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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I really like the way saltwater tanks look, specifically ones with macros. But, I know from experience that they are more work and maintenance than freshwater (even when kept simple).

So, I'm looking to make a freshwater tank that looks like it's saltwater. I also want it to be a Walstad tank (I have one running right now, which I would replace). The tank would be 3 gallons, might upgrade to 5 if everything looks good.

My general thoughts are:
  • Susswasterang - it looks like Ulva.
  • Some type of "grass" - to look like Caulerpa Prolifera. Wouldn't want it to fully carpet though, I'd probably use rocks in the substrate to keep it from carpeting.
  • Cameroon Moss - looks like Caulerpa Mexicana.
  • Use similar types of rocks, maybe even buy purple reef rock (the colored kind).
  • I have a cluster of clam shells that I glued together that I could put in.
  • Put in other things like barnacle shells and coral skeleton (pipeorgan, it stays red).
  • Keep mostly inverts - shrimp and snails. Unsure about fish (there are plent of fish that look like SW fish).
Any suggestion with plants? I think Eldoa might fit in, but idk. I also need floaters, maybe.

Suggestion with livestock? I know there are plenty of fish that fit in, but does anyone have experience with scuds? Pods are super common in SW and scuds are very similar. Triops would look cool, like horseshoe crabs, but they don't live long enough.
 

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Pretty much any plant you're going to use will spread. May be slow but it will spread. Just keep up on maintenance. Any moss you choose will spread and take over if you let it but will be ideal - almost necessary - for shrimp. Keep it trimmed and anything you use will look nice in a layout like that.

Anubias nana 'petite' and 'micro' tend to look really neat when grown into clumps. Can almost have a reef-like look in a small tank. You place them in ways to help you hide unsightly areas, mistakes and to create depth. They don't get planted in substrate, so you can stick them pretty much anywhere.

There are several Cryptocoryne varieties that will achieve the appearance of Caulerpa prolifera. They'll also grow really slowly and won't require much in terms of fertilizer or maintenance.

Since you aren't looking to grow tons of plants that require much in terms of substrate, why not just go with sand from a hardware store? Or really fine gravel? Easier to maintain. Just plop a clay root tab in when necessary. Less risk of mucking up water parameters for shrimp when doing maintenance. Worth consideration.

If you want to keep invertebrates, you'll need to focus on water parameters at least a bit. So using decorative items that increase hardness may not work well. Seashells and coral will increase hardness unless they're sealed. What are the water parameters you'll be starting with?

Keeping fish in a tank that small is not a good idea. I say no to that. Shrimp and snails are better suited. Scuds tend to destroy everything in sight when you have them in populations of more than a few - they'll even eat each other after they devour your plants.

The type of rock you want to use can also increase hardness even if it's dry/not live. Often referred to as "lace rock" in pet stores, it will work well in freshwater tanks. Just don't get anything that has a ton of growth on it or is purple with algae. That will lead to issues with water parameters when the growths begin to break down and decay. When I use rock like that in freshwater, I prefer to soak it in straight RO water for a month or two and give it a good brushing about once per week.

A better option may be to use black or red lava rock chunks. Easy to create a large structure with reef putty even if you're using small pieces you bought at a hardware store meant for fire pits. I've done this in several tanks through the years.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Susswassertang might be the best option for rocks, I've never had it attach to anything. So that's probably my best bet.

I have some anbius now, I don't think it looks too reef-like. I was thinking that Bucephalandra, the ones that look kinda blue/purple might look very reef like.

I'll defenitly for sand or fine gravel, something yellow-ish like beach sand. If I got with any type of grass I'll probably up a small pot or something under the sand to keep it from spreading (I've done this in the past).

Yea, no fish unless I go bigger.

I have no idea what my current parameters are, but my shrimp are happy and their babies are growing. I've had clam shells in the tank for almost a year and it doesn't seem to cause too much of a problem.

I saw some purple lava rock on Amazon. Seems like a decent option depending on why it's purple.
 

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It's a shame that Sulawesi shrimp are so expensive/hard to keep. The ones with white socks are almost a match for match with fire shrimp (Lysmata debelius).

Scuds could work well, although they're far less seen than you think in saltwater aquaria. There are sources for freshwater copepods though!

I agree that Subwassertang/Pellia looks a lot like Ulva, although it tends to grow more horizontally than Ulva's vertically.

For fish, you can always go euryhaline. Think fish like guppies, endler's and mollies. If you're feeling real adventurous, then Pseudomugil cyanodorsalis works rather well.
 

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Male killifish are very brightly colored and would work well in a 3g. You could paint the background in shades of grey and muted purples and pinks to emulate coralline algae.

Please make a tank journal or at least post some pics. I've always wanted to see someone do a tank like this.
 

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Susswassertang might be the best option for rocks, I've never had it attach to anything. So that's probably my best bet.

I have some anbius now, I don't think it looks too reef-like. I was thinking that Bucephalandra, the ones that look kinda blue/purple might look very reef like.

I'll defenitly for sand or fine gravel, something yellow-ish like beach sand. If I got with any type of grass I'll probably up a small pot or something under the sand to keep it from spreading (I've done this in the past).

Yea, no fish unless I go bigger.

I have no idea what my current parameters are, but my shrimp are happy and their babies are growing. I've had clam shells in the tank for almost a year and it doesn't seem to cause too much of a problem.

I saw some purple lava rock on Amazon. Seems like a decent option depending on why it's purple.
Some of the Anubias nana 'micro' are really tight/compact and end up looking like coral when they're in large clumps. There are some white-ish and variegated varieties that could look even more interesting. I mentioned them because they tend to be easier to maintain than some Buce varieties - and they're not generally illegally smuggled into the US. But some Buces would for sure work.

Regarding moss-like plants: Check out the myriad Fissedens varieties available in the hobby. Some of them look and flow in ways that resemble 'Grass' and 'Organ Pipe' coral. It's a plant that's easy to attach to pretty much anything with a bit of super glue gel and it will spread like a small coral, so a little goes a long way.

If your water is working well for your shrimp, that's a good thing. It sounds (?) like you're using treated tap water, which means it's hard enough that there's probably not much of an impact by the shells you're using. Since you're keeping shrimp, though, you should at least consider getting a test kit that allows you to check kH & gH - just so you can keep track of them occasionally in a new setup. (And in case something goes wrong - you can check right away.)

About rocks... Honestly, even if they're spray painted purple or something questionable like that, they could still work for you. All you'd have to do is seal them with a few coats of poly. A lot of people shy away from it but I wouldn't if I were you. Especially if you find something you really like and aren't certain about. I've poly-coated various rocks I've had through the years because they were impacting my water parameters and you couldn't tell once they were submerged. You could even find rocks you like, build a small structure out of lava rock chunks, whatever it is - and then sponge paint it to match reef rock. Applying a poly would protect it and your critters. Just mentioning all this to give you more options.

Lighting: Most cheap LED fixtures available in the hobby have a set of blue LEDs that can be turned on with or without the standard white LEDs. These will work great for your setup because they'll add a bit of blue light like in a reef tank. It won't be as pronounced but will still look nice. I have them on in most of my tanks just because I like the look a bit of blue provides. Edit: To be more clear, I mean I leave the blue on along with the daylight white.
 

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love it! as a sw guy thinking of his 1st FW planted thank i have been thinking of something along the same line.
marco tanks are cool almost harder than a ref tho. the balance of No3 and Po4 with light and flow is something for sure.

keep us posted on this project.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
So, I do have a reef light. Which will help a little with color.

Before I build this tank, I still gotta break down my current shrimp tank. I'll probably start selling the plants off soon.

I'll run a filter in the beginning, but the end goal is no filter, so I do want to be mindful of what I put in. Mosses are cool, but some don't do very well without flow.

I'll gladly take more suggestions, since I've got time before I start.
 

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Even without flow, regular Fissidens should do pretty well. Especially if there are shrimp to pick through it. You could always also place the mosses you want to use in an area where you do water changes in the tank so it gets some occasional flow. Pellia (Monosolenium tenerum) and Mini Pellia (Riccardia chamedryfolia) have both done well for me without any real flow.

You're probably going to want some flow to help keep things moving around. Even if it's just a super-tiny HOB or an air pump that's set on a timer to come on occasionally. Especially in a container that large. Doesn't have to be obtrusive. There are tiny sponge filters you can get that are completely submerged & out of site. It helps with gaseous exchange by occasionally breaking up the surface. Just a few times per day is often enough.

I've had a gallon jar going for about two years now with a tiny sponge filter from Amazon. You'd never know there's any flow by looking at it. I don't have it on constantly - only a few times per day - so there's likely not as large a bacterial colony as there would be if it was on all the time. Also have a 2.5gal tank I've had going since 2011 that doesn't have any filtration that I use for pond snail breeding. The first few years, there was no flow at all and it was just okay-looking. In 2014 or 2015 I added a hidden air stone that kicks on a few times per day for a few minutes. Since then, the tank has flourished. I also have to do fewer water changes on it than I did before (I monitor parameters.) I'm just guessing but I think the tank does better because there's a bit more oxygenation due to occasional, brief flow.

I've kept plenty of bowls and small tanks without any filtration at all but shrimp in this hobby always do better with some kind of regular water movement - even if it's not constant. So it's something to think about. Gives you the best of both worlds.

Update - something else: Have you considered keeping Halocaridina rubra (Hawaiian Red Shrimp) at all? If you went all white or all black, as I have done with one of my tanks, you'd be able to create a really fascinating scape. There won't be much in terms of plants but it's still pretty cool. If you end up enjoying the reef-like setup you're currently planning, H. rubra may be worth keeping next. Almost no maintenance, very little feeding.
 

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H. rubra (aka Opae'ula) might not work, because they're more of a brackish species than a true saltwater or true freshwater species. Gotta love those anchialine ponds.

You could do well with those + Caulerpa prolifera though. A number of macros grow/tolerate lower salinities as well.
 

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H. rubra (aka Opae'ula) might not work, because they're more of a brackish species than a true saltwater or true freshwater species. Gotta love those anchialine ponds.

You could do well with those + Caulerpa prolifera though. A number of macros grow/tolerate lower salinities as well.
Hence the bit where I suggest keeping them next. After this upcoming tank. As explained above.

There's almost nothing that will survive for long beyond algae in H. rubra parameters. Even the macros a few folks sell that they claim do well actually only barely grow. I have a single macro that does okayish in one container but doesn't survive in others.

I suggested H. rubra because of their stark environs. Really enjoying my latest H. rubra setup linked in my signature. Just haven't updated the journal in ages.
 
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