I wanted to start a Nano tank, “Walstad-style”, to cut down on cost and maintenance. My way to cut down cost was to cheat and put a “new fish tank” item on my Christmas list. I ended up receiving a check for $150 to go shop for a new tank and equipment. It should be said that I intend to house a Crowntail Betta along with some dwarf corys and a few oto cats in this tank so right off the start there were some requirements that had to be met. In the end I probably got more stuff than I really need for this kind of tank but at least I know that I have everything I need to start over should this project be a disaster. Here’s what I got:
• Marineland 10G tank (20L x 10W x 12H): $17.99;
• Marineland incandescent hood (2 x 25w): $39.99;
• GE Energy Smart Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, 2-pack: $15.00;
• Hydor Theo 50w submersible heater: $27.99;
• Marina power filter Slim S10: $18.99;
• Total: $119.96
I realize that some of these prices may seem high but I live in Canada and I find that fish supplies tend to be more expensive here than they are in the US for some reason. All in all, $120 for a fully equipped 10G tank wasn’t a bad deal. Other items I needed (I had already purchased these ahead of time):
• Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix: $8.00;
• Seachem’s Flourite Dark 15 lbs. bag: $24.99;
• Grand Total: $152.95
The purchase of the incandescent hood was deliberate even knowing that incandescent light wasn’t going to provide enough light for growing plants: the sockets were going to provide me with the versatility that I needed to use compact fluorescent lights instead of the regular T8 bulbs that come in the fluorescent hoods. I already have a tank using T8’s and the low-light I get from the two tubes has been a constant pain over the last two years. It was time to try something different without spending too much money.
I cleaned up the tank with tap water and added a black background to it (I already had it from the previous tank). I’m not sure I like the black background but it will have to do for now.
The hood I purchased was a cheap hood and came with some pretty lame reflectors. I was planning on either replacing or adding to them with foil plates, but at this point I really wasn’t sure how much light 2 x 15w CF lights were going to give me so I left them untouched.
I initially placed 2 x 10w CF bulbs in the hood and found the light to be not enough. Now I had no way to measure light so when I say it wasn’t enough I was going on a hunch. I replaced the bulbs with the 15w CF bulbs I had purchased just for that reason and found that much better. Each bulb emits 900 lumens at the 6500K spectrum, takes 15w of energy to run, and is marketed as a 60w equivalent. The box in the picture shows the 10w variation of the packaging but they are the same lights only the 15w version. I’m not sure how much light that will give the tank and the plants but comparing with the light output I get in my 32G it seems fairly good.
It was time to add the soil layer. I picked the same soil that was used by Diana Walstad in her article
on pet shrimps: Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix (0.10-0.05-0.05). Don’t ask me what the numbers mean; while I enjoy planted tanks, I am not a good gardener and most of the time I proceed on hunches. If it worked well for Diana Walstad and some others (see this thread
), then it’s good enough for me. I removed the bigger chunks of organic material from the soil, mostly sticks and some stones, and placed a layer of about an inch at the bottom of the tank. The soil in the bag I bought was wet (that’s what you get for buying potting soil in the winter in Canada) so the process was messy. I figured the soil would compact even more when soaked so I tried to get an idea of what kind of compacting I would have to deal with to find out if I needed more soil. I used a spray bottle to wet the soil even more to see if it would compact. After about 5 minutes of spraying and no visible compacting, I realized the absurdity of what I was doing and stopped. It was time to proceed to the next layer.
Seachem’s Flourite Dark is what I arrested my choice on for the substrate. I wasn’t sure about going this route. I read many posts from people who had bad experiences with it, and many others that had great ones. One of the posts I read (see here
) was from someone who hadn’t rinsed their Flourite prior to adding to the tank and was complaining to Seachem that the experience had killed most of the plants he had bought due to the dust settling on the leaves. The argument was that the bag stated that it didn’t need to be rinsed or washed before use. That seemed farfetched to me: who doesn’t rinse a substrate before adding it to a tank?
So I washed the Flourite as I would have washed any substrate: thoroughly! As I was rinsing over and over again until no more brown water was coming out of the bucket I was using, something dawned on me: was I in fact removing all the good stuff required for plants by rinsing the brown gunk out? As is often the case in these situations, the thought occurred to me way to late in the process and the Flourite was well rinsed by that point. It was time to add it to the tank. A 15 lbs. bag was ideal for a 10G tank as it provides a good 2 inches of depth so I was happy with the purchase for that reason. Another happy surprise was the fact that the Flourite Dark I purchased is pretty much the exact same colour as the soil layer underneath so dirt doesn’t show through. I only purchased the Dark variation because it was a buck cheaper at the LFS, but I guess I lucked out on the colour as well. But the more I work with this tank the more I dislike the black background. I will have to do something about that…
Time to start adding water to this puppy!
I used a plate to break the flow of water; I was still obsessed with the idea of avoiding a cloudy tank. I filled it about halfway and looked at it with surprise and satisfaction: there was barely a trace of cloudiness in it!
In fact the cloudiness in the first picture is mostly from the glass needing to be cleaned. I skimped on the pictures for the last stretch mostly because my hands were not in any shape to handle the camera while transplanting cuttings from the main tank to this one so apologies for that. I planted the tank while it was hallway full (I’m a half-full kind of guy). Plants that were transferred are:
- Hygrophila difformis (Water Wisteria): there were two stems in the main tank that were simply not growing so I decided to bring them over to this tank;
- Vallisneria corkscrew: I was never sure what kind of vallisneria this was but it was overshadowed in the main tank by a large echinodorus so I transplanted most of it (5 plants) to the new tank as it offers a nice height against the ugly background right away;
- Echinodorus tennellus: that plant was so nice when I first got it and produced two runners within a week to propagate into about 9 plantlets. The main plant died (or rather was pulled) and I removed the plantlets and planted two of them in the new tank. Hopefully they will do better in this tank without having to cope with taller plants around and they shouldn’t have to get used to new water parameters since I used a lot of the water from the main tank to fill this one up;
- Hygrophila polysperma: this plant is currently turning my main tank into a jungle: talk about a weed! While I really don’t want this plant in the new tank because it grows too fast and overtakes everything else, a lot of posts that I read for cycling a planted tank mentioned that fast growing stem plants are ideal for sucking up most of the ammonia out of the water so I placed two small cuttings at the forefront of the tank. I will remove them once I know the tank is “cycled” or rather stable;
Finally I proceeded to fill the rest of the tank up and attached the heater and the filter. I realize that a Walstad-type tank should not require a filter but I wanted to play it safe so I bought a cheap filter with a pre-filter sponge attached (remember the plan is to house a Crowntail Betta). The filter is small and doesn’t take up too much real estate in the tank which was a requirement. Using a power filter also meant that I could pretty much put anything I wanted in there instead of the filter pads that came with it so I put the ceramic blocks from the main tank’s filter into this new one along with the old filter foam (which I had to cut to make it fit). Whatever good bacteria the plants brought over to this new tank will be helped by the one that exists in these two filter components from the old tank. It certainly can’t hurt.
Since I have no idea what to expect from the lights in this tank, I decided to add a very small cleaning crew to it and picked two unfortunate snails from the main tank and dropped them into this one. Both started grazing on the plants almost right away. I’m not sure what kind of snails they are. The main tank mostly had MTS in it until I bought the last load of plants about two months ago and these little guys started showing up. They look like they may be pouch snails or something similar.
As I was starting to settle back and watch my handiwork, the timer the lights are attached to went off and both tanks were plunged into darkness. Figures! In the next few days I will be adding DIY CO2 and take water readings to see where this tank rates at compared to the main one.