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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all, been into tanks for decades now and on a different planted tank forum for years and recently found this forum that seemed more equiped to assist in my current delima.

I finally got a Fluval Spec III this May and got everything set up for a betta tank.
Four months later im at a crossroads between turning high tech with a paintball co2 set up or trying a variation of the Wastlad method.

Current tank specs
  • Stock Fluval filter and pump
  • Purigen bag in filter
  • Eheim Jagee 25watt heater
  • Micros- 1/64 mon thurs
  • KNO3- 1/16 tues fri
  • KH2PO4- 1/64 tues fri
  • Enhance liquid carbon . .3ml at arounfd 8:30 am
  • Lights on a kasa timer. On at 9am off at 1pm on at 3pm off at 7:30 pm.
  • 50%water changes on sunday

Tank Residents
  • Betta (Captian Pan)
  • Mystery Snail (Plum)
  • Netrite Snail (Hypno)

Flora
-Buce: Kappas, Sylvia and a third
  • Ctypt. Nurii phang mutated
  • Crypt. Green gecko
  • Crypt. Wendttii bronze
  • Rotala H'ra
  • Hydrocotyle Trip. Japan.
  • Star Grass
  • Sty. Repens
  • Pearl weed
  • staurogyne porta velho
  • Java fern

So part of the reason im having this debate is because of issues im having. The biggest issue really being the drastically differnt plant growth on the right vs left sides of the tank.
I can go into more detial if needed.
When this began to happen i immediayly began to think i was lacking in co2 for the lighting on the tank. Hense the research into a paintball co2 setup.

I wanted this tank to be middle ground. Not low tech but not high tech but clearly something is off.
I did not really want to go high tech on this nanao but i also did not want go fo the Walstad method on a established tank and have to deal with soil.

Then i found a article in Aquarium Hobbyist Magazine 2nd quater 2021 volume 5 where Paula Castro wrote a article about a walstad bowl she had and used Seachems Flourite Black as substrate. I liked the look of her bowl and wanted to see if i could adapt some of the Wastald methods into my betts tank with out having to loose plant varity or color variation.

I used a CaribSea rio grande substrate because i liked the look. Now im wondering if i should swap substrate but i had been told that the substrates with additives for plants were useless because once the nutrients, that i was told only last about 6 months, were used from them they were no different then any other substrate.

Another issue is if i need a stronger light. A post on the Planted Tank rated the new Fluval spec light at 60-70 PAR at substrate. If thats the case them why do my stem plants cral out on me on the left side of the tank.
Hopefully someone can make sense of this rambling and give some suggestions for which direction i should take or changes improve the health of the plants and overall eycosystem in the tank.
Heres a pic of the current set up which o despise right now most everything had been shoved into the right side of the tank.
73875

The crypts and buce all do very well.
The trip. Japan is doing poorly as well as the pearl weed. I had ludwigia x lacustris, it was the first victium of the left side of the tank.
If i need to clarify or add more pics i will.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
It's not the lights. Why are you doing 50% water changes every week (has the tank cycled?) You have no soil to speak of. Very little livestock. And you're emptying whatever nutrients that are left down the drain every week. Try planting something in a tiny container of soil and cap it with a tiny bit of gravel and place it in the bare corner and compare the growth. Trader Joe's sells a brand of k-cups that would do nicely in a betta tank.
The tank is fully cycled only took about 3 weeks for a fishless cycle when i set it up.

Im doing 30%-50% water changes because in my research and experence in the hobby thats just what you do. Espically when your doseing ferts in the EI method. It what i had read and what i had been told by other experienced hobbyist.

My understanding was that my light and limited co2 do not allow for optiomal plant growth. So the plants only use x% of ferts/nutriants do water changes on weekends to remove excess which wpuld not be used and posdibly lead to toxic build up trace elements and alage growth.

Also i tend to overfees my fish which i know is esswntally a capital offence in the fish keeping world.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Welcome to APC!

Your first decision is whether to use CO2 or not. CO2 means high light and artificial fertilization. If you don't want to do that, then do a Walstad tank with soil substrate. Johnwesley's suggestion of a small pot or tray with some soil is a way to test the idea. Put one of your crypts in it.

If you want to go "full Walstad" you could use your Carib Sea as the cap over soil. Take out the Purigen, it is removing the nutrients.

The left side of the tank seems to have very shallow substrate. That might be part of the problem. And the light may not be distributed evenly over both sides of the tank. I have no idea how the lights are set up on the Spec. If they do truly produce 60-70 PAR, that is PLENTY of light.
Thanks for the welcome
So even doseing .3ml liquid carbon would a no in a Walstad tank?
And the artical about using the Seachem Flourite would not work in walstad tank, only soil?
Ive been as skittish about attempting soil in a tank as i have been upgrading to presdurized co2. Ive never done eather just researched and read the countless horror stories and complacations that come with both options.

I will try the pot phang mutated crypt its the slowest growing of the crypts i have.

Heres the link for the PAR reading on the lights. If that reading accurate then i should be having no issues in reguards to lighting. Which is why the differences on both sides of that tank were so confusing.
The right side of the tank faces the window by thats on the other side of the room. I could measure the exact distance but i dont think its enough to so drastically effect the plant growth.
Thanks for all the suggestions
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Are you actually tracking your water's nitrogen parameters (i.e., testing it?)
Yes of course. The great importance of water testing was drilled into my head before i even touched planted tanks.
I have a calibrated API masterkit along with gh/kh i test weekly and keep track.
My ammqonia and nitrite are always 0ppm and my nitrate is usually ranges from 15-25 on sundays.
If it tests out close to or over 20
i do the water change.
I can get the rest of my water paramaters if needed.
I am probably still on a bit of a learning curve, all my initial knoelwdge on water paramaters was for plantless tanks and that nitrate 20ppm or over warrented water changes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That article has several misconceptions. First, if the bowl doesn't have soil under the Flourite, it isn't the Walstad method. Soil is an integral component. Second, the reason the water parameters are so good is because there are plenty of healthy, growing plants. Yes, beneficial bacteria have colonized the Flourite, but it is the plants that are doing the work. Third, in the Walstad method we feed generously. Fish food supplies the necessary nutrients for plant growth.

The author says she "devoured" Ecology of the Planted Aquarium but apparently she did not digest it.
Good to know.
Im am intreasted in trying soil it seems to be more along thr lines of what i wanted in a tank. I just still cant wrap my head around the no co2 as ive always been told the inhabitants of a tank will never produce enough co2 for healthy plant growth.
I need to go pick the book so i can read this all for my self.

Im just very cocerned about attempting it with my betta. Im assuming i would have to empty the tank remove everything temporarly. Have a sutiable potting soil picked out and do the initial tests of how the soil could change the water chemestry to hopefully avoid some of the horror stories ive read about when people switch to soil.
I have to take a hard look at my current plants and hardscape because its my understanding that once planted ypu do not touch/move/distrube the substrate.
How would this work with crypts if i wanted to remove a baby plant etc?
Would my tank go through another cycle? I wouldnt touch the filter and i removed Purigen i was told it would act simular to the biological lay media thats in my Eheim canister filter. I should just stuck some of those in a mesh bag to fit on the empty filter slot as had been my origional plan.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks. That was helpful. You're in the same position I was about eight months ago - and still am, to a certain extent. I, too decided to start a Walstad tank, or at least adopt/adapt some of its techniques to a tank that had already been set up to hold a minimal number of fish and plants. I didn't even have a decent light fixture until last May!

But, like your betta tank, my somewhat larger bowl always had decent parameters: 0 ppm for ammonia and nitrites and seldom more than 20 ppm or nitrates. The nitrate level is pesky even though it is the least toxic of the three nitrogen bi-products we normally test for (I sometimes wish API had a way of differentiating between harmful ammonia and less harmful ammonium - but, that's another story!)

In an ideal world we would all have ways to magically move our fish to another tank while we make the transition to full blown Walstad because the key, of course, is that you should have so many rapidly growing plants with enough rapidly growing roots that they

1) become the dominant source of ammonia/ammonium predation,

and,

2) are able to aerate the highly organic soil enough to prevent it from becoming anaerobic.

But, it doesn't always work out that way. Your plants need a certain amount of nutrients in order to stay healthy and, if they are constantly competing with beneficial bacteria (which gained control back when we cycled our tanks) for ammonia - which is their preferred food source - then, you have to allow them a decent supply of nitrates to tide them over.

I've done pretty well with 20% water changes every two weeks and a fairly constant level of 20ppm for nitrates.

And, though you haven't mentioned it, I'd also advise against vacuuming the gravel. With one fish - and even with overfeeding - you're not in any great danger of poisoning your livestock.
Thanks for the suggestions. Good to know someone else has had a simular situtation to mine. When i brought my delima up to people about which directiom to take my tank ive basically been told "you should have thought of this before you set it up" or "well it too late now" as though they were never decided to make changes to a tank.

I have a lot research and prep before i make a final move. Housing my betta and snails while i get things situtated will be a hurdle.
Would the dwarf hair grass Belem DHG Eleocarius mini work? I know hairhrass is popular and this tank needs some sort of continunity to it.
Ill have to really revise my plant list. Right now i was just trying a bunch of things and the java fern, pond weed, greeb gecko and one of the repens were all extras that came with my plant orders.

As far a vaccuming gravel goes i dont.
I have the tubing from the smallest siphon from my LFS and i use a turkey baster to somewhat disturb the plant matter that sits on top of the substrate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
So i think i have a bit of plan forming.
I have another small table in my room that I could fit a small tank on or im hopeing a punch bowl. Ill attempt the Walstad method from the very start in what i will call my experiment bowl and get my hands on the book so i can have a better understanding of how to procede.
If all goes well i can move my betta and snails from the spec and begin the transirion in that tank as well.
The only issue i see currently is that the location does not receive much natural light. Light from my windows is mostly blocked by a tall dresser.
I was looking at Chihros lights but will have to revulate that once i have the punch bowl picked out.
I have some questions in reguards to soil and compost but imm head over to the soil thread about those.
If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions on this new plan of action or plants that would be good to try ied appreciate it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I grew a red tiger lotus (not an easy plant for beginners) from a sprout until it had two lily pads with just this:
Top Fin® Flexible Nano Aquarium LED Light | fish Lights | PetSmart
Wow color me impressed Tiger Lotus is tricky and i would not have thought a light like that could pull it off. Ive wanted to try a dwarf varity, maybe i can make it a centet piece for the experimenr tank.
Ill check out that light the price tag is cerntly a mark in its consideration.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Just order Diana's book from her website, so on the right track. Gonna keep my eyes out for another 3 gallon tank or bowl of some sort. I need the book figure out if im going to filter this tank/bowl.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Good move. And, just to tide you over until it arrives, the articles on DW's website are free and full of lots of information, Scroll down until you get to the list (the first three, colored in green are especially pertinent:)
Planted Aquariums – Diana Walstad's Books and Articles

HTH
Thanks ive already started reading through the first link. Also got a bucket of compost soaking so step one is underway. Now i just have to hope tjmaxx or home goods has a decent bunch bowl lol.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Try some thrift stores or garage sales, that's where most of my glass bowls and vases came from.
Ive checking both those out as well, along with estate sales but you know how it goes, as soon as i went out to find one their were none to be found 😬. So thats why ive expanded my search to some stores as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
So i almost have the soil ready for the tank im going to pick up one of the bowls from micheals the largest size.
I was looking for a light as well had the one from petsmart thag someone already reced but was also considering one of these
Now im not sure which wattage to use im too used to figuring all lighting in PAR now.
This is the dimensions of the bowl according to their website 12" (30.48 cm) bowl is 12" diameter x 9.5" tall (30.48cm x 24.13cm), with 9.125" (23.17cm) diameter opening so im not sure how many actual gallond it is.
If someone can give me some suggestions that would be great.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
It depends on the size and shape of the bowl. At 9.5" inches high, the bowl's water surface would be a full 10 inches away from the light's beam, maybe more (if, you don't fill the bowl all the way up!) And, 450 lumens is not all that bright to begin with. A clip on light can get much closer and the light would be more concentrated..
Good to know thats what i kind of figured, im used to figuring things out in PAR. I already started looking at clip on light instead. I still have the that topfin light saved as a possibility, maybe ill just go with that. Im just always cocerned about longjevity when it comes to lights and topfin has always been in my experience a iffy beand quality wise.
Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Yes, no one seems to swear by that brand. But, this is just an experimental bowl, right? Are fish going to go in there?
Uhhhhh yes i will most likely end up sticking a betta in this bowl or perhaps shrimp eventually. It is a expermential bowl but the intent is for it to be successful so i can temporally move my betta from my spec III into it while i convert the spec to soil as well then move my betta back to the spec.
So yes it will have fish lol
Ill keep looking im sure i can find something decent thats not $80 lol. Ied be fine with spending $30 or so ive just never had never had good experience with top fin😑
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
I just started looking again at clip on light prices....... most of are $80 😅😅😩
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
Yeah, I'm thinking for that amount of money you buy a whole new nano tank.
Yah thats what my thoughts are....... even though i was really hopeing to avoid spending that kind of money... 😩
In Diana's book their was that section on lighting that talked about bow plants use tge green/yellow light more so that could give me the option for a desk lamp and regular cool white led bulb. Even with that though ied probably be looking at $40-50 before i even througb in a heater.
Or i can go all in one again and pick up a whole new nano tank.......
Soooo...... anyone selling a old nano tank...😅😅 or have a suggestion thats slightly more affordable
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
It's possible we're both overthinking this. By "experimental", you mean you won't be using this setup on a permanent basis. You want a place where you can deal with a big nutrient dump while you kick-start some rapid growth among your rooted plants. It could take a few days or it could take a few weeks for all of that nitrogen to reach a level safe enough for aquatic animals. Then, you want to move your betta to that setup while you repeat the process in its vacated nano tank. Am I reading you correctly?

In a sense, every tank is an experiment; something's going to be different no matter how many previous tanks you may have set up. I would be asking myself whether it's really necessary to go through this process twice in two separate tanks?
Yah thats exactly what i had planned to do. I wouldnt be surprised if i was overthinking this im notirious for overthinking combined with massive amounts of research.

I just had no clue what to do with my resident betta while i try to shift the Spec over to soil. I cerently dont want anything to go wrong that i kill him. I mean the tank is about 4 monthe old and is cycled......

So thats why i started the idea of another tank that would be soil from the very start and then move him to that tank and repeat process on spec... and its just clearly snowballed....😑
So i either figure out how i can saftly transition my spec with betta to soil tank and then tackle an additional tank at a later date or figure out a cheap option for a whole new tank right now....
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Or, just temporarily transfer your betta to a low tech bowl without soil or plants while you get the spec up to speed.
Ive never done this before. Would i just take water from his current tank and put it in a small bowl? How long can i saftly keep him that way. I mean i know they hang out in bowls like that all the time in the petstores.
But it would give me more time to think about another tank and possibly wait for black friday deals lol 🙃
 

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Discussion Starter · #41 ·
People add soil to the tank simply to add nutrients the plants need. However you are adding fertilizer. The fertilizer should take care of nutrients unless there is a problem We all would like to assume that all fertilizers on the market will provide all the nutrients plants need. Unfortunately the reality is the most don't

For EI dosing Everyone doses NPK for macros Unfortunately NPK are not the only macros. The full list of macros is N, K, Ca, MG, P, S, Most people don't worry about calcium and magneisum and sulfur simply because most of the time tap water it. But that isn't always the case. And if you are using RO water your tank would definitely be deficient in these.

You should monitor your GH level with a GH test kit. The GH test detects only calcium and magnesium. So it could tell you if you have ea lot or very little. But note it doesn't tell you if your water has only calcium or only magnesium. If possible look up your water utility water quality report. It might list the typical values for Ca and Mg in your water.Or you could get a GH booster from the store and boost your GH to see if it helps. Seachem Equilibrium has Ca, Mg, and S and would satisfy that need. Or you can make your own.

For the EI micros most people use CSM+B. Everyone assumes it takes care of all of the macro needs but again it has some of problems:
  • The big issue is that the iron nutrient in it is Iron EDTA. Iron EDTA is only stable at a PH of 6.5 or less. Ifyour PH is above that level the iron will convert to iron oxide which is unusable by plants.
  • It doesn't contain enough zinc to satisfy the needs of the plants.
  • And you are using RO water it doesn't have chlorine. Yes Chlorine is a nutrient but plants can't use it in it's toxic and corrosive gas form. Plants typically get it from safe chloride salts such as calcium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, or magnesium chloride. Tap water is typically sterilized with chlorine. And even after using a water conditioner the chlorine is still pressent in the form of chloride salts the plants can use.
For most successful EI tanks enough CO2 is added to keep the PH in the low 6 to 6.5 range. which does help prevent iron loss. But the easier solution is to use a form of iron that is stable at your water PH. One of the best iron nutrients for aquariums is Iron DTPA. It is stable at a ph of 7.5 or less but may be usable up to about 8. Iron gluconate is easy to find (Seachem iron uses it) and PH has no effect on it. but it is best used in frequent small doses because bacteria will consume the gluconate and destroy it. The last choice is iron EDHHA with is stable at a PH of about 10 or less. However this for of iron does color the water red. so it is best used in small amounts when the color might not be noticeable. At a dose of 0.03ppm the color might not be noticalble.

GLA now sells a upgraded CSM+B iron mix that now does incorporate iron DTPA and additional zinc.IF you are using tapster you shouldn't have to worry about Chlorine as long as you do weekly water changes.

As to liquid carbon I never saw anything indicating it helped my plants and in fact it is toxic to some. If you have a paint ball tank You could use the inverted bottle methode to get CO2 into your water. This video shows it. It is much more efficient at getting CO2 into the water and you cannot put too much into your tank which can kill fish. Note drop checkers don't work at the low CO2 level this methode provides in the tank. But dispite that my plant still do pearl slowly.

Also note I only dose macros and micros once a week right after a 50% water change in my 5 gallon srimp tank. i think the the every other day recommendation for micro dosing was done due torn losses and the low level is zinc in regular EI micro mixes. Also I don't use bright light.

If any of the issues I have mentioned apply to your tank mixing them should help your plants without the need of adding soil to your tank.
Intreasting info but i think your missing the point a bit on why i or other people go to dirtied tanks. I started exploring this method because i didnt want to drop a couple hundred on a co2 setup. People add dirt to tanks in order to create and explore a more natural ecosystem within their tanks, which is what i want. Dianas book is a absolute monster to get through but is very imformative for anyone who actually wants to learn the why and how behind the functions and ecology of a at home aquarium. I dont want to have to micro manage my aquariums because i essentially cut out the the natural functions in favor of added mechanics. Its not to say that i at some point wont try a full co2 setup with the ferts etc, but right now i dont have the space or ability to affored all those addatives.
 
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