"el Natural" - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 6 Old 08-20-2009, 07:03 PM Thread Starter
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"el Natural"

Wow, I was just introduced to the "el Natural" method. Google "el natural diana walstad".

"Water changes are rarely needed. Every few months maybe. I've read of some doing only 2 a year! Filters are not necessary since the plants filter the ammonia and nitrite out of the water"

Although, I can't say I visually care for the tanks.

Has anyone tried this? Water changes every few months sounds wonderful.
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post #2 of 6 Old 08-20-2009, 08:08 PM
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im pretty sure with a process like that you would need ALOT of plants ferts and Crazy lighting. i remember someone on here was talkin about someone who proved that method. (no filter or water changes) maybe byron would know something about this as he is quite the knoledge base.
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post #3 of 6 Old 08-20-2009, 10:06 PM
The method is sound, and plant ferts are not required as the fish waste serves as fertilizer. High lighting is not required either. Also I don't know where you got your quote, but plants don't really filter nitrIte. They do absorb ammonia as a Nitrogen compound, so they basically get rid of the ammonia before it turns to nitrite. Plants will absorb nitrAte. The El Natural method is as it's name describes, more of a natural method of the nitrogen cycle. The tank needs to be set up like in nature, this means light stocking you can't have the fish produce more ammonia than the plants can consume. I understand the method, but have never setup a true El Natural tank, due to my inability to lightly stock.

Here is IMO a wonderfully made artical by Diana Walstad going over the ammonia removal rate of plants. Note: when reading the article please realize ammonium (NH4) and ammonia (NH3) both naturally exist in our tanks in an eqilibrium that is dependent on the PH. Also I beleive (but don't quote me on it) 1 mg/l = roughly 1 ppm.

.... I'm probably drunk.

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Last edited by Mikaila31; 08-20-2009 at 10:10 PM.
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post #4 of 6 Old 08-21-2009, 12:06 AM Thread Starter
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it was from the forum that introduced me too it...he probably meant nitrates. i can't remember what board that was from, but I think Mrs. Walstad participated later in that thread. she sounds nice :)
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post #5 of 6 Old 08-21-2009, 12:20 AM
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This "natural" approach is not new, it was the only approach a hundred years ago. Gregory Bateman's Freshwater Aquaria published in 1890 referenced a balance between animal and plant life. Although little did he and others at the time know how profund this was, since they did not posess the knowledge we have today about bacteria which is a significant factor in making this work.

MoneyMitch, you're right, I did mention in a thread a while back that I knew aquarists who maintained healthy tanks (they say) with no filter, no heater, one light, many plants, fewer fish (than most of us), and no partial water changes. As Mikaila31 has said, the method is sound, but once again it comes down to the balance. When everything is in balance, the aquarium functions naturally. Jeff Walmsley in an article in the December 2008 TFH talks about the balanced aquarium and at the conclusion mentions that his idea of a balanced aquarium has 1 small schooling fish for each 3 or 4 gallons of water. Most of us are not satisfied with a 60g aquarium that has 15 small fish [such as neon tetras] and that's it.

With fish stocking well above such a small level, as most of us have, the partial water change is mandatory to maintain the same balance that is the essential element in any healthy aquarium. So, nomel, even as Diana says that the plants utilize ammonia and nitrite to convert it to ammonium before it gets to be nitrate, you won't get out of those weekly partial water changes unless you have near-fishless tanks!

Thanks Mikaila31 for the link to Diana's article. I have picked up some of that info from other authors' articles, and I've frequently commented that plants in a new tank greatly assist with the cycling. But Diana puts it all together and makes it very clear, and I am glad to have come across her article. I must confess to not yet having her book, I've been putting it off not out of mistrust but simply because I'm perfectly satisfed with the results I have achieved over 12+ years and haven't seen the need to find another method. However, for the knowledge and insight it obviously contains, I do intend to get it. One never stops learning.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If youíre going to take it under your wing then youíre responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #6 of 6 Old 08-21-2009, 01:15 AM
I would also like to add that you don't have to run a "EL Natural" style tank to benefit from the plants. Its mentioned in the article I linked, but in a planted tank w/ a filter both the plants and the bacteria will compete for the ammonia and ammonium. The tank also becomes much more stable and balanced IMO. If you setup a moderately to densely planted tank. There is really no reason to cycle, if you just start out with a few fish and slowly increase the stocking similar to a fish in cycle. However you won't get any of the typical ammonia/nitrite readings because of the plants using up the excess ammonia, while the bacteria grows. Another advantage is that you can add more fish at once to a established planted tank than you could to a established tank without plants. What would of caused a mini cycle in the non planted tank can be absorbed by the plant in the planted tank.

.... I'm probably drunk.

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