My no tech bowl experiment

  • #1
I have had a bowl in the living area of our home for a few years but it kind of became neglected and I lost interest mostly because it didn’t lend itself well to have wires hanging out for the heater and filter. It was also hard to place the heater and filter due to the shape of the bowl and it affected the space for planting and fishes. The bowl holds 38 litres of water after substrate, plants and hard scape.

The family has really been wanting it restarted. I decided this time to do no tech. The plan is to plant first, see how it goes and then look into stocking. It sits in direct sunlight and there is a window to the left of it.

No tech will be a challenge. This journal is just me figuring stuff out. So far I have:

Used Tropica aqua soil as the substrate. I had this already.
Planted the tank.

My approach so far has been to look at walstad tank and learn how those work. This isn’t a walstad tank at all but I do think I can incorporate some of the techniques used in this. Particularly, the aqua soil does include nutrients and leaches ammonia so walstad tanks were a good source of information.

The tank is now at 10 days old. It also has 3 blue ramshorn snails (although they are not the colour I was hoping for) as inhabitants at the moment. Pics below are from planting day:


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  • #2
Pics from day 11. I am getting good growth on the dwarf sag and rotala. The lobelia cardinalis was probably a bad choice for this tank but it is getting new leaves coming through. The tank is near a window however weather here has been a challenge. It’s only source of light has been limited plus temps have been low.

The one big surprise has been how clear the water has been. The Tropica soil is not meant to be washed, and given no filter or pump, I was worried water may not be clear so am very happy with that.

Plants at the moment is a challenge. Pre Covid I had a couple of places I could buy from but at the moment it’s mostly online so I have been holding back as delivery charges make it not worth it unless it’s a bulk buy. I set up this tank and another at the same time so I had a big order but at the moment I’m holding back until I set my next tank up in the coming days as I will be putting another order in.

The initial plan was a hybrid of what the walstad folk do which was to plant heavy right from day 1. The problem area was the back where I struggled for stem plants that were tall. I actually was planning on letting the rotala grow to the surface and then cut and replant at the back allowing lower bushy rotala at the front.

One of the ramshorns have made an appearance. Not happy as the colour was listed as blue but these seem to be a mix between red, pink and blue however they were cheap and I got more than I ordered.


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  • #3
Day 18 update. Things are progressing and I am happy so far. I haven’t been happy with the lobelia cardinalis. It has been growing new leaves but my feeling is that this tank should ideally be fast growing plants only and also the lobelia cardinalis does seem to take up a lot of space for a few leaves. So I have plucked out all of the plant at the

Obtaining plants remains a challenge. I was hoping to get some plants in for this tank as I was ordering a new tank and it’s plants. However, stock was low at a few of the places I looked at that stocked the tank I wanted.

In the end I just had to take a few stems from the new tank’s background plants and plant them sparingly into the bowl. I’ve added Lindernia Rountundifolia, Myriophyllum Matogrossenss and Cryptocoryne Crispatula at the back.

I have been monitoring temperature morning and evening to see how the tank is coping with no heater. With temperatures being around zero at night since I set this tank up, I was pleased to see it is a constant 20c. This will make eventual stocking easier.


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  • #4
Day 26 update and so far very happy with the tank. The Rotalia Rotundifolia has continued to grow and I decided to do the first trim on this as some of the mid ground stems were getting tall which I have trimmed and planted along the back as I am aiming for longer stem plants covering the rear of the tank.

The Lindernia Rotundifolia hasn’t done much. No melting but not much in the way of new growth. The Cryptocoryne Crispatula has adjusted well with not much growth but the leaves are looking healthier than last week. Myriophyllum Matogrossenss is doing very well with submerged state growth coming through with thicker plant.

Plant wise, I don’t think there is any space to plant more on the substrate. The aim now is to see which plants take off at the back and pull out the slow growers and move them elsewhere.

I have not done any water changes so far. This is not meant to be a no maintenance bowl and I plan on water changes at some point however for now I am leaving it as is with no dosing and allowing the plants to use up the nutrients from the tropica aqua soil.

Temperature still seems to remain steady between 20-22 and with the the nights becoming slightly milder recently I think that it will probably stop the small fluctuations.

The ramshorn have not done well at all. They seem to lie on their sides a lot but they keep on ending up in different places so they are still alive.

Next step is to start looking at stocking in the next couple of weeks. I’m looking into a couple of options for fish. I will be adding around 5 RCS from my shrimp tank in the next couple of days.

Below are pics from before and after trim;


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  • #5
I like seeing what you're doing here. I have been thinking of doing something just like this for my office desk that gets a lot of light for plant growth. Watching to see how this progresses!!
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  • #6
I like seeing what you're doing here. I have been thinking of doing something just like this for my office desk that gets a lot of light for plant growth. Watching to see how this progresses!!

Thanks! It’s been great to try so far so would highly recommend you give it a go.


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  • #7
Getting lots of pearling today with the bubbles floating to the top and staying there. Trimming along with more natural sunlight over the last couple of days really seems to be helping with the cryptocoryne looking much healthier every day.


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  • #8
Day 33 and past the one month mark. The snails weren’t really looking very good so I took them out. I replaced them on Monday with 5 RCS which came from my shrimp tank in which the colony is well established. I wasn’t too sure on them initially as they seemed not to be too active. I think that may have been the fact that they now are living in a colder tank and also I don’t usually plant my tanks this dense so they are easier to see whereas here they can be out of sight a lot easier. I have seen 4 of them earlier so they seem to be fine.

One of the reasons I started this tank when I did was due to wanting to start it up and give it a boost coming into spring. However, south east England has been unusually gloomy and cold since this tank has been set up which initially worried me however the bulk of it is easy to grow plants so thankfully all is well so far.

The Myriophyllum is thriving so far. It has grown taller. Crptocoryne seems to be doing well. The Lindernia is slowly taking off. So far no real algae issues. The Rotalia that was trimmed and replanted is taking off across the back. The plan is to let the Myriophyllum grow to the top and then to start trimming and replanting as I would now like more height at the back. Happy with the front half of the tank.


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  • #9
Day 49 and all is going well. I was initially concerned that the shrimp may be struggling but that is not the case. They just aren’t very visible due to the dense growth at the front. I saw them zipping around earlier this week which means mating may have possibly been going on. The three ramshorn snails that I had added but had to remove due to them not seeming so well have had babies before being removed so I am getting some babies show up (counted 3 so far). This has been very pleasing as the no tech bowl is now supporting life. I manually feed twice a week however with seasonal change the tank is seeing more sunlight so has algae for grazing.

Growth wise the back of the tank is beginning to fill in. The plan is to cut the stems as they reach the top and replant for one more round and then stop as I don’t want to end up with an absolute jungle. Also, due to relying on natural light that is not coming from directly above the tank but the side, it favours quicker growth for taller plants. There are a few shorter stems that can’t be seen behind the rock that are growing but slowly and I’m confident these will catch up soon. I am also thinking of removing everything except the saggitaria front the front as it is starting to look overgrown.

In terms of the set up phase, I think I’m coming towards the end and am now looking at adding fish in the next week or so.


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  • #10
The back is now starting to fill in. If anything, things have gone better than I expected and all plants grew leading to to densely growing all over. I might have to thin the front out.

The tank is now stable and sustaining life on its own. Algae growing as a result of direct sunlight means I haven’t had to feed the snails or shrimp anything in the last two weeks. The two ramshorn babies are doing well and valiantly keeping the algae on glass under control. Given the abundance of algae I assume I will get an explosion in the snail population at some point in the near future. The shrimp are also very happy. The saggitaria at the front has grown fairly tall and the shrimp seem to feel secure underneath it.

My thoughts are that I would like to just let the populations of shrimp and snails explode and keep it as an invert tank. However, this is in a living area of the house and the family would like to keep a fish in there so I’m now looking into options with the aim of adding something hopefully early next week.


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  • #11
With increased sunshine the plants have been taking off. The ramshorn and RCS are doing a great job on algae control. It’s also great to see seasons making an impact with the RCS now much more active and out and about.

In the end I decided on celestial pearl danios. My research says they don’t need a heater, they would appreciate the dense planting and size wise it would work. I added them a few hours ago and they have settled in well. I do have an alternative tank for them should it not work out here.


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  • #12
The tank is coming up to needing a trim. The back has filled in nicely and there are still stem plants in the back that are catching up. The increased sunlight from the weather change along with addition of fish and fish food that are fertilising the plants seems to have helped.

This has also led to plenty of baby ramshorns appearing. The CPDs are doing well and have become a lot more comfortable in the tank. I can’t say I have seen any RCS babies although they may just not come out. I suspect the CPDs have been hunting down the baby shrimp.

Next step is to trim back in the next couple of months.


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  • #13
Been a while since I updated. Tank has been doing well. It has gone through a stage of plants beginning to outcompete others and a couple of plant types have died out/on the way to dying. With reliance on natural light only it can be seen that plant growth is accelerating on the side the light hits from and minimal growth at the back.

I’m pleased with the dwarf sag and crypts. I always expected some die off because I planted too densely and too many species.

Snails have done very well. There are plenty in there. The RCS have been happy enough with some breeding but I think the CPDs are expert hunters so keeping the population in check. I made a silly mistake of adding three juvenile green neon tetras here on a temporary basis. I didn’t think it through and they can’t be brought out of the tank without damaging the plants so they will just have to live in there. The CPDs are great fish. Nice looking and entertaining social behaviours. I believe I have seen fry but it’s impossible to find much in the tank.


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