What do you think?
Well, after reading several different methods of creating a self sustaining environment in a tank I think I've got a plan for mine. Here goes:
Since this will be trial and error I've decided to do it in a small (10g) tank just so it's easier to remove everything and start again should something go wrong. So here's my 'ingredients' list:
10 Gallon Tank
Soil (probably clay then some organic potting soil)
Sand (gravel works too)
Fast growing plants (will add slow growers later mainly so I can get the plants rooting faster through the soil to help with any bubbles forming)
Peat moss (to help balance pH)
Lighting (of course)
Heater (off course)
Water (well, duh...) from one of my established tanks
Bunch of blood worms and MTS
So, here's what I'm basically going to do. I'm going to collect some clay soil (which I know we have plenty here. also, clay is nutrient rich but releases nutrients slowly) and put it in a bucket after breaking it up and pulling out rocks and such. Fill the bucket with water just to the surface of the soil, stir, and then remove any plant matter, etc. that floats to the top. Let dry, then do it all over again.
Meanwhile I'll have the tank all cleaned and purdy while soaking some peat moss. Once the the peat moss has soaked up a good amount of water I'll place it on the bottom of the tank with a small amount of water from one of my established tanks(just to keep the moss wet). Once the clay has dried out again I'll put a very thin layer (just an inch) over the moss and then add a very thin layer of the organic potting soil (just an inch, maybe less). Add more water (again, from one of my established tanks) VERY slowly (place plate into tank and pour what over that) and just so it covers the soil.
Now that the first few layers of the substrate are in I'll add my blood worms and wait for them so burrow into the soil (just FYI, these will be replenished every so often if they don't manage to breed on their own, and they will be food to anything that catches them as well as help keep any pockets of anaerobic bacteria from forming as they will 'stir' the soil).
After the blood worms have all borrowed I'll add an inch of sand, again adding water just the cover the sand. Now I plant my fast rooting plants, as well as add any decor I don't plan on attaching other plants to (they will be added later). I'll spray the edges of the tank with dechlorinated water and place the glass lid on and the lights.
I'll let this sit like this for probably a week or two (depending on how the plants are rooting), continuing to spray the inside of the tank to keep it nice and humid.
Once the roots have grown decently and everything looks nice and healthy I'll add my slow growing plants, rest of the decor, and fill the rest of the water up and add the heater and MTS. For about another week I'll just keep track of the parameters and add a tiny bit of fish food to the tank every other day (by tiny I mean like maybe 1 flake, or 1 pellet).
Once the parameters look good and everything seems to be staying consistent I'll add either 1 fish or 1 shrimp (depending on what I plan to keep in it, which will probably just be shrimp). I will continue to only feed a tiny tiny bit
every other day and continue to test the water. If everything still looks consistent for a week I'll add about 4-5 more shrimp/fish (again, depending), feed a little bit more, and watch for another week.
If everything continues to look good for that week I'll begin to gradually add more shrimp/fish and up the food (GRADUALLY!) until I feel that it is fully stocked.
I won't be doing any water changes on this, and won't run a filter. All I'll have to do is prune the plants, feed everyone (not the plants, don't plan on using fertilizers), and top off the water.
Since it will be heavily planted, the plants will be able to take care of the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. And since the tank will be heavily stocked the livestock will be able to feed the plants. I'll just have to very closely monitor how much the plants need from the livestock, what the can take from the water, and what they can add. Same goes for the livestock.
Once I can get this set up I'll post here how everything is going, including daily param readings and probably pictures to show the 'step by step'. Let me know what you think of this!
I got this idea from redchigh's soil guide and a member on another forum. I may tweak it a bit, I'll let you know if I do. Especially if I get any suggestions! (hint hint!)
Umm... why not just fill it and throw fish in? I don't get the point of the rooting thing especially for 2 weeks, I was doing my first pruning at that point lol. What you do is entirely up to you, I had shrimp in mine before I even got bothered to plant it, fish were added maybe a week later I'm not totally sure. Not quite sure why you would want old water either...
Sorry, but I greatly dissagree with no water changes. You can't maintain a tank like that. Maybe temporarily, but eventually it will crash and take the stock with it. Again your choice, but you are overlooking the basic fact of water changes, not to remove waste, but to add buffers, trace minerals and elements, and ect. Otherwise it will eventually crash. How long it lasts depends on how much nutrients are in the substrate, growth rate, and bioload. This is however not IMO the proper way to run a tank, it certainly can be done I myself do it. It is however more work in the end. Once it crashes you have to redo your substrate which is a lot of work.
Plant's will start very well with the method you desrcibe for the CO2 that they need will be available from atmosphere. Once the tank is flooded however, their CO2 will be reduced substantially and suddenly. Unless you should decide to use product such as EXCEL to provide liquid CO2, I believe the plant's will suffer considerably for a few weeks. In ten gallon tank,,Product EXCEL would not be too expensive.
Were it me,, I might consider a sprinkling of OSMOCOTE slow release plant food on bottom of the tank covered with clay soil,then organic miracle grow,and cap this with fine gravel. would also use flourish comprehensive for trace minerals for plant's.
Product OSMOCOTE is safe under the soil/gravel,and contains macro nutrient's NPK needed by the plant's and the flourish comprehensive will provide micronutrient's along with smaller amount of macro nutrient's.
I would use a filter to provide circulation to allow nutrients to be distributed throughout the tank and to prevent dead spots in the tank where algae can flourish.
I'm considering doing what I have mentioned with 75 gallon tank as soon as I am able to find new homes for my beloved Electric Blue Dempsey and Clown loaches ,both of which are getting a bit too large for the 75 gallon.
At Mikaila - The reason I'm adding slowly is to be sure everything is growing properly. And yes, I do understand about the minerals and trace elements in the water needed by the fish/plants but, like I said, this is trial and error. This idea came from another member on another site. He said he's been doing it supposedly for years, and says the water top offs introduce all the minerals/elements he's needed. I'll see if I can find the link to the site (not his site, just a site with general information on a self sustaining environment). Since this will be trial and error I will be testing the water for the trace elements to be sure that nothing is missing. Oh, using water from an established tank at the beginning so as to naturally fertilize the plants.
At 1077 - True about the CO2, I did not think of that. Just curious, would the blood worms and MTS not produce the CO2 for the plants, or would it not be sufficient enough? Since I'm wanting this to be as natural as possible, I do not plan to use any commercial fertilizers, but since there may be any issue with CO2, what about this: Instead of fully filling the tank with water right away, what about slowly adding more what over the week, and adding the life stock during this process. There will be no sudden drop in the CO2, and by the time the water completely covers everything there will be another supplier of CO2 (the shrimp).
excel and a slow release plant food are definitely not needed. I setup a 15 gallon very similar to this, clay, dirt, sand from my back yard. Its yet to have a algae problem. Fish were tossed in about 9 days after I filled it. It gets weekly water changes. Currently I have a anubias barteri flowering in there, which is amazing to me cuz I normally can't grow those plants.
There are way too many trace elements to be testing for them. Most of the kits for them don't exist and/or are very inaccurate as well as expensive. What works for one person does not work for everyone. Their tap water may be completely different then yours in KH, GH, nitrate, iron, copper, phosphate, potassium, ect, ect, ect..... It depends on your water, first thing I would worry about is pH crash, 2nd would be a nutrient imbalance/deficiency. Your putting your stock at risk here IMO, if you do suffer a pH crash you can't suddenly do a water change and figure the fish are okay with it. Also top offs are extremely random in every way. I know some people seem fine with loosing water through evaporation. However you could let my tanks sit for a few months and drop in water level would be 1 gallon max in a 20 gallon tank. On a weekly basis I would say I suffer zero evaporation, because there is no noticeable water loss, even minor.
Thanks for the advice. My water evaporates very quickly here. I'd have to do a top off probably once a week, mainly because I just hate to see the water line drop just a tiny bit lol
Would the water treatment plant in my area know all the elements and such in the water? If I can't do it without water changes that's fine with me. I just liked the idea of 'all natural' in the tank, but if it is not doable I'd just do a wc maybe once every month, maybe less depending. Or maybe do tiny water changes once a week (maybe just a gallon) just to replace the elements, etc.
Won't matter in my view ,as soon as the plant's are cut off from considerably more CO2 (atmosphere)to much less, they will struggle until they can adapt to the lower levels provided by snails,worms,shrimp.
Just my opinion.
Thanks, I'll keep that in mind.
I agree that planting but not filling will slow the plants down, they will try to switch to emersed growth. They will do very little growing till this happens. Once they are about there, you intend to flood the tank. Now the plant that just put a lot of energy towards switching growth forms has to switch back to submersed. Then your looking at an algae problem IMO.
You can call your water company, but don't expect much. They test for human consumption, not aquatic plant needs. They may measure things in different ways as well, such as nitrate-nitrogen or just nitrate. The main reason I warm about pH crash is the buffers that prevent this are also important nutrients for plants. Calcium and Magnesium, both are essential to your plants and your fish. Your fish can get it through their food. Plants are dependent on getting it from the water and therefore it needs to be replenished. Magnesium is probably the most important trace element in a plants case, a magnesium ion forms the core ion in chlorophyll, without it this molecule can not function. If your plant can't function on this basic level it won't grow and it won't consume your fishes waste like it was normally doing.
Now none of this would be an issue if all the plants grew and died in the tank, but your trimming and removing them. What your removing is a collection of minerals and nutrients taken out of the water. This is removed completely from the system. If your plants grow too fast they will deplete the nutrients in the tank until they hit a deficiency. This is when more is being removed then added, like a tank of gas the fish tank will be fine till it gets close to empty. It can happen in high tech it can happen in low tech. Only difference is the time, high tech it will happen suddenly, low tech it will have almost a chronic effect showing up in certain species first. Simply doing proper water changes can avoid this happening in low tech usually. On a ten gallon this is simple. The info on magnesium above is to show it only tank a deficiency in ONE trace nutrient to seriously effect the plant. In planted tanks we generally care about the 3 macros and around 10 trace elements. They are emphasized much more in high tech then low tech, but their importance is the same.
As for slow release plant food, is no harm in providing plant's with macronutrient's in this way ,especially if substrate is inert which doesn't seem to be the case here.(Miracle Grow organic soil)
Most who use/have used soil subsrates ,report that soil eventually gives up it's nutrients over extended periods of time and my expieriences with soil bear this out.At this time ,they either insert root tabs,or slow release fertilizer such as OSMOCOTE,begin dosing water column with dry fertz,or all of the above.
Sure, fish waste and fish foods can sustain some tanks,plants, but what works for one may not work for another depending on water chemisrty,fish load,amount of food offered,and CO2 produced by livestock and bacterial breakdown of organics along with most important driver of growth = light.
There are many way's to grow plant's ,depends on one's goals.
Mineralized soil method of growing aquatic plant's will yield the longest lasting growth with the use of soils and is similar to what OP is suggesting I believe.
Dry start method is best suited for CO2 enriched tanks where plant's are not suddenly deprived of CO2 found in atmosphere ,but once the tank is flooded then CO2 injection prevent's probable melting of plant's that had been growing emerged.
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