El Natural... I'm pretty sure
Ladies and gentlemen,
It's been a whirl wind of reading, researching, more reading and researching, and even more the past week and a half. Low tech, low light. High tech, co2, blah blah frickin' blah. And I think I have decided to try Diana Walstad's El Natural tank set up. But rather than dive in head first with my newly purchased 55g aquarium, I thought I'd take a smaller approach first. A 20 gallon. Maybe a 15g. And here's why...
I find myself consuming the information of this hobby like a starving monkey would eat in a banana tree forest. I can't get enough. And I am passionate about this. Even though I've been out of aquariums for some time and have never done a live planted tank. But Diana's approach seems so logical, easy to maintain, and it works. Sure, it may not grow like mad compared to co2 tanks. But hey, I am busy enough I don't need fert'ing, pruning, etc... all the time. I also want to interact with my aquarium as well and learn all about all of this stuff.
So hopefully by next weekend I will have a 15 or 20g set up and starting on this natural system. It lets me try it on a small scale and see how it goes. I can learn and apply what I learn to my bigger 55g in the living room. I can make the mistakes, hopefully few, and learn from them before putting up that larger display tank. Plus, it's one small step from a slightly more advanced set up with a canister filter and light weekly fert dosings. Which could happen down the road if this doesn't work for me. But co2 dosing is out, at least in the near future.
It also gives me a quarantine tank to house new fish purchased to make sure they are good to go without disease before introducing them in to the display tank. IMO this makes the most sense and it is beneficial all the way around. I learn, I experiment, it's cheap, small, manageable, and I end up with a quarantine tank as well. I'm coming from the 40g, plastic plants, UGF, HOB filter club of over 10 years ago. To me, this feels like a win win idea going El Natural.
P.S. I'll post pics when I get this going if I can figure out how to.
Finally you understand what I been trying to say all along - Keep it simple - Look at the nature around you :-)
I think you'll be much happier this way in the long run then the whole bow-wow set up, really really :-)
Although I didn't know about Diana Walstad's approach when I decided on my planted aquaria 20 years ago, having now read her book and articles I see that I am quite close to her approach, and even a bit simpler.
The one area on which Ms. Walstad and I do not agree is the substrate. I am not a fan of soil under a layer of gravel. My tanks have always been plain regular gravel, small grain. And the plants have always thrived. As she points out in her book, there are issues to overcome with soil for the first few months and the aquarium will not be in a stable state; I'd rather not have those issues.
I guess there is a second point on which we differ, and that is the partial water change. Ms. Walstad performs one every six months, I do them every week. The fish load is the reason. She advocates a very moderate fish load, whereas I have a lot of fish in my aquaria, and that means the plants cannot possibly handle the filtration so I do the weekly pwc. I also use a filter, same reason.
I hear that Byron. It seems weird to me to have an aquarium without a filter of some sort. I should probably study up on fertilizing. If it's relatively simple with like one or two items that you add once a week or every other week I may step up to having a canister filter and just use something like eco complete from the beginning. Diana's approach seems really easy but it is a bit weird feeling to have "dirt" in the tank and nothing other than maybe a Koralia water circ pump. Perhaps I should investigate a bit more. What can you tell me about fertilizing? I'll be relatively low light, 64 watts over 55g, most likely a Rena Filstar canister filter, and eco complete but some fert'ing would have to be done in this step up from El Natural.
This drifts away a lil from the OP - But I wanted to share this with you guys based of your previous posts here:
About 6 weeks ago I set up a 2g tank, no filter, no heat only tech thing is the light on it. Base is organic top soil, then a screen to "hold it down" and topped off with about 2" sand. Planted various different plants (small runners) in to it to experiment really which one would grow better then others.
I don't really do the common w/c there neither so far, only top off fresh water.
I was curious about this method, but afraid of algae outbreak with the topsoil in there. I have to say my thoughts where on the wrong track there before I started this.
So far no algae no nothing bad. And contrary to my other tanks, the regular baby tears (not the dwarf) grow far better in this tank set up then the "normal" other set ups. The Vallis are doing fine too as well as the pennywort.
Just something for ya'll to think about...Yea its different, but does that mean its necessarily bad...nop :-D
It is a sensible approach, and it clearly works. Many approaches will work, the difference is partly the amount of time and money the aquarist wants to/can devote to the project long-term, and partly the amount of "fiddling" the aquarist wants to do on an on-going basis. I prefer staying out of my aquaria as much as possible and letting nature do the work. This means no CO2 (adding CO2 creates an adjustment to the water parameters and has to be controlled) and no soil or enriched substrates (these affect the water chemistry to varying degrees, and as Ms. Walstad points out for the first few months problems can occur). I do the weekly pwc and add liquid fertilizer and daily fish food; otherwise the aquarium runs itself. The thing about soil and enriched substrates is that they only affect rooted plants. They are of no practical value to floating plants, plants rooted on wood androck, and many/most stem plants. And for Echinodorus I use nutrient sticks to supply what's helpful--but I had thriving swords in tanks with none of this for 12 years, just weekly liquid Kent fert.
Harri, on the fertilizer, you will probably need to use liquid once a week, possibly twice. This depends upon other factors unique to each aquarium. The fish load, the plants and their number, the water parameters, how much you feed the fish, minerals in your tap water, etc. It is not too likely that you will have enough nutrients available naturally (in the water and from fish and fish food) without adding some. As I have written previously, there are 17 nutrients required in specific proportion to each other. Depending upon your tap water, various brands may work better than others. I believe it is critical to use a complete comprehensive liquid fertilizer. I don't worry about using these, so if I see one that seems to have what's needed I will use it and observe the plants. In 15+ years, Kent Freshwater Plant Supplement and Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement have both worked equally for me. I have very soft water, no mineral at all (zero dGH and zero dKH out of the tap) so I use a full nutrient fertilizer. I am now trying a new one made locally, since I would like to support local business if they produce stuff that works, and other planted tank aquarists have used this for more than a year and they have incredible tanks so it probably works. I'll know after a few weeks by the plant's new growth.
Well that's the whole point of this one is the "non fiddling" and no tech :-) I was in no way trying to indicate what you've been doing for the past 10-15 yrs is in any way wrong Byron...Just trying to open minds and explaining that there's a gazillion different approaches to all this. May that be the fert mixture you're using, other products, or my tanks with rich source water or the "soil' tank, or the hardcore EI method some other swear by......IMO there's about as many options & opinions to this matter as there is about fish keeping itself
@Harri for fert's needs, I would strongly suggest to base this off of the exact plants you'll wind up getting in the end, just like fish different plants, different needs :-)
Very cool stuff. I was thinking about using the eco complete but as Byron said, he uses plain gravel and fert sticks. I am assuming they are much like the fert sticks you can spike into the ground for trees and shrubs in the yard. Maybe I'll use plain, small gravel. It's cheaper too ;-)
Plants will take some learning. Low light but some that are taller for background and some shorter for foreground. I don't care a lot how they look. The background can be thin straight stalks or tall leafy things, I don't care. I do like the grass looking type in the foreground though. Sorry, I don't do plant names yet. Let me look for plant pics now. I need to come up with some names.
Absolutely!!! Up until now, all the tanks & yrs before I either had plain gravel or play sand and in neither case had I used ferts and I think my tank pictures speak for themselves. I'd pers not add this specialized plant yaddy ya stuff to any of my tanks. Heck my 55g now (aka the nightmare tank) is the first time I'm using fert's period (root sticks & liquid).
If you like, look through my tank pictures and point out what you like, I hadn't named them on the profile thingy, but I can name you the tank plants on there I'm pretty sure. Look at the newly set up 45g, I like the look of the plant I used for the back there...thou even with low light and no ferts I need to trim at least 2" each week, so its a rather fast growing plant, donno if that's what you like to have.
Get the smallest-grain gravel you can, about 1-2 mm grain size. Plants root best in this, but there is also the complex bacteria activity in the substrate and small gravel does not compact as easily as say sand. The water has to carry nutrients down, the plant roots assimilate the nutrients and produce oxygen which feeds some of the bacteria, other bacteria is anaerobic and some makes its own oxygen--quite a hive of activity. And I would suggest a dark or natural colour, more for the fish than the plants. Forest fish that we generally keep in planted tanks come from dimly-lit waters with dark mud or sand substrates littered with dark leaves. They show off their best colouration over a dark substrate. And the plants look better without competition from bright gravel and backgrounds. You want the plants and fish to be the focus, not the substrate.
Stem plants generally need more light because they grow faster. Rooted plants tend to remain as you plant them, just growing larger. The photos of my tanks and Angel's (and others here) should give you some idea of what's possible. And if you come up with names, we can comment from our collective experiences.
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