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Hi natural scapers,

I passed up just the other week on the opportunity of trying the Walstad approach when re-scaping a small 2.5G tank because I didn‘t know about it. So, no soil but gravel, heavily planted nevertheless, ferts when needed. Just yesterday I incorporated her siesta lighting regime when reading about it on this forum. Keen on reading her book asap.

I‘m not going to tear down the current setup, but for future reference I would like to ask the following question:

Does the Walstad approach suggest a successful tank is suitable for a higher number of fish (just in theory; I am aware that factors other than ammonia toxicity might stress the fish) or do naturalists keep to the one inch of fish per gallon rule?

By the way, I am not planning on keeping fish in my „bowl“. I got a nerite for housekeeping and she has survived my care for 2 1/2 years and seems to keep going strong (judging it by the amount and frequency her eggs appear everywhere) :D

So long.
 

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Do people follow the inch per gallon rule? I am still a relative newbie, but I thought that had been deemed fairly inaccurate...but I could be incorrect.

People tend to stock Walstad's a bit on the heavy side. Assuming you have a heavily planted tank, the plants are able to handle the higher bioload, and the extra waste actually helps contribute back to substrate nutrients.

It's probably still best to add things slowly, and watch the parameters as you increase the bioload.
 

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Well, I‘m not sure if it‘s just a myth that has been busted. I thought as a general rule of thumb it‘s still taught in books or on forums.

If people successfully stock Walstads with a higher ratio, I‘d like to hear from them. Again, I‘m aware there are more factors why fish could fall sick and decease or just don‘t thrive.

What are typical fish keeping mistakes in a Walstad tank?
 

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Thought experiment:

Do six one inch guppies put the system under the same strain as a single six inch oscar? That's how I like to think about it.

I have found, for myself, in my personal opinion, my experience and my practice, that my Walstad aquaria do very well with slight overstocking but with very light daily feedings. Carbon is less limited and I've yet to encounter nutrient deficiencies and most importantly, the animals are (were. Thanks Winter Storm of 15 February, 2021!) healthy & active and engaged in breeding.

I really can't give you a guideline because everything I know and do is more intuited by my experiences.

What I believe, to answer your main question, are typical mistakes are underplanting, no siesta period, understocking and overfeeding. I also think, contrary to common practice, is that more laminar flow is better for avoidance of diatoms & cyanobacteria and the health of riverine species. Not a blast of water, just enough to make 80% or more of your taller plants sway ever so gently in the current. Also seems to keep them tidier.

Just my .02 dollars.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for your $ :D

In terms of bio load, that nerite of mine easily counts as a swarm of fish :D

I already implemented the siesta period in my lighting schedule, Walstad or not. :) It just makes sense by what was posted in terms of CO2 recuperation. It could be a coincidence, but my new plants added 9 days ago stopped melting, it seems. :)
 

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If people successfully stock Walstads with a higher ratio, I'd like to hear from them.
In my 6.5g I currently have 6 lambchop rasboras (1" each) and a betta (2/2.5"). Also around 6 shrimp and a ton of snails. I don't measure my parameters regularly anymore, but when I did, ammonia was always 0. They are all healthy and active. The only thing I'd worry about in my case is the rasboras needing horizontal swim space, but I decided it was okay since it's a very long, narrow tank. I pretty heavily feed twice a day.
 

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Hi natural scapers,

I passed up just the other week on the opportunity of trying the Walstad approach when re-scaping a small 2.5G tank because I didn't know about it. So, no soil but gravel, heavily planted nevertheless, ferts when needed. Just yesterday I incorporated her siesta lighting regime when reading about it on this forum. Keen on reading her book asap.

I'm not going to tear down the current setup, but for future reference I would like to ask the following question:

Does the Walstad approach suggest a successful tank is suitable for a higher number of fish (just in theory; I am aware that factors other than ammonia toxicity might stress the fish) or do naturalists keep to the one inch of fish per gallon rule?

By the way, I am not planning on keeping fish in my „bowl". I got a nerite for housekeeping and she has survived my care for 2 1/2 years and seems to keep going strong (judging it by the amount and frequency her eggs appear everywhere) :D

So long.
An El Natural tank shouldn't be more stocked than any other fish tank. That being said, the one fish per gallon of water rule doesn't apply in any type of fish tank for several reasons. For one, it doesn't account for larger fish (like an oscar as someone else mentioned). Also, it's just wrong. lol.

The correct ratio is 1" length of a small average fish per 12 square inches of surface area. For deeper bodied fish like angels or discuss the ratio should be 1" of fish length per 20 square inches of surface area. I've never stocked much above this in my any of my tanks, El Natural or otherwise.
 

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That 1" inch per 12sq." of surface area of water formula has been around since the Eisenhower administration and IIRC it presumed no mechanical filtration and was based on the idea that most of the tank's dissolved gases, including O2 and CO2 were being exchanged at the surface of the water. Nowadays, with widespread access to home testing, we know it is much more complicated than that. IMO, a well-planted tank has a lot of things that would have to go wrong before lack of oxygen ever became an issue. Chief among them is the possibility of too much ammonia. Ammonia is also a danger but it is produced from fish and plant waste within the tank itself. IMO, more fish have probably died over the years because a tank's nitrogen cycle crashed than ever died from lack of oxygen. So, the real question is: How often do you want to change your tank's water? There are people on this forum who do partial water changes every day of the week. Others can go for months with just topping evaporated water. It depends on your water's parameters.
 

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Hello, welcome to the forums!

You can consider the fish per gallon thing only a starting point. I’d go slowly as Jatcar95 suggested. Introduce fish, measure ammonia and watch their behavior, as I guess you imply.

I’ve had aggression due to overstocking, despite measurements, water clarity and plant growth being fine. In a newer tank, I had cloudy water, despite plant growth, livestock behavior and measurements being fine. So, I conclude it is necessary to change things slowly and take care of how the ecosystem balances.

Regarding the main points in a walstad tank I’d say:
  • Choice of plants: the fast growers clean your water, the slow growers (cryptocorynes etc) take care of your substrate. So, if you don’t have enough fast growers, livestock could have a lower maximum limit. How much is too much? My thoughts mentioned above.
  • Plant survival: not every plant will do well in your tank. It sucks, but it is a fact that you’ll have to live with. Flip side: huge amount of plant choices, diversity is easy to achieve.
  • Plant competition: I am forming the impression that the fastest growing plants, leave little nutrients behind for the rest, so depending on how much of which type we have, this could also affect how some plants grow. Not sure about this, I would gladly be corrected. Diana Walstad has a chapter about allelopathy in her book, it might be the answer to this idea.
  • Buy plant tools: No need for expensive branded ones, just make sure they are stainless steel. Never pull up a plant to unroot it, you’ll make a huge mess. Never pull leaves or stems or anything with your hands or tweezers, use the scissors.

The last chapter in the book has a quick summary of the principles and main points, like no gravel vacuuming plus more that you should keep in mind. Starting with these, I can’t think of anything else that could be a real problem.
 

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I think it also depends on the tank shape. I have a 6-gallon that‘s 24 inches long with lots of swimming space (for a nano tank). It will hold more fish than my tall narrow 5-gallon even though the amount of water is close. In fact, I’m not sure I’ll have anything but invertebrates in the five.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for the welcome! My other message I posted earlier this morning must have coincided with the update and seems to be lost.

By chance I found a 9 months old thread that discussed the same topic, and Mrs. Walstad even had chimed in there confirming she once had a heavily overstocked tank.

While I believe ”one inch per gallon“ is a rule of thumb that, when followed, will play it safe, I can see where a successful tank could have a bit more fish in it if it contributes to a species overall happiness (let there be 7 danios schooling fish rather than just bare minimum 5, etc.)

My current setup really isn‘t suited for any fish. Heavily planted but only 10 liters/2.5 G. Unless there are micro fish that thrive under these conditions, this is more of an experimental tank for me to see which plants thrive in my water, under my light, and under my care.

I might transfer the whole setup at some point to a 5 or 10 gallon tank, but this is after I am sure what works for me best.

The snail has been a success so far. No starving and surviving various degrees of tank neglect in the past 2 1/2 years.
 

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Yes, a 10 litre tank can help you conclude which plants do best and give you stock for a larger tank when you decide to build a larger one. In a similar volume (15L tank approx 12L net volume) I have a platy, a nerite, three amanos, and probably one (I'm afraid not two) rcs. Densely planted + floating plants do the job nicely.
 

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There is a great post and discussion about this if you search the "El Natural" forum. Essentially, it is possible (overstocking)... but it depends a lot on the amount of successful plants growing, the age of the tank, and water parameters.

What I concluded was that it is possible, but has to be done with careful consideration and monitoring.

I encourage you to search older posts about it, and I can spend a few minutes trying to find the link as well. It was from a member who was breeding Endlers in the tank (if my memory serves me correctly). I may have searched "fish load," "bio load," or "stocking." Can't remember exactly.
 

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I think you are talking about mysiak's tanks. Perhaps this one?

 

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A few years ago I tried to make a better rule than one inch per gallon, and had to give up. But, if you wanted to do it, it is obvious that you would use mass of each fish (or volume), not length. And, possibly, area of the top of the tank instead of volume. That is why a 6 inch long fish is not the same as 6 one inch long fish. If my brain was still functioning as it once did I would tackle the volume of fish vs surface area of the tank. Wouldn't that be a fun project?
 

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That 1" inch per 12sq." of surface area of water formula has been around since the Eisenhower administration and IIRC it presumed no mechanical filtration and was based on the idea that most of the tank's dissolved gases, including O2 and CO2 were being exchanged at the surface of the water. Nowadays, with widespread access to home testing, we know it is much more complicated than that. IMO, a well-planted tank has a lot of things that would have to go wrong before lack of oxygen ever became an issue. Chief among them is the possibility of too much ammonia. Ammonia is also a danger but it is produced from fish and plant waste within the tank itself. IMO, more fish have probably died over the years because a tank's nitrogen cycle crashed than ever died from lack of oxygen. So, the real question is: How often do you want to change your tank's water? There are people on this forum who do partial water changes every day of the week. Others can go for months with just topping evaporated water. It depends on your water's parameters.
Funny, I would say that the 1" per gallon was also around since his administration, but you do bring up an interesting point. But the fact remains that a 10" oscar is not going to be happy in a 10 gallon tank, no matter how many water changes you make to keep ammonia down. Both the 1" per 12 square inches and the 1" per gallon are just starting points. One needs to consider the needs of the actual fish as well. Bottom line: There is no hard and fast rule. Best we can really say is "It depends..." lol
 

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Funny, I would say that the 1" per gallon was also around since his administration, but you do bring up an interesting point. But the fact remains that a 10" oscar is not going to be happy in a 10 gallon tank, no matter how many water changes you make to keep ammonia down. Both the 1" per 12 square inches and the 1" per gallon are just starting points. One needs to consider the needs of the actual fish as well. Bottom line: There is no hard and fast rule. Best we can really say is "It depends..." lol
1 inch per gallon rule works fine with small fish, but not with big fish. There have been studies in food fish industry on the relative mass of fish versus length. I recall the relative mass is species dependent but roughly proportional to the square of the length. If we assume square of the length is the relative mass, then a root mean square length per gallon would be a better representation of the 1 inch rule.

Here is how to calculate RMS length per gallon using a spreadsheet:

Square the length of each fish, tally the sum, divide the sum by the number of gallons, and then take a square root. For the 10" Oscar in a 10 gal example, the RMS length will be 3.162.
 

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1 inch per gallon rule works fine with small fish, but not with big fish. There have been studies in food fish industry on the relative mass of fish versus length. I recall the relative mass is species dependent but roughly proportional to the square of the length. If we assume square of the length is the relative mass, then a root mean square length per gallon would be a better representation of the 1 inch rule.

Here is how to calculate RMS length per gallon using a spreadsheet:

Square the length of each fish, tally the sum, divide the sum by the number of gallons, and then take a square root. For the 10" Oscar in a 10 gal example, the RMS length will be 3.162.
What?
 

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I think you are talking about mysiak's tanks. Perhaps this one?

Yes! Thank you! I looked and couldn’t pin it down. I wanted to review it again anyway.
The above linked thread is a great discussion on this topic.
 

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Overcrowed tanks can be overcome with more filtration.
If you're concerned with swimming space, it's obvious. Big fish need big tanks to swim around.
 
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