So I am seriously considering starting an NPT in the near future (probably after christmas)
I have a cycled 26 bowfront, a betta sorority of 7, 4 cory's, 5ish ramshorn snails, and about 10 ghost shrimp (that were bought as a snack and were never eaten). I also have a bunch of plants already (some are planted, others have been ordered and on their way -- anarchis, java fern, rotala indica, aquatic banana, anubias nana, pellia, lace java fern, java moss, hornwort, moneywort, water sprite, water wisteria, frogbit, and giant duckweed.
I dont have to plant all of this in this specific tank. I know there is A LOT of different types there, but theres not that much of each, probably one or two of rhizome/rooted and one bunch/type of stem plant.
So my questions are::
1. Will these plants be too much? If so which ones should I keep in and which should I move to a different tank?
2. Do I have to cycle my tank all over again if i do this, the only thing that would be changed is substrate from gravel to soil and sand, so not sure if it is necessary?
3. Will I need to get MTS instead of the ramshorns to stir up the sand or can I do that manually?
4. Is Co2 necessary? I am trying to do this as low tech as possible. But if Co2 would be a good idea would it be okay to substitute that with API Co2 Plant booster?
5. I use Flourish comprehensive supplement for the planted aquarium right now, would that be necessary after the switch?
I have already spent a bunch of money on this tank for plants, fish, filtration, lighting, fertilizers, etc. So I cant really afford to spend a bunch more.
And Sorry for the long question. I have read A LOT about NPT"s but I really havent come across very specific information and I want to do this right the first time! Thanks
1) You may not want such a large variety in a single tank, it could come out just looking jumbled. Multiples of a few species looks a bit better (I've made that mistake in my 125g). Stem plants can be propegated over time with cuttings, and the rhizome plants can be split as well when they get large enough.
2) No, the plants use the ammonia, there is no need for bacteria. However, soil isn't needed either. It can give an initial CO2 boost as organic material breaks down in it, but don't expect things to thrive better in it. A lot of people just use regular play sand, but fine gravel can also work. Sand, I believe, is more authentic to the Amazon. If you switch out the substrate though, keep a close eye. if you don't have enough plants for the fish load, you could have a mini cycle.
3) MTS are better, usually you can get them for free as they are a 'pest' snail and self replicate. All you need is a couple, you'll have hundreds in no time (but don't worry, you won't see them most of the time). Don't dig around in the substrate, you'll disturb/damage the roots of your plants. If you go with soil this is even more important to not mess with it as you'll get a huge mess on your hands (it turns to mud after all).
4) For a lot of plants, no. But you do need CO2 if you go with a high light tank (you don't mention your lights, but if you got a T5HO fixture you'll be in high light territory). I wouldn't use liquid CO2, it's a rather nasty chemical.
5) Yes, a fertalizer is always needed. Sometimes (rarely) with some people's tanks (every tank is different) there will be enough nutrients in the tap and the left over food to sustain the plants, but they'll always grow better and faster with a comprehensive fertalizer. Many nutrients can only be absorbed thorugh the leaves of the plant so they must be in the water column. This is especially true for stem, floating, and non-substrate rooted plants (like Anubias and Java Fern).
The soil is the real issue here, as Geo mentioned. If you stay with just sand, the substrate could be changed, the tank planted, and the fish returned. You would not discern any "cycling" issues. I've done this many times. Keeping any solid decor (wood, rock, and of course the plants) in the tank water will preserve the bacteria on these surfaces, and this probably helps along with the plants themselves.
I would eliminate some of the plants, esp in the floating category. Given the fish species, namely Betta, the best floating plant is the Water Sprite. The extensive dangling root mass is a source of microscopic food that these fish naturally feed on. I have found duckweed less useful for this aspect. Frogbit is also good, but my Water Sprite grows much better.
Soil is the issue. Redchigh has done some soil tanks and he will undoubted stop by when he sees this. I have not bothered with a soil substrate, because after reading extensively on the subject I cannot see the benefit and I do not like the risks. The first few months (numbers vary, some sources say 2-3, others 6) are when issues frequently arise, such as elevated ammonia, outbursts of algae, and a general unstableness depending upon the type of soil and the organics. Sand and fine gravel substrate tanks will settle much faster, and ammonia is non-existent (with plants) so the fish are safer. Some authors suggest no fish in soil-substrate tanks for the first 6 months.
I have a 4-part series stickied at the top of this forum entitled "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" that might be helpful.
thank you byron.
I have been on the betta fish forum and most of them see nothing but benifits from having NPT"s, which is why I have been seriously considering doing it. But I will read your stickies and see if my mind is changed into just using sand.
Thanks for the reply
The simplest and most effective method I use now starts with good soil (real soil aka dirt, preferably from a unspoiled area or a forested area., not potting mix. Cheap bagged 'topsoil' is okay if it doesnt have a ton of organic matter)
(optional) add it to a jar or bucket or something for a couple days submerged with an airstone, and change the water after a day or two. Then keep it damp for a couple more days, but dont submerge it again. Stir it when you can (every day if you can)
Add sand to the tank to HALF the depth you want. Add the soil mixture, and add enough water to make a mud, but without standing water. Mix thoroughly.
Slope the substrate to make it thinner in the front (1 inch or less) and thicker in the back.
Add the clean sand, cover the mixture with at least an inch of washed sand, but reserve a cup or so of clean sand.
Plant your plants, and add some plain washed sand around the plants.
Fill carefully. (I use a small plate with a tiny cup on top. The cup slows the water, and it should trickle over the lip of the cup onto the saucer.
There's some disagreement on whether stem plants or rooted plants are more important when starting an npt... I think there should be a rooted 'swordplant' echinodorus sp every square foot, so the roots can aerate the soil. (They can be grouped along the back, square foot is only to decide the number, not the placement)
All plants and decor should be planted/placed dry. Ill get around to writing a new guide when I get a camera. Feel free to read my old ones in my signature, but the newer technique is safer with the same benefits.
Soil tanks do better when you feed the fish well (still no more than they can eat in 3-5 minutes, variety of foods, and about 7-10 feedings per week And 1 day of no food one day per week if possible) don't vacuum the sand unless its for a photo or something.
I had figured as much as I see that ove there a lot too.
However, keep in mind that there is nothing unnatural about sand. Diana Walstad talks about how to grow aquatic plants ... but that is her focus, rather than the fish.
The fertalizer is needed because we're in a closed system, nothing goes into the tank unless we add it unlike a natural river that collects everything on its journy to the ocean.
Thank you everyone for your replies!
I have been busy reading all the threads and stickes on here all night. Still undecided on whether to do just sand or both. Its a hard decision. I really would like an NPT, but if I had to re-cycle, I'd have to do a fish-in cycle with it as I only have 1 empty, yet cycled, tank that is only a 10 gallon so I'd be over stocked in that.
Maybe I'll just get better lights and try it in the spare tank first, see how that goes, and then move to the 26. I think I'll definitely have plenty of extra plants to be able to heavily plant both tanks.
Just to clarify, there wouldn't be a cycle issue with just sand.
A question you should ask yourself is, what is your goal? If it is simply for the looks, a natural environment for the fish, and to have zero or close to zero Nitrates ... then sand will acomplish that, have less risks, and is easier to start with.
If it's just to not use a fertalizer ... then you could try soil and over feeding (extra food is to provide the nutrients for the plants ... I would still call this fertilizer).
If it is for the belief that you do not have to do water changes, or only a couple a year ... I would think very long and hard on that one. That only works if the bioload is extreamly small for the tank volume. Nitrates are far from the only reason to do water changes, there are other wastes produced by the fish than just Ammonia. You would also have to consider the issue of GH and KH to sustain a tank (and plants) that long. And if you think about it, stagnant water is by no means natural for these fish ;)
I monitor parameters frequently, and I've never done a waterchange in my 20 long. (The only stock is a pair of breeding dwarf gourami and 6-15 of their spawn of varying ages that I hardly ever see. All are under 1 inch, and most are 1/4 inch or less). They also spawn frequently.
On the stagnant water comment: Some fish are from stagnant water... Gourami and cories come to mind..
I am not saying that they don't like waterchanges, and everyone knows they are very sensitive to water conditions and should not be neglected, but I wanted to amend the "stagnant water" comment.
Did I mention the 20 long is unfiltered?
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I am not aware of any corys naturally native to stagnant water; all occur in streams, and many species are endemic to a particular stream.
Gourami, correct, but perhaps we should define what we mean by stagnant water. A pool of water is nature may be stagnant, but it is a very different biological system from any tank of water. In the wild there are natural impacts on the water in a swamp, pond, or ditch, and most of these cannot be duplicated in an aquarium. And the fish to water volume ratio is likely much different too.
I don't really want to get into another debate over water changes, but it might help if others read my article on the subject. The detriments of not performing weekly water changes are undeniable, whatever the aquascape.
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