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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I am from Bangalore, India. I have always wanted an aquarium, but never actually dared to have one because of the high-tech, high-maintanance and because it's very costly hobby where I live. I stumbled upon low tech tanks on YouTube, read a lot of stuff online. I was lucky enough to get a copy of Diana walstad's book (my neighbour's son had a copy in their college library) and read it. I admit most of the chemistry she talks about, went over my head 馃檮 but I understood one thing. It is very much possible to have a low tech, no filter, no CO2, aquarium with plants and sufficient fish. So, I finally took the plunge and setup a small 1G aquarium. I am completely new to this, never ever had even a little guppy fish to care for, this is the first aquarium in my entire family to be honest.
Nano tank setup:
  • I used cheap potting soil (60:20:20 garden soil:vermicompst: cocopeat). I guess cocopeat was lesser than what was on the pack, when I filtered it for wood pieces and like could not find much. I layered the jar with about an inch of soil and left it to air dry for a day.
  • next day covered the soil with an inch of sand (kids play area sand) and filled the jar with water. When the sand settled I noticed very little cocopeat floating and removed it.
  • my fish arrived before my plants, so after a day of soaking the soil and sand in water I did water change and added my fish. Got 6 guppies. The fish seemed fine for two days, they were swimming around and eating well too.
  • my plants arrived 2 days after the fish. I moved the fish to a bowl, emptied the water, planted it, added fresh water and let it sit for 24 hours. The room has a very bright 32w led tubelight, so did not add any additional light on the first day.
  • after a day of leaving the plants, did 50% water change and added the fish. I had a problem with positioning the 3w led bulb, had to order a table lamp for this. Till the lamp arrived I used my phone flashlight for almost 12 hours a day along with the tubelight in the room. This light arrangement was for almost 5 days. The plants and fish are fine. I could see new leaves on all the fast growing stem plants, the floating plant also put up a new leaf with roots almost touching the bottom sand layer. I did two water changes of about 20% in these 6 days after adding the fish.

Water parameters:
I used water from my RO+UV filter.
I did not check for any thing. I know my tap water hardness varies from 100-450 ppm, it's a mix of Chlorinated river water and groundwater. The water parameters keep changing which is why almost every home has a ro+UV filter in our city for drinking water. I figured water good enough to drink should be safe for fish.

Plants used:
Bacopa caroliana
Ludwigia repens green
Ludwigia repens sp mini red
Microsword
Dwarf sag
Echinodorus
Green cabomba
Ludwigia levigatum
One other plant which I don't know, it has big leaves like lily pads and had roots at every node. Please see the pictures.

I could not find a place where they ran a low tech aquarium in my city. So I chose many kinds of plants, with fast and medium growth rate and with lower light and CO2 needs.

I would really appreciate some advice with this tank.
1. The plants are growing good except for bacopa which is slow growing. Ludwigia sp mini red leaves are not as red as they initially were. May be the light was not sufficient to get the color, but it actually got 3-4 new leaves on the top and is almost touching the surface water.
  • Shall I leave the plants to grow out of the tank? Some have already started coming above the water surface.
  • there has not been any melting in the first week. Should I be prepared for it in the coming weeks? What problems I might face or what signs should I look out for?
  • the floating levigatum has a single long root touching the sand layer, can I trim it or leave it as it is?
  • water parameters - I have not tested anything. The testing kit is very costly for me, will plan to buy one in few months though. Can anyone suggest the signs I should look out for in the plants and fishes due to water problems?
  • are 6 guppies too much for this tank? In the first week with plants they seem to be happy, eating well, always active moving around the tank.

Sorry for such a long post. I am completely new to this and wanted to share as much information I can provide before asking for guidance.

Finally, I would like to thank Diana Walstad for her book and for everything she did to prove low tech aquarium are possible.

Thanks for everyone on this forum for all the advice and guidance you provide. And sorry for this lengthy post. The pics are 1 week after planting the tank and adding fish.
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I love your set up. The fact that there is evidence of plant growth after such a short space of time is a good sign. Six active guppies are not in and of themselves a huge bio-load, so long as you are willing to continue weekly water changes. But, you are really flying blind without a test kit. Is there a local pet shop that would be willing to test your parameters say, one week after the last change?
 

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Welcome to APC!

Your post is very thorough, and I think you are off to a good start! Healthy fish and growing plants are the best indicators of success. A few suggestions:

Keep doing 50% water changes once a week as a precaution while your soil stabilizes. If you only use RO water, your plants may develop calcium and magnesium deficiencies. Try mixing your RO water with either the ground water or the river water, 50% of each. Use either the ground water or the river water depending on which has the best chemistry. The RO water will dilute the other water and reduce the extremes of chemistry while still letting some needed minerals get into the tank.

Some answers to your other questions below.

  • Shall I leave the plants to grow out of the tank? Some have already started coming above the water surface. Yes, the plants will grow faster and remove ammonia from the water.
  • there has not been any melting in the first week. Should I be prepared for it in the coming weeks? What problems I might face or what signs should I look out for? Melting usually happens very soon after the plants go in the new tank. If yours haven't melted yet and are growing, they probably will not melt at all.
  • the floating levigatum has a single long root touching the sand layer, can I trim it or leave it as it is? Leave it. Roots help to prevent problems in the soil layer.
  • water parameters - I have not tested anything. The testing kit is very costly for me, will plan to buy one in few months though. Can anyone suggest the signs I should look out for in the plants and fishes due to water problems? Again, health and growth are the best indicators. As long as you have both, things are OK.
  • are 6 guppies too much for this tank? In the first week with plants they seem to be happy, eating well, always active moving around the tank. Six guppies in one gallon is almost too many. If they breed (and they almost certainly will!) you will quickly have too many fish. If you enjoy this tank, you can get a larger one later.
Good luck and keep us updated! And if you decide you want a bigger tank, you do not need to buy a commercial glass aquarium if it is too expensive for your budget. A clear plastic storage container will work even if you can't see the fish and plants as well.
 

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I know my tap water hardness varies from 100-450 ppm, it's a mix of Chlorinated river water and groundwater. The water parameters keep changing which is why almost every home has a ro+UV filter in our city for drinking water. I figured water good enough to drink should be safe for fish.
This is not quite right. Chlorine can be very harmful to fish. While humans just drink the water, fish are constantly submerged in it and absorb a lot more of the toxicity from it into their bodies. Luckily this is an easy fix - get a water conditioner like Seachem Prime to treat your water before adding it to the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I love your set up. The fact that there is evidence of plant growth after such a short space of time is a good sign. Six active guppies are not in and of themselves a huge bio-load, so long as you are willing to continue weekly water changes. But, you are really flying blind without a test kit. Is there a local pet shop that would be willing to test your parameters say, one week after the last change?
Hi,
thanks for the reply. There is only one aquarium store within 15kms from my home. They only deal with hi-tech tanks. They were not willing to sell even fish separately. I will inquire if they provide water testing service.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Welcome to APC!

Your post is very thorough, and I think you are off to a good start! Healthy fish and growing plants are the best indicators of success. A few suggestions:

Keep doing 50% water changes once a week as a precaution while your soil stabilizes. If you only use RO water, your plants may develop calcium and magnesium deficiencies. Try mixing your RO water with either the ground water or the river water, 50% of each. Use either the ground water or the river water depending on which has the best chemistry. The RO water will dilute the other water and reduce the extremes of chemistry while still letting some needed minerals get into the tank.

Some answers to your other questions below.

Good luck and keep us updated! And if you decide you want a bigger tank, you do not need to buy a commercial glass aquarium if it is too expensive for your budget. A clear plastic storage container will work even if you can't see the fish and plants as well.
Thanks for the reply. I am planning to do 50% water changes every week because I am not sure of the water quality. I will mix RO water and tap water whenever I do the water change as you suggested. There is chlorine in the tap water, so leaving it in a container for 24 hours should declorinate the water hopefully.
I will keep updating the status here. This forum is the only place I can get some answers and help.
So far I am happy that everything is fine, plants and fishes are doing good.
Can I add a snail to this tank to cleanup the bottom? I will check what all types of snails are available online and pick one that will suite this tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This is not quite right. Chlorine can be very harmful to fish. While humans just drink the water, fish are constantly submerged in it and absorb a lot more of the toxicity from it into their bodies. Luckily this is an easy fix - get a water conditioner like Seachem Prime to treat your water before adding it to the tank.
Yes, chlorine is bad for fishes and plants. That's why I am using RO water, which does not have any chlorine. So far both fishes and plants are doing good. I will keep monitoring this tank though atleast for another 6 months, it's just 1 week old now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hi Michael,

I don't want to add any more fish to this tank. If the guppy fry survive, I will move them to another container and separate the female guppies.
If this tank succeeds, then I will definitely get a bigger one :) . But still a long way for that to happen I believe, I have to watch this mini setup for atleast 6-8 months to make sure it works.
 

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LP, there is a difference between tap water treated with chlorine and chloramine. Chlorine will dissipate in a few days, especially if the water is aerated. Chloramine does not, and will last for weeks or months. In the USA most tap water suppliers use chloramine. It would be a good idea to check with your supplier.
 

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Water is cloudy and fish are at the surface. If they are looking for food, that's fine. But if they are gasping for air, I would be careful. Six guppies in 1 gal is, in my opinion, a fairly heavy bio-load. The cloudiness may be due to bacterial decomposition which will decrease oxygen levels in water. I would continue water changes until the soil settles down and the water clears.

You can call your water department or check on-line to see if they are using chlorine or chloramine.

I'm surprised that the snails didn't come along with the plants. You shouldn't have to buy them.

You've got such a great assortment of plants and have done a lot of things just right. I'm impressed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
LP, there is a difference between tap water treated with chlorine and chloramine. Chlorine will dissipate in a few days, especially if the water is aerated. Chloramine does not, and will last for weeks or months. In the USA most tap water suppliers use chloramine. It would be a good idea to check with your supplier.
I did not know about this. Thanks for letting me know. I will try to find out which one they are using.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Water is cloudy and fish are at the surface. If they are looking for food, that's fine. But if they are gasping for air, I would be careful. Six guppies in 1 gal is, in my opinion, a fairly heavy bio-load. The cloudiness may be due to bacterial decomposition which will decrease oxygen levels in water. I would continue water changes until the soil settles down and the water clears.

You can call your water department or check on-line to see if they are using chlorine or chloramine.

I'm surprised that the snails didn't come along with the plants. You shouldn't have to buy them.

You've got such a great assortment of plants and have done a lot of things just right. I'm impressed.
Thanks Diana for taking time to reply.
The guppies do swim around the tank, but I don't know why they seem to prefer the surface more. Even when there were no plants for few days and I did change water daily they were at the surface most of the time. They are not gasping, they keep chasing each other at the surface, are always moving never staying still. I intended to keep 2-3 guppies in my lotus plant tub initially, but due to rains the temperature is below 20 C at nights, so added them to the tank. Once the temperature is above 20C will move them out. Or if any fry survive, then move few of these to a different bowl.
I am changing the water whenever I see cloudiness. I did 3 water changes in 8 days so far, 20-30% every time. The picture was just before I did a water change.
There were no snails with the plants, the plants were very clean when they arrived. I did not even wash them before planting, just sprinkled water on them as soon as they arrived and planted them immediately.
I did not know which plants were good for this tiny setup, so got few plants of each type and many different varieties. Hoping at least 4-5 different types survive and grow. I kept 1 stem of each stem plant separately in another bowl, with same water I am using for the tank. This bowl is in my balcony which gets indirect sunlight and just about 30mins direct sunlight this week as it is raining here for past 10 days. The plants in this bowl outside are growing too.
 

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I have to reevaluate my initial observation. I'm so accustomed to seeing cloudy water in brand new dirted tanks, that it never occurred to me that it could be caused by anything other than the soil being stirred up. If your jar's water is that cloudy within hours of appearing to be "clean", that's from fish poop, not soil. Guppies are notoriously hardy fish and you can probably get away with frequent water changes, but it's not sustainable. Now that you have this first jar, I'd divide the guppies into separate jars. It would be better for them and might even mean less work for you in the long run.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I have to reevaluate my initial observation. I'm so accustomed to seeing cloudy water in brand new dirted tanks, that it never occurred to me that it could be caused by anything other than the soil being stirred up. If your jar's water is that cloudy within hours of appearing to be "clean", that's from fish poop, not soil. Guppies are notoriously hardy fish and you can probably get away with frequent water changes, but it's not sustainable. Now that you have this first jar, I'd divide the guppies into separate jars. It would be better for them and might even mean less work for you in the long run.
Hi,
I did a 50% water change today, moved 3 of the guppies to another bowl. The water is still cloudy though. Will continue with 30-50% water change until the water clears up.
Thanks for all the suggestions. This forum is really helpful for newbies like me
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If the plants are growing and your fish are eating, that's the bottom line. At some point, the cloudiness will go away on its own. Most likely, it is combined bacterial and algae growth fueled by the temporary soil chaos and release of nutrients. The cloudiness probably contains some photosynthesizing algae that are producing oxygen, which is why your fish are doing okay. (If it was only bacterial growth, the fish would be hurting for lack of oxygen.) Hope this makes sense. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
LP, there is a difference between tap water treated with chlorine and chloramine. Chlorine will dissipate in a few days, especially if the water is aerated. Chloramine does not, and will last for weeks or months. In the USA most tap water suppliers use chloramine. It would be a good idea to check with your supplier.
Hi,

I could not find out what they are using. But, the RO+UV water purifier from BlueStar that I have at home for drinking water removes both Chlorine and Chloramine.
I guess the best thing to do is to continue using the purified drinking water and replace the required Magnesium and Calcium by supplements.
Can I use epsom salt to replenish Mg? I am not sure I could get wonder shells type of product in India, will explore for Calcium additives.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
If the plants are growing and your fish are eating, that's the bottom line. At some point, the cloudiness will go away on its own. Most likely, it is combined bacterial and algae growth fueled by the temporary soil chaos and release of nutrients. The cloudiness probably contains some photosynthesizing algae that are producing oxygen, which is why your fish are doing okay. (If it was only bacterial growth, the fish would be hurting for lack of oxygen.) Hope this makes sense. :)
Hi Diana,

There is little algae growing near the bottom. I read in one of your posts that when plants start growing well then this algae will go away on its own. Currently I am using 3W LED daylight bulb to light this tank for a duration of minimum 10 hours and max 11 hours. I poked the substrate during water change yesterday, just observed 2-3 air bubbles not more. If the water gets too cloudy then will do water change, else will let the tank be.
After removing 3 guppies, the remaining 3 guppies are venturing to the bottom of the tank more often now. I think it was too crowded and the oxygen produced by plants was not sufficient for all the guppies causing them to hangout at surface more. Thanks for that advice and I am glad I moved them to another bowl.
 
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