Diana Walstead style tanks

Discussion in 'El Natural & Low Tech' started by Brenmuk, 29 Jul 2008.

  1. Brenmuk

    Brenmuk Member

    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Peterborough
    Hi I'm new to this forum.

    I would be interested to know how many of you have tried the Diana Walstead style setup for acquascaping and how successful you have found it compared to the more high tech set ups.

    I have recently taken the plunge, stripped out my 3ft planted tank and started again with a soil based compost - 1'' of John Innes seed compost. I have put back the plants and all seems ok so far - the tank has been running now for about 2 weeks. There is no sign of algae and although the plants seem to grow slower without added CO2 they do seem stronger especially the vallis which has stronger thicker looking stems.
    I can't help but think however that this could be the calm before the storm before the soil goes anaerobic and everything goes horribly wrong - Diana Walstead says you need to take a leap of faith putting garden and potting soil at the bottom of your tank.

    Brendan
     
  2. spaldingaquatics

    spaldingaquatics Member

    Messages:
    161
    Location:
    Spalding, S.Lincs
    Hi Brendan

    I forgot to ask yesterday but what would be the required light level for this type of setup?


    thanks
    Adam
     
  3. Ed Seeley

    Ed Seeley Member

    Messages:
    3,262
    Location:
    Nottingham
    I've got a soil and no CO2 tank at school and it does quite well. Never going to be an aquascaped tank as I simply don't have time to maintain it enough and the plant growth is so slow. It has some algae as the fish stock is really too high for a planted tank IMHO but the fish are happy and the plants grow and the algae is declining now. Only problem is it has now got to the 'big clean needed stage' and that will ruin any 'balance' that may have formed!!!!
     
  4. Brenmuk

    Brenmuk Member

    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Peterborough
    Hi Adam
    Thanks again for the fish they seem to be settling well to their new environment.

    In terms of lighting Diana Walstead recommends a mixture of sunlight and fluorescent lighting - there's more detail in the following link http://thegab.org/Articles/WalstadTank.html.
    My tank however is not in front of a window and does not recieve direct sunlight so I have my lighting on for 10hrs a day with one tube and 8hrs with the other - the 2 tubes produce just over 2 wpg.
    It seems counter intuitive sticking your fish tank in direct sunlight after reading for so many years that this will cause algal blooms but Its seems to work for those who have tried this method.
     
  5. spaldingaquatics

    spaldingaquatics Member

    Messages:
    161
    Location:
    Spalding, S.Lincs
    Glad to hear they're settled in mate :D

    The diana Walstead method is new to me, but as you know the stage my largest tank is at anything is a possibility for converting it to, I've had a look at the link and I'm amazed at how straight forward and cost effective the method is , it is tempting I must admit.....I'm keen to see how things continue to go for your setup first and also Ed after the W/C
     
  6. Dusko

    Dusko Member

    Messages:
    47
    Location:
    Denmark
    In my experience the most important thing is the preparation of the soil before flooding the tank.
    I advice you to use the Barr's Dry Start Method for cycling the soil. People usually get severe Thread/Hair algae problems in the first few month in such tanks. But most of them did start too soon. At first the introduced soil is very aerobic, and once submersed it goes through many biological/chemical processes.
    Read this article of mine it might give you some clues;
    Preparation and Maintenance of a Planted Aquarium With a Nutrient Rich Substrate

    I personally love the Low-Tech method, less work and still healthy plant growth. Suits me perfectly :D
    One of my Low-Tech aquariums (180 litres);
    IMG_1250.jpg
    IMG_1242.jpg

    Good luck with your project!
    Regards, Dusko
     
  7. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

    Messages:
    3,955
    Location:
    worksop, nottinghamshire
    nice tank Dusko, HOw come Diana doesnt come on here anymore?
     
  8. JamesM

    JamesM Member

    Messages:
    1,913
    Location:
    The BIG End, South Wales
    Dusko, that's sweet looking :)
     
  9. Brenmuk

    Brenmuk Member

    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Peterborough
    Great blog and great looking tank Dusko!
    I too am loving the low tech method, the low maintenance side suits me because of the limited time (and budget!) I have to spend on my aquarium.
    I suppose one of the reasons for starting this thread was to find out how many have tried this method and what they thought of it/were there any major drawbacks or pit falls etc. One of the main differences I have found is that plants take longer to grow without additional CO2 so people I suppose are less likely to do a 3-4 month aquascaping project for an upcomming contest with this method. But I also wonder are there any plants that simply can't be grown without added ferts and extra CO2?

    I did not pre soak the compost for 2 months however as your guide suggests- only pre soaked the compost overnight with the tank half full and used cold chlorinated tap water (probably not ideal) for the pre soaking before I refilled the tank again with old tank/rain water. What I also did was to plant heavily to begin with which seems to have prevented any major algae problems. I basically followed the method as best I could for the el naturel planted tank approach - the 2 month soaking is a variation that I'm not familiar with.

    Having read alot on this forum and my reading of Diana's book I am also moving away from the idea that excess nutrients cause algae problems - I think that algae growth is suppressed by healthy plant growth especially when you consider the lower nutrient requirement of algae.
     
  10. Dusko

    Dusko Member

    Messages:
    47
    Location:
    Denmark
    Thanks to Diana Walstad we do understand the substrate (and its importance) much better now and I thank her for that book.

    But what I don't agree with is overfeeding the fish so plants could get the required nutrients.
    She stated that plants don't need extra fertilisation via fertilisers. Then what does she dose with rotten fish food??? Yes she doses organics which will cause NH4 to spike.
    Why using rotting food when there are so many fertilisers available on the market these days?? To save money maybe? But in that case we are talking about economy and not necessarily about plant ecology and fish well being. I don't agree with intentionally exposing fish to possible organic build-up, since there are good products out there which can be dosed instead.
    I dose my Low-tech tanks with Tropica Plant Nutrition+NP once a week with great success and never overfeed my fish.
    I also keep good water flow, stronger pumps than recommended (up to 6x the tank's water volume per hour) to limit any NH4 build-up and to provide good nutrient transport for plants.

    Bottom line is; We know how much to dose with fertilisers and we don't know how much to dose with rotten food (overfeeding... yes but how many grams of flake food should I overfeed with??)
    But if you fancy overfeeding I would advice you to use Active Carbon often, for the fish/shrimp's sake.

    Regards, Dusko
     
  11. Brenmuk

    Brenmuk Member

    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Peterborough
    You may well be right Dusko about overfeeding - I wouldn't be too comfortable leaving decaying fish food in the tank for days on end.
    I can only really go on my own experience and I find now that even though I feed alot more than I used to, the fish still gobble up the food in seconds - little if any of the fish flake gets to the bottom which makes me think I might be underfeeding. I also spread the feeds out to 2-3 feeds a day and the fish seem active and keen to feed, their colours are bright and I get good plant growth providing the tank isn't too overgrown. I also have shrimps and a quite a few snails which eat any left overs. I suppose the fish/shrimp/snails etc release NH4 at a slower rate avoiding spikes.

    I think in my set up the limiting factor to plant growth is CO2 and not the other required nutrients (I don't use CO2 injection or easycarbo etc). When the floating riccia in my tank grew quite thick the other plants stopped growing and algae started to grow (GSA & BGA). I was able to remedy the situation by removing most of the riccia and keeping it down to a low level. The plants then picked up in growth rate and the algae growth stopped (and fortunately the BGA disappeared). My thoughts on this was that unlike the other submerged plants the riccia was able to use aerial CO2 so its growth was only limited by the nutrients in the water column which it was using up quicker than could be supplied by fish waste. I could have added extra ferts but decided to reduce the riccia instead and try to keep to just one method - in this case the el natural method.
     
  12. joeinlondon

    joeinlondon Member

    Messages:
    31
    Hi Brendan

    Are you still monitoring this thread I don't know! How is the tank going? I have just ordered Walstead's book but it's going to be ages until it comes from America.
     
  13. Brenmuk

    Brenmuk Member

    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Peterborough
    Hi joeinlondon
    The tanks doing fine - I keep meaning to update the journal I started but my digital camera has died so maybe a while before I update it again. I got my Walstead book of ebay, are you planning to start up a natural planted tank?
     
  14. cyberelic

    cyberelic Newly Registered

    Messages:
    3
    Hi there,

    I'm rather new on here, and haven't even got any sort of tank yet(!) but I used to have a tank as a youngster in the early sixties/ late fifties. I actually caught the habit from being punished by being stood outside the headmasters room at junior school where there was a big tank to watch.

    When I had my tank, a 24" x 12" x 18" there were no filtration devices at all. I hankered after an air pump (for the bubbles and the increased oxygenation), but never got one as all my pocket money went on model airplanes. I did manage to build a second (18") tank from marine plywood, glass and putty sealed with a several coats of gloss paint which worked very well as a breeding tank.

    I never ever knew anything about all this ammonia, nitrite and nitrate stuff.

    There was just a good layer of pea gravel on the bottom, lots of plants, the inevitable rock and the fish. Lighting was a couple of ordinary light bulbs in a DIY hood, and there was a heater and a thermostat in individual glass tubes.

    I rarely changed the water, just topping it up when the level showed below the (metal) frame. In fact one didn't change the water as the existing brew was 'matured' and it was thought not good to replace with fresh tap water...

    So is this what they now call 'Low Tech?

    According to all the current books my fish should have died pronto, but of course they didn't, nor did my sister's in a similar tank in the next room. In fact her tank, which only had 3/4 of the water, was choked with plants and often had a bulb missing through neglect, the black mollies loved it and bred merrily.

    Dunno what happened to the 'Aquarist' mag or for that matter to Kissing Gouramis, but then, mine survived fine.

    P.
     
  15. Brenmuk

    Brenmuk Member

    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Peterborough
    Cyberelic,

    Your old style tank sounds very much like the el natural method of keeping planted tanks. I'm not sure the fish would have lasted very long with no water changes if there were no plants as the acquatic plants purify the water. The fish tank itself also acts a biological filter so I can see how you would have succeeded without a separate filter.
     
  16. lljdma06

    lljdma06 Member

    Messages:
    171
    Location:
    Miami, FL
    Those tanks are absolutely lovely. I have never done a Walstad-style tank. I still prefer sand substrates and like having a lot of livestock in my planted tanks, so I add filtration and do waterchanges. Still, all of my tanks are low-light and share some common characteristics (no injected CO2, no added ferts), so no where near the maintenance of our high-tech buddies. There is so much to see in tanks like these. With other scapes, you get the sense of the picture created, and then you're done, but with the low-tech tanks, it seems like there is more going on. Every corner seems to have its little story behind it, or a little drama unfolding. These types of scapes, I imagine can also go on for so much longer. Years maybe.

    Great stuff. Makes me really want a big, wild-looking tank with like 100 corydoras.

    llj
     
  17. altaaffe

    altaaffe Member

    Messages:
    309
    Location:
    Thornhill, Egremont, Cumbria
    Have to admit, I have experimented on this side of things, with a quick strip down and restart straight away (due to time constraints) basically for a future large project and I'm pleased with the results.

    As Dusko has said, I did suffer from a little algae at the beginning but it soon cleared and I do still feed lean but add "some"ferts.

    This is the tank I've got it on, the right side has just been re-done as I didn't like the echinodurus that were there. Once filled out similar to the left I'll be happier and then give all the Luwigia a trim.

    Community2nd050709.jpg
     

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