An all natural ecosystem tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 07:21 AM Thread Starter
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An all natural ecosystem tank

so I was just thinking... what if you could leave a tank for months....

You had enough plants to eat the nutrients with just the right light level to keep them happy for months... you had maybe just a tiny bit of c02 injection barely any... maybe none at all... but you had A LOT of plants...

you had a couple fish... and some how you had a natural food source... maybe a ton of daphnia and just a few fish... so the daphnia could grow and reproduce faster then they were being eaten... is this possible? Is something possible like this? What could be food sources for the fish tho? Snails maybe? daphnia? you might need like a terrium... where flys could lay larva for food or something along those lines it seems? It would be really good to actually make a terrium and have a food chain naturally work so you rarely ever needed to clean or do anything to the tank... like a mini rainforest... + a filter... ? Anything ever done along those lines?
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 07:32 AM
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My dad did something like this outdoors. He built a very large pond.

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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 07:41 AM
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You would need some kind of Auto top off system, but it's possible. Mosquito larva could be used, but you wouldn't want that indoors.

-Chris

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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 12:25 PM
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This may not be exactly what you are thinking about, but Rhonda Wilson is describing planted aquariums without filtration on her website. Check it out..

http://naturalaquariums.com/

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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 12:43 PM
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SW tanks are heading in this direction, especially in reef tanks. Its definitely thought that the more diverse the ecosystem is, the more stable it is. Some aquarists go to great lengths to achieve this. Deep sand beds, refugiums for algae and for plankton, lagoon type systems, cryptic zones (areas kept remotely in the dark for sponges and tunicates and other life). All this and more has been tied into tanks in an attempt to recreate as natural a system as possible. We will never get away from technology, but mix that with as much nature as possible and the potential is there for am extremely healthy and stable captive aquatic ecosystem.

I think the freshwater hobby could learn a lot of valuable lessons from the innovative SW crowd. Take a cruise through the DIY sections on many SW forums, i.e... reefcentral and see what im talking about. Some of what they attempt AND accomplish is nothing short of amazing.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by three105 View Post
...you had a couple fish... and some how you had a natural food source...
California black worms hide most of the body under the substrate, what ever is showing above, the fish snap it off..then the worm stays alive and regrow the missing piece..
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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 04:02 PM
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S
I think the freshwater hobby could learn a lot of valuable lessons from the innovative SW crowd. Take a cruise through the DIY sections on many SW forums, i.e... reefcentral and see what im talking about. Some of what they attempt AND accomplish is nothing short of amazing.
That's because the cost of the equipment and their insistence on not changing water. They spend gobs and gobs of $ on equipment, on electricity (you do not want to see their electric bills), so economics drives DIY and testing there. Salt is relatively cheap, but many are too bias against changing water and mixing water and salt. Never understood that.

For smaller tanks, in the 50 Gal and less ranges, 40-50% weekly water changes works really well and cost much less than a massive pump, huge filtration system etc. Far simpler too. I do like all the DIY, some folks have really put a lot of time and effort to many of those things.

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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 04:06 PM
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Well I left my tank for about a month and a half, so I guess that kinda qualifies?

My goal with my tanks is generally somewhat self sustaining, lots of microfauna small amount of fish, snails, shrimp etc. My ideal goal someday is to have a completely self sustaining tank, but I just don't have the space for that at the moment.

So yeah, its doable. You just need lots of the small stuff compared to the bigger stuff, the blackworms are a good idea. I'm probably going to get some soon as well.

-Andrew
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 04:25 PM
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Planaria might be a good idea for self-sustaining food source. But I'm not sure if all fish eat planaria?
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 05:53 PM
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Whenever I go to Barcelona, Spain, for a month and a half/two months, I just get my sister to top off water and use the little scoops i showed her for food every three days or so.
My tanks are so full of plants and overfiltered and balanced with livestock, that I'm not concerned. When I get back the tanks need a trim but thats about it.


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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 07:39 PM
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Well the reef keeping hobby has gotten much easier thanks to the introduction of refugiums I don't do much of anything to my reef, thanks to fuge and auto top-off. Very low maintenance would have to rely on a pretty insane skimmer.. Also hard coral tanks are still fairly high maintenance. Most this can't really be applied practically to a freshwater tank with the exception of the top-off. People do keep refugiums but they are only used for half of what a refugium is typically use for ie allow amphipods and copepods a place to breed in peace.
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 08:34 PM
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Most this can't really be applied practically to a freshwater tank with the exception of the top-off. People do keep refugiums but they are only used for half of what a refugium is typically use for ie allow amphipods and copepods a place to breed in peace.
I disagree with this statement. I think alot of the same ideas would work in freshwater systems...a freshwater ecosysytem is still a very dynamic place, where a myriad of biological activities are taking place. I think a deep sandbed would have its place for nitrate reduction, refugiums can be set up for nutrient export AND for pod growth, there are freshwater mussels that could be potentially awesome at being used as a biofilter (anyone living near the great lakes and finger lakes here in NY can attest to zebra mussels), and many other ideas yet to be thought of im sure. Given the time, space, and money i would really love to experiment with some of these ideas. Even though we are accomplishing alot of this stuff in a heavily planted tank. And maybe there isnt really a need for it, but... maybe thats the type of set up needed to breed some of the really diffucult FW species? Would be cool to find out!

But i agree that refugiums have made a world of difference, as have good quality skimmers and abundant live rock. I wont ever set up a SW tank again with out live rock and a skimmer. I have heard numerous times from many seasoned aquarists that once their reef tanks get established they run WAY more stable than any freshwater tank they kept before. Some of that is technology, but i also think a huge part of it is system bio diversity.

I also agree with Tom to an extent. Im a huge proponent of water changes, no matter what the system is. But i dont necessarily think that all of the innovation and expense of the SW hobby is solely due to not wanting to do water changes...thats painting the picture in way too broad of strokes.
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 09:05 PM
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so I was just thinking... what if you could leave a tank for months....

You had enough plants to eat the nutrients with just the right light level to keep them happy for months... you had maybe just a tiny bit of c02 injection barely any... maybe none at all... but you had A LOT of plants...

you had a couple fish... and some how you had a natural food source... maybe a ton of daphnia and just a few fish... so the daphnia could grow and reproduce faster then they were being eaten... is this possible? Is something possible like this? What could be food sources for the fish tho? Snails maybe? daphnia? you might need like a terrium... where flys could lay larva for food or something along those lines it seems? It would be really good to actually make a terrium and have a food chain naturally work so you rarely ever needed to clean or do anything to the tank... like a mini rainforest... + a filter... ? Anything ever done along those lines?
Planted tanks can supply a lot of food for certain fish. I think we often over-estimate what amounts of food our fish need. Sure they'll eat what you give them, but in nature things might be different, and who knows what a diet that is too rich and ample does to their health and lifespan.

I have left my tanks repeatedly alone for 4 weeks (vacations overseas) and coming back, all the livestock looked just as good as always.

Of course that doesn't work with all fish, and especially not with overstocked tanks. My examples: I have a 36gal tank with Endlers that I basically don't feed. They thrive and actually start to overpopulate (IMO) the tank. Endlers are a good example for fish that can find some food in well planted tanks without needing additional feeding.

Another example... I have two Yoyo loaches (oldtimers, 5 years old) that basically eat snails, cherry shrimp, blackworms, and whatever they find in a 100 gal tank. I do feed them once a week or so, but it wouldn't be absolutely necessary.

Another example... some African Butterfly fish, they don't need much food since they basically hang out all day without much activity. The female has figured out to catch all the Cherry shrimp that make it up to the surface. That's a good example where the supply of Cherries will never be affected, because these particular fish never leave the surface.

Algae eaters are good examples for fish that don't need attention. Otos of course, and Flying Fox/Ancistrus etc for larger tanks.

I don't think Daphnia would work too well... they don't have a way to get away, so fish just have a huge feast and it's over. Maybe if you could keep them in a separate compartment within the tank. Cherry shrimp are good in that respect, since they are not that easy to catch, and once they are grown up many fish don't consider them snacks anymore. Blackworms are a good example too.

In nature, fish often live in moving waters. Or in lakes where the population density is very low. Water changes are not that unnatural...

So, if you have a relatively large and/or relatively understocked tank, you can make that work. Let the plants and shrimp/snails establish first, then add selected fish that won't upset the balance.

Consider an automatic water change setup so you don't have to interfere. Fertilizers can be dosed automatically over relatively long times. CO2, if pressurized, can sit for a year or longer without the need to mess with it. If light levels are relatively low, and you choose slower growing plants, there isn't that much work to prune them back.

That way you can have minimum maintenance, and call it eco or natural or whatever you want, and still have a nice-looking tank and healthy fish. Of course it takes some discipline not to overstock.


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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 09:09 PM
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I have 2 all natural tanks (5G & 10G) . All I do is top off. The fauna have to be pretty low for this to work though. I just have shrimps, snails and micro rasboras like boraras.

The thing you have to add on a consistent basis is food. The fauna do find things they can eat like microbes, tiny crustaceans, and algae but it's not enough for sustaining growth and health.

oh, and the food is nutrients for the plants too.


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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 08-11-2009, 01:57 AM
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I'm imagining if the fish were to live off of whatever cultures would grow in a fw refugium they would either have to be; either tiny fish and not many of them, or a HUGE refugium. Would a very low flow facilitate the growth of diverse micro fauna?
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