3 month update... my planted tank experiment - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 5 Old 07-20-2010, 10:53 PM Thread Starter
beetlebz's Avatar
3 month update... my planted tank experiment

So in an attempt to build a self sustaining (or close to it) planted aquarium, as most of you know I built myself a 20L planted beta sorority close to 3 months ago. Just updating you all on my observations and progress :)

I made the decision right off the bat to let the plants do their own thing, and after much reading (thanks byron) I opted to go the water change-less route. Every couple weeks I add straight tempered tap water (its from a well) to keep the levels up. my initial intention was to make a soft water haven for my rams, but one didnt survive long, though the water conditions werent the best when they were moved. Gaz is still going strong though, and hes gorgeous!

now 3 months after no water changes my GH is down around 5 and has stayed there for the last month and a half to two months. I like steady. The only flux now is a minor ammonia spike which i attribute to two things. The first... I use a cheap azoo sponge filter kin to a hydrosponge. The base, no matter what i did, leaked a ton of air. so the filter was out and dried up for a couple days waiting for the silicone i put around the base to dry :( I have an AC20 as a back up that just runs at its super slowest setting to keep the fine needles and leaves out of the water, but dont think its enough to replace the sponge.

The second factor to the spike I believe is I had run out of Plant-Gro, and just decided to stop using it to see what happened. What I saw happening was plant growth slowed to a crawl IF that, and thats about the time the ammonia began creeping up. I suspect the high level of light combined with the low level of ferts slowed the metabolism of the plants to a crawl as well putting a thumping on water quality :( Fortunately the spike never climbed over .25ppm and the fish look great so im riding it out for now. Plant gro begins again tomorrow, and for my 55g too. Prior to stopping the plant gro I had to trim my wisteria and ambulia twice a week to keep it from pluming at the surface!

anywhoo current plans consist of removing the AC20, and experimenting with different comprehensive ferts over a period of time. There may be some minor rescaping to put my java moss under the shade of a sword... and im researching the heck out of different softening methods of softening the water using natural methods. long term I may consider a second ram, and replacing the female bettas with rummy nose or cardinals if I can attain the softness I want.

anyone curious about hardware its a 20 gallon long tank, with an azoo sponge filter and an aqua clear 20 HOB filter (getting shut off and only used for periodic mech filtration), normal 100watt heater. Lighting is 3 curly Q compact florescent 14 watt lights in a rain gutter housing. The only fert I use regularly is Plant-Gro (dont remember the maker). I noticed minimal difference if any using excel every other day so I stopped that too.

thanks for reading :)

Dedicated, converted, lowes / home depot bulb buyer!
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post #2 of 5 Old 07-21-2010, 03:11 PM
Byron's Avatar
I would remove all filters, which would be closer to your stated goal of self-sustaining. If the plants and fish are balanced, no filter is needed.

Your observations on the plants with no ferts is what I would expect. Also the Excel. I've written enough about both elsewhere not to repeat it here.

I have a similar experiment going, only no light, no filter; just a heater as warmth is required and I can't obtain stability without one. Window light, lots of plants, and tiny fish, 10g.

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 you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re 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 #3 of 5 Old 07-27-2010, 03:24 PM Thread Starter
beetlebz's Avatar
well, ive been tapering off the ac20 (which is only a trickle anyway) and tapering off airflow to the hydrosponge gradually for a week or so now. maybe a little longer, but for now ive stopped reducing their flows as the ammonia spike (which like i said i believe is due to the lack of ferts) but since im now back on the plant-gro i expect it to stabilize pretty quickly. Hopefully ill be confident enough to ween off the filters completely by the end of august :)

Dedicated, converted, lowes / home depot bulb buyer!
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post #4 of 5 Old 07-31-2010, 01:24 PM
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Uhhh sounds like a fun experiment, sorry I missed the beginning of this. But why are the ferts necessary if its a self sustained system it shouldn't need no filters nor ferts? Ever read up about organic soil-gravel mix in these type of tank set ups?

~ Life Is Too Short, Break The Rules, Forgive Quickly, Kiss Slowly, Love Truly, Laugh Uncontrollably And Never Regret Anything that Made You Smile.
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post #5 of 5 Old 07-31-2010, 02:25 PM
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Exactly what I was going to say-

El Naturale tanks (a la D. Walstead) are self sufficient-
no filters, no added ferts, just with a soil substrate.

I have a 5G that's heavily overgrown, and I use it as my guppy maternity ward.

I haven't changed the water in... hmm. When did I set that tank up? ;)

If I may make a suggestion, the ammonia spike could also be because you pruned the plants....

Originally Posted by Christople View Post
^^ genius

Soil Substrates Guide:
Part 1
--------- Part 2

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