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Possible UKAPS booklet?

Bufo Bill

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I have been keeping fish on and off scince childhood, but my interest has become an obsession in the last three years, and it is from this period most of my fishkeeping information dates. I began looking at planted tanks just a few weeks before PFK ran a feature on EI for the first time, and have had varying success with planted setups ever scince.
When I first heard of the El natural method, it seemed perfect for me, but it was several months, maybe even a year before I set up my first El Natural tank.

Why? Because of hobbyists saying in and outside forums that this was "not for beginners who lack diligence". Okay, it doesn't sound very scary, but to those who lack confidence or worry about anything unpleasant happening to their precious fish, it may seem an unnecessary risk, as it did to me.

Then I bought the full manifesto in the form of Diana Walstad's amazing book. It explained the scientific basis behind all the elements of the method, and all my questions were answered. It was very daunting when I first flipped through the book though, and I have scince wondered if this is is why some people were putting out scary warnings about the method. To me there are no more complicated techniques in the El natural method than any other part of the hobby, once you have understood the principles within the hard science of Walstad's book.

Iam not for dumbing things down generally, but to me at least the fact remains that there is little to tempt new fishkeepers to the method and I think that is a great shame.

Therefore would it perhaps be an idea for a simplified text including all the relevant facts and a recommendation to read the full manifesto, in the form of a UKAPS article or maybe a small run of illustrated booklets, not to dumb down but to gently initiate new members who are interested in this topic, thus setting them up to get deeper into the workings of the aquarium when ready.

If people disagree with my post then please tell me, it would to be honest, be a relief to know others were not scared off until taking the plunge and buying the book like I was.

My reason for writing this post was simply to try and get more people to try out this lovely idea, as fishkeeping should be an open and friendly place throughout it's realms, much like I have found the UKAPS forum. Ideas as great as this should be embraced as friends and not held at arms length with suspicion or fear.
All the best from Bill.
Edited for spelling errors.
 
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stroud, glos
hi bill.
You better get typin then! ;)

Tbh, i've not heard bad things or how hard it would be to set up a walstad style tank, in fact from what i gather it seems fairly straight forward. Well certainly no more difficult or complicated then any other method of running a tank. In some ways easier, eg letting the plants decide how the tank turns out.
I agree the book is a very interesting read and as i'm plannin my 2nd tank now, (low tech this time) i feel i learnt a lot from reading it.

So maybe you could write an article for ukaps or maybe just start a journal for those who are interested to follow your journey through the set up and running of this style of tank?
 

BINKSY1973

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Bill, why not write an article yourself seeing as you seem very keen on showing new even if its a rough draft and pass it on to the mods here to see what they think about adding it to the articles page here on UKAPS.

I uggest the above as you seem so keen on showing other people including newbies its not just all about hi tech tanks and 50% water changes every week.

Cheers Gordon.
 

Bufo Bill

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baron von bubba said:
hi bill.
You better get typin then! ;)

Tbh, i've not heard bad things or how hard it would be to set up a walstad style tank, in fact from what i gather it seems fairly straight forward. Well certainly no more difficult or complicated then any other method of running a tank. In some ways easier, eg letting the plants decide how the tank turns out.
I agree the book is a very interesting read and as i'm plannin my 2nd tank now, (low tech this time) i feel i learnt a lot from reading it.

So maybe you could write an article for ukaps or maybe just start a journal for those who are interested to follow your journey through the set up and running of this style of tank?


Thank you so much for the responses. I'm so glad you have not heard bad things about the Walstad method. I wonder if this is down to more confidence in yourselves or more informed advisors, or hey, maybe I misinterpreted the advice I was given. From what I have seen in my tanks it is uncomplicated, it is straight forward, and I'm so glad you have found it so.

One of the reasons I started this topic was a frustration at how this brilliant technique is never explained in detail in magasines such as PFK (if I am wrong and Ms.Walstad's ideas have been explored indepth in this great publication then I apologise unreservedly) when High Tech planted tanks are so popular with fish publication's editors and contributors.

I agree that as far as "spreading the gospel" as it were, the buck stops here, and I will give it a go, but I can only hope I am able to to be as succinct and readable as some of the articles I read by the likes of George Farmer and other UKAPS alumni. Don't say you weren't warned!

All the best from Bill.
 

Dan Crawford

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Hey Bill, it seems like you may know more about this topic than many of us? If you'd like to write an article please feel free. If you draft it out, send me a copy and the mods will look through it, and between us all we can get it published on the site. Sadly a physical booklet is not cost effective but look out for a UKaps library of physical books in the very near future ;)
I hope to hear from you soon :D
 

Graeme Edwards

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Hi Bill,

Thanks for such an in depth and thoughtful post.

I think as Dan has said, as you are thinking quite intelligently about this, perhaps you would be the best to write such an article.

Thanks.
 

George Farmer

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Hi Bill

I whole-heartedly agree with the above.

You clearly have a good grasp of the subject matter and your writing style is excellent. I think you make the ideal candidate for contributing articles for UKAPS.

Thanks for your support.
 

Bufo Bill

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Bless you, bless you one and all. Some very nice things said there, so thank you. I shall start writing an article today, one that hopefully gets my point across quickly and painlessly without smudging the details of this great...(almost called it an Ideology there, will have to make a point of not sounding like the publicity arm of an extremist group! :silent: )...so call it a system, shall we say. Let myself in for the long haul now, haven't I? :lol: Wish me luck!
All the best from Bill.
 

GreenNeedle

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I don't think it is 'diligence' nor any other thing that stops most people going with this method at all. The simple fact is that most (not all) aquascapers are after a pretty short term scape and that means hi-tec.

As for the Walstad method I agree it is pretty straight forward however it does have some failings which is where the barr non CO2 method comes in as it adds a small ferts dosing to make up the difference between the need and what the fish supply and also removes the 'rotting compost' CO2 supply which is not a method I would advocate. This method uses standard substrates with Leonardite as a long term C supply and no 'rotting compost' boosting the CO2 level.

I see there are more questions being asked about on this method both on APC where Diana posts regularly and on the barrreport where Tom obviously posts regularly so the 'El natural' low tech scene is far from where it was indeed seems to be booming at the moment.

I just find myself reading therough DW's posts and am unable to accept anyone saying that some plants can live with this method and some can't!!! IME a lot of the plants that aren't suitable for this method )although I am using the Barr alternative) are doing pretty well.

A write up could be good but I think the whole process needs updating rather than following a 10 year old book. This hobby has moved on qlmost as fast as the space race and the book needs updating me thinks. There are quite a lot of discrepancies these days with some of the theory and as we know science is moving along too.

My 2 penneth

AC

AC
 

Brenmuk

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Leonardite is new to me - how does it supply CO2?

From my experience there are no plants that I have tried so far that can't be grown using the el natural method. What I do find however is that there are plant combinations that do no go together well. I could not get vallis and sword plants to grow well together - the sword plants just sulked while the vallis grew like a weed. Now that I have removed the vallis I now have a huge sword plant which looks like its going to outgrow the tank.

I would say for a booklet the two most important things to discuss is the choice of soil under layer and lighting because once you get the tank set up its extremely low maintenance - only 1 W/C every 6 months, a bit of pruning now and then and topping up of evaporation now and then. In fact I often think about running a high tech nano as well to give me somthing to fiddle with ! ;)
 

GreenNeedle

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Brenmuk said:
Leonardite is new to me - how does it supply CO2?

I didn't say it supplied CO2 ;) It is a carbon source. Co2 is a carbon source. Plants take CO2, strip the carbon out and then release the Oxygen.

Leonardite is a little like coal but a dust and just as some substrates provide a slow release of nutrients, the leonardite provides a slow release of carbon, not CO2.

AC
 

Bufo Bill

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Sorry not to reply earlier. I think that the idea that some plants are not suited to El Natural is very interesting. We are often told high tech is the most suitable way of growing carpeting plants but I have grown Lilaeopsis and HC in low tech tanks just fine. However I think that what was probably meant originally was a comment on the allelopathic reactions of some plants, perhaps?

I am not very familiar with Barr's method, I'll check it out. Thanks Andy.

As far as rotting substrates go I can't say I have had any problems with bags of aquatic compost as my choice. Could you give me a bit more info on this?

An update would be great, maybe someone should suggest it.

The thing is that the basis of this method goes back decades, and I feel that we have written off some superb examples of this style from many years ago simply because we have been intoxicated by new methods
and equipment. This method produces brilliant results with little time needed for maintenance- surely there is a bigger place for El Natural in todays hectic lifestyle?

Thanks again for the responses and kind words of support everyone.

All the best from Bill.
 

Brenmuk

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I've not had any trouble with rotting compost either so I don't know if SuperColey1s comment is based on bad experiences.
That said however Diana Walstead in her book does warn about the choice of different types of soil and soil depth, if the soil does become too acidic it can become toxic and also if it is too deep it or not properly aerated by plant roots it can become anaerobic and produce H2S which is bad for plants and fish.

Although allelopathy is interesting, DW in her book does not believe it plays a big role in the aquarium but instead offers it as something to consider when trying to explain plant/algae deaths that can't be attributed to other causes. Most people seem to think that a particular plant may fail to grow in an NPT due to it being out competed for nutrients.
 

GreenNeedle

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Sorry for the late reply. We decided to stay in Sesimbra for 2 days and I have no internet access there :)

Bufo Bill said:
I am not very familiar with Barr's method, I'll check it out. Thanks Andy.

Barrs method is basically the Walstad method without using the organic substrate and adding a little ferts to make sure there are zero defficiencies, nothing that different really:

http://www.barrreport.com/articles/433-non-co2-methods.html

As far as rotting substrates go I can't say I have had any problems with bags of aquatic compost as my choice. Could you give me a bit more info on this?

I haven't had bad experiences with it. I just can't see the point using composts when you can use something cleaner. I used to work for compost manufacturers and I know what 'can' go into them. They virtually all will have some shredded chipboard in them!!!! and this can mean there may be some 'wood treatment/glue' in them!!!

In essence if you use a totally organic substrate like composts/top soil then they are already rotting by the very nature of the material. They rot down and produce nutrient for whatever is grown in it. I see no real difference between this and just letting your inert (or not if chosen) substrate collect fish poop/damaged leaves and then letting that rot.

The thing is that the basis of this method goes back decades, and I feel that we have written off some superb examples of this style from many years ago simply because we have been intoxicated by new methods
and equipment. This method produces brilliant results with little time needed for maintenance- surely there is a bigger place for El Natural in todays hectic lifestyle?

Like I said earlier I have seen an increase in interest on the forums about 'El Natural' style setups and yes they have a place in today's hectic lifestyles. On the other point I think it works both ways. Not that people wrote off the method but because the goal changed. People wanted to scape and do it quickly. That couldn't be done with this method. Scape-yes, quickly-definately not. I think the scaping side of things got really popular and so it seems to most people that this sort of style was forgotten. I also think that we haven't written off the 'decades old' methods. The trouble is there are 3 'sides of the coin' here:

1 - There are the Walstad devotees who believe everything in the book just as fundamentalists believe the bible. If science and the 'bible' conflict then the bible is right.

2 - There are the hi-tec devotees who will not listen to other methods.

3 - There are those of us (I would like to think I am one) who is prepared to take all methods on merit and open minded enough to see the pluses, minuses of each method and also to cipher the fact from the fiction. Almost all methods have some fiction in them which the 'authors' cling on to until they are made to loosen their grip.
Thanks again for the responses and kind words of support everyone.

As for Allelopathy/anaerobic substrates et al in planted tanks. I don't buy either of these. I think these are old old theories still pushed around.

Offering something to consider when an unexplained death of plants/algae/fish happen is a bit silly really. It could be a million other things so it will only be 0.0000001% likely to be allelopathy. Consider it yes. Believe it? Lets see it proven first.

I've seen Diana state in the past week that sensitive plants would be harmed by 1ppm Ammonia!! This is a very bold statement. She doesn't leave herself any get out by saying 'may' she says WOULD and therefore very brave to do so. I would like to see the science behind this though. It would go against what we believe of a planted tank to my way of thinking. I would also expect a compost substrate to be producing more than 1ppm of ammonia for a long long time!!! Even if fully planted that means a lot of localised ammonia spikes around the subatrate area.

I can't see any plant being outcompeted for nutrient in an NPT unless it is pretty old and/or is not a substrate plant. Compost substrates would give a lot of feed for a long time. If not they would be useless in the diluted garden atmosphere we buy them for!!

AC
 

Bufo Bill

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Thanks for the post Andy, some real posers you've put in, and I'm not sure there's much really to reply.
SuperColey1 said:
I haven't had bad experiences with it. I just can't see the point using composts when you can use something cleaner.
SuperColey1 said:
I can't see any plant being outcompeted for nutrient in an NPT unless it is pretty old and/or is not a substrate plant. Compost substrates would give a lot of feed for a long time. If not they would be useless in the diluted garden atmosphere we buy them for!!

Surely this is the reason that compost was suggested for use in the first place? Were there good cheap aquarium substrates around in 2000? I wasn't keeping fish then, so I don't know.

SuperColey1 said:
In essence if you use a totally organic substrate like composts/top soil then they are already rotting by the very nature of the material. They rot down and produce nutrient for whatever is grown in it. I see no real difference between this and just letting your inert (or not if chosen) substrate collect fish poop/damaged leaves and then letting that rot.

I used to work for compost manufacturers and I know what 'can' go into them. They virtually all will have some shredded chipboard in them!!!! and this can mean there may be some 'wood treatment/glue' in them!!!


Yes, that wood treatment/ glue think doesn't sound too nice, I can quite see why you wouldn't want to add such a thing to live fish. However, for those in the dark about this as I was, there haven't been many complaints of dead fish with this method, at least not as far as I've heard, so I wouldn't rip out a lovely 'scape on the off chance, but I agree that the situation is far from ideal. It's something I'll think about for the article, and other fishkeepers are more than welcome to have their say right here.

SuperColey1 said:
Like I said earlier I have seen an increase in interest on the forums about 'El Natural' style setups and yes they have a place in today's hectic lifestyles.

I'm glad to hear things are picking up...

SuperColey1 said:
(...)I think it works both ways. Not that people wrote off the method but because the goal changed. People wanted to scape and do it quickly. That couldn't be done with this method. Scape-yes, quickly-definately not.

Yes, I can see that point. I quite like the slowness of this method, it's perversly exciting somehow! However I think that the speed of high-tech doesn't always bode well and sometimes things get on top of us and we can't work on our hobby for a week or two (let's face it it happens to us all). Then the high-speed-high-tech tank falls into disrepair badly and often needs scrapping. New set up, creative juices stirred etc., all for the good, yes?
Not as I see it. Watching a tank mature and change, while the plants, decor and fish ebb and flow in and out of "star of the tank" status, and learning to adapt to the challenges these changes bring is all part of the fun. I see so many great photo sequences in journals on here, and the fact is they all seem to have little changes and evolve into beautiful natural pictures over a few months to a year. I follow some right through from inception to closedown, and I feel gutted sometimes when the owner strips the tank down and starts again. Okay, a brand new shiny 'scape emerges from the ashes, but the progression over time can be one of natures joys, and I think the "art" of these 'scapes - the pictures we create from living tissues - sometimes make us forget that simplistic and sketchy as they are, these tanks are also amount to a piece of nature, and can be unexpectedly remade into better forms just by letting things be. For the japanese culture fans among you, it's like they say about Bonsai: you can never finish this artwork, it is your job to make it beautiful, through all that your time together throws at you.
SuperColey1 said:
I think the scaping side of things got really popular and so it seems to most people that this sort of style was forgotten. I also think that we haven't written off the 'decades old' methods. The trouble is there are 3 'sides of the coin' here:

1 - There are the Walstad devotees who believe everything in the book just as fundamentalists believe the bible. If science and the 'bible' conflict then the bible is right.

2 - There are the hi-tec devotees who will not listen to other methods.

3 - There are those of us (I would like to think I am one) who is prepared to take all methods on merit and open minded enough to see the pluses, minuses of each method and also to cipher the fact from the fiction. Almost all methods have some fiction in them which the 'authors' cling on to until they are made to loosen their grip.
Thanks again for the responses and kind words of support everyone.

Yes absolutely. Nothing in our knowledge of science seems immune to new developments (just look at how in the past few years physics has made even the occasional aspect of gravity theory a debating point - we thought Newton had it thoroughly thought out hundreds of years ago! :lol: ) But my knowledge and scope won't cover a whole rewrite of this theory, and knowing the whole of Walstad's theory will help readers be able to judge for themselves whether this is the method for them or not. Rest assured that there will be a "Further Reading" section to the article, and I will implore readers to read Walstad's book so they may see the argument put more eloquently and more in depth than my article can manage. I think the link you gave will go in as well, and people can feel free to suggest links they have found helpful in this debate. No one knows it all, especially not me.

Thanks for the post, from Bill.
 

Brenmuk

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SuperColey1 said:
I haven't had bad experiences with it. I just can't see the point using composts when you can use something cleaner. I used to work for compost manufacturers and I know what 'can' go into them. They virtually all will have some shredded chipboard in them!!!! and this can mean there may be some 'wood treatment/glue' in them!!!

In essence if you use a totally organic substrate like composts/top soil then they are already rotting by the very nature of the material. They rot down and produce nutrient for whatever is grown in it. I see no real difference between this and just letting your inert (or not if chosen) substrate collect fish poop/damaged leaves and then letting that rot.
Wow you seem really put off using commercial composts/top soils from your time working in the industry :sick:. Which brand did you work for or which brand would you say is the most contaminated?
Do you have any examples/evidence of wood treatment/glue causing problems in aquatic set ups or is this a hunch?
 

GreenNeedle

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Brenmuk said:
Wow you seem really put off using commercial composts/top soils from your time working in the industry :sick:. Which brand did you work for or which brand would you say is the most contaminated?
Do you have any examples/evidence of wood treatment/glue causing problems in aquatic set ups or is this a hunch?

Not really put off them. I've never really considered them.

I won't say who I worked for as that could be libellous on my part but I can say that all the major companies 'fight' for the goods from the same sources!!! In many cases they buy up the sources to try and make it hard for the others etc. They all end up begging each other for stuff or being underhanded in getting it :) They aren't contaminated. They are fine for use in the garden which is where they are supposed to be used. In that environment then they will leach into the ground and dissapear. In the aquarium it is a different matter with nowhere to go.

I have heard nor read of evidence of problems within the aquatic environment but because of what I know I wouldn't use them.

1 example:
If you buy a bag of farm manure what would you expect it to be made up from? If you answer horse/cow manure you'd be wrong. It is actually mushroom compost. Rotted down fungus with all sorts of things added in that rot quickly like chipboard shredded up so as not to be visible etc. These products are very cheap. The producers can only get in the region of £7 per ton for this and therefore different sources are more reliable than others!! When something doesn't have much worth then there are always going to be people trying to 'test the water' as to how much they can get away with. Compare this with KNO3 at £300 ton and you see how cheap it is. (KNO3 is quite cheap compare to something like MKP/KH2PO4)

We used to get some tippers drop their loads and see parts of kitchen worktops (10cm x 10cm) with the melamine in tact (and glue therefore underneath) or sections of laminated cupboards, in which case we would stop him tipping, shovel what had come out back in and send him back to source. Probs about 2% of deliveries!!! We weren't bothered by what was in it because we know what is in it and it is supposed to be there. What we were concerned with was the visibility of the content to the consumer!!! The content will be on the packaging but who reads the content ;) The product is for rotted down product but the consumer doesn't want to empty someone elses's visible rubbish onto their gardens. This is a mass market and with the cost of things these days you don't get a ton of horse/cow manure straight from the farmer anymore. These days things are mass produced. Piled in huge heaps, soaked with urea, covered in black plastic and it takes 12 weeks not like the old days where things were rotted down naturally over several months.

I do use the cheapest compost I can find for my emersed setups. No harm to the plants roots at all. I wouldn't like to risk it with fish though even though I haven't heard of any fatalities. Saying that would anyone who had fatalities think it could be contaminants in the substrate leeching or would it be one of many other reasons?

I would thing that if you used your own garden soil, sieved it, left it to dry out then it would be purer. Then put a load of leaf litter underneath to add to the 'organic rotting'.

One of the laughable things about all this is that we all pay council tax which covers thigs like recycling. We put all our waste garden stuff in the green bins. This is sold cheaply to companies that put it all through shredders and speed-compost it for 12 weeks. Then it is sold on to the compost manufacturers. Then it is sold back to us in compost. lol A lot of what we buy is something we have already paid to be taken away :)

I throw nothing away. All goes in the compost heap and then come spring time it will all get dug into the vegetable patch and some apread into the flower beds and so the cycle will continue.

AC
 

Bufo Bill

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No, I found it difficult to condense down whilst retaining all the relevant info!
All the best from Bill.
 
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