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Regarding my attempts to have a aquarium in our home. My wife and I began in this hobby last February with the purchase of an aquarium and several books. Following advice, I find myself here with more equipment than I ever intended to purchase and an impossible regiment to follow. It has proven to be an experiment in failure. All I wanted was an aquarium with some nice plants and fish. I failed in that I let myself get caught up in the part of this hobby that I misunderstood "high-tech" planted tanks.

Clearly some folks have made a career out of a hobby. Some people know more about this hobby than most people know about their profession. I'm not one of those people. Do we all have to learn that much to survive here? I'm sure I don't know how to digest the advice I get on these forums and turn it into success. I've tried and failed. The advice becomes conflicting and contradicting. I feel that I have found myself in over my head and I'm a reasonably intelligent person. Maybe I under estimated the "dedication" that this hobby requires to be successful. I just don't know what to do. I really have to reevaluate the whole thing, which I will.

What are my options?

1.) Pick myself up and keep trying to find the answers. What makes this difficult is that I'm not sure that I want to anymore. I mean if I manage to get it to stabilize, I'm told that the high-tech method is such a fragile state that if I over feed one time or have a power outage or let the CO2 run out.....look out!!

2.) Drop back to low-tech. How do I get there from here? Do I simply cut the wattage in half, turn off the ferts and the CO2, and replace my plants with low light species? Or do I have shut it all down, empty all contents and start with potting soil and the Diana Walstad method?

3.) Remove all plants, install non living (plastic) objects. As long as I don't overfeed the fish, keep light low enough to prevent major algae issues, and keep the tank clean, I should be able to keep the aquarium.

4.) Sell it all and get a dog.

Right now the dog is looking real good. I'll decide where to go from here and set a new course with a new year.
 

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Nothing wrong with Dogs and Fish. Been doin' it for a lot of years and I do not know which came first.

At the moment I am probably High Tech but I have the Walstad book and want to try the methodology because I am a lazy person. Low Tech seems to me that it would be workable and right up my alley. Going from High Tech to NPT probably means breaking it all down and starting over but that seems to be where you are heading anyway.

I would recommend the NPT to a newcomer even though I have not tried it but it seems as if it would be a lot less expensive in toys and time. No you do not have to know as much as the experts to succeed. This NET is a wonderful thing but it is not perfect. There is an abundance of information, not all of it correct. There are always opinions and some of them are conflicting. Sometimes conflicting opinions are malicious and sometimes the opinions are both correct but simply a different way or somones experience. I do not have any magic answers for conflict except to find someone that can be trusted and stick with one way. Join a club, if you can, and participate. A Club can go a long way to reducing costs and providing help.

By the way. What sorts of problems have you had? If you specify, the folk who offer a lot of advice here can probably help.

Ain't nuthin really cheap or easy so forget that but you would not be where you are at unless you were interested enough. Hang in there and try the Low Tech way. This Hobby can be very rewarding but as I said it is not easy. Hold onto all your stuff for the moment, just in case.
 

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I do not what setuy you have got, but I would suggest something along an "el natural" setup.

My own "receipt" is a mix of el natural and Dutch I think.

Put a small layer of dirt(with no/litle fertilizer) in the bottom of the tank (1 cm), cap this with 2-3 cm (1 in) of sand, and there you go. If you want to, you can add some co2, good lighthing is always an advantage.

The dirt will not mix with the water, and you will now have two "nutrition zones" one with high nutrition in the bottom layer, and offcource the water collum.

With this setup it is easy to succeed with rooted plants, but keep some plants that take nutrition from the water collum aswell, if not you will get algae.

You do not need maximum growth to have healthy plants and a beautiful tank.
 

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Remember that plants are not required to maintain fish and that you can still get rid of your plants, ditch the ferts and co2, throw some java moss in your tank with some fish of your choosing and relax. It is important to keep in mind that the majority of people with aquariums do not have live plants. I have seen amazing tanks with just rocks or leaf litter and wood. The planted tank world is pretty geeky compared to the rest of the freshwater tank enthusiast worlds (No offense intended). Just be glad you didnt fall for the reef tanks, they are seriously geeked out and so much more expensive. No offense to anyone intended, my observations are probably based on a sample far too limited to justify my sweeping conclusions.
 

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Please start by describing in great detail your former set up. What type of lighting, substrate, plants, fertz, co2, fish, etc.? What was your tank maintenance schedule? What happened to make the tank fail?

I'm not sure the Walstad method is fool proof enough for a newbie to try out. I, for one, would never attempt such an aquarium and I consider myself at least proficient in plant and fish care.

I would suggest starting out with a very light fish bioload and a handful of low light, low maintenance plants such as anubias, java ferns, moss, anarchis, pennywort.
 

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This hobby can be as simple or complex as you make it. I have two setups at home - the larger one designed to be low maintenance, and the smaller one with the more intensive regiments etc. If you're looking for something low maintenance, you can certainly get some help from folks on this forum to help you decide on how to achieve that.
 

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yes, more info on what was tried and current setup will help. If you haven't tried it already, the mineralized soil substrate method has been successful for many people with high light and injected CO2 - may be worth a shot.
 

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All good advice. All different. Amazing ain't it. The difference between your average Joe wanting a simple aquarium to enjoy and the specialist fish and or plant nut like myself is vast. Just pick one and jump in. It is that easy. Hah!
 

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Sounds like you are trying to get a perfect aquascape right off the bat rather than enjoy the process of learning and growing plants. The serene tanks in many magazines are often times a tank at its absolute peak which in reality doesn’t last more than a few days or a week if lucky. Algae is controllable for sure, it just takes a certain amount of time for it to subside as you get the hang of things. Try out all the methods you can and choose the one that is right for you.

Over the years as my interest in the hobby has oscillated between being obsessed and being negligent I have adopted many different styles of tank-care that have worked rather nicely. You may want to look into soil tanks with high light and injected CO2. this kind of setup will initially have algae problems but after a month or two it will disappear and you get beautiful steady growth for 3-4 years until the soil’s nutrients are depleted. The maintenance is really just pruning and the CO2 refills that happen every few years.

The hobby doesn’t have to be a painful task of balancing micrograms of nutrients and waste removal, there are many different ways to go about it. You just need to try different methods and sit back and enjoy the process of it all. The hardest part is the beginning, when you are constantly confronted by the things you don’t know. So I certainly understand your frustrations! We were all there at one point, but keep going with it, the hobby is immensely enjoyable once you get past the early problems!
 

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CO2 in a low tech tank would still be useful. Have you considered mineralized soil substrate? It has some benefits over regular capped top soil.

But i'd definitely scale it back. As tempting as high tech tanks are, they are alot of work. Even after the initial growing pains, it still takes quite a bit of maintence. Initial sucess is key in developing a passion for this hobby.
 

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I would suggest starting out with a very light fish bioload and a handful of low light, low maintenance plants such as anubias, java ferns, moss, anarchis, pennywort.
Hey, sorry about your stress. Don't give up!!

I second this comment on the Light Load Easy Plant Setup. You can get a very nice looking yet easy to care for tank by reducing your light and using these plants. I have a low light tank (<1 WPG) with anubias, java ferns, and a few others and I never have algae problems. (I do get occasional algae, of course, but it never becomes a problem, just a small cleanup). My substrate is simple pea gravel and I have a various assortment of fish.

It is very easy to maintain as I trim for maybe a couple of minutes every other week or so when I do regular water changes.
 

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If you cut back on your light it will slow things down. Like any hobby we are sucked in by the pro's who have dedicated their life to this and are up set to see that it really takes a lot of work. I have a few beginner friends that I have started out with high tech tanks and they have had very good success. I get them set up with 3-4 wpg of light, a low nutrient suitable substrate (fluorite), ei index dosing, and a 6 hour photo period. The ones that I have started out with this are not the most dedicated people but they do follow their maintenance and are happy with their growth. Some times a little bba pops in but it is quickly cut out and we boost the co2 a little and things are fine. No, they are not show quality aquariums but plants grow and algae is little to none. I don't know where you live but this works in my local town with our water. Once you get a routine down it is a very easy thing. I have tanks with only 1.5 wpg no ferts or co2 that grow well and have no algae, slow growth but they are alive. Giving up dosen't feel good, just stay with it and soon it will be where you want :)
 

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I'm sorry to hear about your problems. Most of us have gone through them at some point or another, you're not alone!

Some advice from a former professional: Sit down and really really think about what you truly want to put into this tank and what you want to get out of it. How much maintenance are you willing to do? How much maintenance have you actually been doing? How faithful have you been with your nutrient supplimentation? Be brutally honest with yourself when you're doing this. If you're not, chances are good that you'll end up getting as frusterated as you are now. Once you've figured out what you truly want and how much effort you'll enjoy putting into your system then you can restart with a solid foundation.

The good news:
1) It sounds like you've got all the hardware you need to do any sort of aquarium you want; high tech, low tech, or no tech.

2) High tech doesn't necessarily mean high light and high maintenance.


The last piece of advice I'll give you: no matter what you decide to do as far as tech and maintenance, focus on growing plants at first. Forget about aquascaping and design, they'll come later. Everything about this hobby will be frusterating if you can't grow the plants. Find some assortment of the standards and figure out how to grow them. Once you've got that down use those same plants and start working on aquascaping with them. Slow and steady wins this race.

Don't be afraid to ask questions, that's why we here.

Good luck and happy gardening,
Phil
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I guess I didn't do a very job of stating my point. I've gone full circle with the describing the problem, getting the advice, and finding that it hasn't worked at either the low or the high end. I'm to the point that I don't have any faith in that any more. So, I'm not really looking for help on how to fix my problem anymore.

First, let me say that I'm not blaming anyone for the fact that I haven't figured out how to do this. The fact that I wound up purchasing a lot of equipment that I never intended to, isn't anyone's fault but my own. I appreciate all those who offered advice, help, and understanding.

Upon reflection, I began with very little knowledge and poor or ill-defined objectives and goals. Somewhere along the road I developed unrealistic expectations, read hundreds of threads, and followed advice in the belief that the next thing would "fix" the problem. Perhaps it was a misconception that the problem "could" be fixed. Maybe I was there and I just thought that it wasn't suppose to be this much of a struggle.

I think I just need to let it go for a while and see if I can figure it out if this is something I want to do.

Thanks for the replies!
 

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Don't quit just yet! I was having the same problems about getting too high tech too quick. I had a horrible outbreak in algae, my fish almost died from co2 overdose and every time, I would buy the latest gadget to try to fix my errors. But finally, I am happy.

I'll tell you my success. I stopped trying so hard. I went back to enjoying the tiny progresses I started to make, reevaluated my equipment, stopped using some of the expensive gadgets for a while and decided to try only one new change a month.

I also found I quit comparing myself to other people's tanks and started taking lots of pictures. When I get discouraged, I pull up the photos and look at the inch or two growth on my rotala and think "I grew something!"

So don't quit, and keep trying. I am not so fancy as to know how to aquascape and set up perfect borders of HC, but I am enjoying my time with the tank. Hope this helps somewhat.
 

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2.) Drop back to low-tech. How do I get there from here? Do I simply cut the wattage in half, turn off the ferts and the CO2, and replace my plants with low light species? Or do I have shut it all down, empty all contents and start with potting soil and the Diana Walstad method?
That would be my recommendation - start it all over with the Diana Walstad method.

And that was what I did. But before starting all over, I studied Diana's book from front to back with highlighter in hand. Then I re-read the highlighted portions and made integrated notes by tying different portions of the book together. After all that, I believed I had a good understanding of the key principles. I then went out to source for the right soil and plants. Finally, I emptied out my tank and started all over. Since then, I spent very little time in maintenance. The fishes seem to be much happier and I got more pleasure from the hobby. Then I started additional tanks and they all worked out pretty well.

Hope that helps.
 

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You know I guess I am the dumb one here but I liked to know what happened, is happening and then we all try to look into the future with you. Why do you think you are failing? Telling us what you is causing your despair. As others have asked tell a little about your set-up and what is bothering you. There a lot of people pulling for you here and will do quite a bit to help you. There are probably ways to make it easier and more laid back. At one time I had just under a couple thousand gallons of freshwater aquariums. I had this idea I was going to start a store. Quite honestly caring for these was not as big of job as another time with just a few hundred gallons.
 
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