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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-29-2010, 10:08 AM Thread Starter
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Lightbulb Natural Planted Tanks

Hey everyone, I am getting a new tank (eclipse system 6) for my betta soon and I would like to make it into a natural planted tank with all live plants. Somebody mentioned to me a while back on a thread (sorry I don't remember who it was) that they used the Walstad method for plant tanks.

I would like any advice/experiences anyone has had on keeping live plants.

Some questions I have are:
-What types of plants are best for a low light natural planted aquarium?

-Is it best to use sand or gravel on top of the soil level?

-Will having one type of bulb over another help the plants thrive better? By types I mean daylight, aqua glo, and all the different varieties of light bulbs available.

-What type of soil is best suited for this type of aquarium setup?

-How do you go about moving plants, if at all, once the tank is established?

If I think of anything else, I will post it. I have been reading up on this for days and there are so many aspects to consider that are going through my head. Sorry this is so long!
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-29-2010, 05:20 PM
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Hmm, I swear I wrote an article on planted aquariums but who knows where it is now .

In a Walstad aquarium, you're basically using the plants as your only real source of filtration. Is that what you're looking to do or do you just want a bunch of live plants (but still do regular water changes and have a basic filter). There's a bit less room for error in having plants AND a filter but both can be done in your tank.

More light is almost always better (gives you more options) but the actual brand doesn't matter. Look at the wattage (and also make sure that it's not an actinic bulb or some other specialized marine type). For planted aquariums, I like power compacts. They don't use much electricity, last a while, and are still brighter than regular florescents. In your Eclipse, though, I don't think you have a choice anyways. Don't they come with a power compact fixture? I can't remember, I haven't used an Eclipse in years (well, technically I have one set up but it's just the tank and not the full set-up).

The plants will depend on just how low the lighting is. See what your aquarium is going to come with, to begin. The ideal plants will also depend on the pH (if it's especially low or high, your plant choices a bit more restricted) and what kind of set-up you want (many low light plants should be tied or otherwise attached to rocks and/or driftwood...if you're not looking to use those types of decorations, you need to stick with floating and rooted plants).

Assuming you're using regular potting soil: I sometimes put gravel over it just because it helps keep the plants rooted initially, allows me to vacuum the the bottom without disturbing the soil and roots a lot, and keeps certain fish from kicking up soil all the time (that's not an issue with bettas). But I've also used pure soil, pure gravel, and pure sand. So it's mostly a personal choice and partially depends on the plants you pick (so I can offer more advice once we figure that out). As for picking out a soil, that once again depends on the plants. I've never found substrate to matter all that much, honestly. I've had amazing planted aquariums when the substrate was just plain gravel. Sure, tanks that had specialized aquarium soil did great...but not really any better! Think about the plants you want to keep, what looks best to you, and what's in your budget (there are some really great aquarium substrates out there that are also rather pricey).

You don't move them, there should be no need to. If you feel like you'll need to move plants, keep them potted or use plants that attach to objects or float. Rooted plants shouldn't be disturbed.

I'd suggest doing a ton of reading (that way you can come up with more specific questions, allowing me to help more) and maybe go online "plant shopping"--just to see what's out there and what plants interest you . Figure out, for example, if you want to utilize driftwood, if you want bright lighting, if you'd prefer a dark substrate, etc.

In case you're interested, I have two betta aquariums set up with the following:

Betta Aquarium 1: 5.5 gallons
-Moderate-low (power compact) lighting (10 watt bulb)
-Small in-tank Whisper (don't use a HOB Whisper with a betta without modifying it, though) filter (mainly there to keep water moving and filter small particles)
-Water temperature maintained at 78 degrees with a heater
-Plants: Various species of anubias and vallisneria
-Substrate: "River" gravel
-Supplements: Very occasional use of Seachem Flourish Excel
-Not really a Walstad aquarium, more like a tank that happens to have some plants
-10% water change every two weeks
-Ammonia: 0ppm, Nitrite: 0ppm, Nitrate: < 5ppm, pH: 7.0

Betta Aquarium 2: 5-gallons (this is the Eclipse) :
-Low lighting (very low...no actual lights, just indirect light from the room)
-No filter
-Water temperature maintained at 75 degrees, no heater right now (this betta was a gift and not a planned purchase, will have a heater by winter)
-Plants: Anubias nana tied to rocks, tons of java ferns attached to driftwood, a small amount of water sprite floating
-Substrate: "River" gravel
-Supplements: None
-Walstad with modifications (such as the extreme low light and nutrient-poor gravel)
-Water changes occasionally done when the water level drops or if debris starts building up
-Ammonia: 0ppm, Nitrite: 0ppm, Nitrate: 0ppm, pH: 6.5 (driftwood and tannin-rich leaves are used to keep the tank in a "black water" state)

Then there's also:

Experimental tank with a lone cherry barb that lives forever (1-gallon) :
-No lighting besides some indirect sunlight because of tank placement
-No filter or heater (temp. never drops below 70)
-Plants: Java ferns
-Substrate: River stones
-Supplements: None
-Started off as an experimental tank years ago. There's still a cherry barb alive so I just leave it as it is. This is a strange aquarium that doesn't require maintenance besides occasional feeding.
-50% water change once a year after summer to control algae (summer causes small algae blooms)
-Ammonia: 0ppm, Nitrite: 0ppm, Nitrate: 0ppm, pH: 6.7

As you can see, equipment/lighting/substrate don't always matter so much in the long run if appropriate plants are chosen . I used to keep more high-maintenance planted aquariums (the plants I have now are all hardy species). They were fun but I don't have the time/desire to maintain tanks like that anymore--so my current freshwater tanks are basically me being lazy .

Oh, I forgot (stupid since the tank is literally in front of me), I also have a 2.5-gallon with a single anubias plant and a dwarf puffer. You might have noticed a pattern with my plant choices by now which can give you ideas .

(Anubias rocks!)




~Stephanie

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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-29-2010, 08:05 PM Thread Starter
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I have been reading about this stuff for days online, but I just wanted advice from someone who has experience and whom I can discuss it with as I'm developing the tank. I'm kind of a dork about researching when I am doing something new

My plan as it concerns what I have read is to put an inch of topsoil covered with about an inch of gravel. It will have a filter that comes with the eclipse tank which is a built in with a biowheel. How would you suggest altering a filter like this to suit the betta?

As for the lighting, I believe it comes with a compact fluorescent 8 watt bulb. I will check for sure when I get the tank which should be tomorrow or thursday. Also, the tank will be not in front of, but next to, a east facing window. I open the blinds of this window every morning to give my orchid light.

Some plants I have looked into based on ease of care are java ferns, anubias, hornwort, watersprite, and dwarf hairgrass. I will definitely have some java moss. My dad has ton's of it in his tank and he has started growing some on a piece of driftwood for my new tank. I like the look of the hairgrass as a groundcover type plant but I'm not sure if I can find it anywhere. I have to drive about 40 mins. to the store that carries good, healthy plants. Everywhere near me only sells plants that aren't truly aquatic. One that the petsmart nearby sells is actually an ornamental lawn grass.

Also, I have noticed that a lot of Walstad aquariums utilize floating plants. Is that entirely necessary? I don't know if I really like the look of the floaters covering the top.

Just to give you a full picture of my vision for this tank, I would like it to be pretty heavily planted, and house my betta, as well as some cherry red or ghost shrimp eventually, once things are established.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-29-2010, 09:02 PM Thread Starter
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also, sorry I forgot to add this, but with that filter, I will not be using the carbon cartridges, just a foam pad, and the biowheel. Basically the filter will be for water movement.
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-29-2010, 09:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alfie View Post
I have been reading about this stuff for days online, but I just wanted advice from someone who has experience and whom I can discuss it with as I'm developing the tank. I'm kind of a dork about researching when I am doing something new
Check out wetwebmedia.com for further research if you haven't already come across it. Very useful website for aquariums in general.

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Originally Posted by alfie View Post
My plan as it concerns what I have read is to put an inch of topsoil covered with about an inch of gravel. It will have a filter that comes with the eclipse tank which is a built in with a biowheel. How would you suggest altering a filter like this to suit the betta?
The biowheel filters were fine as they came in my experience. If the flow is too much, you might need to block it with something to slow it down.

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Originally Posted by alfie View Post
Some plants I have looked into based on ease of care are java ferns, anubias, hornwort, watersprite, and dwarf hairgrass. I will definitely have some java moss. My dad has ton's of it in his tank and he has started growing some on a piece of driftwood for my new tank. I like the look of the hairgrass as a groundcover type plant but I'm not sure if I can find it anywhere. I have to drive about 40 mins. to the store that carries good, healthy plants. Everywhere near me only sells plants that aren't truly aquatic. One that the petsmart nearby sells is actually an ornamental lawn grass.
I would avoid hornwort for now. If it dies, you'll get needles all over your tank and clogged up in your filter. Finding good, healthy aquatic plants is tricky in most areas. I actually order the majority of my plants online now because of the variety .

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Also, I have noticed that a lot of Walstad aquariums utilize floating plants. Is that entirely necessary? I don't know if I really like the look of the floaters covering the top.
Well, once again, do you necessarily have to go all out and do a "true" Walstad? Or do you just want to enjoy the benefits and beauty of some plants? Don't get too caught up in what's "standard", see what works for you .

As for why people use them (including myself, in many past tanks), they're hardy and fast-growing. Because they grow so fast and absorb nutrients straight from the water, they're amazing at reducing the amount of nitrogenous waste (ammonia...or nitrate, if it gets that far). Many fish also appreciate the cover of some floating plants. Bettas especially love them because they can build bubble nests more easily . IMO, floating plants are awesome for betta set-ups but you don't have to use them. If you do, keep them pruned back

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Originally Posted by alfie View Post
Just to give you a full picture of my vision for this tank, I would like it to be pretty heavily planted, and house my betta, as well as some cherry red or ghost shrimp eventually, once things are established.
Keep in mind that bettas sometimes snack on shrimp. I would go with the cherry shrimp, by the way. Many of the ghost shrimp sold in the pet trade are sensitive or not actually freshwater. Remember, too, that with any shrimp you don't really want the pH too low (it would be easy to end up with a low pH, by the way, in a planted tank with driftwood) and you also want to supplement with tiny amounts of iodine.

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also, sorry I forgot to add this, but with that filter, I will not be using the carbon cartridges, just a foam pad, and the biowheel. Basically the filter will be for water movement.
Sounds good. Clean the foam pad a lot to prevent debris from building up.




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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-29-2010, 10:04 PM
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I looooove planted tanks. I use live plants in my tanks although they're not really Walstad tanks since I use normal filtration methods too.

I buy plants online too. Much more verity to choose from and I've always received really healthy plants.

You'll have to post pictures of your tank once you get it set up!


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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-01-2010, 01:35 PM Thread Starter
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Check out wetwebmedia.com for further research if you haven't already come across it. Very useful website for aquariums in general.
I just spent hours reading all the articles on the website, and it contained a lot of useful information. Thanks!

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As for why people use them (including myself, in many past tanks), they're hardy and fast-growing. Because they grow so fast and absorb nutrients straight from the water, they're amazing at reducing the amount of nitrogenous waste (ammonia...or nitrate, if it gets that far). Many fish also appreciate the cover of some floating plants. Bettas especially love them because they can build bubble nests more easily . IMO, floating plants are awesome for betta set-ups but you don't have to use them. If you do, keep them pruned back
If they have that many benefits, I may try out a little, especially if it will make my betta happy. Do you have a particular floater that you like to use?


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Keep in mind that bettas sometimes snack on shrimp. I would go with the cherry shrimp, by the way. Many of the ghost shrimp sold in the pet trade are sensitive or not actually freshwater. Remember, too, that with any shrimp you don't really want the pH too low (it would be easy to end up with a low pH, by the way, in a planted tank with driftwood) and you also want to supplement with tiny amounts of iodine.
I am hoping that by providing a lot of plant coverage he will not go after the shrimp. If he does, I will take them out for their safety, but to me he seems very docile. He doesn't even flare at his reflection in a mirror. He avoids it.

What purpose does the iodine serve, and in what dose would I add it? I have never heard of this practice before.

Also, I would like to have a groundcover type plant in the foreground of my tank. Does anyone have any suggestions on the variety?
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-01-2010, 01:38 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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I buy plants online too. Much more verity to choose from and I've always received really healthy plants.
Where do you guys order from?


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You'll have to post pictures of your tank once you get it set up!
I definitely will. I might start a new thread with pictures of my setup and keep it updated as my plants grow.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-01-2010, 02:13 PM Thread Starter
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Sorry I have been making so many posts, I just keep reading new things and coming up with new questions, and I want to be as prepared as humanly possible.

On wet web media, one of the articles seems to imply that he plants his plants after filling the aquarium with water, whereas most other sources seem to do the opposite. If I am rooting the plants in the soil after filling it with water, won't this make the water fill up with particles from the soil?

Also, another article made reference to there being a need to tear down the aquarium and replace the soil after a few years because of the breakdown of available nutrients from the soil. Is this true? Has anyone had to do this?
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-01-2010, 03:35 PM
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If they have that many benefits, I may try out a little, especially if it will make my betta happy. Do you have a particular floater that you like to use?
I love water sprite. It's easy to grow and I like how it looks .

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I am hoping that by providing a lot of plant coverage he will not go after the shrimp. If he does, I will take them out for their safety, but to me he seems very docile. He doesn't even flare at his reflection in a mirror. He avoids it.
Just keep it in mind as a possibility. Aggression and predation are two very different things.

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What purpose does the iodine serve, and in what dose would I add it? I have never heard of this practice before.
Helps with molting (the shedding of the exoskeleton as the shrimp get larger). You don't see as many bad molts when iodine is dosed. It can be bought at a fish store (marine/reef section) but don't follow the directions on the bottle, just add a drop every so often (as far as I know, there's no exact dose...I just do it once in a while).

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Also, I would like to have a groundcover type plant in the foreground of my tank. Does anyone have any suggestions on the variety?
Baby tears .

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Where do you guys order from?
LiveAquaria.com and, believe it or not, eBay! I've seriously gotten some really healthy and cheap plants off there.

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Originally Posted by alfie View Post
On wet web media, one of the articles seems to imply that he plants his plants after filling the aquarium with water, whereas most other sources seem to do the opposite. If I am rooting the plants in the soil after filling it with water, won't this make the water fill up with particles from the soil?
It's a personal preference sort of thing. If you plant after filling the tank up with water, do it carefully and turn off any filters/powerheads/pumps until the soil settles to prevent clogs. I usually plant once there's an inch or two of water in the tank. But if you ever want to add new plants after the initial set-up, you'll have to plant with the tank full anyway.

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Also, another article made reference to there being a need to tear down the aquarium and replace the soil after a few years because of the breakdown of available nutrients from the soil. Is this true? Has anyone had to do this?
That might very well be true. But I wouldn't worry about it--that would be years away! I've never had to but then again, my tanks that had soil were only set up for a couple of years max before I tore them down.




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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-01-2010, 06:14 PM Thread Starter
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Just keep it in mind as a possibility. Aggression and predation are two very different things.
I may decide against that. I have been reading more and it seems like more people have them eaten by bettas than not. And that would be a pretty expensive snack.

Are there any other critters/fish anyone would suggest with the heavy planting and the betta?

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But if you ever want to add new plants after the initial set-up, you'll have to plant with the tank full anyway.
That's true, I didn't think of that.
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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-01-2010, 06:32 PM
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I may decide against that. I have been reading more and it seems like more people have them eaten by bettas than not. And that would be a pretty expensive snack.

Are there any other critters/fish anyone would suggest with the heavy planting and the betta?
Oto cats, pygmy cories, and freshwater nerite snails (not all together) are some options.

The oto cats should only be introduced when the tank is well established, though, and some algae should be present for them to munch on. They also need to be acclimated slowly and carefully (worth it, though...they're cute and keep the glass clean).

Pygmy cory cats are awesome but they're tricky to find for sale. Nerite snails are nice but again, not the easiest animals to find in a lot of areas.

None of these should be introduced until the tank has grown out a bit and is stable.




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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-02-2010, 10:38 AM Thread Starter
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I was thinking about oto cats. They're so cute, and I have never seen either of the others in any stores near me.

I will update everyone as my tank progresses. If you think of any more useful tips I may not have come across yet, let me know! Thanks for all the help so far.
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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-14-2010, 10:04 AM Thread Starter
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I came across a minor complication in my plans today. My current 5.5 gallon tank started leaking and so the betta boy is in the new tank temporarily, until I can go buy plants, but here is my dilemma:

I was going to keep him in the 5.5 gal until I got the plant tank up and running, and stable, so there were no problems transitioning. I didn't want him to go into the tank with soil until I had it running with plants for about two weeks.

So I'm getting my plants probably monday evening (I found a store that carries very nice looking ones and a good variety) and when I put the soil in and plant the plants, I'm going to keep him in a 5 gal bucket for a while, but I do not want to keep him in there real long. I was planning on waiting two weeks before introducing him to the plant tank.

In your experience, when was a planted tank stable and ready for fish? I have the new tank's biowheel floating in the current tank (with the water and filter from the leaking one) and will use gravel from the old tank, so I will still have some bacteria...

Sorry if this post it confusing. :/
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-14-2010, 10:25 AM
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Quote:
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I came across a minor complication in my plans today. My current 5.5 gallon tank started leaking and so the betta boy is in the new tank temporarily, until I can go buy plants, but here is my dilemma:

I was going to keep him in the 5.5 gal until I got the plant tank up and running, and stable, so there were no problems transitioning. I didn't want him to go into the tank with soil until I had it running with plants for about two weeks.

So I'm getting my plants probably monday evening (I found a store that carries very nice looking ones and a good variety) and when I put the soil in and plant the plants, I'm going to keep him in a 5 gal bucket for a while, but I do not want to keep him in there real long. I was planning on waiting two weeks before introducing him to the plant tank.

In your experience, when was a planted tank stable and ready for fish? I have the new tank's biowheel floating in the current tank (with the water and filter from the leaking one) and will use gravel from the old tank, so I will still have some bacteria...

Sorry if this post it confusing. :/
Oh no! You know, I had that happen with a 5.5 gallon too (Top Fin tank, I think?).

It depends on the tank but anywhere from a week to several weeks on average. Since you'll still have some bacteria (plus live plants), he should be fine. Things will stabilize quickly unless you over-feed or something (which is hard to do "accidentally" with bettas since they eat such a small amount and usually you're feeding pellets).

By the way, quick tip for plant shopping: It took me years to realize this but tanks look nicer/more natural and do better if you stick to only a few species that need the same conditions (as opposed to picking like five different plants). Bunching together a few of the same plant looks really nice . I used to have more "garden"-like aquariums with a ton of different species---they were nice but they never quite looked "natural".




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