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I have kept tanks for a little while, but never succeeded with plants. But I became more interested in sustainable tanks/low tech planted tanks early this year. So I made my own little experiment.

There were a few constraints:
1) It had to be low cost (tank, gravel and ornament all second hand).
2) It had to be low tech (I read and understood as much of Diana Walstad's book as I could. In reality this is probably just modelled off her shrimp bowl discussed online).
3) It had to be without a heater - which in New Zealand in winter means cold!

So - here goes. A 2nd hand AquaOne Aqua Start 320 with dirt from the garden.

Gravel capping

You can see I have pleaced the tank by a window - the light in the hood isn't very strong (11 watt). I purchased off an online auction site $10 of mixed coldwater plants. The upside is that $10 is VERY cheap for 50 stems compared with the pet stores. The downside is they were all together, so I sort of plonked them into the substrate without much thought to aquascaping.

My plan was, as per Walstad's book, plant a lot and see what works.

Day One

Three weeks later

Five Weeks after planting

And finally - today: Seven weeks after set up. The Ramshorn snails (free with tank) are breeding happily, and the 8 white cloud mountain minnows seem happy/healthy too.

I am considering adding a heater and a betta fish. Now that I know this method works well in my situation, next time I may consider the aesthetics of the layout a little more!

I have since set up my tropical tank similarly, but as it is bigger the plant load is less, and algae is more of an issue. However, I trust those plants will grow and the tank will even out. All in all, I am sold on the Walstad method and pleased with the results.
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