First fish tank: Dirted, Natural, Jungle Tank

cmid21

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Hello all,
A couple days ago I started my first ever aquarium. Amidst great excitement there is cautious optimism. I thought it would be fun to document my experience in hopes that it might help out others that are interested in the hobby. I have received a lot of great advice in the past 4 months of researching, so it will be my way of trying to give back to this community. I have started a Dutch/Walstad tank, in which detailed information has been proven to be rather sparse. There is great information to be found on the merits of such a set-up, however no real instructional on the step by step process to get it started. Therefore, hopefully this will help others who are interested in such tanks. (Hopefully, this isn't a manifesto on how not to create such environments)

Please feel free to add any criticisms or commentary; it will be much appreciated.

Day 1

Basic details:
Organic soil substrate: depth of about 2-3inches.
Black Diamond "sand" cap: depth of about 1 inch
20 Gallon tank (24x12x17)
Nicrew Skyled light
No CO2, No filter (aside from the plants/bacteria)
No water movement

Plants:
Anubias Nana (3)
Hydrocotyle Tripartita
Dwarf Nomaphila Siamensis (Hygrophila Corymbosa Compact)
Hygrophila Lancea 'Araguaia'
Amazon Sword
Sag Subulata (2)
Hornwort
Salvinia Natans (floating)
Christmas Moss

Picture after the planting:

IMG_1151.jpg
 

FinalFins

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Very good, but I believe that a dutch tank is a tank with only plants, and no hardscape? And personally I would remove the stone(grey things?) and keep the wood.

So really the tank is more of a nature/walstad style, coming from the AMAZING centerpiece wood.
 
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cmid21

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Day 3

Water parameters:
PH 7.6
KH 4dKH 71.6 ppm
GH 9dGH 161.1ppm

NH3 .25ppm
NO2 .25ppm
NO3 0ppm

(water parameters from the tap)
PH 8.2
NH3 1ppm
NO2 0ppm

Lighting:
On between hours of 8-1, 4-9
Off between the hours of 1-4

Starting to develop greenish-water, as well as a pretty substantial film on the water level. So might have to diminish the lighting exposure to prevent a considerable algae growth. My initial plan is to let the plants and substrate settle for a week or two before a water change. As always, comments always appreciated! (criticisms even more so!) PascalKrypt

IMG_1154.jpg
IMG_1155.jpg
 

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YES! Walstad setups rock! I've got 7 of them! I like your cap, its a nice color and will help those green plants pop :) Floating plants in my opinion really benefit the walstad aquariums. In Diana's book, she references their supreme capability in being able to remove nutrients from the water directly at a much more efficient rate then other plants due to the fact the roots are exposed to open water.

That driftwood piece is seriously to die for. Love its look. Following!
 
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cmid21

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FinalFins said:
Very good, but I believe that a dutch tank is a tank with only plants, and no hardscape? And personally I would remove the stone(grey things?) and keep the wood.

So really the tank is more of a nature/walstad style, coming from the AMAZING centerpiece wood.
Oops, that very well could be. I just heard someone call it a Dutch aquarium interchangeably with the Walstad. I'm not much into categorizing things, I just like what I like. The theme around the aquarium is to blend my deep interest in history with my love for the environment/nature. Therefore, what is probably an eye-sore to most, the décor is the history aspect. It is intended to look like sunken artifacts of an ancient civilization in a Central American jungle.

Guy25 said:
YES! Walstad setups rock! I've got 7 of them! I like your cap, its a nice color and will help those green plants pop :) Floating plants in my opinion really benefit the walstad aquariums. In Diana's book, she references their supreme capability in being able to remove nutrients from the water directly at a much more efficient rate then other plants due to the fact the roots are exposed to open water.

That driftwood piece is seriously to die for. Love its look. Following!
Yep! I have read that book cover to cover at least twice! So I made sure to include some surface plants. The one chosen is fairly uncommon, but worked for what I was going for. (no long roots) So hopefully, it will grow like a duckweed etc.
Thank you so very much for the kind words. 7?! Please let me know if you have any suggestions! :shame:
 
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cmid21

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Day 5

Not much new to report today. On Friday I’ll check my water parameters to see where I am at. Last night I skimmed the top of the water to remove some of the algae. Man does the tank create a awful smell. (Well...like a pond)

This made me ponder if I should add some water movement which would maybe decrease the surface algae. But I have decided to stay the course as through research, I found Walstad tanks to have success without it. Just trust the system.

After work today I found the the algae is back on the surface and might be accumulating on the plants/wood. Hard to tell if it is growing or simply settled there from last night’s “cleaning.” Obviously hoping it is the latter.
I then thought about adding a snail to clean up some of the algae but scratched that idea after research. It looks as though that would be far too early as I assume I have detectable ammonia.

Anyways, thank you for reading. (I’ll try to keep these uninteresting entries as brief as possible) As always: criticism very much welcomed!

Light on from 9-1 and 4-7.
Temperature is at around 78/79

326B05DD-2AB5-48CD-AFF9-A90C75CB4BE6.jpeg
 
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cmid21

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Day 7
Made it one week! Haha.

Anticipated big entry today so stay with me. :D

Checked my water parameters for the first time in a week:

NH4= between .25-.5 ppm
NO2= 0ppm
NO3= 0ppm

Didn't check my water parameters in the tank this time. I assume it is still:
PH 7.6
KH 4dKH 71.6 ppm
GH 9dGH 161.1ppm)

I adjusted my lighting schedule to provide light between:
9-1(13:00); then again from 4(16:00)-6(18:00).
The tank does receive some natural light (very indirect) from a south facing (in the Northern Hemisphere) window.

I did about a 60% water change for the first time since setting up the tank. I did do some skimming of algae from the top of the tank two days ago and replaced water, but this was the first official change. I am starting to grow concerned about my plants so wanted to remove most of the film in the tank. But really, the main reason was to save my marriage. I have convinced my wife to allow me to set up the aquarium in the bedroom (even convincing to get one took some work); but man did it start putting off an unpleasant odor! :eek:

As always, I almost forgot to add the API Stress Coat +; and I almost forgot to unplug the heater! That will be a chore to remember, but hopefully it will become habit.

In order to combat the algae, last night I borrowed two pothos plants from my extensive plant collection (another hobby of mine) and added them as floating nutrient absorbers. Hopefully this will impede the algae on the surface.

Would it be wise to add water movement to this set-up? It seems all the algae appears on the surface on the tank.

IMG_4498.JPG


I would also like to provide an update on my plants:
*I know the likelihood that all plants will make it is slim, and is a experimental process to determine what works in my water parameters; but I just would like some opinions/criticisms/suggestions to get the most of what I have. I welcome all commentary, but would like to shamelessly shamefully bother several individuals specifically. PascalKrypt and Guy25 ; you both have experience with these types of tanks, and I would really like to hear your opinions (if I so may impose) on how I have started.
SeattleRoy , Vishaquatics , I don't believe we have interacted in the forum but in my free time I like to continually educate myself on different topics regarding fish tanks. I find your contributions extremely valuable and was wondering if you could provide your insights into my current aquarium plants situation.

Anubias
I am mildly concerned about these plants. I know these plants are fairly hardy, and take few requirements to grow (slow growing, not ideal for Walstad tanks, however I loved the leaves and have added other power growers) but I have observed some discoloration and even some "thinning/decomposition" of some leaves. Notice the dark spots on the leaves. I first thought that it might be too close to the light, but through research it seems as though you can't really give the "too much" light. I could be mistaken though. Some of the leaves look to be "stretching" which is a common occurrence in terrestrial plants that don't get enough light, so...(?)

IMG_4496.JPG


Hygrophila Lancea 'Araguaia'
This plant seems to be doing alright. There are some small brown patches on some of the leaves. But hasn't really wilted yet. So I am cautiously optimistic about this one.
IMG_4495.JPG


Dwarf Nomaphila Siamensis (Hygrophila Corymbosa Compact)
These plants are somewhat hit or miss. Two of the plants look like it will not make it. The leaves have become transparent and is losing leaves. On the other side of the tank it seems to be doing a little better, but does show signs of some transparent leaves. This is a picture of the better looking one.

IMG_4490.JPG


And the not so good-looking one
IMG_4493.JPG


Amazon Sword
This plant came with some small brown spots, but if I am not mistaken, I think there are more since adding to the aquarium. Some sort of deficiency?
IMG_4485.JPG


Hydrocotyle Tripartita
Not sure if I am worried about this one or not. It isn't showing signs of displeasure, but it isn't necessarily showing signs of growth either. It has only been a week, so this one probably just needs more time to establish and get going. This is my first try at nurturing submerged plants/aquatic plants; so I don't really know what to expect growth-wise.

IMG_4494.JPG


Hornwort and Sag Sub.
These two plants I am not really worried about. I added the Hornwort last Sunday and it predictably is growing quite well. Ugh, I am going to be disheartened if that is the only thing I can keep alive. I dislike the look of it... Oh well, people have much worse problems right?
My biggest worry is that the hornwort is releasing chemicals that are impeding or harming my other plants that I actually want to have in the tank.. :(

The Sag Subulata hasn't done much, but hopefully within the next couple weeks, I will see runners and expansion.


I would also like to include the water quality report from my area that discloses in-depth parameters more than ph etc.




Through research it seems that some plants will wilt then recover. I am just interested in anyone's thoughts about my situation. I have read the brilliant pinned post regarding deficiencies in aquarium plants (in the plants section) and have some thoughts on what some deficiencies might be, however as I am completely new to this I am not 100% sure.
Anyways, as always, all commentary welcomed especially criticisms!
(I always find criticism gets a bad connotation.)

*I am so sorry for the long entry today :bookworm:
 

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Well not bad! Just remember its only day 7! I find when I start walstads, the plants kinda are in this weird limbo state, some dying some thriving, while everything settles and the tank is striving for equilibrium. I'll be honest, I don't have allot of knowledge when it comes to exactly what plants work together and which ones don't, aside from guess and check ( if they are all doing well, and I introduce a new species and another flourishing species begins to tank, I chalk it up to allelopathy ).

Regarding the status and health of plants - so many factors it could be? Light ( PAR, distance from tank, wattage, etc..), water chemistry ( seems ok to me though ), decor ( depending on what it's made out of? ( the rock/slab ). It seems there are a few species ( anubias, sword, Siamensis, Hygrophila Lancea, ) that all have those brown spots. Speaking from experience, this happened to me and it turned out there was a bunch of nitrates in the tank that caused this. AND...I did exactly what you did to fix! I added pothos plants, that actually grew a vine around the top of my tank which looked really cool. I also added some giant duckweed, ( I just needed nitrate sponges really ), and this really helped the other plants flourish...all while competing with algae. How is the Salvinia ( floating ) doing? Regarding your question on water movement....i've personally had good and bad experiences. Sometimes it seems like its just what the tank needed, a little more oxygen + nutrient flow around the tank...and other times it seemed to be just what the algae wanted XD. I think some experimentation is in order, unless some other folks know better than I.

Good luck! Love the updates, keep it up.
 

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Hmm, looks like some plants aren't doing so hot indeed. But dieback upon introducing them to the very different water of your tanks is, as you noted, quite common and not immediately something to be alarmed about. As long as the tips and buds of the plants are still doing well.
Do remove melting and overly damaged leaves as they may add to your algae problems. That one hygrophila that is essentially a bunch of dead leaves now should be removed.

Both the sword and the anubias are indicating deficiencies. They are both flexible in terms of light, so I don't think you should seek the cause in the lighting, whether too much or too little. The problem is more likely to have to do with nutrients. The anubias looks like it is purposely reabsorbing its lower leaves to recover nutrients that it can use for newer growth. That's not immediately a red flag as long as that new growth looks good. The sword is a different story, there seems to be something in the way of imbalance there.

For the hygrophila, unless you are sure that the plant you bought was originally growing submerged, it could be massive transplant shock. It is rather common for it to have been grown (semi) emersed before sale and it doesn't adapt all that quickly. In general plants that look more like 'earthplant', like hygrophila, nomophila, etc. can have a hard time switched to underwater growth. Sometimes I tie these plants to the rI'm of the tank when first introducing them, leaving 1-2 leaves sticking out of the water and the roots just suspended in the middle of the tank. Then when the leaves start growing, I lower it a bit every water change until it can eventually be planted.
Not sure if that is a solution but it is something to consider for future purchases.

I don't know what is going on with that hydrocolyte but it looks abysmal to be honest...

If you continue to see leaf melt (with the leaves turning translucent), try adding a bit of fertiliser with balanced macronutrients for a few days to see if that changes anything. Might make algae worse if that's not it though, so that's a bit contentious.

Water movement is a double edged sword. It makes algae growth on the plants and surfaces worse (in my experience) but it does help the plants thrive better.
You could also consider adding a large air stone, I've found that effective sometimes. It create surface agitation and a little bit of water movement but neither excessively, and it helps replenish CO2 during the day when the lights are on.
 
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cmid21

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Guy25 said:
Well not bad! Just remember its only day 7! I find when I start walstads, the plants kinda are in this weird limbo state, some dying some thriving, while everything settles and the tank is striving for equilibrium. I'll be honest, I don't have allot of knowledge when it comes to exactly what plants work together and which ones don't, aside from guess and check ( if they are all doing well, and I introduce a new species and another flourishing species begins to tank, I chalk it up to allelopathy ).

Regarding the status and health of plants - so many factors it could be? Light ( PAR, distance from tank, wattage, etc..), water chemistry ( seems ok to me though ), decor ( depending on what it's made out of? ( the rock/slab ). It seems there are a few species ( anubias, sword, Siamensis, Hygrophila Lancea, ) that all have those brown spots. Speaking from experience, this happened to me and it turned out there was a bunch of nitrates in the tank that caused this. AND...I did exactly what you did to fix! I added pothos plants, that actually grew a vine around the top of my tank which looked really cool. I also added some giant duckweed, ( I just needed nitrate sponges really ), and this really helped the other plants flourish...all while competing with algae. How is the Salvinia ( floating ) doing? Regarding your question on water movement....i've personally had good and bad experiences. Sometimes it seems like its just what the tank needed, a little more oxygen + nutrient flow around the tank...and other times it seemed to be just what the algae wanted XD. I think some experimentation is in order, unless some other folks know better than I.

Good luck! Love the updates, keep it up.
Well thank you for the encouragement. As you stated, so many different variables it is almost impossible to scientifically eliminate what is the cause.
The decoration is actually concrete (I know..) that I have sealed (hopefully) thousands of times.

The Salvinia… well I am unsure. :) The bottom of the plant has turned brown, but my wife has said that she thought it looked to have grown slightly...so who knows. I guess we will see in the coming days. Might have to add a different floating plant.

PascalKrypt said:
Hmm, looks like some plants aren't doing so hot indeed. But dieback upon introducing them to the very different water of your tanks is, as you noted, quite common and not immediately something to be alarmed about. As long as the tips and buds of the plants are still doing well.
Do remove melting and overly damaged leaves as they may add to your algae problems. That one hygrophila that is essentially a bunch of dead leaves now should be removed.

Both the sword and the anubias are indicating deficiencies. They are both flexible in terms of light, so I don't think you should seek the cause in the lighting, whether too much or too little. The problem is more likely to have to do with nutrients. The anubias looks like it is purposely reabsorbing its lower leaves to recover nutrients that it can use for newer growth. That's not immediately a red flag as long as that new growth looks good. The sword is a different story, there seems to be something in the way of imbalance there.

For the hygrophila, unless you are sure that the plant you bought was originally growing submerged, it could be massive transplant shock. It is rather common for it to have been grown (semi) emersed before sale and it doesn't adapt all that quickly. In general plants that look more like 'earthplant', like hygrophila, nomophila, etc. can have a hard time switched to underwater growth. Sometimes I tie these plants to the rI'm of the tank when first introducing them, leaving 1-2 leaves sticking out of the water and the roots just suspended in the middle of the tank. Then when the leaves start growing, I lower it a bit every water change until it can eventually be planted.
Not sure if that is a solution but it is something to consider for future purchases.

I don't know what is going on with that hydrocolyte but it looks abysmal to be honest...

If you continue to see leaf melt (with the leaves turning translucent), try adding a bit of fertiliser with balanced macronutrients for a few days to see if that changes anything. Might make algae worse if that's not it though, so that's a bit contentious.

Water movement is a double edged sword. It makes algae growth on the plants and surfaces worse (in my experience) but it does help the plants thrive better.
You could also consider adding a large air stone, I've found that effective sometimes. It create surface agitation and a little bit of water movement but neither excessively, and it helps replenish CO2 during the day when the lights are on.
:( Well, that is disheartening to hear. However, I won't give up! :blackeye:

I have went ahead and removed all of the dwarf nomophila/hygrophila save for one. They were all mush and basically disintegrated. I was going to take the last one out ("best" one pictured) but it has a small root growing from the stem, so I left it.

So in summary:
Anubias: (attached the rhizome to the wood via aquarium safe super glue gel) which are not looking too good.
Nomophila: almost all removed
Hydrocolyte: Pretty much dead

Amazon Sword: showing signs of deficiencies, but not dead yet
Hygrophila: Have some brown spots but haven't yet turned to mush (looks to be the next in line to)
Salvinia: looking pretty brown
Sagittaria: at a stalemate current, only plant not showing as though they have at least had a conversation with the plant grI'm reaper.

And the stupid hornwort looks to be excelling. Go figure!

Oof, what a first week. That was (could turn out to be) a fairly expensive "failed" experiment. I could only end up with 1 or 2 original plants. Others make it look so easy!

Failure isn't the opposite of success, it is part of it.
So I will continue!

I will do as recommended and monitor the plant situation then add fertilizer if needed. Through browsing the forum I noticed that many people use Thrive all in one fertilizer so I might invest in that. (Or try and find a cheaper alternative)

I have lost a good deal of plant coverage in the tank so probably will have to consider adding new plants.
Any suggestions? I think I have killed (or at least would be charged with attempted murder by a jury of my peers) most of the "easy" "beginner" plants. There is a general lack of freshwater plants locally so I have to order them online.

Also, thank you both for taking the time to read and comment on my situation. I'm sure you have better things to do then read these long posts. So I greatly appreciate you donating your time and expertise.

Kind regards,
 

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cmid21 said:
Well thank you for the encouragement. As you stated, so many different variables it is almost impossible to scientifically eliminate what is the cause.
The decoration is actually concrete (I know..) that I have sealed (hopefully) thousands of times.

The Salvinia… well I am unsure. :) The bottom of the plant has turned brown, but my wife has said that she thought it looked to have grown slightly...so who knows. I guess we will see in the coming days. Might have to add a different floating plant.


:( Well, that is disheartening to hear. However, I won't give up! :blackeye:

I have went ahead and removed all of the dwarf nomophila/hygrophila save for one. They were all mush and basically disintegrated. I was going to take the last one out ("best" one pictured) but it has a small root growing from the stem, so I left it.

So in summary:
Anubias: (attached the rhizome to the wood via aquarium safe super glue gel) which are not looking too good.
Nomophila: almost all removed
Hydrocolyte: Pretty much dead

Amazon Sword: showing signs of deficiencies, but not dead yet
Hygrophila: Have some brown spots but haven't yet turned to mush (looks to be the next in line to)
Salvinia: looking pretty brown
Sagittaria: at a stalemate current, only plant not showing as though they have at least had a conversation with the plant grI'm reaper.

And the stupid hornwort looks to be excelling. Go figure!

Oof, what a first week. That was (could turn out to be) a fairly expensive "failed" experiment. I could only end up with 1 or 2 original plants. Others make it look so easy!

Failure isn't the opposite of success, it is part of it.
So I will continue!

I will do as recommended and monitor the plant situation then add fertilizer if needed. Through browsing the forum I noticed that many people use Thrive all in one fertilizer so I might invest in that. (Or try and find a cheaper alternative)

I have lost a good deal of plant coverage in the tank so probably will have to consider adding new plants.
Any suggestions? I think I have killed (or at least would be charged with attempted murder by a jury of my peers) most of the "easy" "beginner" plants. There is a general lack of freshwater plants locally so I have to order them online.

Also, thank you both for taking the time to read and comment on my situation. I'm sure you have better things to do then read these long posts. So I greatly appreciate you donating your time and expertise.

Kind regards,
Sorry about it :( Next purchase you could to spread things but putting a few stems of the plants incoming into a tall vase next to a sunny window. So you have a back-up in case it doesn't work out immediately in the new tank.

Other easy plants to try:
- Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia), can also be grown emersed and half-half.
- Pogostemon (hates my largest display tank but thrives in most others)
- Banana Plant (Nympoides "Taiwan", I believe)
- Rotala Rotifunda
- Bacopa (this one never works for me, think it hates my water, but most people have an easy time growing it)
- Ludwigia
- Ceratopsis
- Limnophila (very fast growing and dense, very adaptable too)
- Riccia (never did well for me, stagnates at best, but other people can't manage to eradicate the stuff)
- Vallisneria (if it does well, it propagates very quickly which makes this a great floor-to-surface plant to fill space cheaply)
- Myriophyllum (bought one of the species being sold for outdoor, frosted-compatible pond use. It explodes outside in my tubs, so I put some in a 78F indoor tank as an experiment and it is very robust and fast-growing.)
- Alternatives to Salvinia include: Amazon frogbit, duckweed and pistia (water lettuce).


Don't be discouraged! The first time I started a large walstad tank, I included a lot of Alternanthera which had this beautiful purple foliage and I was amazingly in love with it. At first it looked to be doing okay, then after a week it started melting. The entire background consisted of it and all of it just completely rotted away, but at a slow pace and I didn't want to remove them because I loved the way they looked.
I later also realised the leaf structure they had (and the ones I saw for sale later with different leaves) probably meant I bought ones that had only emersed leaves. Anyhow it caused a huge mess and even after the last one melted, my tank was still unbalanced and plagued by intermittent algae problems for months. I still feel that tank is one of my least successful walstads, which is disappointing because my favourite fish are in there and I take a lot of pictures of it.
*cough* anyhow. That's how we learn, we do stuff and sometimes we make a mess of things. One thing I've learnt for sure is not to allow failing plants to rot completely in your tank, it creates trouble in your overall tank balance.
 

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HI cmid21

I have never done a "Walstad Tank" but I thought the layer of dirt was supposed to be rather thin (1/2" - 1") and the capping material thicker (3" - 4"). You can try adding an airstone to the tank however it will likely increase the odor in the room for a while.

If the "unpleasant odor" you are referring to is sort of a "rotten egg" odor, it is likely hydrogen sulfide gas and is likely caused by anaerobic bacteria decomposing organic material in the substrate.
 

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SeattleRoy said:
HI cmid21

I have never done a "Walstad Tank" but I thought the layer of dirt was supposed to be rather thin (1/2" - 1") and the capping material thicker (3" - 4"). You can try adding an airstone to the tank however it will likely increase the odor in the room for a while.

If the "unpleasant odor" you are referring to is sort of a "rotten egg" odor, it is likely hydrogen sulfide gas and is likely caused by anaerobic bacteria decomposing organic material in the substrate.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention this in my post but a healthy walstad tank should not have a strong odor (other than a natural earthy one, but it certainly wouldn't be classified as "a smell" unless you hate the smell of 'outdoors' in general). If it is wafting outside of the tank that is definitely a sign you have too much decomposition going on.

Just for reference - indeed the dirt should be on the thin side, but 1/2 an inch is too little for proper rooting. 1.5-2.5" is better for a shallow tank. Taking another look at that picture though... cmid21 maybe I can't find the info right now, but that substrate looks a little high. How much dirt did you use? I think we had a discussion on this before but can't quite remember.
The capping on the other hand should be as thin as possible because it only serves to keep the dirt in place, and any more you add on risks suffocating plant roots by restricting water flow to the dirt.
 
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PascalKrypt said:
Oh yes, I forgot to mention this in my post but a healthy walstad tank should not have a strong odor (other than a natural earthy one, but it certainly wouldn't be classified as "a smell" unless you hate the smell of 'outdoors' in general). If it is wafting outside of the tank that is definitely a sign you have too much decomposition going on.

Just for reference - indeed the dirt should be on the thin side, but 1/2 an inch is too little for proper rooting. 1.5-2.5" is better for a shallow tank. Taking another look at that picture though... cmid21 maybe I can't find the info right now, but that substrate looks a little high. How much dirt did you use? I think we had a discussion on this before but can't quite remember.
The capping on the other hand should be as thin as possible because it only serves to keep the dirt in place, and any more you add on risks suffocating plant roots by restricting water flow to the dirt.
PascalKrypt , thank you for taking the time to respond, for the encouraging words and for the extensive list of plants.

The depth of the substrate is between 2-3inches. The sand cap is roughly 1 inch. Now the sand is rather compact, so much so that some of the dirt below the cap is still dry.

When I set up the tank I:
Put my organic potting soil in the bottom of the tank. (sifted out some large chunks) Let it air out overnight. Wet the placed soil then added a little more soil, to a depth of 2-3 inches of dry soil to keep the wet down. (some was starting to move/float) Then capped with a small amount of "sand."

I know we had a long conversation regarding anoxic zones and planted tanks. I felt 2-3 inches of soil was adequate enough to provide room for plant growth while remaining on the thin side. My initial plan was to make a deep substrate that aimed for anoxic zones for denitrification. I since postponed that experiment until I could get think tank started. (I know you spoke about testing the effects of anoxic zones on plant roots. How is that going?)

Now I could be mistaken, but I believe the smell was cause by the film/algae on the water surface of the aquarium. After removing the film and doing a large water change, the smell did subside a little. I wouldn't categorically state that it smelled like rotten eggs (H2S) but it didn't smell like nature either. A very stale pond I would say.

However, as H2S is neutralized by O2, the water change/adding of O2 might have neutralized the H2S temporarily. I wouldn't think that only 2-3 inches of soil would create anoxic zones, but the cap is pretty compact.(?) Assessing the situation of my plants, maybe I do have some anoxic zones in the tank. As the plants are not growing/providing enough O2 to neutralize the H2S...

I guess I could add an airstone (O2) to the aquarium to see if the smell does disappear. That might indicate that I do have anoxic zones in the substrate. Maybe it will help with the surface algae as well. With the current state of my plants however, I am weary about the results. (algae growth as advise previously) Another solution might be to aerate (by poking into the dirt) the substrate and document the results.

I am hesitant to keep throwing money at the problem without really having an idea of the cause. Air stone, fertilizer, more plants; it will add up...

SeattleRoy , thank you for taking the time to comment.
I have read many of your posts explaining the needs/deficiencies of certain aquatic plants, which are very helpful. (vast understatement) It looks as though my Amazon Swords and Anubias plants are showing signs of deficiencies, and I am determined to save them.

Based on my water measurements (0 Nitrites and 0 Nitrates), I might conclude (in my limited knowledge) that there might be a Nitrogen deficiency? I guess this should be easy to correct, as I could just add fish food to the tank. It was stated earlier that it as though the Anubias was absorbing the older leaves. Would this be indication of a phosphate deficiency also?

Local water:
Phosphorus= not tested
Calcium= 8-24ppm
Magnesium= 15-18ppm
Potassium= 0-6ppm
Sulfate= 12-128ppm
Iron= Not detectable
Manganese= Not detectable
Copper= Not detectable
Zinc= Not detectable
Boron= Not detectable
Molybdenum= Not detectable

I have these local water parameters, however I am unsure how to utilize this information. I am unable to find a blueprint on the plants I own and their respective requirements of each nutrient. Is there such a database? Or are you able to tell by looking at the data, the most likely deficiency(deficiencies)?
I know there are generic all-in-one fertilizers but also specific (powder) nutrients. Which would be the better option in my case? Any suggestions for brand names? Obviously, the hesitancy with fertilizers being algae growth. I don't want to use anything unnecessarily. (And again, the money concerns)

As always, thank you thank you for any insights.

*edit*
My wife said it smells like “someone getting a perm.” (Something done to one’s hair) Whatever that means in the contexts of my tank... At least it isn’t rotten eggs.
 

SeattleRoy

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HI cmid21

Most folks describe the smell of a perm as either burnt hair or rotten eggs.

So this is a new tank? Are the swordplants and anubias new as well? Are the plants recently purchased?

The water parameters do not look bad with the exception of the lack of iron. A Walstad tank will not typically show much nitrogen, the plants should get their nutrients from the substrate and to a much lesser extent the water column. Most folks do not dose nutrients into the water column for a Walstad tank.

Probably the best sources for plant information are the books by Christel Kasselmann, the plant explorer. The first one she did is in English, her second one has not been translated from German yet. For an online source I like the plant database at AquaticPlantCentral.com for information.

Hope this helps!
-Roy
 

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About the deep substrate experiment, so far it is looking pretty poor actually, though I'm not 100% sure if the problem is caused by the substrate depth. But the lily in that 'tank' completely melted within 2-3 weeks after some two months of vigorous growth.
The hairgrass also present in that tank is still green and thriving though, since that is also a substrate-rooted plant I'm not quite sure if the lily's demise is due to the substrate but I'm guessing the hairgrass roots don't go nearly as deep.
Anyhow, I've kind of revised my recommended substrate depth downwards a bit. I think 2.5 is now really the maximum I recommend, though as stated before it depends a lot on the density.
If a part of your sand is still dry... that sounds way too compacted. And in that case you definitely have anoxic zones. If water with that much pressure coming from above can't manage its way in, then oxygen won't either. Even that excessively deep substrate from that experiment is wet throughout.
 
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SeattleRoy said:
HI cmid21

Most folks describe the smell of a perm as either burnt hair or rotten eggs.

So this is a new tank? Are the swordplants and anubias new as well? Are the plants recently purchased?

The water parameters do not look bad with the exception of the lack of iron. A Walstad tank will not typically show much nitrogen, the plants should get their nutrients from the substrate and to a much lesser extent the water column. Most folks do not dose nutrients into the water column for a Walstad tank.

Probably the best sources for plant information are the books by Christel Kasselmann, the plant explorer. The first one she did is in English, her second one has not been translated from German yet. For an online source I like the plant database at AquaticPlantCentral.com for information.

Hope this helps!
-Roy
PascalKrypt said:
About the deep substrate experiment, so far it is looking pretty poor actually, though I'm not 100% sure if the problem is caused by the substrate depth. But the lily in that 'tank' completely melted within 2-3 weeks after some two months of vigorous growth.
The hairgrass also present in that tank is still green and thriving though, since that is also a substrate-rooted plant I'm not quite sure if the lily's demise is due to the substrate but I'm guessing the hairgrass roots don't go nearly as deep.
Anyhow, I've kind of revised my recommended substrate depth downwards a bit. I think 2.5 is now really the maximum I recommend, though as stated before it depends a lot on the density.
If a part of your sand is still dry... that sounds way too compacted. And in that case you definitely have anoxic zones. If water with that much pressure coming from above can't manage its way in, then oxygen won't either. Even that excessively deep substrate from that experiment is wet throughout.
Yes, brand new tank (the actual tank is old, cleaned etc.) My first fish tank ever. All plants were bought a week ago new. :)

Well then, I might have some anoxic zones. My substrate at its maximum is 2.5 inches and the cap is .5 inches for a total of 3 inches deep. I have heard of people using a cap that is well over that number, so I am shocked that this depth created anoxic zones. The sand was wet but it looked as though a small section of the dirt just under the cap was dry. (Only based on color analysis)
In preparation, I did wet the “sand” down to rinse the substrate of any dirt/film; so maybe that made it more compact? Still, this is a fairly common cap and a common preparation practice, so I am confused on why this occurred. You can see some soil leeching, but also a lighter brown band.
48D77FD8-58C9-4422-957C-2C63EED8D9D3.jpeg


Anyways,
Day 9

Due to the great information provided by the responses here I decided to tackle the anoxic zone issues along with the sad state of the plants.

Today I did another water change. The surface algae has not been back since I added the pothos and did a large water change; so I decided to continue with what worked. In addition, after the addition of the pothos/water change, the smell has almost vanished.
In retrospect, it could be due to:
1. The addition of oxygen through the water change to neutralize the H2S
2. The algae actually causing the odor

I also modified the temperature to around 77/78 degrees.

In addition to the steps outlined above, I have since removed the lid for more gaseous exchange and have tried to aerate the substrate by poking; hoping this would help with the anoxic/smell issues.

I have to give another statement of complete appreciation to the expertise and suggestions regarding the issues with the plants in the tank. I would be literally lost without it.
Now I am unaware of the actual problems regarding the plants, however I am able to narrow it down from context of the information provided above. It seems as though my water parameters should be sufficient for growth. Which was my main concern. So I am able to tentatively discard that as a cause. Obviously there is something seriously lacking in regards to the plant care. If my tap water parameters indicate that there are enough nutrients for plants growth, then my thought would be to add new water consistently to replenish nutrients in the water through water changes. Makes sense right?

The lack of nutrients would make sense as I have zero algae in the tank. Even with the mortality rate of plants in the tank, algae has not been present. I would think that the plants are absorbing nutrients faster than can be provided. My question would be... why hasn’t the soil provided this?o_O

Maybe there was also an issue with the light? With the lid attached, the condensation might have dispersed the light in a unsatisfactory manner? Who knows. I am optimistic about the future of a couple of the plants. The amazon fern and the nomophila (my favorite) seem to have new leaves. Also, some of the Anubias have new root growth; so that is a little victory

So in the interest in brevity, that is what I will conclude with.

89081817-9688-44D4-BCA9-B67029945997.jpeg


New root growth is in the top right corner. Leaves still look horrible though.

04B1307A-81C7-463D-ACE1-186D01DD3216.jpeg


Amazon sword, new leaves in the middle?

9D2AB9E5-C06A-43E7-BCEE-53D023C5A205.jpeg


Nomophila new leaves?

Thanks for reading!
Please leave any criticisms!
 

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cmid21 said:
then my thought would be to add new water consistently to replenish nutrients in the water through water changes. Makes sense right?
Good thought!

Looks like you've got the start of new growth, looks promising.
 
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PascalKrypt said:
Good thought!

Looks like you've got the start of new growth, looks promising.
Thanks! Hoping for the best. As stated previously, without everyone's help I would be pretty lost right now. So in positive spirits now.

PascalKrypt, if I may ask you a separate "scientific" question: Why do my plants seemingly do better with frequent water changes? I know I am adding nutrients but the majority of my plants are stem plants. Shouldn't they be getting (the majority) of nutrients from the soil? I am growing worried that the substrate isn't going to provide what the plants need. Or is the situation being that while the roots are establishing, the majority of nutrients are being absorbed from the water column?

*The reason I ask, is because I am considering investing in fertilizer which will reduce the need for daily/every other day water changes. (water consumption consideration) I also have to consider the extra nutrients and the opportunity for algae.
 

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cmid21 said:
Thanks! Hoping for the best. As stated previously, without everyone's help I would be pretty lost right now. So in positive spirits now.

PascalKrypt, if I may ask you a separate "scientific" question: Why do my plants seemingly do better with frequent water changes? I know I am adding nutrients but the majority of my plants are stem plants. Shouldn't they be getting (the majority) of nutrients from the soil? I am growing worried that the substrate isn't going to provide what the plants need. Or is the situation being that while the roots are establishing, the majority of nutrients are being absorbed from the water column?

*The reason I ask, is because I am considering investing in fertilizer which will reduce the need for daily/every other day water changes. (water consumption consideration) I also have to consider the extra nutrients and the opportunity for algae.
Stem plants are stem plants precisely because they can take nutrients from both. I think it is much due to what you suspect, they are newly establishing and have an easier time absorbing from the water column. Daily water changes is a little excessive though (I notice weekly changes make a difference, but anything beyond that doesn't do much), but maybe it is because of that? That or the soil is too dense and is suffocating the roots.. but it is a little early to say.

Like I said, fertiliser is a double edged sword. I've experimented with it in filterless tanks and the only time it caused more plant growth instead of an algae bloom is when it was added to very shallow tanks (<10") with excessive lighting, or to tanks that had an inert substrate instead of soil (e.g. gravel, leaves). You can try it, naturally, but keep a close eye and stop dosing when problems first start appearing. One of those liquid CO2 pumps might be of more use, actually, as it will benefit the plants (CO2 is usually the most limiting factor in no tech tanks) with no risk of encouraging algae. It's not nearly as good as injection and you shouldn't use it as a long-term solution, but it can help in the establishing phase.
(Also you can try tossing in some dried leaves, the decomposition should create a bit of CO2 over time as well).

Here is what you should keep in mind:
CO2 + Light + Nutrients = Plant growth. All three need to be present in order for any one of them to be used. So if the plants run out of Light, nutrients and CO2 won't be used. In this case there simply won't be growth, as algae also require light to use nutrients. Then, if you have light and CO2 but no nutrients, plants will either stall or reabsorb older leaves to build new ones (other than lack of light, this may be a reason why plants are bald below their tops). But again, in this scenario algae won't grow since there aren't enough nutrients.
Then if you have nutrients and light but no CO2, this is when algae will grow while plants won't.

Your current (no algae, plant melt) situation does seem to indicate lack of nutrients, though it could be CO2 lack with inadequate lighting as well. Seeing how you have plants that are fine with no light and that are also doing poorly that also seems unlikely.

Hmm. Don't get too impatient though, plant can just struggle in the beginning and may need to sort themselves out.
 

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