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Hello all.

After a ton of reading about "self-sustaining" tanks, I've got a pretty solid idea about how I'd like to build my low-maintenance, semi-self-sustaining, tank.

I understand that a truely self-sustaining tank is probably a dream, but a heavily planted one that has a complete (or nearly complete) food-chain may not be.

Substrate - The Walstad Method recommends a dirt substrate capped with sand or gravel. I think i prefer the look of sand, plus I'm considering organisms that may prefer to burrow (more on that below). What type of soil should I buy? Pool filter sand seems to be the sand of choice.

Plants - This is something I know almost nothing about, and the main reason I joined this forum. I know I need a heavily planted tank if i want this method to succeed, but what type of plants? I'm considering a medium lighting on a timer with the above substrate. Keep in mind, plants will play a role in my food-chain to some extent so they should be hardy and fairly fast growing.

Filtration - Now, the way I understand it, the Walstad Method does not used any mechanical filtration (i have not read the book btw). However, I have a canister filter that I'd like to use. I will not use activated charcoal because it will kill my good bacteria, but I'd like to use some kind of media to help skim off loose junk as well as more surface area (and water) for bacteria to grow on. Is this ok to do?

Lighting - This is something I'm very confused about so I hope someone can help me. What kind of lighting should I use? I have 4 sockets on my lid for compact bulbs.

I'm very excited to start cycling and I have tomorrow off. If anyone has any advice please feel free to comment! I know I have a ton of questions but from what I've read so far, you guys seem to be the ones to ask.

Sorry in advance if i posted this in the wrong place. Hopefully someone can talk me through some of this before I get to work on it tomorrow. I'm picking up sand and any plants I can find locally.
 

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Hello all.

After a ton of reading about "self-sustaining" tanks, I've got a pretty solid idea about how I'd like to build my low-maintenance, semi-self-sustaining, tank.

I understand that a truely self-sustaining tank is probably a dream, but a heavily planted one that has a complete (or nearly complete) food-chain may not be.

Substrate - The Walstad Method recommends a dirt substrate capped with sand or gravel. I think i prefer the look of sand, plus I'm considering organisms that may prefer to burrow (more on that below). What type of soil should I buy? Pool filter sand seems to be the sand of choice.

Plants - This is something I know almost nothing about, and the main reason I joined this forum. I know I need a heavily planted tank if i want this method to succeed, but what type of plants? I'm considering a medium lighting on a timer with the above substrate. Keep in mind, plants will play a role in my food-chain to some extent so they should be hardy and fairly fast growing.

Filtration - Now, the way I understand it, the Walstad Method does not used any mechanical filtration (i have not read the book btw). However, I have a canister filter that I'd like to use. I will not use activated charcoal because it will kill my good bacteria, but I'd like to use some kind of media to help skim off loose junk as well as more surface area (and water) for bacteria to grow on. Is this ok to do?

Lighting - This is something I'm very confused about so I hope someone can help me. What kind of lighting should I use? I have 4 sockets on my lid for compact bulbs.

I'm very excited to start cycling and I have tomorrow off. If anyone has any advice please feel free to comment! I know I have a ton of questions but from what I've read so far, you guys seem to be the ones to ask.
Substrate - you are going to want to get an organic potting soil, miracle grow is most commonly used. You can also use topsoil, but with that I believe it's best to mineralize it which takes days if not weeks. As far as sand goes, you just have to figure out what you like most. This really is choosing the color of sand you wish to use. On the cheap route you can use PFS(white) or blasting abrasive(black).

Filtration - you defiantly want mechanical filtration inside your canister. Also using activated carbon to my knowledge should have no adverse affect to your beneficial bacteria. Also when you set this up you are going to need to do big water changes for the first few days.

Plants - I'd suggest you start with the so called "heavy root feeders" such as swords and crypts. The more plants you start out with the better as you are going to want a heavy plant mass. You can also get yourself some floating plants as they are good at soaking up excess nutrients.

Lighting - you would be best to tell use what kind and brand of light that you have. If you don't know post a picture of it and go from there.

I am by no way an expert at this and I'm sure others will chime in.
 

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I have been maintaining a 20 gallon with just plants for couple years now just adding water as needed. It does have filter but I change it very little. The plants have grown and filled the tank. No trimming yet but the tank about full.

Please keep us informed as your process goes on. I'm very interested how this tank progresses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Substrate - you are going to want to get an organic potting soil, miracle grow is most commonly used. You can also use topsoil, but with that I believe it's best to mineralize it which takes days if not weeks. As far as sand goes, you just have to figure out what you like most. This really is choosing the color of sand you wish to use. On the cheap route you can use PFS(white) or blasting abrasive(black).

Filtration - you defiantly want mechanical filtration inside your canister. Also using activated carbon to my knowledge should have no adverse affect to your beneficial bacteria. Also when you set this up you are going to need to do big water changes for the first few days.

Plants - I'd suggest you start with the so called "heavy root feeders" such as swords and crypts. The more plants you start out with the better as you are going to want a heavy plant mass. You can also get yourself some floating plants as they are good at soaking up excess nutrients.

Lighting - you would be best to tell use what kind and brand of light that you have. If you don't know post a picture of it and go from there.

I am by no way an expert at this and I'm sure others will chime in.
Thank you for the help!

Ive never heard of blasting abrasive before, but i would prefer black sand over white. Any tips where I can buy that?

As far as the lighting goes, I believe my lid is custom made. It has 4 sockets for compact CFLs. I don't actually have any bulbs yet. I refrained from buying some at Walmart yesterday because Ive never had a planted aquarium before and idk what I really need. I plan on researching that today, but any input or links to articles would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Thank you for the help!

Ive never heard of blasting abrasive before, but i would prefer black sand over white. Any tips where I can buy that?

As far as the lighting goes, I believe my lid is custom made. It has 4 sockets for compact CFLs. I don't actually have any bulbs yet. I refrained from buying some at Walmart yesterday because Ive never had a planted aquarium before and idk what I really need. I plan on researching that today, but any input or links to articles would be greatly appreciated.
The blasting abrasive can be picked up at Tractor Supply and it's about $8 for a 50lb bag. My recommendation for you would be to buy a CFL in the 5000 to 7000K range(day light). Also what size tank do you have?

Edit: the blasting abrasive is made by Black Diamond and you want the 20/40 grit.
 

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The blasting abrasive can be picked up at Tractor Supply and it's about $8 for a 50lb bag. My recommendation for you would be to buy a CFL in the 5000 to 7000K range(day light). Also what size tank do you have?

Edit: the blasting abrasive is made by Black Diamond and you want the 20/40 grit.
I have a 75g long. I'm going to search for a tractor supply store now. Any suggestions on plants? I called all the local aquarium stores, but none of them really had anything. Should I order from a website? If so, what site do people here suggest?

I found the blasting sand stuff! Now I need those plants...
 

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I have a 75g long. I'm going to search for a tractor supply store now. Any suggestions on plants? I called all the local aquarium stores, but none of them really had anything. Should I order from a website? If so, what site do people here suggest?
Honestly I would purchase plants from members from this site. Post in the WTB thread for what you're looking for. Since you are just starting out I would go with some easy to grow lower light plants. Pick up some Val, swords, dwarf sag and maybe some crypts.
 

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x2 get the plants from members here. Best bang for your buck.

As for lights, you are going low tech and don't want an excessive amount of light. High plant biomass will help combat algae but too much light will throw off the balance and cause algae problems. Idk if you can use some (but not all) of the CFL sockets and still have the fixture illuminate, but I would go with maybe running two 5500K CFL bulbs. I'm hesitant to suggest wattage, as even heavy root feeders vary in their lighting needs. Currently i'm carpeting chain swords with a 16w 5500K led spot over them, but the rest of the tank is what I would consider low light. Se lighting is very dependent on your needs preferences.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Update:

I am washing the soil currently and bought two 60w "plant lights" from Home Depot.

Once the soil has been throughly washed (few more days) I'll finish setting up the tank. Should I start cycling then, or wait for the plants to ship in? I doubt they'll all arrive at the same, so I need to be ready yet flexible.

Thanks for all the help guys!
 
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