What is your aversion to dirt? A dirted tank would meet all of your parameters: cheap, low maintenance, lush compact growth. Root tabs + sand will leave you with a low carbon tank. Low CO2 = low growth = less nutrient export = need to do more water changes. Go dirted, low stock jungle and you can easily go two months without a water change no problem. There are also a lot of lovely plants you can grow in dirt that won't work in inert sand (without a CO2 canister).
My aversion was inconsistency: no two soils are alike. Even if you could recommend a particular brand, I'm not sure I could find it here in PR
. Plus, I like the look of sand, even when exposed (I'm not sure whether or not I could say the same for dirt). That said, you've peaked my interest. I could try to search it out to see what I find; are there any particular (cheap enough) brands of soil that you'd recommend for the purpose? How many bags would I need? And how does one prepare soil for the aquarium? How to add it in? (My tank is unbuilt, for now). And are there any carpeting plants for a low tech tank?
I think you could make this work with monthly water changes. Put root tabs in the sand and you won't need dirt. The only issue may be the lights. The stock lights probably won't grow much. Even if you packed the tank full of plants, if the light is too low, they won't grow fast enough to absorb much in the way of nitrates.
Here are the plants I suggest trying. Not all of these might grow in your tank, but with really low light tanks you just have to throw a bunch in and see what survives. Don't get attached to anything until it shows new, healthy growth.
Mosses - java, Christmas, flame, willow, marimo, etc. (Keep in mind that mosses grow best when attached to something)
Crypts - almost any will work. They're heavy root feeders, though, so make sure you give them enough tabs.
Rotala sp. 'Green' (this one is supposed to need medium light, but I have some growing in an unlit tank, so I think it's worth a shot)
Corkscrew vallisneria (make sure you get the small version, not the giant one)
Bacopa caroliniana or monnieri
Lobelia cardinalis "Dwarf"
Pygmy chain sword
Ludwigia repens or sp. 'Red'
Hygrophyla corymbosa, difformis
Lysimachia nummularia "aurea"
The low maintenance mantra is: few fish, many plants. Guppies might get out of control unless you only get males. With only an internal filter, you won't have much flow. Hillstream loaches like fast moving water, so they wouldn't be a good choice for this kind of tank. Having lots of shrimp and otos will keep algae in check, but in a tank like this, I would avoid snails other than mysteries or nerites. Snails produce a lot of waste, so only get them if you really like them and only get the ones that don't breed like crazy.
Definitely get a python water changer. It will save your back, your floors, and your tank.
I could budge and go for a mid-tech tank, provided the lights are readily available, and not too expensive. Would I have to change the entire fixture? (there's two), or just the bulbs? Which ones are recommended for a 50 gallon?
That's a nice, diverse list of plants. I'll be trying those out, first.
I like that Guppies breed easily, but if they're that prolific, I'll reconsider (or go for the males). Are Peacock Gudgeons a suitable option to Guppies? I've eliminated the Hillstream Loaches from the plans, but not the Kuhlis (¿unless there's something else to say about that?). What's a good proportion of fish? I was thinking 10 guppies (or 4 to 6 Peacock Gudgeons), 5 Kuhli Loaches and 5 to 10 Otocinclus, plus 3 Dwarf Frogs. I was hoping to have a few different breeding colonies of Shrimp (Cherries, Sulawesi - the Malawa-like species -, and Tigers), plus a few Cajun Dwarf Crayfish. In writing all this out, I can't help but feel it's too much, even for a 50 gallon. I could just go with one species of Shrimp; I want them to breed.
I didn't know Snails were so messy. Bummer; as with the Shrimp, I was hoping for several breeding colonies. I could just go with a few Nerites or Sulawesi Snails and leave it at that.
I'll look into the Python, but what I'm really worried about is back-filling the tank after I've removed the water. An expensive filtration system seems out of the question, so I'd have to de-chlorinate my water in advance, and add it in by hand; it could get messy. As for a schedule, I was thinking 5 gallons per change, once monthly.
Originally Posted by philipraposo1982
My current setup and many before ran on inert sand substrates. No root tabs and no ferts. I have always had heavy bioload because of my live stock. I have grown many types of plants including those that are said to be heavy root feeders. At one point I have only crypts in my 75g growing lush.
I have gone in a different direction lately with my live stock and scape but similar approach. The biggest difference is now i only have one fish in my 75 as opposed to 50+.
Still using same light as always and no ferts.
The only time I really dosed ferts and root tabs was when I went with high levels of co2 and increase light intensity.
Here is a current photo for reference.
I do 60% or more water change per week.
Sent from my SM-N900W8 using Tapatalk
That's what I was going for: having the plants feed off the bioload. But apparently, water changes are still needed to pick up some slack for the plants.
Your tank looks elegant, but that water change schedule seems intense. Though perhaps my "5 gallons a month" would be too little, by comparison. A pretty, no-fail, low-maintenance planted tank... Now there's a riddle I'd like to solve.