You want Malaysian trumpet snails, not ramshorns. Ramshorns do not burrow, MTS do. :) As for the substrate, you have a few options. You could use a neutral silica sand with a nutrient base (laterite, aquasoil, clay whatever) under it, or you could combine an iron enriched sand like flourite with a nutrient base, or you could just use flourite and maybe some root tabs beneath your rooted plants. That's what I do along with the seachem line of liquid fertilizers.
You might want to go with amano shrimp if you decide to add shrimp at all. My bettas do not tolerate dwarf shrimp like RCS, CRS, or ghost shrimp. I have a lot of bettas and every tank is densely planted, no matter what the shrimp always end up getting eaten. Amanos are a bit bigger and shouldn't be interpreted as food by the betta.
That is correct, you want the trumpet snails, they are also a livebearer and reproduce pretty fast like any common snail.
If you are going to go with any soil at the base, you really need lots of plants to start or you can risk the fish.
Plain sand, I would not have it any deeper than 1-11/2 inches deep and place the driftwood in the tank before the substrate so you don't end up with anaerobic spot under it.
I have never had any problems with my Bettas eating/killing the adult shrimp in my tanks, I am sure they ate some of the shrimplett but not enough to matter and some of my heavier shrimp tanks have had up to 30-50 sub-adult Bettas for grow-out and my 10g spawning tanks both have shrimp and neither breeders have been seen killing or eating bodies, but these tanks are densely planted with lots of java moss too and I feed really good with lots of live food.
Well, a leaking tank is forcing me to break down and set up a new tank. Luckily it is my 3 gallon and not the 12. My plan is to get a 2.5 gallon and turn it into a (hopefully) mostly self-sustaining Walstad tank. Next Wednesday I will be getting new plants that I ordered from my LFS. One of those is dwarf hairgrass. I really want to check this plant out and think this may be a good opportunity.
So my plan is to have dwarf hairgrass be the main component of the tank with a moss wall along the back. Possibly add a bit of hygro difformis (sp) and a dwarf lily. I was researching last night and came across the included link. They (including Ms. Walstad herself) the use of carpet plants in a NPT. Apparently dwarf hairgrass sends out a chemical that inhibits the growth of other plants unless you are heavily pumping the tank with fertilizer and CO2. That is why I am apprehensive about the difformis. I think I might try it anyway.
Also, I would float hornwort especially in the beginning.
Those of you using a soil based substrate, do you find it critical to use crushed oyster shells? Any comments, idea's, hints?
Iíve converted all my tanks to NPTís. They are all a little different, and I wanted to share so that others can learn from my mistakes or get ideas. I encourage everyone with NPT experience to share something about their tanks. Itíd be great to have a good base of information for future use.
This was my first attempt at a NPT. It is stocked with 1 male betta, pond, and MTSís. I did not stock this tank with enough plants in the beginning. After adding more hygro difformis and anacharis, this tank finally stabilized with the help of a few partial water changes. The soil base is Miracle Grow organic mix with a thin sand cap. There are also a few stones mixed in here and there. 1/3 of the tank is packed with the difformis and anacharis. The other 2/3 of the tank has a home-made java moss wall, pygmy chain sword, and a dwarf pond lily. There is also some floating hornwort. The plan is to let the pygmy chain run and develop a carpet. The difformis will be allowed to grow emergent for added CO2. No filter, heated, 23watt light about 5 inches above the tank. All of the plants took a while to get going, but are now doing well. No added fertilizers or chemicals besides the water conditioner when I just top off the tank from evaporation.
Same organic soil base but capped with gravel. Stocked with a few stems of anacharis and a dwarf pond lily. I recently added pygmy chain sword and a banana plant that wasnít doing too well. About half the tank is tightly packed with floating hornwort. Havenít checked perams or ammonia levels, but shrimp have been doing fine. I am using this as a breeding tank for my RCS. It is a Marineland 3g with the filter and light that came with the tank. This is my oldest tank and the filter and biowheel are very established with good bacteria. Not heated, 6watt light.
Most recent convert to NPT. Miracle Grow organic mix soil layer. The back half of the tank is capped with small gravel, the front with sand. This is my most densely planted tank with a lot of difformis, 2 bunches foxtail, 1 bunch anacharis, 2 small swords, 1 banana plant, pygmy chain swords, a marimo ball, a little bit of java moss, and 3 java ferns. This tank is primarily for my coryís, but there are also ghost shrimp, a mystery snail, ramshorn snail, pond and MTSís. I will also be adding a female betta. Nothing else will be added to this tank (fish wise). Filtered with an established biowheel and filter cartridge, heated, 15watt. I want to increase the watts per gallon in this tank.
Its not as messy as you would think when done right and when you think about it.....its more like the natural habitat.....the trick is starting off the the right dirt, make the needed water changes to clear the water, cap the soil with either sand or fine gravel and most important....starting off with enough of the right type of plants....awesome tanks and after they settle and mature (3-6 months)....limited water changes because they will take care of themselves......