-black

According to the soil label, there are added fertilisers in this soil, but that might be OK and not a huge issue (still, would be much better if there wasn't...). I managed to start tanks with soils that have added fertilizers. It was a little bit more hassle in the beginning and I put the shrimp / fish in later than I normally would do.

I think having a sponge filter is OK with an NPT as long as you do not make the water circulate too much (i.e too strong air bubbles). At this stage there is a good chance that occasionally there is more CO2 in the water column than the equilibrium level. This can help your plants grow if you don't drive it out to the air.
I can lower the bubbles down. honestly, it's not even the right sponge for the tank since it's a sponge for up to 40 gallons. I can pull it out this morning just to make sure the gas exchange isn't affected.

DO NOT DOSE that tank with liquid fertilizers, especially not at this stage. Soils normally contain tons of nutrients (see book), and now your tank is not deficient of any of those. In fact, probably there is too "much" in the water column from some of the micro/macro. Liquid fertilizers in some cases can cause algae and other issues with such tanks.
Yes I know this. the only thing I added was some fritzyme 7 to help with the filter but I'll take the filter out. otherwise, nothing has gone in this tank except for prime when I first added the water. I think the bloom is because of the soil since I did not mineralize it. I didn't have the space (or frankly the patience) to do it and so here we go!

At this point, you will want to look for new growth on the plants. If some old leaves die off, that's okay. Still, you should see some growth in the next 1-2(-3) weeks. If you have larger areas where plants are not growing but dying off, then you'll want to do something about that.
So far as of yesterday, everything looked good. I have some water sprite I put in from my old tank. some of it's planted and a few pieces are floating. I also added some very small pieces of java fern wendilov and a small bucephalandra. Today, I am going to get some anubius coffeefolia and maybe see if they have any more dwarf sag or pygmy chains at my LFS. I took the last of what they had saturday and he has a plant shipment coming today. I also ordered some weeping moss online so hopefully that will show up in the next few days to help stabilize the tank. At this point, I'm feeling a bit nervous since everyone I spoke to expressed reservations about a dirted tank but I wanted to try it. Now I really want it to succeed!
 

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My tank had a bacterial bloom for a few days when I set it up, and then again after keeping the light on for hours longer than usual so I could do a re-scape. They usually clear up without you needing to do much. What is your current photoperiod? And do you have any idea how bright the light is right now?

This site seems to give a reasonable estimate:

http://www.rotalabutterfly.com/light-calculator.php

It's always nice to know approximately how much light you're running. If you're going really bright for your plants (which seem to be mostly lowlight plants: anubias, and crypts) then you could turn it down, and this might help clear up the water. The floaters are going to do most of the work as far as removing nitrogen, and they're so close to the light that even a lower setting will most likely work.
 

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As far as the water change goes, in the early stages of a dirted tank it doesn't hurt, but your nutrient levels aren't super high.

If you want to speed things up you could add some stuff that grows crazy fast, like duckweed or hornwort. duckweed is a pain for a couple reasons, but it will keep your water very clean after it gets established, which doesn't take long, and might help you be able to add fish sooner.
 

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Should I do anything? Water change? Or just let it sit? I added more plants last night. Some huge anubius, crypts, and a few more.
Only if this doesn't clear up, and if you're up to the task, you can see if someone local (like in an aquarium club) has a System 1 DE filter to clean up the cloudiness. Run it for an hour or so to clear the water. Have someone show you how to do that or you may end up with diatomaceous earth spewed out of the filter and all over the tank bottom (not a good idea). When done right, it does a great job of clearing cloudy water or removing suspended solids that take away from the water's clarity. In a real Walstad tank you wouldn't need to do this except maybe on a rare occasion, and it would clear on its own. Do give it some time as long as you're to putting fish in there yet. I have one but haven't used it but a few times, and it was, I think, right after setting up the tank to get rid of the stuff we stirred up when setting up the tanks. The DE filter can remove some parasites, too, by the way, from the water (but not off the fish, of course).

Another thing you could do would take a lot of work but might be worth it in the long run. That would mean take it apart, clean and rinse well, and lay cheap topsoil (Wal Mart's is fine) on the bottom but get PLAIN topsoil with no added fertilizer. I don't remember what Diane recommended but we didn't use anything with a brand name like Miracle Grow on it and had great success for years. Read the ingredients. If the soil has any additives, it is supposed to list them in some fashion. Soil by itself has all you will need for a long time, perhaps forever, in a Walstad tank.

You can cut back the amount of light by adding some frogbit plants (they float). You'll need to remove some every several days or every week or two to let some light through but it will partially cover the top of the water (if you remove some often enough). Frogbit may be a nuisance for you though, so read about it first. We like it as it helps with the O2 and CO2 regulation naturally, especially if you're low on the amount of plants you have. It grows fast, so you only need to start with a little and in a few weeks, you'll be removing some and throwing it away.

I also recommend joining a local aquatic fish/plant club if you have one, even if it's a forum-based one like the Columbus Area Fish Enthusiasts online forum. They have a real club, too, with speakers on various subjects, a swap meet for fish, plants, and aquarium stuff, and auctions (fish and plants mostly). We get out plants through their auctions. Larger cities have similar clubs, like the Greater Cincinnati Aquarium Society.Other cities will have their own, and the Cincinnati club also has auctions and meetings. You don't have to join to benefit from their forums, and you can post for "wanted" items like plants, certain types of fish you might want, etc. We got some plants that way for our smaller tank when we set that up recently when there wasn't an auction for another month or two. Got some cherry red shrimp that way, too.

http://www.columbusfishclub.org/
https://gcas.org/

If you aren't interested in taking the aquarium down and starting over, you can skip the following.

Lay the topsoil down for 2-3 inches then to keep the mud from getting stirred up easily, we put a thin layer of gravel over that then planted the tank. We found since then that Tractor Supply has black sandblasting sand that works better and is cheaper than gravel. It looks better, too.

When you plant, you will stir up some mud but try pushing the roots straight down to avoid stirring up much mud. Push the gravel or whatever back over the planted roots.

This may not be worth doing if your tank clears up on its own. You might also cut back the light unless you chose plants that aren't ideal for a low-light environment. That's the only kind we use in our NPTs.

Remember, these are opinions and based on my own personal experience. I would not want fertilizers in my substrate unless I added them myself (and I never have had to--the food and fish excrement/urine do that for me). Others will disagree, and they know from their experience what types of fertilizer has worked for them, and even some pre-fertilized soils, too. In the end, it's your experiment. It's all an experiment of sorts, since your results will no doubt be different than someone else's, even if you think you're doing things exactly the same way (there will be something different).

Donald
 

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Should I do anything? Water change? Or just let it sit? I added more plants last night. Some huge anubius, crypts, and a few more.
Your tank looks okay and I like that you are adding plants.

If it were my tank, I would do a water change. The cloudiness could just be from soil particles and all the initial setup disturbance.

I wouldn't even consider taking the tank down. Many folks in this forum have rescued tanks that in my opinion looked hopeless. (Your tank looks good in comparison!)

As to the fritzyme 7, I would stop adding it. Many of these concoctions don't work (the nitrifying species in the bottle don't adjust to your tank environment). All you are doing is adding more organic matter to the system, and right now you don't need any more. Plants will take care of the ammonia and besides soil contains lots of nitrifying bacteria. So adding nitrifying bacteria is totally unnecessary.

The main thing is that you want to see plant growth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
My tank had a bacterial bloom for a few days when I set it up, and then again after keeping the light on for hours longer than usual so I could do a re-scape. They usually clear up without you needing to do much. What is your current photoperiod? And do you have any idea how bright the light is right now?

This site seems to give a reasonable estimate:

http://www.rotalabutterfly.com/light-calculator.php

It's always nice to know approximately how much light you're running. If you're going really bright for your plants (which seem to be mostly lowlight plants: anubias, and crypts) then you could turn it down, and this might help clear up the water. The floaters are going to do most of the work as far as removing nitrogen, and they're so close to the light that even a lower setting will most likely work.
I got my hands on a fluval planted LED 3.0 and it definitely cost me a pretty penny but it's pretty nice! I've been playing with the settings and have started the "sunset" a bit earlier. I wanted to get a stronger light due to the depth of the tank. As the bloom clears up, I'll be able to play with the strength of the light. The light is at full strength for about 8 hours I think. I have to double check. I'll make sure to get the right numbers and get back to you
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Your tank looks okay and I like that you are adding plants.

If it were my tank, I would do a water change. The cloudiness could just be from soil particles and all the initial setup disturbance.

I wouldn't even consider taking the tank down. Many folks in this forum have rescued tanks that in my opinion looked hopeless. (Your tank looks good in comparison!)

As to the fritzyme 7, I would stop adding it. Many of these concoctions don't work (the nitrifying species in the bottle don't adjust to your tank environment). All you are doing is adding more organic matter to the system, and right now you don't need any more. Plants will take care of the ammonia and besides soil contains lots of nitrifying bacteria. So adding nitrifying bacteria is totally unnecessary.

The main thing is that you want to see plant growth.
I was originally adding the fritzyme when I had the sponge filter in. I've since taken it out and haven't added any chemicals to the tank. As of now, I have 2 100W heaters on opposite walls, 2 powerheads on opposite walls. The cloudiness has been clearing up! And I have been seeing new growth, particularly in the Gabriel's sword and the red melon sword. I've included pictures.

I was wondering about when to do a water change because I know there is still soil particles and I've got a bit of a film on the surface of the water. Is 20-30% appropriate?

Also, i have a few pond snail hitchhikers! Is it worth keeping them? I was planning on having some nerites in there instead.

And thank you for writing your book! I love the idea of a more natural and self sustaining ecosystem.





Still have that bacterial/fungal growth over my new driftwood.
 

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The cloudiness has been clearing up! And I have been seeing new growth, particularly in the Gabriel's sword and the red melon sword.
Glad to hear that the cloudiness is clearing up.

I don't believe you said you have any fish in the tank so 10-20% water change should work. If you're using chlorinated tap water, don't forget to use the appropriate amount of dechlorinator.

If you don't know if your tap water uses regular chlorine, or instead chloramine, use a product that will take care of the latter chemical and you'll be safe either way. Our city uses regular chlorine but many municipal supplies use the longer-lasting chemical chloramine, which is a chlorine-ammonia molecule.

We use this product, not because it's better then the rest but because it's very economical and will treat 2,000 gallons of water for a price of less than $13 for 33.8 ounces (1 liter), and if you have Amazon Prime, you get it shipped free, too. It takes care of either type of chlorination and it says it enhances a fish's slime coat. It's good for freshwater and marine aquariums. Just store it in a cool, dry area out of direct sunlight and it should last a long time.

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00176CVK8/

Donald
 

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I would keep the snails; I have them in all my tanks. I don't see why you still can't add the nerites.

I'm wondering why you need two powerheads? That seems excessive and they may be stirring the soil up.

With that amount of cloudiness, I would do a 30% water change. I recommend it for all new setups.

As to the driftwood, I wonder if it isn't leaching organics into the water and causing the bloom. The fact that bacteria are colonizing it that heavily is suspicious. :spy:

Glad you're seeing plant growth and you've got a nice light.
 
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