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Penn Plax Curved Corner Glass Aquarium Kit, nominal 3.4 G, Planted "El Natural"
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First, I’d like to recognize “Foo the Flowerhorn” for introducing me to the wonderful world of Diana Walstad’s “El Natural.” Watching YouTube’s Foo’s videos and his careful and thorough information led me to buy Diana’s book and embarking in this absolutely crazy and most enjoyable project.

The tank: Penn Plax Curved Corner Glass Aquarium Kit, nominal 3.4 G, and a hang-on back mini Azoo filter, which so far has been good in self-priming.
Substrate: 1 inch plus of Organic Choice, which I screened twice (!) and left it seating around for a couple of weeks while I was busy doing some other stuff. As it turned out, and in reading this forum, I discovered why airing the soil has helped me to keep Ammonia under wraps! Then added about 1 inch of 3mm gravel.

Salvaging the Tank: Early on I decided to add a “beachy” area covered with a Imagitatium White Aquatic Substrate (?) which promptly shot up my pH all the way to 8.8! So, to salvage the tank, I drained the tank and spooned out the white stuff and refilled with gravel. Still, as it can be seen in some of the pictures, there is some stuff left behind. Lesson learned!

The “Cave” is in fact two pieces of Lava Rock. I chose lava to provide nooks and crannies for my inverts, anchoring area for plants, and room for bacteria to grow. The “Cave” is mounted on three Plexiglas “stilts” to avoid seating on top of the substrate or be swallowed by it! This way it also provides continuity to the soil and cover.

Plants: Anubias, Eleocharis, Rotala, Ludwigia, Hornwort, all doing great, and seemed well established and growing fast. Both Rotala and Ludwigia have emerged and required trimming. Bacopa took a while to settle, with a lot of melting, but now – after a thorough clean up by my crew – is growing in good shape. Buce Coin Leaf is taking its own time but is coming along. Then Frogbit, which is doing great and growing fast! Eleocharis, however, has stalled (but it is not melting) but at any rate, it is not growing fast as I’d like. Perhaps is lighting, substrate, allopathy, or all of the above. But I’d hate to pull them out and disturbing the substrate. I added two Cattapa leaves that after being quickly inspected by the crew, have been totally ignored.

Water: Because I am on well-water, I am using Distilled Water re-mineralized with Salty Shrimp+, and supplemented with Diana Walstad’s recipe, CaCl2, MgSO4, and ClK, to TDS 123, and dKH 3, pH 7.3.

Light: After initial planting 12 hours on, right now on a siesta set up. Ten Watt Sansi Grow Light Full Spectrum, set on a desk lamp about 10” from water surface. The tank has a plastic cover (with the usual condensation), and all plants seem happy with the current setup. Lights are on for 10 hours per day with a 3-hour siesta.

Filter: Runs on the same old-fashioned timer as the light, and only is used for mechanical filtering and for water movement. So, when lights are off, everything quiets down.
Temperature: 23.5C ~25.0C, (25w heater, and an external controller)
Current water parameters:
  • Ammonia: Neg (Seachem)
  • Ammonium: Neg (Seachem)
  • Nitrite: Neg (API)
  • Nitrate: Neg/Traces (API)
  • TDS: 123
  • dKH: 3 (Sera)
  • pH: 7.3 (Wet bulb, Apera) The tank has settled itself to 7.2~7.4.
The Crew: Two Amano, two small Nerite, and eleven Red Cherry Shrimp. They are all happily doing their own thing!

My Guest of Honor: Wilson, a male Honey Gourami, just about 1 inch in length. Since placing in the tank, has been very curious and exploring everything. All the shrimp came out in force to inspect the Gourami. Right now they ignore -- or avoid? -- each other.

One final comment: Since the very beginning I had never detected any Ammonia. Nitrites and Nitrates are not detectable now or, perhaps, traces by the API test. If I disturb the substrate (as in trimming and re-planting), Ammonium rises a little bit, but then it goes down back to traces.

Right now, I am finding myself a little antsy to trust the tank and fretting perhaps too much about the numbers! I kind of imagine Wilson is feeling like a patient in the hospital having nurses hovering and fussing about every few hours… Eventually, hopefully soon enough, I will be off Wilson’s back!

Thank you, Diana, and thank you all!

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3 gallons seems too small for a honey gourami, also they can be very predatory to shrimp IME. but the tank looks nice. Have you thought of like going to river banks and things and collecting scuds, leaf liter, random plants and things? The odds of finding some kind of super virus are next to none. If fish are in the river then theee wouldn’t be anything wrong with stuff inside the river. I am planning on doing this to naturalize both of my tanks.
 

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Penn Plax Curved Corner Glass Aquarium Kit, nominal 3.4 G, Planted "El Natural"
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I wonder if there is a "proper" way to trim Ludwigia and Rotala? Cut the tops and replant? Rotala has emersed with nice purple flowers, and Ludwigia keeps growing and is ready to emerse. In the context of my small tank, is there any benefit with keeping them trimmed as fully submersed, or let then grow emersed? And, if emersed, do they need something (an "arbor"?) to lean to, or will they sprung up like Jack's beanstalk?
 

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I would just let them grow. They will stop growing vertically once they get too little humidity.
 

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You are just running a pure walstad setup right? No co2 no ferts? I want to try making a tank like this. Do you know if I can use a warm light like 4500k lightbulb (3 of them) 60w or 180w I forgot incandescent equivalent led on a 10g? I can show a pic.
 

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Penn Plax Curved Corner Glass Aquarium Kit, nominal 3.4 G, Planted "El Natural"
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
You are just running a pure walstad setup right? No co2 no ferts? I want to try making a tank like this. Do you know if I can use a warm light like 4500k lightbulb (3 of them) 60w or 180w I forgot incandescent equivalent led on a 10g? I can show a pic.
IMO, the only way to put together a natural planted tank is to follow the instructions to a "T." Then, once you gain experience, you may be able to tweak or make changes, or try different things at your own time and expense! Diana Walstad's book has an excellent section on lighting for the planted aquarium.
 

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Penn Plax Curved Corner Glass Aquarium Kit, nominal 3.4 G, Planted "El Natural"
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
How many lumens is your light?
It is 900 lumens. But what it is most important is how much useful light for plants is available at substrate level measured in umols per second, and for the aquarium area, umols per second per sq meter. Again, another factor is what plants are you going to grow... Some plants require low levels of light while others need more. Too much light will only make life unbearable for inverts and fish, and will spur development of algae.
 
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