I was wondering if anyone has a Walstad/NPT tank? Experience with them? Or opinions about them?
I am planning on setting up a 10g for a betta, some cories, and a snail here in the next few weeks. I am trying to plan out exactly what I want, and have been going back and forth on the substrate. After some research, I think I've eliminated sand, and am leaning towards Eco-complete. However, I started reading up on the Walstad method, suplimented by browsing through the el natural board (http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/el-natural/).
If I were to go this route, I think it would only be a partial NPT tank. I'd have the soil, gravel, and plants, but think I would supliment the tank with a filter.
I'm not looking for a quick cycling method. More for a natural tank that works best for the plants and fish. My other concern is moving with it.
I posted the same question myself, over at that forum. Lol! From what I hear, it is perfectly fine for a betta and in fact, it's much preferred over the majority of fake tanks that are at this forum. (No offense, I'm just saying that natural is always better then fake everything.)
Anyways, from what I got for answers, people seemed to say that regular topsoil capped with pea gravel is best for this type of tank, but I hear the soil does a heck of a lot to make the water brown/cloudy. Also, you basically can't ever change things around, or the soil/gravel will mix in.
Another drawback is I've heard (again, not sure if this part is true), that after a year or so, the soil is completely depleted of minerals for the plants, so basically you have to tear it down to somehow add more. I don't know.
I, personally, am going with Eco-complete as I've heard rave-reviews on it everywhere, and you won't have to worry about the factor of it getting mixed in. I'm also buying either API Leaf Zone or Seachem Flourish Excel, which is supposed to help the plants TREMENDOUSLY. It's your choice whatever you wish to do, but if you go with the soil, please let me know how it works for you!
That is all I have now are the natural planted tanks, the Walstad method with a twist of my own. I love them and have not had any real issues with them. Some of mine are going into the 3rd year and don't feel the need to tear down, the decaying of plants, fish, snail, shrimp waste and fish food seem keep the soil active for great plant growth. My biggest problem is the plant growth, the plants grow so fast that I can't keep up with it.
I used potting soil on some, plain dirt from my yard with a little native red clay mixed in, one with a 50/50 soil/kitty litter mix- all with play sand cap and some small gravel more to keep the plants anchored until they rooted, I did use a black sand cap on two of them, I have 9 total in the house and a 250g outside.
Some with filters for water movement and some without filters. All lights range from 1.5-2.5wpg, CF daylight bulbs that are changed every 6 month and some get natural sunlight from a east window.
I use trumpet snails to help keep the soil from going anaerobic as well as stem plants to help bring oxygen into the soil.
Shrimp are my shredders to help speed dead plant decay
Overall, I really enjoy this method and it has worked well for me.
Thank you! I have another year left of school, so I would have to move the tank a couple of times a year. I think that is my biggest holdback. I read a post on el natural that they just took the water level down to the gravel and didn't have any problems. I feel like as long as I'm not driving crazily, it shouldn't be a problem, but am not sure.
Do you keep tank covers on them? A lot of the tanks I've seen do not have traditional covers. Right now I have anacharis, java ferns, a banana plant, and a type of wisteria. I feel like I would have to add something else to this mix?
Regardless, I want a very natural tank, and plan to have live plants. I am wondering if I should take the plunge and add the soil?
And do you like the sand method? Or do you prefer gravel? Is your only problem keeping up with the plant growth?
You could always go with something like ADA aquasoil, and then cap it with flourite sand or eco complete. If you plan to have cories, they would much prefer the sand to the eco complete--the eco can be a little rough. If you go the sand route you might want to keep some malaysian trumpet snails, since they burrow in it and keep it from compacting.
As far as the shrimp and snail populations go, you can get snails that don't usually reproduce in fresh water, such as nerites. They're efficient algae eaters and won't take over the tank. Same with shrimp--amanos don't typically multiply like others do, and they eat algae wonderfully. As for other types of shrimp and snails, they will only be able to reproduce if they are given enough food. Controlling the food will control the population. I dose all my tanks with Excel in order to promote fast growth and keep the algae down so my snail populations haven't exploded. I like breeding the red cherry shrimp, though. If you have too many, you can always sell your overflow shrimp on craigslist for a few bucks each.
As for the Walstad method, some parts of the concept I don't really think will last long term. You can't make a perfect ecosystem in a fish tank forever. You will still have to fertilize and do water changes--but in my opinion, planted tanks are much more beautiful and fulfilling to maintain, and better for fish.
If you cycle the tank fishlessly, you should have no problems maintaining a healthy bacterial colony from the beginning. :) Good luck!
I don't use hoods on any of my tanks, all open top, some have two lights over them so that they are covered with those.
I like snails and I keep the common type like, ramshorn, pond and trumpet and they do reproduce fast and I trap and remove them on a regular basis. These snails have a job in my tanks, waste for plant food, eating dead and decaying plants, algae, and aeration of the substrate.
Shrimp, I have the red cherry and the yellow color morph and ghost shrimp, these are my shredders to help speed the decaying process of dead plants as well as clean-up of foods and tiny bit of algae control, but I really don't have that much algae to start with as it has never been a problem.
Reproduction in the shrimp is pretty fast, I started with a dozen of each type 3 years ago and have well over a hundred if not more now in 3 different tanks and at least 25+ in all the tanks 10g-20g, less in the 2g and 5g tanks.
Except for the spawning tanks and the fry grow-out tanks, I don't make water changes anymore on the most part, maybe 1-2 times a year now.
Water prams are zero across the board for ammonia, nitrite, and even nitrate due to the plants using both the ammonia for food before it converts and any that does gets used as plant food and the DOC's are used by the plants as well. The tank is near 98% planted and it has a very low stocking.
Higher stocking and less plant mass and it would get/need water changes.
This type of system will only work with lots of plants, more of the stem and floating to act/work as the filtration with some added rosettes, ferns, moss, too few plants and too high a bioload and it can crash.
The tank also has to be stable and in the beginning water changes are needed daily, every-other day, weekly, monthly until the soil becomes stable in its submersed state and plants start to actively grow and this usually takes about 2-3 months.
With close monitoring and water changes fish can be added the day the tank is set up, provided that the right type of plants are used.
These systems are NOT for everyone and care needs to be made when setting them up and adding fish all in the same day. I have yet to lose a any livestock related to water quality from newly set-up NPT.
Lots of things can go wrong in the start up as well as down the road...so lots of research is needed and close monitoring so not to risk the livestock life.....
I don't use any added ferts or excel and no CO2, these are as near a complete ecosystem you can get in a closed system created in a glass box.....but they do still need some care and very close monitoring.
Low tech, low light and loads of fun, the livestock act as the ferts and the plants as the filter. Beautiful to look at and fish/livestock behavior that is awesome and as natural as can be seen in a closed system.
These are planted tank with some livestock not aquariums with plants.
With sand, is it hard to clean? Do you siphon the sand, or do you just siphon just above it to get rid of major debris?
This can be tricky, when I need to do a little sand cleaning I place the siphon over the area and use my free hand to agitate the debri toward the siphon, depending on the tank I may or may not turn the filter off so the drifting sand will not damage the propeller in the filter.
But mostly I live with the mulm and I like the natural look of it as long as it is not causing plants health/growth problems or livestock issues.
I view it somewhat like compost that can renew the soil of needs of the plants.
I really appreciate all the information! One more set of questions.
Now I'm leaning towards sand. For ease/good scenario for the plants and cories/beta, would you recommend purely sand. Or should I add a thin layer of some organic matter? I'm considering a thin layer, for some nutrient base... then the main layer of sand.
If I do decide on the sand route, it seems that ramshorn snails are a really good idea? Or else, the sand will compact and actually harm the plants.
Overall I am looking at a tank that is compromised of:
10 gallon with filtration.
Either purely sand, or possibly a layer of organic matter then sand
live plants (maybe I should look into some moss?)
I'll have a piece of driftwood
1 mystery snail
4 to 6 schwartz cories (i have two currently, but will add others after the tank is set up)
possibly ramshorn snails
With the last two being really good ideas for the overall health/maintenance of the tank.