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Some special tricks for setting up a NATURAL planted tank. :)

AeonMapa

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So I just set up my walstad tank today, and although the method advertises having a fully planted tank with fish in just one day, I found that making some advanced preparations helped hugely! Here are some tricks I used while preparing for my tank.

1. Grow an outdoor plant bin.
About two months ago, I knew I was going to do a planted tank, I just wasn't sure when. I decided to get a head start on my plant growth by doing an outdoor plant bin. I basically dumped soil into a storage bin, then filled it with water. After the soil settled I threw in some aquarium plants. I left this bin outside in direct sunlight, and eventually housed some fish and shrimp in it. After a month, the plants beat back the algae and beam growing vigorously. When the time came to plant my set-up, I had nearly twice the amount of plants, and they were much stronger and more leafy than when I bought them. This worked for crypts, Java fern, cabomba, sprites, crystalwort and a few more species.

2. Cycle your soil.
A lot of walstad planted tanks have problems with overabundance of soil nutrients, as well as messy soil that floats and messes the water. I decided to soak my soil for a few days first to rid it of some extra nutrients and separate the floating bits. The soaking however was very messy, and the floaters were bogged down by the dirt. I then had the idea of putting an air pump deep in the soil to circulate it. This worked wonders as the suspension caused by the pump allowed the buoyant parts of the soil to separate. It occurred to me as well that I could start a nitrogen cycle in the soil as well. I threw in a few old filter sponges to facilitate the spread of Bacteria. After 5 days like this, the soil was so soaked that when I turned the air pump off, water would settle to nearly clear in a few minutes. Perfect for aquarium use! I'm pretty sure the soil is crawling with nitrifying bacteria a well so a faster cycle!

3. Use amphibious surface plants.
Early in a natural planted tank, your plants will be fighting with algae for nutrients. Walstad suggests using emergent aquarium plants to fight this as the don't need to compete with the algae, and get CO2 from above water. ( I have a huge mat of pond weed I use as a "mop") Going by this principle, I added several aquarium plants with leaves above the water, but also some terrestrial plants! Bamboo shoots and certain vines can thrive with just water for their roots. I'd been growing these plants in jars of water for years, so it only made sense to put them in an aquarium as well. They are not planted, they just have their roots dipped in the water so I can take them out when the tank is stable. Though I might plant one Bamboo shoot for aesthetics!

4. Selective algae growth.
Knowing I'd be battling algae, I decided to enlist some algae to aid me as well! I took the rocks I'd be hardscaping with and put them in a dish of water in the sun, with a pinch of soil. Soon, green algae grew on the rocks. Not only can this be aesthetically pleasing, but being already well established, this algae will probably take in nutrients before new colonies can bloom elsewhere. Two birds with one stone!

So these are a few tricks I used while preparing for my "el natural". I'm not sure if these are written elsewhere, but I decided to do these things based on logic and knowledge of tank ecology. I hope that they become a help to the rest!

If anyone has more tricks and tips I'd love to hear them! Or if I'm doing something horribly wrong, please let me know. Will post updates on how my tank is doing!
 

AeonMapa

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I'm not sure the algae rock will work too well in that situation, since the algae in the tank is probably very well established. Unless you scrape it all off regularly and only leave it on the rock or driftwood. Try putting in a lot of surface plants with their roots in the water! Pothos, oregano, lucky bamboo, alugbati (indian spinach, vine spinach, Malabar spinach), and other fast growing plants will help remove excess nutrients and minerals.
 
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