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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello! I was recently looking to start up a small natural low-tech tank and through hours of research, ended up here! I read through a lot of various sites but am wanting to make sure I start up my tank right.
My end goal is to raise some catfish and snails and maybe a few tetras in a cheap & low maintenance Walstad tank.
But I'm currently with... a gallon starter container to raise some plants, then ease into introducing snails and eventually catfish (getting my feet wet so to speak).

I'm seeking recommendations, advice (for/against), tips, refs, etc! Anything and everything is appreciated, but please keep in mind I'm under a budget and limited resources.
Long post here we go!

Soil/sand/substrate
I wanted to know if there has been much success with "backyard soil" in tanks? After washing it and filtering it of course, but is it relatively safe for the plants and whatever future living aquatic animals? I don't keep animals and don't use fertilizers, but otherwise I don't know the composition of my soil but figure it should be OK.

If I want to use sand or put in rocks (decor) in my tank, should I sanitize them in the oven before putting it in my tank?

Plants
I live in smack midcountry Ohio and don't have a good resource to affordable plants (DBT was $14.99 at the Petsmart near me, and wilted at that!), and should I order online/through members, I want to get a batch that are sturdy and will grow exponentially well in relative low-light. I've narrowed my decision down to:
java moss
moneywort
marsilea minuta/hirsuta or monte carlo (micranthemum) for carpeting (how's the consensus on the two?)
dwarf hairgrass
java windelov fern
marimo moss balls

Is there a recommended on the list/not on the list? In terms of sturdiness (I don't have much of a green thumb), are they suitable?

Is it smart to have 2 types of carpeting or should I stick to one?

(also is there a place you'd recommend near the Cincinnati OH region that sells these for a reasonable price??)

Plant...ing
After I lay out soil and sand, do I then plant the flora or should I plant it and layer the sand on top/in between? I think it's the former but wanted to double-check on this.

Decor
I'm dabbling on the idea of Iwagumi tanks; is there a specific type of rock I should use or that fare better? Also going back up to soil/sand etc. part, do I need to sanitize rocks in dry heat before adding them to tank, or will a good scrub do?

What are some natural decorative pieces I can add to a tank other than rocks and driftwood?

Fish/snails/etc.
I'm wanting to start off with some snails to aerate the substrate. I've heard a lot of recommendations for Malaysian snails, but also read that if they multiply it will quickly become unmanageable. How many are a good number to start with, and when can they be introduced into the tank?

How about those mystery snails sold in pet stores? Do they do the relative same job or should I stay away?

I'm planning to add some cory catfish to the tank maybe this late summer/early fall (by then the plants should be well established). If I add in shrimp, will they be competing for food/algae?

__

Thanks very much!
 

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I'm using backyard topsoil for my 65 gallon tank, which is now about a month into it's new aquascape. I did a partial job mineralizing it, soaking it twice and allowing it to dry in the limited amount of sun we now get. After that second cycle there was no longer any swamp-like odor to the damp soil. I added a small package of worm castings to get more organic nitrogen in the soil, and used a sprinkling of azomite on the bottom glass under the topsoil. I topped the soil with about 2 inches of black diamond blasting grit. This isn't the Walstad method, but it is a natural topsoil substrate.

I don't like using stones in my tank because of the added work of getting rid of any black brush algae that starts growing on it. When I was using stones, I just washed them good, using near boiling water, and let them dry first. Most of the stones I used I got from a landscape gardening rock supply place for a very, very low price.

The plants you can use depends entirely on how much light you have. The more light you have the more likely you are to run into algae problems. For low light, like you want to use, I suggest using vals, hygrophila polysperma (a noxious weed you can't buy very easily) or some of the other hygrophila, like difforma or corymbosa. Bacopa usually does pretty well too. And, Java Ferns usually do well. A very good place to get plants is the For Sale forum here. Another is Aquabid, although some people haven't had the good luck I have with that site.

First put the substrate in the tank. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the substrate and pour in the water onto that, to avoid too much disturbance of the substrate. Put about 3 inches of water, then set out the plants. Use long tweezers to put the plants in. I poke stems into the substrate down to the bottom of the substrate, and always plant single stems, never bunches. Drag the rooted plants into place with the tweezers, so the roots end covered with substrate. Java ferns have to be planted by tying the rhyzome to a piece of wood or stone, and laying it on the surface of the substrate. Don't bury the rhyzomes in the substrate.

New aquariums have to be allowed time for a colony of bacteria that eat ammonia, converting it to nitrites, and that eat nitrites, converting them to nitrates, to get established. This can take from a couple of weeks to a month or so. Until then it is best to add very few fish, perhaps 10% of the amount you will eventually have in the tank. There are other ways to do this.
 

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My end goal is to raise some catfish and snails and maybe a few tetras in a cheap & low maintenance Walstad tank.
But I'm currently with... a gallon starter container to raise some plants.
To start out, I would read my article on "Small Planted Tanks for Pet Shrimp" on my website (See link below). Keep in mind that plants don't like cold water and it is hard to control heating for a one-gallon tank--unless you keep room housing the tank above 72F.

I like your focus on raising plants. Plants are the basis for a Walstad Tank.

http://www.bookmasters.com/marktplc/00388.htm
 

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Welcome toAPC, fishnewb!

If you go with the Walstad method the abundance of plants will devour the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. I would add a few floating plants, too. They have an advantage over the submersed plants; Since they get CO2 from the air they can absorb the nutrients faster.

As hoppy said, yard soil will be fine. If you can get some soil from an organic garden it would be even better. ;-) If you mineralize it, like hoppy. did, Walstad says you can add fish right away. if you don't, I would wait a month for everything to settle down.

Good luck, and don't forget to share pictures with us!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm using backyard topsoil for my 65 gallon tank, which is now about a month into it's new aquascape. I did a partial job mineralizing it, soaking it twice and allowing it to dry in the limited amount of sun we now get. After that second cycle there was no longer any swamp-like odor to the damp soil. I added a small package of worm castings to get more organic nitrogen in the soil, and used a sprinkling of azomite on the bottom glass under the topsoil. I topped the soil with about 2 inches of black diamond blasting grit. This isn't the Walstad method, but it is a natural topsoil substrate.

I don't like using stones in my tank because of the added work of getting rid of any black brush algae that starts growing on it. When I was using stones, I just washed them good, using near boiling water, and let them dry first. Most of the stones I used I got from a landscape gardening rock supply place for a very, very low price.

The plants you can use depends entirely on how much light you have. The more light you have the more likely you are to run into algae problems. For low light, like you want to use, I suggest using vals, hygrophila polysperma (a noxious weed you can't buy very easily) or some of the other hygrophila, like difforma or corymbosa. Bacopa usually does pretty well too. And, Java Ferns usually do well. A very good place to get plants is the For Sale forum here. Another is Aquabid, although some people haven't had the good luck I have with that site.

First put the substrate in the tank. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the substrate and pour in the water onto that, to avoid too much disturbance of the substrate. Put about 3 inches of water, then set out the plants. Use long tweezers to put the plants in. I poke stems into the substrate down to the bottom of the substrate, and always plant single stems, never bunches. Drag the rooted plants into place with the tweezers, so the roots end covered with substrate. Java ferns have to be planted by tying the rhyzome to a piece of wood or stone, and laying it on the surface of the substrate. Don't bury the rhyzomes in the substrate.

New aquariums have to be allowed time for a colony of bacteria that eat ammonia, converting it to nitrites, and that eat nitrites, converting them to nitrates, to get established. This can take from a couple of weeks to a month or so. Until then it is best to add very few fish, perhaps 10% of the amount you will eventually have in the tank. There are other ways to do this.
Thank you for your reply! I'll start mineralizing my soil right away and I'm glad I don't need to go out of my way for topsoil :)
I'll check out the For Sale forum as you said! I read that plants from members here are top notch quality.

Sounds good, I'll start off on stabilizing the tank first before introducing some snails.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
To start out, I would read my article on "Small Planted Tanks for Pet Shrimp" on my website (See link below). Keep in mind that plants don't like cold water and it is hard to control heating for a one-gallon tank--unless you keep room housing the tank above 72F.

I like your focus on raising plants. Plants are the basis for a Walstad Tank.

http://www.bookmasters.com/marktplc/00388.htm
Thank you for the link! It was a lot of helpful information and I got a clearer sense of how to set up.
I might look into the dry start method for a second tank in the future if this one turns well!
I plan to keep my container/tank near the window above the vent until spring/summer kicks in, then transition to a relatively indirect mid-low light. I'll adjust as necessary and will keep a close eye on the temp!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Welcome toAPC, fishnewb!

If you go with the Walstad method the abundance of plants will devour the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. I would add a few floating plants, too. They have an advantage over the submersed plants; Since they get CO2 from the air they can absorb the nutrients faster.

As hoppy said, yard soil will be fine. If you can get some soil from an organic garden it would be even better. ;-) If you mineralize it, like hoppy. did, Walstad says you can add fish right away. if you don't, I would wait a month for everything to settle down.

Good luck, and don't forget to share pictures with us!
I'll look into some floating plants! I wasn't sure if they would block out the light for the carpet/lower plants, but I do like the idea of having a variety.
I'll most likely let the tank settle and start off slowly though!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Attached some pictures of my materials so far.
The soil is the consistency of pudding currently and waiting for that to dry (color is like coffee grounds but I figure it'll be ok).
Gathered and washed small gravel and I think I'll just need 1 plate!
Collected some rocks and scrubbed the moss off of them and baked at 450 for 40 min, I think it should be alright.
I'll eventually add a mesh wire "lid" of sorts!
I plan to add in a piece of driftwood and some shrimp and snails.

The plant layout is just sketchy so far since I don't know what types I'll be able to find, but with the weather slowly starting to warm (maybe), I think I'll get more luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hello again! It's been about 1 month (3 weeks, somewhere) and I've added 2 trumpet snails, 1 nerite snail, and 8 ghost shrimp to my tank. About 7 of them are pregnant and I'm hoping they can survive into a couple generations! (one of them looks a little close to death but I decided to add em in and observe)
Does anyone have tips for successful ghost shrimp breeding?
 

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To start out, I would read my article on "Small Planted Tanks for Pet Shrimp" on my website (See link below). Keep in mind that plants don't like cold water and it is hard to control heating for a one-gallon tank--unless you keep room housing the tank above 72F.

I like your focus on raising plants. Plants are the basis for a Walstad Tank.

http://www.bookmasters.com/marktplc/00388.htm
Sadly, the Bookmaster's website for my book (via above link) no longer (as of Feb. 2017) hosts the 3 aquarium articles that I wrote, including "Small Planted Tanks for Pet Shrimp."

I am going to set up my own personal website for these 3 articles (plus other stuff on cooking and genealogy). However, it may be a few weeks before I can "design" this new website. Once its active, I will post this information to APC.
 

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Sadly, the Bookmaster's website for my book (via above link) no longer (as of Feb. 2017) hosts the 3 aquarium articles that I wrote, including "Small Planted Tanks for Pet Shrimp."

I am going to set up my own personal website for these 3 articles (plus other stuff on cooking and genealogy). However, it may be a few weeks before I can "design" this new website. Once its active, I will post this information to APC.
It's a bit of a hack, but the Internet Wayback machine is useful for this sort of thing:

http://web.archive.org/web/20161221154712/http://www.bookmasters.com/marktplc/00388Shrimp.pdf

http://web.archive.org/web/20161010081316/http://www.bookmasters.com/marktplc/00388.htm
 

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Nice play, CincyBrian, for both the links and the Wayback reference. I'm sure Mr. Peabody would appreciate it. I sherman did, myself. ; -)

And welcome to APC!
 

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Fishnewbe, it looks like you are off to a good start. You might be a little overstocked on ghost shrimp. The container is too small for catfish.

Cincy, nice save! And Diana, when you get your new website up, please make a BIG announcement here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hey everyone! Here to give updates.
The shrimp have almost all dropped their eggs but the fry died off in a few days. I did a lot of reading up on keeping them alive and unfortunately, didn't have the time to have another tank established for them...
But the adults are doing great! I'm a little worried my plants are growing too fast! (I have a forest blooming!) I'll be setting up a bigger tank in about 2 weeks so I can move some of my shrimp over and have a larger home for future catfish. Currently the 7 shrimp and 3 snails have been doing well but as Michael said, I think it's a little cramped quarters for the shrimp.
Thanks Cindy for the links! I'll be using those as reference again!

I hope to experiment with different types of plants for the bigger tank and a few more rocks as well. Since spring is around the corner, I'm looking forward to the bigger selections at the pet store!
 
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