First Time Converting a tank to Walstad: Newbie Questions


I've decided to convert my 6.6 bookshelf aquarium over to the Walstad method. I have the organic soil, black sand and nice variety of plants ready to go. I just need move my betta and frogs to a small temporary holding tank.

I've read that most people using the walstad method put 1 to 1 1/2 inches of organic soil and cap with another inch of sand. My question is, this tank is only 8 1/2 inches tall. That means if I go with the minimum I'll only have 6 1/2 inches of tank space (leaving at least 1 inch from the top water line would be only 5 1/2 inches). Will this be okay? I'm thinking it should be since none of the critters in there would need a lot of space.

Also, I'm going to be adding some MTS and I'd like to put shrimp in the tank. I'm contemplating just going with ghost shrimp because I know the ADFs will try to eat the shrimp. I don't want to risk the lives of my cute cherry shrimp that are in my other tank.

As a side note, I have a cycled hob filter on the tank now. I know the Walstad method doesn't require any filtration. I'd like to continue to use the hob for water circulation and eventually remove the majority of the media that's in there, perhaps just leaving a little bit of poly fluff for water polishing. If I remove the media slowly in stages over the course of a month, do you think that would give the plants/ soil time to be able to remove ammonia/nitrite/nitrate on their own? Or would this method do more harm than good?


Have you read Walstads book? I would highly recommend it if you haven't already.

It takes six to eight weeks for the soil to "adjust" to being submerged in water. Ammonia spikes, and other chemical fluctuations occur during this time. I did a Walsrad tank in a 10 gallon, stocked immediately with fish... Had some die. Too much work I think. On my 55 gallon Walstad tank, I soaked the soil (capped with eco complete and sand) for four weeks before even planting, another week or two until adding shrimp. Going to add fish in a week or two. In other words, taking it real slow, and it looks much better much more stable.

How many gallons is your tank? If really small, I would even suggest 1/2 inch of soil and 1 inch substrate. Otherwise you are just asking for trouble. If you got the miracle gro organic choice, that has poultry manure, very "hot" with nutrients. Less is better. My 10 gallon didn't really settle, I ended up taking it apart. It was a good first try though.


Yeah I have Diana's book for my tablet. It's a difficult read.

I think, to keep it safe, I'll keep the filter going since this is only a 6.6 gallon tank.

it's not heavily stocked. I have one betta and two ADFs in there. I also added about six small MT snails.

I had three frogs but one of them had a sad encounter with a purple silk plant that I've since removed from the tank. Somehow it had gotten itself stuck in the plant and I didn't notice until it was too late.


I have a Walstad 3 gallon cube. You could probably use 3/4" soil and 1/2" cap, since sand covers better than gravel (but be very careful filling the tank), but I do think your critters would be okay with the space anyway.

It's a tiny tank, but it's going really well. I had the plants in for about a week before adding my betta. From my understanding, the secret is to plant heavily from day one, whether you use a filter or not. I think the plan to slowly remove filter media is a good one - you don't want to give up on that all-natural tank, but you have a buffer before things get going.

The book is difficult but definitely worthwhile. I would try to finish it before you start the tank.


If you are want to thin the substrate layer, I would do the 3/4-1 inch of sand and like 1/2 of organic soil. If the cap is not thick enough it is a night mare! Haha on the first fitted tank I did it had too little gravel and you couldn't hardly clean it without getting a bunch of dirt in the water column



I just wanted to provide an update on this since I set it up about when I started the thread. I used a one inch layer of organic soil along with a one inch layer of sand. I have a piece of driftwood in there. There are 3 java ferns (one of them is really big in that tiny tank!), one crypt, one anubias, some rotalia rotundafolia, duckweed, guppy grass, water wisteria, and dwarf hairgrass. I just purchased some more dwarf hairgrass and something called cyperus helferI that I've never tried before but looks pretty. So I have a decent mixture of slow and fast growing plants. I'm pleased to say that my ammonia and nitrite readings are both at 0. I have not checked the Nitrate yet but I will do so later and edit my post with the result.

So far I am super happy with how this turned out. I completely removed the HOB filter and the water is being circulated with an airstone powered side filter (tiny tiny!).

Edit: Nitrates are below 20 ppm. It looks pale orange somewhere between the 5 and 10 ppm colors on the strip.

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