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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone,

I'm new to the Planted Aquarium hobby. Got into it by accident when my wife and I got our 7-year old daughter a fish tank. I read a lot before getting the tank and hence purchased a 38-gallon tank to minimize the parameter fluctuations. Once we got the tank, I maintained a log until the completion of the cycling process, testing every other day for Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates and pH. This was a great learning experience for me and my daughter started learning everything about the fishes in the tank.

All the reading got me interested in creating a self-contained ecology within the tank, with the fish feeding the plants and vice versa. The more I read, the more interested I became which was when I stumbled into the books by Diana Walstad and Christel Kasselmann. I absolutely loved the two books. One area I constantly struggle is the aquascaping layouts and decided that I'll keep trying until I get it right (at least in my mind).

Currently, I'm in the phase of experimenting with different types of substrates and trying to document the pros and the cons just to learn more on the substrates. I have a 12-G tank that has only Flourite in it and a few plants along with the small Eheim Aquaball filter (not the powerhead). I'm also planning on building another 20-G Long using the Mineralized Substrate based on Aaron's article sometime in October.

That said, I purchased a few smaller tanks from Craigslist (all the expenses were out of my pocket money as my wife said that she will not be funding these expenses out of the common account - :( - if not for her I'd have been bankrupt a long time ago :D). Anyway, I have a 10-g that just has some Java moss and some Riccia growing. I setup a 20-G Long using the Diana Walstad method (DW henceforth) with the specifications shown below.

Walstad-Method Tank

Tank: 20 Gallon Long Glass Aquarium
Fish: None yet
Substrate: 1 1/2 inches of Potting Soil + 1 inch of 1 mm size Sand
Amendments: Sprinkle of laterite + 1 handful of Peat
Filter: None. But using Eheim Aquaball powerhead for water movement
CO2: DIY Yeast-based CO2 generator fed to the powerhead air intake
Lighting: 4x GE Aqua Rays 4100K 24" 20W T8 Bulbs and Filtered Sunlight (South facing window)
Lighting Fixture: 2x Utilitech 2-Light Narrow Fluorescent Wraparound Light (http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId=80803-13537-80803&lpage=none)

Here are my questions:
1. The tank started turning murky right from the beginning. I'm guessing that this is due to the leeching nutrients. Am I right?
2. During the first two weeks, I saw a semi-transparent jelly-like substance in the bottom of the tank (mostly by the roots). What is this?
3. The Nitrate levels were very high and I performed a 75% water change. Was this right for me to do this or should I have left it alone?
4. After 2 weeks, the tank started developing a lot of green algae (long strands of bright green algae). I was able to remove this by hand. What causes this and is there a way to control it? Is this bad for the plants?
5. After 4 weeks (yesterday), I trimmed all the plants and changed 75% of the water to remove the cloudiness. Was this right for me to do or should I have left it alone?
6. I also noticed a 1-inch 1/16th of an inch wide eel-like creature that I took out the tank and flushed. I also noticed a 1/4 inch creature looking like a fry but how can one be there when I've never had a fish in the tank? Does anyone know what these are?
7. After I refilled the water, I noticed that all the Glosso in the tank had some kind of gel-type of substance near the base of the plant. What is this?
8. Fishes: When can I start putting fish in this tank and what types should I start with? Can I add otos, cherry shrimp and Amano shrimp to this tank?

If anyone has any additional suggestions or critiques, please post them.

Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for your comments.

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you very much for your response, MEA.

SOIL: Scotts Premium Garden Soil. The soil does have fertilizer in it. It has Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium.

PEAT: Thank you for your comments. This helps a lot. I used it to reduce the pH to enhance the water conditions for the tetras that I plan to use in the tank. I do not have any fish in the tank. Will stay away from peat moving forward. I think the coloration explains the effect of peat also. When I change the water, it starts turning yellowish after 2 or 3 days.

LATERITE: I added it based on my reading on the Mineralized substrate method. I just added a few sprinkles, probably around 2 teaspoons. The plants seem to be growing extremely well, except for the 2 Swords which seem to be stagnant. They're not dying either.

LIGHT: I will reduce the light to just 1 fixture (2x 20 watts) from 2. Should I just stop the CO2 supplement in this tank? Also, if I do that, would there be an effect on the algae?

FISH: I still have not added any to the tank yet. I will once the parameters stabilize.

Next time around, should I just use top soil?

Thank you again for your comments and tips.

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you very much, MEA.

Will wait for another 2 weeks to observe and will probably redo the tank should this continue.

As for Ms. Walstad's book, I have it and ready. Thought I'd experiment and am really experiencing the after-effects of experimenting.

Thank you again.

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you very much for your response Diana.

The plants have been doing extremely well and are constantly pearling. I also see bubbles coming out of the gravel continuously. However, I do not have a filter. I just have a submersible powerhead for water movement and feeding DIY CO2 while maintaining minimal surface agitation. Should I think about adding a filter for the tank?

I trimmed the plants over the weekend before changing the water and ever since I "think" that I'm seeing a slowdown in the formation of green algae. I still do see some thread algae but not at the same level that I saw before. Hopefully, it's starting to stabilize now. Since Sunday, the only thing that I see is that the color has turned yellow slightly. Seems very promising and hence my comment on waiting for another 2 weeks before I redo the tank.

I still do not have any fish in the tank. Am planning on adding once the parameters stabilize.

All that said, this experience since I got into planted tanks over the past 3 months have been an unforgettable experience. I'm loving it and I have been reading like never before. :)

Thank you again.

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Absolutely, MEA.

Thank you very much. For sure, I will post in the next two weeks as to how things turn out.

I just noticed that the algae seem to be on the decline. Three things changed over the past week: An addition week's time, trimming of plants and 75% water change. I'm thinking it is due to the fact that I've crossed the 5 week mark since the tank was setup.

I reread the section "Chaos in Freshly Submerged Terrestrial Soils" and it starts to make sense.

Thank you again for all the help. I'm really glad that I'm part of this APC family.

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you very much, Diana. Appreciate all the guidance.

At what point in time should I think about stopping the water changes? Should it be when the Nitrates are under control?

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Folks,

When changing the water today, I noticed that all the dusting in the leaves (not sure what type of algae they were) and the green algae were all gone. just a tiny bit of thread algae in the tips of some leaves. What happened? I love it now. :cool:

The temperature of the water dropped over past week also as it's getting colder in the Chicago area. The water temperature dropped from 76 to 70 degrees. I do not have a water heater in the tank. Could this have had any influence?

Thank you.

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thank you for your guidance, Diana. I will certainly get a heater for the tank. Is there a minimum that I should use as a reference that I should not go below for an NPT?

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thank you, Diana, for your response.

As for not adding the fishes initially, it was just my initial fear of leeching nutrients and how it may affect them.

I'll remove the CO2 injection and if I remove the CO2 injection, are there any specific steps that I need to take to the loss of Carbon to address the short-term impact? I just added a few Red Cherry Shrimp yesterday. I will test the water and start adding the fish now.

I have a 20 gallon long. Is there any particular number of fish that I should start adding initially? How many can I start with and what should be the limit for this tank?

The conditions in the tank has stabilized and I will stop changing the water. Also, should I check anything specific during this process?

Thank you very much for your guidance, Diana.

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thank you very much, Alex, for your comments.

Just a bit concerned about the impact when I make the changes. I will make the changes and post the updates.

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Update:

I have a few Red Cherry Shrimps, 3 Caridina Japonica and 3 Otocinclus Affinis in the tank now. Will be adding 4 Cardinal Tetras to the tank in a few days.

Things are going well so far and the water hasn't been changed for 3 weeks now. I have removed the CO2 supply for the tank.

Question: The water is slightly yellowish in the tank. Is this natural?

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Thank you for your comments, Ravi.

For my tank, I currently have about 2 wpg light and the tank is placed by a South-facing window to get the natural sunlight.

I did make the mistake of adding DIY CO2 to the NPT.

As of now, the Cherry shrimp, Amano shrimp and the Otos are doing fine and are healthy. I've been feeding them blanched zucchini and brussel sprouts. In addition, I've been adding some flakes to contribute to the tank as fertilizer when they break down.

Thoughts, comments, ...?

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 · (Edited)
Thank you for your response, Ravi.

One of my goals with going to NPT was to experience for myself to go the very low-tech way. Based on Ms. Walstad's book, once you get past the first 2 or 3 months, you can minimize the water changes to once every 4 or 5 months. In my experimental mood, I added DIY CO2, which I should not have done in the first place.

As for scaping, I did not start with any plan on the plant placements. However, now I'm noticing that the tank being a 20-Long, I'm running out of room in the top for the Amazon sword.

Anyway, here's teh update:
1. Removed the CO2
2. Added 3 Caridina Japonica (Amano Shrimp)
3. Added 3 Otocinclus
4. Added 6 Cherry Shrimps
5. Added 4 Paracheirodon axelrodi (Cardinal Tetra)

The tank is stable and going well so far. The fishand the shrimps are healthy. I'm adding some extra food to supplement as fertilizer.

Thank you for all the help and comments. This has helped me learn so much. :cool:

Question: The water is slightly yellowish. Is this normal and expected?

I'll add some pictures of the tank soon.

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Will probably have to do another water change, I think. Will do that this weekend. The fishes and the shrimps are doing fine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Glad to find a colleague who experiments too. :cool:

Anyway, in my tank, I have topped the substrate with an inch of aquarium sand. You could use regular play sand, but have to be careful to make sure that it doesn't contain anything that affects the water parameters. The advantage I see is that when you plant the free flowing soil quickly covers the gap up before any stirring up of the dirt happens. I've also planted quite a bit of Glosso in the tank and that went well as I used a pair of forceps. They're growing like crazy.

However, pulling out a plant is a completely different question.:mod: That said, you can empty about 80% of the water, uproot the right plants, let it settle, move some sand over the dirt and refill. I have to do this next week as I'm redoing my 38-gallon tank (has a UGF and have to remove it) and going with Mineralized Soil Substrate. Let's see how the uprooting goes. I may just decide to trim the plants and plant the trimmings.

Good Luck and welcome to the club.:clap2:

regards,
Ravi
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Update on the tank folks:

When I rebuilt my 38-g tank with the mineralized substrate, I had a spare Marineland Biowheel Filter. Based on Diana's recommendation earlier, I added the filter to the tank and removed the powerhead that I had in the NPT before. Wow, what a difference. It's night and day. The tank had a lot of green water over the past two months and as soon as I added the filter, the water was crystal clear the next morning. The tank is very healthy with very little green algae now.

I have 3 Rosy barbs, 8 Harlequin Rasboras, 2 SAEs, 2 Otos and a few Red Cherry Shrimp in the 20 Long. All of them seem to be very happy in the tank.

Here's the picture of the tank from yesterday:


Thank you for your comments, critiques and suggestions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
hey gravy9 and everyone,

I was reading this thread and was just curious. I can't understand why would green water be so dramatically affected by this last filter change of yours.

As I understood, you had simple mechanic filter running in your 20g NPT for water movement, and then just removed it - right? Or did you install bio-wheel filter to this tank afterwards?
Hi Simas,

I did not have a filter before. I only had a powerhead in the tank for water movement in the tank. I probably did not experience the green water initially (during the first 3 months) because I was changing the water frequently until all the nutrient leaks were done. It started after I stopped changing the water.

All I had done to the tank was remove the powerhead and installed a biowheel filter at the same time.

Two reasons I can think of for the greening of the water are (1) Since the power head was lower in the tank there was not surface agitation and had minimal surface air intake and (2) The tank was getting too much sunlight in addition to the fluorescent lights

In any case, - how could it have cleared algae in one night? With less water movement, there is just less water/air mixing, and this probably results in more CO2 in your tank. Could it be that your mechanic filter was way too powerful, causing CO2 shortage in your tank, and after you've changed it, more CO2 was available to plants to fight algae?

And if you installed bio-wheel filter, well it just provided a medium for bacteria to grow and metabolise organic waste etc, but looking at your tank's picture, it seems that there's enough surface for bacteria to attach to already.

As I said, i'm just curious of this case, and if I'm missing something, it would be nice to hear any thoughts.

Btw, it looks like your tank is doing really well, gravy9! I hope it keeps on going like this!

Simas
I wouldn't say that it cleared the algae in the tank. It just removed the green water and made it clear.

Also, the biowheel filter was preestablished in my 38-gal tank. I just moved it to this tank after rebuilding the other tank. As for the power, it may be a bit too powerful for this 20-gal tank. The difference that this filter makes to the NPT would have been the preestablished bacterial colony along with a lot more water movement in the tank.

Does this explain the clearing up.

Thank you for analyzing the changes. I did not think too much into it myself. Thank you for the feedback.
 
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