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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-30-2019, 11:02 PM Thread Starter
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Overwhelmed by Info. Input Appreciated.

Hi all,

Chanse here, new member. So I have a rescue minnow that has sent me down the rabbit hole of the aquatic hobby. I've learned so much doing my own research and watching PLENTY of youtube videos. However, there is still a lot of conflicting info out there. As the info provided is not only back by science at times, but experience it's hard to really figure out what materials I really want to use. I have decided I want to try using the Walstad method for my tanks, as I like the lo-maintenance and lo-tech aspect as well as the aesthetics in the home.

I have a 20 gal tank and a 1.5 gal cylinder tank. I plan on using the 20 gal as a shrimp breeder with a few snails, floating plants, the minnow maybe 2. And for the 1.5 maybe house a betta and a few snails? As for plants, of course some moss, I was thinking java fern and other lo maintenance easy starter plants. Mind you I live in the central valley, CA. I might have to add a heater to the shrimp tank as temps are going to start cooling off. I was also considering using small filter sponges w/ air stones in both. Other than that, no CO2, no adding ferts. I want low maintenance as possible as I am a stay at home mom of a curious 1 year old and already handle a small farm. I really love how the Walstad creates its own self sustaining ecosystem when conditions are right, and how aesthetically pleasing it is to have in the home. It's also inspired me to create a bioactive tank for our Suriname Red Tail Boa... but that's another topic for another day.

What brought me here is what organic soil to choose. Because of my location, obtaining the recommended Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix is nearly impossible to find in stores. I'm eager to get a tank going so I purchased a couple different organic soils -

1. Kellogg 3cu ft Organic Garden Soil from Lowe's. *Ingredients: "Aged recycled forest products, aged arbor fines, composted chicken manure, oyster shell & dolomite limes (as pH adjuster), bat guano, worm castings, and kelp meal."
Now it being so rich, and what little I know about cycling tanks and the nitrogen system, I figured it wouldn't be a problem if I was just wanted to have plants, but I've got little Sharkbait needing something better than a pitcher and some pothos for cover. So the sooner I can ass livestock the better.

2. EcoScraps Organic Potting Soil 1cu ft from Target. *Ingredients: "In CA, this product contains processed forest products, coir, perlite, and compost (compost made from plant materials and food waste)."
These seemed less as intense on nutrients, but the perlite I read somewhere could be a problem for shrimp.

3. Eco-Complete in black from Petco. I'm sure many of you are familiar with this substrate. It's one of the more common ones I've seen when researching planted tanks. I watched one person's advice to use this as a cap over the organic soil. So I thought, "hey, that sounds cool. 2 birds one stone really." But I bought this as a back up or to try in just the 1.5 gal tank alone and use a finer gravel over the organic soil in the 20 gal. I'm not opposed to either method.

So my questions are -

1. Which organic soil would work best for the outcome I'm wanting? Or neither, and what soil in particular would work best?
2. Would it be ok to use Eco-Complete as a cap or should I use a different fine gravel?
3. I see people mention to test the water, I'm not familiar with testing kits at all, what do you recommended I use that would best suit my situation and give me the most bang for my buck?
4. Do I need to plant right away or can I let tank sit for a couple days?
5. How long after I plant may I add livestock? Just the minnow for now.

Like I said, I'm new to this and just a bit overwhelmed with info, and sometimes the lack of info to clarify some things. Your experiences and expertise is welcome to help me make an informed decision. I understand there may be failure along the way, as this is new and I'm not so experienced, but if I can avoid any mishaps and unnecessary deaths of animals and plants along the way, it's much appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to read!
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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-31-2019, 02:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Chanse27 View Post
Hi all,

Chanse here, new member. So I have a rescue minnow that has sent me down the rabbit hole of the aquatic hobby. I've learned so much doing my own research and watching PLENTY of youtube videos. However, there is still a lot of conflicting info out there. As the info provided is not only back by science at times, but experience it's hard to really figure out what materials I really want to use. I have decided I want to try using the Walstad method for my tanks, as I like the lo-maintenance and lo-tech aspect as well as the aesthetics in the home.

I have a 20 gal tank and a 1.5 gal cylinder tank. I plan on using the 20 gal as a shrimp breeder with a few snails, floating plants, the minnow maybe 2. And for the 1.5 maybe house a betta and a few snails? As for plants, of course some moss, I was thinking java fern and other lo maintenance easy starter plants. Mind you I live in the central valley, CA. I might have to add a heater to the shrimp tank as temps are going to start cooling off. I was also considering using small filter sponges w/ air stones in both. Other than that, no CO2, no adding ferts. I want low maintenance as possible as I am a stay at home mom of a curious 1 year old and already handle a small farm. I really love how the Walstad creates its own self sustaining ecosystem when conditions are right, and how aesthetically pleasing it is to have in the home. It's also inspired me to create a bioactive tank for our Suriname Red Tail Boa... but that's another topic for another day.

What brought me here is what organic soil to choose. Because of my location, obtaining the recommended Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix is nearly impossible to find in stores. I'm eager to get a tank going so I purchased a couple different organic soils -

1. Kellogg 3cu ft Organic Garden Soil from Lowe's. *Ingredients: "Aged recycled forest products, aged arbor fines, composted chicken manure, oyster shell & dolomite limes (as pH adjuster), bat guano, worm castings, and kelp meal."
Now it being so rich, and what little I know about cycling tanks and the nitrogen system, I figured it wouldn't be a problem if I was just wanted to have plants, but I've got little Sharkbait needing something better than a pitcher and some pothos for cover. So the sooner I can ass livestock the better.

2. EcoScraps Organic Potting Soil 1cu ft from Target. *Ingredients: "In CA, this product contains processed forest products, coir, perlite, and compost (compost made from plant materials and food waste)."
These seemed less as intense on nutrients, but the perlite I read somewhere could be a problem for shrimp.

3. Eco-Complete in black from Petco. I'm sure many of you are familiar with this substrate. It's one of the more common ones I've seen when researching planted tanks. I watched one person's advice to use this as a cap over the organic soil. So I thought, "hey, that sounds cool. 2 birds one stone really." But I bought this as a back up or to try in just the 1.5 gal tank alone and use a finer gravel over the organic soil in the 20 gal. I'm not opposed to either method.

So my questions are -

1. Which organic soil would work best for the outcome I'm wanting? Or neither, and what soil in particular would work best?
2. Would it be ok to use Eco-Complete as a cap or should I use a different fine gravel?
3. I see people mention to test the water, I'm not familiar with testing kits at all, what do you recommended I use that would best suit my situation and give me the most bang for my buck?
4. Do I need to plant right away or can I let tank sit for a couple days?
5. How long after I plant may I add livestock? Just the minnow for now.

Like I said, I'm new to this and just a bit overwhelmed with info, and sometimes the lack of info to clarify some things. Your experiences and expertise is welcome to help me make an informed decision. I understand there may be failure along the way, as this is new and I'm not so experienced, but if I can avoid any mishaps and unnecessary deaths of animals and plants along the way, it's much appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to read!
1) the ingredients list you cite for Kellogg's is the organic+ version I believe. You should try to find the regular organic garden soil (no +). It does not have as many additives. I haven't done it yet but I plan to use the regular one when I set up my own tank. Unfortunately the original potting soil mix has been discontinued in most stores.

2) Diana Walstad is a member of this forum and recently updated her recommendations to using safe t sorb as a gravel top. This product may be hard for you to find in California. If it is, Lowe's sells a product called oil dri which is very similar.

3) the API master test kit plus the additional gh kh kit.

4) if you are doing soil it is important to plant sooner rather than later.

5) in her book Ms. Walstad mentions she will add livestock almost immediately. However that was not taking into account using a sts as a cap. It's unclear if this is still something she does. Since you are new to the hobby I suggest waiting the full month to cycle the tank properly.

6) the question you didn't ask but definitely should know about.. how often to do water changes when setting up your tank? A new soil substrate tank requires frequent water changes when new. Each water change remove 50% of the water. Typical advise for an active substrate tank is first week every day a water change. Second week every other day. Third week 3 times a week. Fourth week do it twice. After that for a walstad you will want to monitor conditions to see how often it really needs to happen. Once a month may not be out of the question depending on how well your tank is running.

Edit: you mentioned you already have a fish in a tank. Sorry if you already knew this, but to setup a walstad you need to start with a tank empty of water. Do not dump soil directly into a filled aquarium.
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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-31-2019, 04:17 AM
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Hello, Welcome to the hobby! A common misconception about bettas is that they need a tank of at least 10 gallons. A 1.5 gallon tank is really only good for housing snails and plants in. @minorhero has a very good test kit recommendation. It is affordable yet a accurate. What type of minnow is it? Generally minnows need a school to be happy and thrive.
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75 gallon planted tank. About to stock.
10 gallon QT

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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-31-2019, 06:49 AM
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Eco complete wonít be a good cap for soil, way to open and wide pore structure, wonít really cap anything, all soil nutrients will just leach into water column at a alarming rate.

1Ē soil and 1-1.5Ē of 1-3mm sandy gravel works best.

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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-31-2019, 07:06 AM
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you can look up EP MINERALS Universal Absorbent,50 lb.,Bag, 7951, Tan/Gray on evilbay, I live in socal and it got delivered to me relatively quick.

i 2nd that eco-complete's grain size is a lil too large for capping soil with
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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-31-2019, 04:00 PM Thread Starter
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MINORHERO:

Thank you for taking the time to read and your helpful response.

1. I'll look more into the less potent organic soil from Kellogg. What did you think of the EcoScraps I also mentioned? Would that work for now or do I need to just make a special order for something else?

2. I did notice her name on a few forums, really cool! I'll look more into her posts as well. Thank you for the suggestion, I'll research.

5. I'm not sure what sts is, gotta catch up on the forum lingo. But I have heard that as well.... would the one minnow work you think, or still recommend the full month? As of right now it's literally in a bucket of water with some pothos leaves I've clipped for cover/ some filtration, which was better than the sewage water he came in inside a plastic water bottle. I'm trying to set this tank up quick for him.

6. Thank you so much for adding this info. My question to that is why so many water changes in the beginning, and so much? From other places I've read frequent water changes are not necessarily bad, just not recommended for no/low-tech tanks, and they say to only take about 25%? But this is something I'm still learning. I don't mind doing the water changes in the beginning just trying to understand. I can somewhat see the need for it however.

Hi there and thank you for that info, I will take that into consideration!

Not sure what type of minnow it is or if it even is a minnow. I will post a picture if I can figure it out. I'm still learning this site and hope I tagged you correctly haha!

Last night I found some mosquito larvae in my cat's water bowl and netted them out to feed to lil Sharkbait. Very happy fish. Not sure what else to give it, so I've been giving it betta mix I had on hand.

I've read they need to be in groups, wha'ts the minimum? I was planning on having it in the 20gal with future shrimp to breed. So I know too many fish might be a lot fewer shrimp lol.

Last edited by Darkblade48; 09-01-2019 at 04:37 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-31-2019, 08:16 PM
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Really a walstad type tank is not the easiest to setup properly and can involve many weeks of frustrating times at startup till it gets settled in. And it really isn’t needed if your going to do simple floating plants, java fern and moss etc. Also some stem plants can grow at a alarming rate in that type of setup, so much so that plant maintenance and thinning can easily become as time consuming as changing water.

Java fern and Moses grow on wood and don’t really need the rich soil substrate, they get all need water and wood or stones their mounted on.

This thread by @united natures is perfect example of setting up a low tech with plain inert substrate. Nice tight pore structure to substrate, not to deep though, so all detritus stays on top of substrate where it should be. To me if you want low maintenance this is type of setup you should go for. Shrimp poop pretty much drives cycle in tank which feeds plants, plants grow at modest rate fueled by the modest light level and cycle is complete. It’s all about setting up a balance between substrates bio filter, plant load and fauna in tank. All you’d have to do is probably prune back those temple plant stems every couple of months and maybe change 20% water per month, so in a 20gal that’s 2-4gal once or twice a month.

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...rimp-only.html

That’s also another factor you have to consider, water hardness etc that you’ve got to use. Unless you’ve got a RO sometimes you have to build your plan around what water parameters you have to work with, some plants and animals may thrive in your water, others will fail miserably.

Also you really need to figure out what that minnow is, it might not end up being so small or it might be so voracious it will decimate any shrimp population you introduce. My thought is being a native species it’s probably a no go.

Last edited by DaveKS; 08-31-2019 at 09:01 PM. Reason: Typo
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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 09-01-2019, 06:07 PM Thread Starter
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Really a walstad type tank is not the easiest to setup properly and can involve many weeks of frustrating times at startup till it gets settled in. And it really isnít needed if your going to do simple floating plants, java fern and moss etc. Also some stem plants can grow at a alarming rate in that type of setup, so much so that plant maintenance and thinning can easily become as time consuming as changing water.

Java fern and Moses grow on wood and donít really need the rich soil substrate, they get all need water and wood or stones their mounted on.

This thread by @united natures is perfect example of setting up a low tech with plain inert substrate. Nice tight pore structure to substrate, not to deep though, so all detritus stays on top of substrate where it should be. To me if you want low maintenance this is type of setup you should go for. Shrimp poop pretty much drives cycle in tank which feeds plants, plants grow at modest rate fueled by the modest light level and cycle is complete. Itís all about setting up a balance between substrates bio filter, plant load and fauna in tank. All youíd have to do is probably prune back those temple plant stems every couple of months and maybe change 20% water per month, so in a 20gal thatís 2-4gal once or twice a month.

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...rimp-only.html

Thatís also another factor you have to consider, water hardness etc that youíve got to use. Unless youíve got a RO sometimes you have to build your plan around what water parameters you have to work with, some plants and animals may thrive in your water, others will fail miserably.

Also you really need to figure out what that minnow is, it might not end up being so small or it might be so voracious it will decimate any shrimp population you introduce. My thought is being a native species itís probably a no go.
Thank you for the link, he's got a beautiful setup and you're right that's pretty much what I'm going for.

As for the water, that's honestly my next concern. Our tap here in the valley is pretty harsh. Do I buy distilled? Do I use a chemical solution? What's the recommendation for water for cherry shrimp? I see a lot of people use RO, is there an affordable method to obtaining such water? We were looking into certain small and easy filtration systems, like a shower head filter, or smaller attachable piece for our own shower/kitchen water anyhow. Because we rent, we aren't going to invest hundreds into a complete home filtration system until we are in our own place a few years down the road.

I'm going to post a picture of the minnow and maybe someone on here can help figure out its species.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
Really a walstad type tank is not the easiest to setup properly and can involve many weeks of frustrating times at startup till it gets settled in. And it really isnít needed if your going to do simple floating plants, java fern and moss etc. Also some stem plants can grow at a alarming rate in that type of setup, so much so that plant maintenance and thinning can easily become as time consuming as changing water.

Java fern and Moses grow on wood and donít really need the rich soil substrate, they get all need water and wood or stones their mounted on.

This thread by @united natures is perfect example of setting up a low tech with plain inert substrate. Nice tight pore structure to substrate, not to deep though, so all detritus stays on top of substrate where it should be. To me if you want low maintenance this is type of setup you should go for. Shrimp poop pretty much drives cycle in tank which feeds plants, plants grow at modest rate fueled by the modest light level and cycle is complete. Itís all about setting up a balance between substrates bio filter, plant load and fauna in tank. All youíd have to do is probably prune back those temple plant stems every couple of months and maybe change 20% water per month, so in a 20gal thatís 2-4gal once or twice a month.

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...rimp-only.html

Thatís also another factor you have to consider, water hardness etc that youíve got to use. Unless youíve got a RO sometimes you have to build your plan around what water parameters you have to work with, some plants and animals may thrive in your water, others will fail miserably.

Also you really need to figure out what that minnow is, it might not end up being so small or it might be so voracious it will decimate any shrimp population you introduce. My thought is being a native species itís probably a no go.

I thought I posted a response to this. These forum sites are confusing to me at times, so I apologize for being a mess about it.

Thank you for the link, he really does have a nice setup, and pretty much what I am wanting.

The water was my next concern. I do see a lot of people using RO water for their tanks, however looking up some of the filtration systems, the price and installment of the ones I've seen aren't what I'm really going for. We rent for now, so we were wanting to install something more simple and affordable like a complete shower head filter, or a filter piece that can attach to the shower head. And something as well for the kitchen. Buying distilled can get a bit crazy without the 5gal jugs. So what would be a good rec for cherry shrimp? I was going to even buy a Brita like filter.

I will post pic of minnow and hopefully someone on here can identify it.

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Last edited by Darkblade48; 09-01-2019 at 11:26 PM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 09-01-2019, 07:09 PM
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Looks like some type of mosquitofish to me, or could even be a female guppy?

Possible to get any pictures from the side?

The reason for so many water changes at first with the active soil substrate is due to the amount of ammonia etc it can leach - you don't want to burn your plants or stall your cycle if levels are too high.
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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 09-01-2019, 07:52 PM Thread Starter
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Yes this is the mystery minnow that was being pumped out of a water truck at a job site in Yolo county, CA. I do not know exactly if it is native, could be a delta smelt? or something? It was going to dry up in a puddle so it was "rescued" all the way to the central valley.

It's about 1.5" long, and the color lightened up quite a bit after being removed from the sewage water.

Sorry I cannot take pics from the side as you can see it's in a makeshift tank (mixing tub) at the moment.
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post #11 of 32 (permalink) Old 09-01-2019, 08:32 PM
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Check out western mosquitofish, that would be my guess (or a similar species, there are a lot of identical-to-non-scientists types). Looks just like the ones I used to have. In that case I don't think you need to worry about getting a school of them, although if you wanted friends for it guppies would probably work well. I don't think it's a delta smelt, the head looks too blunt to me, and they are usually found where salt and freshwater meet - Yolo county seems a little too far inland for that.

I thought that might be the case about photos, not to worry! If you can see the lower fin, you should be able to sex it quite easily if it is a livebearer - males have an elongated fin, whereas females have the standard triangle shape.

Re RO water - best to check your tap params before worrying about that too much. Not sure about Cali water but I'd imagine it's probably fine to use as is. Just add dechlorinator and you're good to go. Especially since this fish was found out "in the wild" so to speak anyway - Cali water is what it's used to!
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Last edited by germanblueramlover; 09-01-2019 at 08:35 PM. Reason: added more
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post #12 of 32 (permalink) Old 09-01-2019, 08:54 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you so much for that info!

What dechlorinator would you recommend? Or do they all pretty much work the same?
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post #13 of 32 (permalink) Old 09-01-2019, 09:30 PM
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I think they're all much of a muchness. I've been using Prime, like most other people on this forum - it's supposed to also be able to neutralise ammonia in case of a sudden spike, and I *think* claims to be better for planted tanks?

But I doubt it will have much meaningful difference

I would buy a smaller bottle of it, as you really don't need much, and that way you know it's not been sitting around for years on end.
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post #14 of 32 (permalink) Old 09-01-2019, 10:07 PM Thread Starter
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I really appreciate the suggestions! I will post tanks when set up!
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post #15 of 32 (permalink) Old 09-01-2019, 11:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Chanse27 View Post
What brought me here is what organic soil to choose. Because of my location, obtaining the recommended Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix is nearly impossible to find in stores. I'm eager to get a tank going so I purchased a couple different organic soils -

1. Kellogg 3cu ft Organic Garden Soil from Lowe's. *Ingredients: "Aged recycled forest products, aged arbor fines, composted chicken manure, oyster shell & dolomite limes (as pH adjuster), bat guano, worm castings, and kelp meal."
Now it being so rich, and what little I know about cycling tanks and the nitrogen system, I figured it wouldn't be a problem if I was just wanted to have plants, but I've got little Sharkbait needing something better than a pitcher and some pothos for cover. So the sooner I can ass livestock the better.

2. EcoScraps Organic Potting Soil 1cu ft from Target. *Ingredients: "In CA, this product contains processed forest products, coir, perlite, and compost (compost made from plant materials and food waste)."
These seemed less as intense on nutrients, but the perlite I read somewhere could be a problem for shrimp.

So my questions are -

1. Which organic soil would work best for the outcome I'm wanting? Or neither, and what soil in particular would work best?
2. Would it be ok to use Eco-Complete as a cap or should I use a different fine gravel?
3. I see people mention to test the water, I'm not familiar with testing kits at all, what do you recommended I use that would best suit my situation and give me the most bang for my buck?
4. Do I need to plant right away or can I let tank sit for a couple days?
5. How long after I plant may I add livestock? Just the minnow for now.
Sorry to weigh in late here. I started a new tank with potting soil, and found Aaron Talbot's remineralization protocol very useful: https://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...on-talbot.html

While doing this, I soaked it over night, and anything still floating the next morning (twigs, bark bits, perlite, etc) I discarded since I didn't want it floating around in my tank. Several rounds of soaking & drying the potting soil leached out much of the nutrients so I didn't get crazy ammonia spikes while cycling. It also reduced the amount of potting soil by more than half (LOTS of bark), so you'll wanna factor that in.

I'd definitely plant immediately--with a mix of fast growing stems/floaters and rooted plants like vals, crypts, swords, etc to keep algae from taking over. Your pothos can also help soak up excess ammonia/nitrates while cycling. And to start keep your light cycle short (4-5 hrs) to help prevent algae blooms.

Re when to add livestock: Safest course is to wait til it's fully cycled, but will defer to others with more experience about whether & how you can add fish while cycling. Guess it depends on how attached you are to that minnow....

Good luck!
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Last edited by Desert Pupfish; 09-02-2019 at 12:27 AM. Reason: Edited URL hyperlink
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