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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The build:
Screen sifted Organic Potting mix [Kellogg Organic] (1 inch)
Coarse black gravel ( 1.5-1.75 inches)
"Stump" Constructed from 3 pcs Driftwood waterlogged in bucket beforehand
100W Heater set to 72 / Thermometer / Magnet scrubber



I have a slight concern with respect to the driftwood preventing air circulation in the soil, but decided to risk it with the relatively minimal weight/contact area from this configuration. Happy to hear if others think this will be a problem long term, for now I don't think this is the culprit of any issues.

The planting (vision):
Plant seven different types of aquatic plants, some might die from alepothy but hopefully a couple take off and we can work from there.



The planting (actual):
6 Pots - Monte Carlo
1 Bunch - Alternanthera Rosanervig
1 Bunch - Ludwigia Natans Super Red (These lost most leaves in travel)
1 Bunch - Rotala Indica
2 Bunch - Bacopa Caroliniana
1 Bunch - Eleocharis montevidensis
1 Bunch - Ludwigia palustris
1 Ball - Flame moss

This was my first attempt at planting anything aquatic so this was interesting. I couldn't figure how much to break down the Monte Carlo so I varied it with some single shoots while leading some others in larger ¼ pot clumps.

Floating plants were to be added once the plants had a chance to get established. Especially wanted to see the Monte Carlo root before taking up any light with floaters.





When looking at my vision, I thought it had turned out pretty good, I immediately noticed the Bacopa and Rotala in the back right were not getting any light due to the angle of the light and the stump - I ordered a second light which is seen from day 3 forward.

Here is my first question: Is this planted heavy enough? I know people say plant heavy to start with so I fear this may not have been enough.

Days 1-3 minimal change:
Tannins leaking from the driftwood
Initial Ammonia reading over 0.5 drop to 0.25 after the second day
Nitrite and Nitrates remain 0

Day 4
Slight biofilm starts to form.
Thin whisps of bacteria (?) can be seen
Hair algae is found in 3 places and removed




Days 5-8
None of the plants seem to take.
Everything is slowly withering as leaves are detaching from stem plants
Monte Carlo is turning brown and those along the glass show little to no root formation
Bacteria clouds start to form under the biofilm and slowly float down throughout the day
Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate have all gone to 0. Nitrate is slowly increasing but hasn’t hit 5 yet.



At this point I’m not sure what to do - all the plants* are slowly dying and the white cloud of bacteria seems worse each day.
*Giant Hair grass may be doing fine. It's hard to tell without any leaves to fall off.

I’m fairly sure the bacteria is from all the decaying plant matter but I’d like some insight on where I went wrong - and if there is a chance to fix it.

Should I start doing daily water changes to combat bacteria? Or am I still cycling and will WC just slow things down? Is removal of biofilm in the morning (paper towel method) enough to allow the plants to get established?
I've gone all over the place and interested to hear other's thoughts, mine are:
  1. Everything is fine and the old leaves are just going to fall off and new ones will sprout 😬 (I wish)
  2. The tank is cycling and something (ammonia?) is getting sucked up by the plants preventing them from taking root (?)
  3. Plant selection is too slow growing needed to have more Hornwort / Vallisneria / Swords (?)
  4. Possibly something in dechlorinated tap water is preventing growth (?)
  5. Too much tannins from the driftwood is interfering with plant growth (?)
  6. Other thoughts?
Interested to hear if anyone has guidance.

Thanks.

--- Updated with imgur images
 

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Monte carlo isn't exactly walstad friendly. You've got a few plants that I wouldn't put in a walstad listed in there. You're not going to be able to make a carpeted colorful scape using this growing method. Most of mine have been comprised of bulbs, rhizome plants and crypts.

Edit- can't see your pictures
 

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I also can't see your pictures.

Dirt is an active substrate like aquasoil. You should be doing daily 50% (minimum, 90+% would be my gold standard in this case) water changes every day for the first week, every other day for the second week, 3 times in week 3, and twice in week 4. After that you should be doing water changes 50% every week. The dirt you used has a LOT of nutrients in it and what you are describing is the result of massive amounts of nutrient release with no water changes to get rid of the extreme excess.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
You should be doing daily 50% (minimum, 90+% would be my gold standard in this case) water changes every day for the first week
This makes a ton of sense, and does seem the only reasonable way forward from here. I will get on this now and work in the picture issue once done.

You've got a few plants that I wouldn't put in a walstad listed in there.
I'll work on getting some better plants lined up as I try to get it back on track with additional water changes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
After a week of frantic cleaning and research things are heading in the right direction.
The daily water changes (30%) and increased plant growth (more on that in a second) have reduced the bacterial blooms significantly. Now it is a minor haze each day rather than a full on fog-apocalypse.
[Fog-Apocalypse]


Once things stabilized I added 3 narites and 6 Amanos to start working on the algae. Here is where we are at:



First up plant selection:
Monte Carlo was a big mistake.
The roots are too small / fine to grow through the 1in+ cap to get down to the dirt.

I had a couple pairs I planted to see what would do better (in hopes of using allelopathy to make the plant selection) the results are in:
Rotala Indica won vs Bacopa caroliniana. This was a bit surprising as the Rotala was beat up in shipping a bit worse than the Bacopa but after just a day or two the Bacopa just started to shed all of its leaves.
Alternanthera reineckii won vs Ludwigia palustris. This was the big surprise, mainly because the Alternanthera started losing leaves first! But fast forward a day or two and we have new leaves popping out where the old ones fell off.
On the bright side, Eleocharis montevidensis is doing well and probably the only one of any of these that should be in a walstad tank to start out...
I'm not sure how the flame moss is doing. Brown bits are coming off occasionally but nothing is dying/growing quickly.

Updated Plants:
Floating and planted Hornwort (which I would like to not have in the tank long term) and some type of Crypt from LFS.
Have a larger set of plants coming in so hope to have it replanted and looking better. I’m also interested to see how the increased plant density affects the bacterial growth.
Thanks again for the comments last time - they got me going in the right direction!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
What a difference one day makes.

Yesterday we celebrated the first molt of one of the Amano shrimp - Today we morn the loss of the first (different) Amano shrimp.

This morning I woke up to one dead Amano and two others looking stunned / slowly moving their legs. A quick water change and some artificial agitation got the other two moving, one almost instantly the other after almost an hour of picking at some moss that happened to be nearby.

Checking water parameters (before the WC) everything looks great ph/amm/Nite 7.2/0/0 so I'm fairly confident this was due to oxygen depletion over night. I have been working to reduce the frequency of the water changes (which other than photosynthesis is the primary way oxygen is getting in) and it looks like I may have gone too far in those reductions.

My new questions:
Suggestions on how to balance allowing the tank to settle on O2 levels?
Root o2 release is more efficient in emergent plants... I need to get some actual floaters. Is this my main problem?
Is 15G to big for no pump/filter? I know the book mentions HOB filters for 29G or less, but I thought I had seen similar tanks running without filters...

Appreciate any guidance (or if I should move this elsewhere happy to)
Thanks.
 

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You could consider an air pump with a stone for overnights or possibly a small powerhead to agitate the surface. You could also consider a small air powered sponge filter but they can be intrusive in smaller tanks.
 

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Nice, it seems like you're figuring out the kinks in your tank. The beginning can be hard, but if you stick with it and find your balance it's worth it.

I do think that 15 gallons is pretty big to not have any equipment to circulate water though. I have a much smaller tank that I tried to do "no tech" and my life got a lot easier when I added a lil baby HOB (AZOO Mignon Filter 60).

I'm not sure how long that Vallisneria has been in your tank, but if you just recently added it, don't freak out if it all melts off. That's par for the course and if everything else is going well it will resprout. (You don't mention having val, but that's definitely what that tall, grassy plant is.)

If you are still looking for other good plants, you might consider Indian water sprite. I don't care for its appearance, but I use it to get my tanks established because it can thrive before anything else has settled in. I eventually remove it once it has done its job.

If you are having trouble finding floaters you might consider looking on Facebook marketplace. Many don't ship well, but many people are trying to offload their extra locally.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I picked up the smallest sponge filter the LFS had and had it run all last night. This morning no casualties and the amanos seem to be more back to normal! Its kind of a bummer to have the additional tech but it does feel safer. I also picked up a handful of red root floaters and a handful of frogbit (which had just come in stock!) I hope those will help with the O2 should I attempt to take the filter out at a later date.

(You don't mention having val, but that's definitely what that tall, grassy plant is.)
Thaaaaats what that was :LOL: When I said 'some type of Crypt' I totally meant Vallisneria.
Also appreciate the guidance for the melting plants. Its been interesting trying to learn what is melting vs actually dying.

I've updated the tank with a new shipment of plants but photos will need to wait until next time.
Limnophila Heterophylla
Umbrella Hair Grass
Amazon Sword (already melting)
Dwarf Sagittaria

Thanks again for all the guidance!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Likely my last update to this thread as the problems experiences in starting out have been solved!

For anyone looking at this in the future my takeaways were:
15 gallons probably needs some form of agitation (HOB seems most popular) I have elected to use a small sponge filter for now.
Cycling needs water changes (daily) to combat bacterial blooms, this is especially important if you are trying without a filter.
Once the plants start to grow Oxygen will drop at night, I run the filter at night to combat this.

The tank today:


New plants have been added and while the Limnophila Heterophylla died almost instantly everything else seems to be doing well.
So well that I have already had to trim the umbrella hair grass!
Flame moss is finally growing, it took a full 4 weeks to acclimate but I'm excited to see the additional texture in the tank.
I'm really not liking the frogbit as the roots grow far too much. That may be looking for a new home shortly.

Looking back its come a long way in these last few weeks.
I'm looking forward to trying out some new things and looking to add some cherry shrimp and maybe a fish or two (Likely Tetras, Clouds, Gouramis, or Endlers)
Till then though we have 5 happy Amano shrimp.

(Old photo but the last time we weren't feeling camera shy)
 

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Nice job!! Looks great!! Glad you stick it through and made to the other side of start up woes!! I used powerheads in my walstads often, sponge filters too. It's definitely a complex start up but it's rewarding to learn. Hope you post an update once you have your fish in there 😉 would love to see!! GL!!
 
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