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I have a well established rectangular 3 gallon tank that is well-planted in only small aquarium gravel, and hooded with cheap LED lights. I typically buy plants that don't need much/any fertilizer. It currently houses 6 orange nano shrimp. The in-tank filter is very weak and unsightly, so I want to do a low-tech version of this tank. I want to remove the filter system and replace with a few air stones (running 24/7) buried in the gravel, so no "tech" would be visible except for one airline tube.

My basic questions:
Could I have a 3 gallon gravel-planted tank with only lights and an air stone? Could a nano shrimp colony survive here? Breed? Would weekly water changes be necessary, or just top-offs?
Do I need to add fertilizer? (plant substrate, fertilizer tabs, liquid fertilizer?)

Also, could I get away with adding a Stone/Anchor Catfish? (My thoughts being that it is very small, and sensitive to low oxygen, which should be covered by the airstones.) If no catfish, how about mystery or nerite snail? Thank you in advance!

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You'll need filtration for shrimp - something simple will do. Even a small sponge filter. But it's necessary unless your tank is heavily planted and you've got a lot of shrimp experience - enough not to have to ask questions, that is.

What's the problem with your current filter? Just the appearance?

You'll also need water changes and top-offs. 10-20% per week, likely.

Fertilizer will depend upon the plants you're using.

You should not consider a catfish for a tank that small. And definitely not with shrimp - they'd become snacks.

Snails are ideal in a shrimp tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the advice! I've been keeping and breeding nano shrimp for about 4 years, so I am fairly confident—I've just never done it without a filter. My big problem with the filter is that it is ugly, and also doesn't move much water—the tank has been running for years, so I am thinking that, with plants and airstone, I can do without it.

Basically what I am going for is a hybrid-"Walstad" setup, without having to deal with dirt substrate or natural lighting. Ideally the plants would be fed by fertilizer and shrimp/snail waste, and would remove enough harmful nitrates while providing food for the shrimp. The airstone would then help CO2 levels for both the plants and the shrimp, creating a sort of "supplemented ecosystem"—this is also where I thought the mini 1" cat would come in, as it could feed itself on algae and shrimp fry. I just want to make sure I'm not tragically forgetting anything in setting up this little eco-system.

My plants are anubias, frogbit, micro sword, devil's ivy (roots in water, leaves on top of tank), moss balls, java moss, and moneywort.
 

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You could do some research into the walstad method and no tech planted techniques as a start. It's doable, just takes a lot of research, planning and adjusting.

Stone cat+shrimp= fat and happy stone cat, especially in a tank that small. If you have a good deal of experience in keeping stable nano conditions one or the other is a possibility (but it would take a lot of devotion to keeping parameters and potentially live foods culturing for a stone cat). If it were me I'd stick with the shrimp since you have experience with them and can read them.

Good luck!!!

*Edit- just saw your follow up post. I have not kept shrimp but know many others that do using the walstad method. Just make sure your cap is thick enough to keep the soil down and be sure to understand what you're getting yourself into. I won't keep walstads anymore because I will start populating my house with vases again and my mts will flare up lol and that's not good for anyone in my family 😂 it's addictive to watch ecosystem tanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You could do some research into the walstad method and no tech planted techniques as a start. It's doable, just takes a lot of research, planning and adjusting.

Stone cat+shrimp= fat and happy stone cat, especially in a tank that small. If you have a good deal of experience in keeping stable nano conditions one or the other is a possibility (but it would take a lot of devotion to keeping parameters and potentially live foods culturing for a stone cat). If it were me I'd stick with the shrimp since you have experience with them and can read them.

Good luck!!!

*Edit- just saw your follow up post. I have not kept shrimp but know many others that do using the walstad method. Just make sure your cap is thick enough to keep the soil down and be sure to understand what you're getting yourself into. I won't keep walstads anymore because I will start populating my house with vases again and my mts will flare up lol and that's not good for anyone in my family 😂 it's addictive to watch ecosystem tanks.
😂 I've gotten into Walstad jars as well—very fun. Your comments about "thick soil cap" and "what I'm getting myself into" is basically what I'm trying to avoid with this setup. I'm hoping that a little fertilizer and an air stone will help me avoid the harder parts of the Walstad method (even though that's probably considered cheating).
 

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😂 I've gotten into Walstad jars as well—very fun. Your comments about "thick soil cap" and "what I'm getting myself into" is basically what I'm trying to avoid with this setup. I'm hoping that a little fertilizer and an air stone will help me avoid the harder parts of the Walstad method (even though that's probably considered cheating).
😅 I'd consider making a small diy sponge filter using enough sponge to cover the stone and hiding it using some hardscape if you're going to go that method and consider root tabs and an all in one fert for shrimp tanks. I'm finding normal low tech methods are kicking my butt because of my background in walstad/ ntp. Just don't be surprised if you find you do need a small filter to keep parameters in check. Hopefully you don't fall down the rabbit hole!!
 

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Since you've got some experience, you could definitely go filter-free. But I'd really load up on plants and probably up the water changes to 25%-30% per week. With a filter, you could probably do 10%-15%.

And who cares if you're cheating? Gotta do what works!

One thing I've really come to love lately is a tiiiiny sponge filter you can get on eBay or Amazon for roughly $6. When I say tiny, I mean tiny. I just got another one the other day. Here's a pic I just took with my phone:



Got a bunch of cardboard dust all over my keyboard, so I had to spend a few minutes going bonkers cleaning.

Since you're already doing any airstone, you might as well consider something like this because it's not much bigger. And includes an airstone. Honestly not much larger than a suction cup.

I'm running several cubes on them and they've been great for several months. Granted, there's not a ton of filter surface but it's way better than nothing and it helps keep the water clearer.

P.S. You can easily spray paint parts of it black if you want to disguise it even more. But it truly is small enough to hide behind nearly anything.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Since you've got some experience, you could definitely go filter-free. But I'd really load up on plants and probably up the water changes to 25%-30% per week. With a filter, you could probably do 10%-15%.

And who cares if you're cheating? Gotta do what works!

One thing I've really come to love lately is a tiiiiny sponge filter you can get on eBay or Amazon for roughly $6. When I say tiny, I mean tiny. I just got another one the other day. Here's a pic I just took with my phone:



Got a bunch of cardboard dust all over my keyboard, so I had to spend a few minutes going bonkers cleaning.

Since you're already doing any airstone, you might as well consider something like this because it's not much bigger. And includes an airstone. Honestly not much larger than a suction cup.

I'm running several cubes on them and they've been great for several months. Granted, there's not a ton of filter surface but it's way better than nothing and it helps keep the water clearer.

P.S. You can easily spray paint parts of it black if you want to disguise it even more. But it truly is small enough to hide behind nearly anything.
That really is a nice size—I haven't seen those before. Thanks!
 

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Get 5x more plants and prioritize small water changes, 20% of the the aquarium water volume gradually. Weekly changes, twice a month, once a month...

Decrease light time and be rigid on food supply. U should be fine. Worked for me:

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