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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, we set up a very low tech dirt planted tank two days ago. I originally wanted to set it up using mineralized to soil substrate, but with the snow storms, I just soaked the top soil outside (without the wet and dry cycles) and decided to switch to the Walstad "El Natural" method. My wife redesigned it after taking out half the soil because I had added too much (3-4" soil) as the substrate.

This is my current setup.

Tank: 20 gallon Grreat Choice {Petsmart}
Lighting: 2x25W incandescent T10 - came with the tank. 10-12 hours/day. The tank is beside the window, so it will receive some amount of sunlight, though the main source is from the T10 lights.

Filter: None. The tank came with an internal filter, but I'm not using it. Maybe I should run a DIY sponge filter at some point.
Air Pump: I'm running an air pump with an air stone for water movement. I'll take this out when I get my Koralia 240 powerhead tomorrow.
CO2: None

Substrate: Lowes unbranded topsoil 1". This was repeatedly washed and soaked overnight for a few days.
Cap: Petco black sand 0.5" to 1"
Amaco red clay: Several 0.5" diameter balls of Amaco Mexican clay buried in the substrate {Hobby Lobby}

Plants:
Water Wisteria, Ludwidigia Repens, Moneywort, Anubias Nangi, Coffeefolia, Java Fern Windelov, Moss Balls (2) {Peabody's Paradise}. I'm also using a plant grown from Walmart bulbs - I think it's called Aponogeton. And an Amazon sword from Petsmart.
I bought willow moss too, but it came DOA (all brown).

Livestock: None

Future equipment: I ordered a Hydor Koralia Nano 240 powerhead and that should arrive tomorrow.

Future Plants: I'm planning to buy grassy plants for my setup. I'm looking at dwarf saggitaria or micro sword.

Future Livestock: I'm considering guppies, cories and ghost shrimp. Maybe otos too if there's too much algae. There doesn't seem to be any algae at the moment.

Any suggestions from experienced members about our setup would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Here are a few photos. PS: Sorry for the bad quality photographs.
 

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Run a sponge filter.

Reduce your lighting to 10 hrs or less since it does get direct sunlight at some point.

Pull your java ferns out of the substrate and tie them to rocks or wood such as you have with your anubias.

You might find algae on plants and other objects from your moss balls.

Any grassy type foreground plants will require higher light and possibly the addition of CO2. You can try dwarf sag though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Run a sponge filter.

Reduce your lighting to 10 hrs or less since it does get direct sunlight at some point.

Pull your java ferns out of the substrate and tie them to rocks or wood such as you have with your anubias.

You might find algae on plants and other objects from your moss balls.

Any grassy type foreground plants will require higher light and possibly the addition of CO2. You can try dwarf sag though.
ForensicFish, thanks for the reply! I'll run the sponge filter and tie the java fern to the rock. For the algae control, I was considering getting a couple of otocinclus. Is it too early to add them?

How much light do I add for the grassy plants? I was planning to replace my 25W T10 bulbs with the 10W CFL bulbs in Walmart (Lights of America).
 

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You can run the sponge filter with your air pump or, return your Koralia circulation pump and get a powerhead. That way you can attached the sponge to the powerhead. Its up to you.

Otos are great fish. I love them. However, Otos will not prevent algae. Otos will do their part in consuming algae on the glass, rocks, wood etc but do not take them as a prevention method. If your tank is properly cycled i.e. ammonia and nitrites are at 0 then yes you can add otos.

In my opinion, I would stay away from foreground grassy plants at this point. They require higher light than the Walmart bulbs. But it is more than just adding light. When you kick up your light you have to factor in adding ferts and/or CO2. Are you prepared for all that extra stuff? Start slow.

Keep adding crypts.
 

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There are grassy type or foreground plants that will grow in lower light. However, growth under low light is slow and if grown under low light, you will probably have to add ferts and/or CO2.
 

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Your tank needs to cycle before adding any inhabitants, so yes it's too soon for otos (or any fish/inverts).

FYI, otocinclus need a well established tank with lots of biofilm. They actually eat the aufwichs (living organisms) in the biofilm. Algae is only part of their diet, fyi. I wouldn't have otos in a 10g, because they really need groups of 3 or more, and a 10g can't support that many unless you do supplemental feeding, etc.

Nerites would indeed be a better choice. Just one, I think, in a 10g. Again, it's about how much the tank can really support.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
jem_xxiii: Thanks. I'll look into nerite snails.

H2Ogal: Yup, I'll cycle my tank first. By the way, mine is a 20g. Thanks.

What crypts would you guys suggest for my tank? I'm considering Crypt Wendtii or Crypt Parva.
 

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Love crypts, c.wendtii comes in different colors (bronze, green, red) and grow tallish in low light, more compact in higher light. C.parva can be used in foreground/midground. My favorite is c.nurii and c.affinis 'red metallic.'
 

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jem_xxiii: Thanks. I'll look into nerite snails.

H2Ogal: Yup, I'll cycle my tank first. By the way, mine is a 20g. Thanks.

What crypts would you guys suggest for my tank? I'm considering Crypt Wendtii or Crypt Parva.
Well, I certainly was reading too fast ... or distracted or having a mental moment. Of course, you did say it was a 20g. :icon_roll
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Love crypts, c.wendtii comes in different colors (bronze, green, red) and grow tallish in low light, more compact in higher light. C.parva can be used in foreground/midground. My favorite is c.nurii and c.affinis 'red metallic.'
Hopefully I can get C. Wendtii and C. Parva sometime soon. I'm thinking of giving CO2 a shot. Maybe run a DIY CO2 system for a month or two till the plants fill the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
You can run the sponge filter with your air pump or, return your Koralia circulation pump and get a powerhead. That way you can attached the sponge to the powerhead. Its up to you.
I got my Koralia Nano 240 on Thursday. I think the circulation is too strong on my 20g. I'm also worried about smaller fish getting into the slits of the Nano 240 (after I get the fish). In the past, my neon tetras got sucked into the internal filter which came with the tank and I don't want that to happen. I guess a couple of sponge filters on either end of the aquarium should suffice. My main worry is about dead spots in the aquarium. Also, will the sponge filters increase the amount of oxygen?
 
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