My First Walstad Tank (10g)

Bhuij

I have the feeling I'm in for an adventure here.

I currently have a planted 55 gallon freshwater tank with a male betta, two schools of tetras, and a school of rasboras. It's doing great and I'm enjoying it thoroughly.

I've been wanting to do a small dirted tank for my office ever since I read Walstad's excellent book. I'll need to go back through and do some more reading and research, but I'm aiming for a 10 gallon tank, using soil capped with Black Diamond Blasting Sand.

Planned inhabitants would include a male betta, a small school of 6-7 tetras, and some shrimp (probably ghost or amano). I want the aquascape to be very jungly and lush, but I also want all low-tech plants so I don't have to worry about CO2/Excel or high light. I'm thinking dwarf hairgrass, hornwort, crypts, and java ferns with some rocks and driftwood for hardscape.

Ideally this tank will go in the office my wife and I share, so my big question is, could I get away with a tiny sponge filter (like an airstone stuffed in a cube of open cell foam) and no other filtration or water agitation? I'd like it to be calm tank since my betta is a calm betta.
 

ashenwelt

A true Walstad would have no filter. You could add one. Just don't expect the Nitrogen cycle to complete normally. Nitrites are harder for plants than ammonia to eat.
 

Absolem420

My dwarf hairgass wasn't successful. Only plant I can't get to grow I've tried so far. Get some rotala rotudifolia. It grows in all my tanks. I have cold water up too 80* tanks. Lighted unlighted and lighted by a window. It grows in all of them grows fast and all came from 1 stem. I have about 300+ stems now. Just replant what you cut and in no time flat you'll have a forest. Try it

I don't use co2
Probably why the dwarf hair grass died
 

Bhuij

If I could set it up with zero filter at all, I'd prefer that. But my understanding is even with lots of plants, you need at least some amount of surface agitation and water movement in any tank. Perfectly still water = bad. Correct me if this is a misconception?

I'll check out that rotala; I'm not married to any plant selections yet. Thanks for the tip!
 

ashenwelt

If I could set it up with zero filter at all, I'd prefer that. But my understanding is even with lots of plants, you need at least some amount of surface agitation and water movement in any tank. Perfectly still water = bad. Correct me if this is a misconception?

I'll check out that rotala; I'm not married to any plant selections yet. Thanks for the tip!

A true Walstad or NPT does not normally use a filter unless very large. It does however have an insane amount of plants and many are fast growing plants like duckweed (very common). Looked at from above a traditional Walstad has no or little sand to be seen.
 

Bhuij

In that case, I'm probably really shooting for a "Walstad lite." I'm more interested in low-maintenance than absolutely silent, and trimming plants all the time counts as maintenance in my book I think I'll add as many plants as I want and stick in a tiny DIY sponge filter made from an airstone just to make sure any leftover ammonia/nitrites are dealt with after the plants soak up some of it. At some point I may be able to remove the filter entirely, we'll see.

Sounds like the best bet would be:

1. Put in soil, then sand cap, and begin fishless cycle.
2. Finish fishless cycle, add fish and plants at the same time
3. Monitor nitrogen cycle carefully, but in theory adding plants after the bacteria is fully established will cause the plants and bacteria to reach an equilibrium without ever letting any parameter spike and harm the fish
4. After things have settled and been stable for a few months, and plant growth is good, maybe try some experiments to see if I can safely eliminate the sponge filter
5. ???
6. Profit

Sound about right?
 

ashenwelt

In that case, I'm probably really shooting for a "Walstad lite." I'm more interested in low-maintenance than absolutely silent, and trimming plants all the time counts as maintenance in my book I think I'll add as many plants as I want and stick in a tiny DIY sponge filter made from an airstone just to make sure any leftover ammonia/nitrites are dealt with after the plants soak up some of it. At some point I may be able to remove the filter entirely, we'll see.

Sounds like the best bet would be:

1. Put in soil, then sand cap, and begin fishless cycle.
2. Finish fishless cycle, add fish and plants at the same time
3. Monitor nitrogen cycle carefully, but in theory adding plants after the bacteria is fully established will cause the plants and bacteria to reach an equilibrium without ever letting any parameter spike and harm the fish
4. After things have settled and been stable for a few months, and plant growth is good, maybe try some experiments to see if I can safely eliminate the sponge filter
5. ???
6. Profit

Sound about right?

Sounds perfect to me.
 

Bhuij

Okay, I have gathered everything together--

I have a brand new, empty 10 gallon aquarium, a bag of Miracle-Gro potting soil, half a bag of BDBS for a cap, all my hardscape items, and a 3x3" mat of dwarf hair grass. I'm wanting to dry start.

Here's the plan:

1. Sift soil to remove chunks of bark.
2. Put down 1" of soil
3. Saturate with water (but do not flood)
4. Put down about 3/4" of sand on top
5. Do I need to add more water to get the sand wet at this point?
6. Place hardscape items
7. Plant small patches of DHG about 1" apart (I assume plant through the sand into the soil?)
8. Spray everything down with a water bottle every day (should I add any ferts or Excel to the water bottle?)
9. Put plastic wrap over the top of the tank and set lights to 12 hours/day
10. Wait patiently for 2 months as carpet grows in
11. Fill tank
12. Pray really hard that the plants don't die
13. If they don't, add remaining non-carpet plants
14. Add fish and carefully monitor water parameters to ensure I'm not inadvertently now doing a fish-in cycle

Correct? Anything I'm missing? This is my first dry start.
 

Bhuij

Alrighty, I got started.

Put down 1" of dirt, soaked it, and capped with 1" of BDBS. Added a little water, planted my DHG, covered it in plastic wrap for humidity, and set my CFLs to 14 hours/day.

I will be taking photos twice daily from the same vantage point for 2-3 months while the carpet fills in, and hope to have a timelapse video up to show everyone after that!

IMG_4968.JPG
IMG_4973.JPG
 

ashenwelt

Sounds right. Any other plants that you will be dry starting?
 

Bhuij

Probably not. I think I will add stem plants in the back right area (maybe vals or something), as well as possibly putting on some ferns and/or anubias on the driftwood once it's flooded. But I've never had trouble getting non-carpet plants to grow, so I'll probably plant those at the time of flooding in a few months or so.
 

Bhuij

Update:

I've had some minor white mold/fungus problems due to the humidity, so I'm misting every few days with a super dilute mixture of Excel and water, which seems to be keeping the mold in check.

I bought the DHG submersed from an established tank running CO2 at the LFS, so I wasn't terrible surprised when it basically melted during the first 10 days or so after planting it dry. However, I'm happy to report that there is plenty of new growth and it is starting to show signs of spreading at the roots (small blades starting to poke up through the substrate in an increasing radius around the starter clumps.

Should I bother with removing the dead blades? It would be a pretty tedious process, but if it will significantly improve my growth rate I'm not against spending the time on it. What do you guys think?
 

Bhuij

Another update:

Although progress with my DHG has been steady, it has also been REALLY slow. We were coming up on the 3 months mark and it was looking like I was on track to have a full carpet by sometime in 2018. So I did some more reading and a number of people told me that their DHG grew much faster fully submersed. After adding some S. Repens in the background and letting it root for a few days, I decided to go for it, and flooded the tank. I didn't have a filter yet so I just threw in a bit of tubing attached to an air pump in a sad attempt to make sure there was some marginal water movement, and ended up going out of town for about a week right after that.

When I got back the tank was a huge mess. Algae everywhere. BGA coating the entire bottom of the tank and much of the glass, and green water. *sigh* I picked up a small internal filter rated for up to 10 gallon from Amazon, and moved my lights a little bit farther away from the glass (the algae buildup was strongest right where the light hit the glass on each side). Also shortened my photoperiod to 5 hours since I'm not adding any kind of carbon and I want to avoid the algae issues. I also gave it a "post water change" sized dose of Excel to further discourage the algae, although I will not be adding Excel to this tank regularly.

Lo and behold, once I spent 30 minutes cleaning everything up and changing the water out, I swear my DHG grew more in the first week of being underwater than it did in the entire last 2.5 months of dry start. Furthermore, it seems healthier than ever, despite no added carbon and the fact that since it was grown dry, it's not the submersed variant of the plant. Strokes of luck that I'll just accept without questioning

My carpet finally looks like it's really coming in, nicely, and the S. Repens also appears to be doing well. The algae problems have not returned (I think the shortened photoperiod and added water movement did the trick). I'm just waiting on some frogbit to arrive, which should be here by this weekend. Once it shows up I'll be adding some fish and/or shrimps.

One of my other hobbies is photography, so I went ahead and picked a photo I liked from last spring to use as my background for the tank. I'll probably have it printed sometime this week. Pictures of the whole setup to come once my background is in place.
 

ashenwelt

Are you using a siesta?
 

Bhuij

Currently no. The tank gets a significant amount of window light during the day, so I only use my artificial lighting from 5pm to 10pm (mostly so I can see the tank while I'm in my office during evening/night hours). I use a siesta on my 55 gallon tank which is elsewhere in the house and it works great. If I notice a need to change up my lighting for this one, I will try a siesta.
 

ashenwelt

Currently no. The tank gets a significant amount of window light during the day, so I only use my artificial lighting from 5pm to 10pm (mostly so I can see the tank while I'm in my office during evening/night hours). I use a siesta on my 55 gallon tank which is elsewhere in the house and it works great. If I notice a need to change up my lighting for this one, I will try a siesta.

Ouch. Ok, so your running low on CO2 then. That was why the algae. Just wondering and following along

Btw, on an earlier question you asked about cutting dead blades... and the reality is any cutting will increase growth spurts to try and grow. As long as a part of the root is alive. If not removed, it will also mean more nitrogen will be produced.

Please add some pics! Last pics were in April and some of us are following your work. I would love to see it!
 

Bhuij

Yeah I think CO2 is generally the limiting factor with plant growth in a Walstad tank, so the huge excess of light, lack of nitrogen since the tank has no livestock yet, and very little water movement to promote gas exchange at the surface was kind of a perfect storm for an algae explosion. I do believe it's under control now, and I'd like to see that algae try anything funny once I get my frogbit in

Do you think going through and giving the entire thing a haircut would encourage more lateral growth? The DHG is actually at a very nice height, but it still has some filling in to do.

I'm hoping to have my background printed and attached this week; I'll get some pics up as soon as that's done
 

ashenwelt

You know, I always think of trying a Walstad with tons of Scuds in the tank. I was thinking for a Scarlet Badis or Pygmy sunfish tank. May try that next year. Put in the absolute most vicious eaters of algae lol, scuds. Would have to feed them algae early on though...

Next year I want to try a planty recovery tank with tons of Scuds. Have a small scud jar going right now...
 

Bhuij

Alrighty, here's the tank with the background up. This is right after another 100% water change, so the water is still kinda bubbly. Green water algae keeps returning; I'm hoping to be able to fix that before I add livestock, but we'll see. Frogbit should be here on Saturday and hopefully that will outcompete it. I do hope once the water gets clear again I'll be able to see the background a little more clearly. I had a photo I took printed on poster and laminated and I think the idea of using photos as tank backgrounds is a keeper. I may do the same for my established 55g.

Also gave the DHG a good trim today, fingers crossed that this speeds up the filling in process.
 

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PurpleKat

This is a very interesting thread. I like your idea about the photographic background. Just today, I approached my 16 yr old granddaughter about drawing backgrounds for my tanks. She's very artistic. I was thinking of acrylic painted directly onto the back of the tanks. Of course nothing water soluble.
 

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