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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m excited! I’m terrified! I’m learning! These “shrimp tanks” are going to be my first fish tanks since childhood. I’ve got a green thumb so I hope that helps with setting up a planted fish tank. I also wanted to make these on the cheap so I bought these 2 gallon cookie jars from Target for $14 a piece. I’ve read Diane’s book and shrimp tutorial so I want to keep it simple and low tech as possible.

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I started with Organic MiracleGro potting soil. It was black, rich in organic matter and had no pearlite! I added a little oyster shell to the bottom of the jar and on top of the soil.

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I’m going to use the “dry start method“ and grow the plants in the jars like a terrarium for several weeks before adding water. The bottom of the jars is a little “domed” in the middle so I have a 1 1/2“ channel of soil on the sides but it’s as thin as 1/4” in the middle of the jar. I bought some “paver” gravel. It’s white and it says it’s mostly made of quartz so it should be inert enough. I added the plants and the gravel at little at a time together. I didn’t want the plants to have to reach through 1“ of gravel to get nutrients. The plants I bought are ”dwarf baby tears” (hemianthus callitrichoides), “Anubias Nana Petite”, Telanthrea Rosefolia (Alternanthera reineckii) and American frogbit. I have experience with native Florida plants but not these plants, so it’s all a big experiment! 😎

The baby tears came as a mat with some metal mesh on the bottom. I removed the mesh because I don’t know what will happen to it once it starts to break down or possibly rust. I’m expecting the baby tears to take over the bottom as I let it grow.

The Anubias was much smaller than expected. It was also very firm. I expect it to grow slow and it might get taken over by the baby tears. Oh well.

The Alternanthera was long with lots of good buds and roots on it. I believe it’s technically the submerged form. I tucked the first half of the stems along the sides of the jar letting the leaves stick out of the middle. I‘m hoping these will become a “background“ plant and give the aquarium some color.

Plant Grass Groundcover Plastic bottle Automotive tire

Plant Botany Grass Terrestrial plant Groundcover


Plant cutting technique: The Alternanthera looked like a “cutting” rather than an individually established plant. I planted it with the stems half buried giving the plant plenty of opportunity to establish roots. It’s a bit much to take a cutting and stick a small amount of the stem tip in the soil and expect it to establish roots. I did the same thing to a branch of ”Champman’s senna” that my landscaper broke off. I stuck most the the branch into the ground and trimmed most of the top leaves. It established roots and is now the largest Chapman’s senna in my garden (Go figure 😂) Pictured below:

Plant Plant community Vegetation Terrestrial plant Grass


I tossed the frogbit into a failed “bucket pond” I tried setting up last year. Neglected spider lilies are still growing from last year in the soil. I hope I’ll all be okay. The frogbit was VERY leggy! I was hoping for some of the cute tiny clumps I’ve seen in other people‘s tanks. I hope it makes some smaller babies I can use for the shrimp tanks. We’ll see!

Plant Houseplant Terrestrial plant Flowerpot Grass


I’ve had great success setting up my terrariums outside in indirect sunlight to get the plants established. I’m going to try the same thing here. I’m not sure if I want to leave my (future) shrimp jars outside overnight. I have lots of nosy and naughty raccoons and I don’t want them breaking my jars. The Alternanthera has already “perked up” after just an hour outside so I feel optimistic. I have probably made some mistakes but I’m hoping to work it all out! I’ll post updates as they happen. Hopefully I’ll have shrimp set up in the next couple of months. 🦐

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Two shrimp tanks and a patio pond.
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Anubias is a rhizome plant and will do best if attached to something, like a rock or small piece of wood. If the rhizome is buried it will rot and the plant will die. It's definitely a water column plant (not a root feeder) and a very slow grower.
Be careful with Duckweed...it will take over in a matter of days.
No duckweed! That’s “hemianthus callitrichoides“ dwarf baby tears. I’m not a fan of duckweed, it’s messy. Thanks for the advice on the Anubias. I have some cholla wood I ordered for the jars. I can see about attaching it on that when I flood the tanks. Right now it’s just sitting in the gravel with a little water. It’s not too mucky there. It was inexpensive and an experiment. I’m trying to see what does what.
My biggest issue is how “developed” the frogbit is. It looks like it was grown very mature (long and leggy) in close quarters, not the cute little clumps I see in people’s tanks. I’m hoping it’ll relax a little in the patio pond I‘m keeping it in.
 

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Two shrimp tanks and a patio pond.
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Really nice. :) What kind of shrimp are you going to get for the "cookie jar"? Forgive me if you already mentioned it. :)
Thank you! And I didn’t meantion it! I’m going to try my best to find cherry shrimp. Something happened to the local pet stores. They used to have well stocked tanks and aquatic plants. Recently, after people started to go back to work in person the aquarium sections have become these sad spaces with nearly empty tanks with dead fish and plants. Yikes! I’m trying to make friends on facebook to see if I can buy them locally from a hobbist. I want some dark red shrimp so I can see them easily in the tank. Godo thing I won’t need any shrimp for a month or two.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
UPDATE: The jars have been placed outside in indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight would quickly steam the plants to death. The inside is so humid the condensation is like perpetual rain over the plants. When I reach my hand inside it feels like a cloud, very steamy.

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Water Liquid Fluid Watercourse Grass


The plants inside have “perked up” since transplanting. Leaves are upright, leaning towards the sun with “phototropism“ meaning they are recovering well and establishing themselves in the tank. I hope to see some noticeable growth in the next week. The inside smells like fresh, raw vegetables. I would be worried if I smelled “fishy“ or otherwise “off”.

Botany Plant Ingredient Grass Terrestrial plant


I wonder if there could be an advantage to a “shorter” Dry Start Method period- as in all new tanks could use a “break” in this state just to give plants a chance to rest and recover from transplantation. For regular garden plants, transplanting is traumatic; roots get damaged, pruning may be needed to offset the root damage, the plant has to adjust to its new environment with light, soil and water, etc. The submerged underwater environment is sensitive where plants, soil and animals all share water like a single bloodstream. “Balance” must be achieved. Asking a plant to help with that balance while it‘s in the process of recovering from transplanting could cause the plant more stress. The “DSM” has its own limitations but waiting for plants to grow for two or three months has its advantages. Maybe in some cases just waiting one, two or three weeks in the DSM can give some plants time to get oriented and recover before ”taking the plunge”. Just some thoughts.
With the hot, steamy and bright environment I’m providing for my tanks I plan on seeing if it’s possible to fill my tanks with water in about a month. I’m looking for growth from the dwarf baby tears and the alternanthera.
 

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Two shrimp tanks and a patio pond.
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
So I revived my Walstad-ish patio pond to give my frogbit a home while my shrimp tanks grow with the Dry Start Method. Interesting developments! The spider lily that has been there since last year is melting a bit but I still have many fresh looking developed leaves. The frogbit has already put out a new leaf on each plant! The pond is teaming with tiny swimming arthropods that look very happy. They are no bigger than a ”.” and they are dark brown. Anyone know what they are?
I added a chunk of mosquito dunk to treat any mosquito larva and I added about 5 mosquito fish from a local pond Very cute! They are about the size of a grain of rice. I figured they would eat the little arthropods and any new mosquito larva. I’m not sure I have to “feed” my pond at this time. Algae seems to be very well controlled at the moment by the plants and tiny fauna.
Terrestrial plant Grass Terrestrial animal Metal Natural material
 

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I would air out those jars to release some of the gas and condensation build-up. The environment should be humid not dripping with water. You could keep the lids cracked just slightly.
Remove any dead plant material.
Hopefully you will get advice from others about their DSM experiences. I only did it once.
I hope you did not put the plants in full sunlight without adjusting them to the intense light. But if the plants are doing okay by now--two days later--then you're fine. (I almost cooked a magnolia sapling after transferring it from heavy shade to a sunny garden spot. Leaves turned brown overnight!)
Looks like a fun project and I wish you luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I would air out those jars to release some of the gas and condensation build-up. The environment should be humid not dripping with water. You could keep the lids cracked just slightly.
Remove any dead plant material.
Hopefully you will get advice from others about their DSM experiences. I only did it once.
I hope you did not put the plants in full sunlight without adjusting them to the intense light. But if the plants are doing okay by now--two days later--then you're fine. (I almost cooked a magnolia sapling after transferring it from heavy shade to a sunny garden spot. Leaves turned brown overnight!)
Looks like a fun project and I wish you luck!
Thank you for the input! I have experience with making terrariums outside in the Florida heat with tropical plants. These jars are set up in a spot so they never have direct sunlight but bright light. I also have experience with terrestrial plants in general. If this was a terrarium the jars would be over-saturated with water and I would dry them out, but I’m letting the the moisture work to my advantage here. In fact I’m misting the plants AND allowing the humidity to oversaturate. I am being very careful not to cook or rot out my plants. After four days I have perky plant tissue, no dead leaves and the jars have a pleasant “vegetable” smell. The plants are starting to grow a little. I am opening up the jars daily to “degas” them and to mist the leaves with extra water. I am only doing this because these are aquatic plants.
I have a plan: I’m using the heat, bright indirect light and heavy humidity to promote rapid growth. This is instead of a making a semi-humid environment indoors with artificial light and cooler temps. I can cut the growth period for the DTM down from 2 or 4 weeks instead of 10+ weeks. In other cases I can see how the plants would be cooked and the whole thing can become a rotten, fungus infected decaying mess. I have the opposite here happening!
I will post an update in the next couple of days of the progress.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Update! I have a side by side comparison of my DSM (Dry Start Method) shrimp tanks after 1 week. I have happy plants and noticeable growth already! I am keeping the insides of the jars hot and wet stimulating plant growth. I would not encourage such humidity to grow other kinds of plants or plants in a terrarium- but these are aquatic plants so I want it dripping wet! So far, I have been successful.

Jar #1 before and after.
Plant Grass Groundcover Terrestrial plant Font


Jar #2 before and after.
Plant Terrestrial plant Houseplant Groundcover Grass


The plants are perky and growing. I’m getting more vertical growth on the dwarf baby tears rather than “runners” but it’s spreading nonetheless. I think I’ll see more horizontal growth this week. The Alternanthera seems very happy. I noticed on day 2 that the leaves felt oddly “dry to the touch” in the jar despite the high humidity. Terrestrial plants have all sorts of evolutionary tricks to keep moisture in such as producing waxy leaves. Aquatic plants don’t need to do that. Therefore I’ve been misting the leaves daily with a spray bottle to keep them wet. Misting seems to whet the appetite of the heavy condensation in the jars so a mist in the morning is enough to keep the leaves wet all day. The jars still have a pleasant “vegetable“ smell, no signs of rot or fungus so we’re good to go!
I’m hoping I can fill the jars with water in as little as 3 weeks from now. The plants look in good shape so now they can just grow grow grow!
 

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I might have experienced and have heard that while the dry start for Dwarf baby tears (most plants) is good to allow roots to dig in and allows to keep better water quality and algae out in beginning (among other things), some/most the leaves will die once emersed as they are not used to being submerged and new leaves will grow in. Have you had this experience with other dry stat methods or first attempt. I havent done so myself so curious.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I might have experienced and have heard that while the dry start for Dwarf baby tears (most plants) is good to allow roots to dig in and allows to keep better water quality and algae out in beginning (among other things), some/most the leaves will die once emersed as they are not used to being submerged and new leaves will grow in. Have you had this experience with other dry stat methods or first attempt. I havent done so myself so curious.
I’m in the middle of that now. I am trying a “wet and hot and fast” method that might not be able to be reproduced in other climates or seasons. I would suggest keeping the humidity high in your tank with the dry start method but there is a risk of fungus outbreaks or disease. I’m trying to “skip” the leaf melting stage as much as possible. It‘s part of the experiment. I plan on updating weekly. What I am not doing different is the set up. I want to make sure my soil and gravel match suggestions by Diana Walstad. Including her book, I am using this article as a template for my shrimp tanks. I’m using this to gain experience in building other tanks and ponds.


“pico reefs” and salt water fascinate me. I may pick your brain sometime.
 

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I’m in the middle of that now. I am trying a “wet and hot and fast” method that might not be able to be reproduced in other climates or seasons. I would suggest keeping the humidity high in your tank with the dry start method but there is a risk of fungus outbreaks or disease. I’m trying to “skip” the leaf melting stage as much as possible. It‘s part of the experiment. I plan on updating weekly. What I am not doing different is the set up. I want to make sure my soil and gravel match suggestions by Diana Walstad. Including her book, I am using this article as a template for my shrimp tanks. I’m using this to gain experience in building other tanks and ponds.


“pico reefs” and salt water fascinate me. I may pick your brain sometime.
I have been seeing walsted method alot lately. Ill have to see what it is as well. I have a ton of opinions on pico reefs and lots of success and failures lol.

Hopefully it works so you dont lose to many. Really want to see this submurged with shrimp
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I have been seeing walsted method alot lately. Ill have to see what it is as well. I have a ton of opinions on pico reefs and lots of success and failures lol.

Hopefully it works so you dont lose to many. Really want to see this submurged with shrimp
I recommend reading her book “Ecology of the Planted Aquarium”. It gives you lots of insight on what is happening inside of an aquarium. I plan on having a light on my jars and that’s pretty much it! Low low, tech. Diane is even on this website and happily answers questions and gives suggestions. She likes to keep things simple and it usually works out! Her method is “purposeful” as in she does things with a reason or an outcome in mind and it’s backed by evidence. If you “stick to the plan” you likely won’t have any “failures”. If something is going wrong with a properly set up Walstad tank you can usually make adjustments and “fix” whatever is going wrong. She does it herself as mentioned in the shrimp tank article I linked to. She had an algae problem at first so she adjusted her lights, added floating emergent plants like giant duckweed and added snails to her tanks. Algae problem solved! There seems to be a slight advantage to smaller, simple planted tanks too. I suggest there be a balance between plants and fish as in “more plants and less fish”. The results are great!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Sounds like my reef tank. Light and air pump was all i used. Now i have that on all but one planted tank. This sounds like an air pump may not even be needed.
Diane shows how air pumps and bubblers can work against you in a freshwater planted tank. Sometimes all you are doing is nothing or giving algae CO2. She does use pumps for larger tanks so water at the bottom isn’t stagnant, but she’s careful to not make “turbulence“ or stir the surface dissolving more CO2 into the water. With these low tech tanks, less is more. Heaters may be useful (not much in Floirda for me), filters can take nutrients away from plants and vacuuming the substrate is a needless activity that again removes nutrients. The focus of a planted tank with dirt is to let bioactive microorganisms in soil and plants “filter” your aquarium along with occasional water changes. It’s such a holistic and back-to-basics approach to aquaria it’s almost radical 😂 Some people can’t deal because they feel reliant on technology but they should let go and trust the dirt and plants ☮
 

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Ok, definetly.curious now lol. Im in florida as well. For planted tanks I can see not vacuuming the bottom. Makes sense if the plants are intaking nutrients from soil. My current tank is using fluval stratum. I believe you all are reffering to potting type soil.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Ok, definetly.curious now lol. Im in florida as well. For planted tanks I can see not vacuuming the bottom. Makes sense if the plants are intaking nutrients from soil. My current tank is using fluval stratum. I believe you all are reffering to potting type soil.
Diane recommends cheap, unremarkable potting soil. She uses a bag of “Organic Miracle Gro” potting soil. So do I. Don’t mix anything into it. She picks out any sticks and twigs. Avoid potting soils with added fertilizer and perlite (Perlite is annoying because it floats). 1 inch of soil capped with 1 inch of gravel, not sand. For a nano tank you can do 1 inch of soil and cap it with a lighter coating of sand or gravel. She talks about that in her “shrimp tank” article. To keep things clean I put the soil in the bottom of the tank and plant the plants directly into the soil. I add the gravel after that around the plants and on top of the soil. If you keep it clean it stays clean. At this point you can grow the plants in the ”Dry Start Method“. The first time you fill the tank go SLOW. I’ve seen some people use a plastic lid and they gently pour water on that or into their hand. Even if you’re careful the water might be “tea colored” at first. That’s okay. It’s part of the soil and water settling. After a few water changes (and some people run a filter for a short while) the water will be clear.
 
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