Thinking of doing a Walstad tank

Sean P Rooney

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I'm thinking of setting up a Walstad tank. I know the basics about the one inch soil, one inch gravel/sand. I also know to let the tank cycle because the soil can leach ammonia. I know to plant as heavily as possible. I also read to do a 5 hour/4 hour/5 hour/10 hour on/off/on/off cycle for lighting. I know that water changes may need to be done very frequently for the first month or so, and to test water parameters frequently, but that less will be needed over time. I plan on using a 10 gallon tank stocked with 9 celestial pearl danios, ramshorn snails, and perhaps my betta. I have not read the book, so I am not sure if I am missing any crucial information or not. I do not want to set up this tank just because there is supposedly less maintenance involved. I am much more interested in the insane plant growth, as well as the fulfillment of having a near-perfectly balanced tank. I have about 2 and a half years of experience keeping fish at this point, and I do have plants in my tanks, but I can never quite keep them from either melting or getting insane algae. A C02 system and high lights are not viable options for me as of right now. Do you guys think I am missing any crucial information, or am I good to try it out?


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Pennsylvania, USA
2 years
I definitely think you should go try it. Keep in mind, though, that the Walstad method will not cure your algae woes - in fact, I believe I have heard that you should expect some algae growth in the beginning before the plants begin to out-compete it.

I think I would try it without the betta. Without him, you don't need a heater, and you may experience less algae growth with a lower temperature. It will also decrease your bioload if you ever plan to remove the filter entirely for a lights-only tank setup. Since plants prefer ammonia and nitrite over nitrate, you might want to eventually have that goal of no-filter. Plus, lower temperatures help keep the water oxygenated without the flow a filter provides.

Good luck!


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My advice would to not add sand to a dirted tank. It defeats the purpose in short order. Top it up with compact gravel like eco complete. The lighting info isn't correct. A normal photo period is best suited.

The main issue with the first water changes is disturbing the substrate but that dissipates over time. Also the parameters from your tap will remain the same but PH may become softer.

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