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Walstad Tank issues

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Hello, I have recently had to start up my tank again after moving, and I decided to try a new method, the Walstad Method. I have used potting soil, and under half an inch of sand, just because it would be too much because it's a lot more compact compared to gravel and I didn't want to suffocate the bacteria.

I don't have a light for my tank, so I've decided to go with low light plants.

The store sold me CYPERUS HELFERI, Blyxa japonica and some small Sword Plant. Oh, and a floating water wisteria (c).

Basically the Blyxa japonica is dying, going brown and mushy, though the Cyperus and Sword Plant seem to be holding on. The store recommended those to me, so now I've just decided I might as well come here to ask for advice on what types of plants to get.

For the record I am planning on using this tank to breed Betta's.

My question is, should I pull the Blyxa's out? Or wait for them to completely die?

My second question is what are some good low light plants? Ones good for breeding and just for the whole natural setting to the tank, something to mimic the Betta's environment. The wisteria seems to be doing good, so I'm guessing the other Blyxa's are dying because they actually require STRONG light.

P.S: I live in Australia, so some plants aren't available to me and I'm very limited here, but your help is still very appreciated.

Thanks!
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I also tend toward Walstad tanks. Here are some of the plants that do well for me:

Anubias nana
Heteranthera zosterifolia
Bacopa caroliniana
Vallisneria asiatica
Crotocoryne (pretty much any)
Ludwigia repens (red)
Vesicularia dubyana (Christmas moss)

I hope that helps!

Also, does the tank get any sunlight at all? With no light, even low light plants will need a little something. Even a cheapie LED in the 5000K to 7000K temperature range will make a huge difference.

Regarding your Blyxa - it tends to be the case in Walstad tanks that some plants just simply die away and others do really well. If you have one completely melting down, I would pull it and try something else in its place.

Also, if you haven't read the book, I can recommend Diana Walstad's "The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium". It's not an easy breezy read, but it is full of useful information. Hardback is expensive, though - better to try to find the eBook.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
I also tend toward Walstad tanks. Here are some of the plants that do well for me:

Anubias nana
Heteranthera zosterifolia
Bacopa caroliniana
Vallisneria asiatica
Crotocoryne (pretty much any)
Ludwigia repens (red)
Vesicularia dubyana (Christmas moss)

I hope that helps!

Also, does the tank get any sunlight at all? With no light, even low light plants will need a little something. Even a cheapie LED in the 5000K to 7000K temperature range will make a huge difference.

Regarding your Blyxa - it tends to be the case in Walstad tanks that some plants just simply die away and others do really well. If you have one completely melting down, I would pull it and try something else in its place.

Also, if you haven't read the book, I can recommend Diana Walstad's "The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium". It's not an easy breezy read, but it is full of useful information. Hardback is expensive, though - better to try to find the eBook.
The tanks in a garage, there is a light, I'll probably pull out the plants then. I have read Diana's book, it's excellent. Is there any desk lamp that you recommend? Also, all the plants above are basically strong light and medium light, what kind of lamp will I need? Is the anyway to get some kind of light that's timed?

Bump:
Desk lamp over tank with led spotlight and some red root floaters would be my suggestion.
What do you mean by red root floaters?
 

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The tanks in a garage, there is a light, I'll probably pull out the plants then. I have read Diana's book, it's excellent. Is there any desk lamp that you recommend? Also, all the plants above are basically strong light and medium light, what kind of lamp will I need? Is the anyway to get some kind of light that's timed?
I have them all in fairly dimly lit tanks and they are doing fine, likely in large part from the nutrients from the soil.

I can't think of a light with a built-in timer, but if you have a receptacle for power, just a standard plug-in timer from your local hardware store will do the trick just fine (that's what I use on all of my tanks). As a rule of thumb, you want about 2-3 watts per gallon of compact fluorescent light, or about half that in LED - that is enough to support any of the plants I mentioned. If you just do crypts and Anubias and maybe Java fern and/or moss, you could probably halve that again. Following Diana's 5-4-5 siesta pattern (5 hours on, 4 off, 5 on) has worked well for me.

How big is the tank? That will help inform what lighting options would make sense. Chances are pretty good that a compact fluorescent or LED from your local hardware store will do just fine. If it's a particularly large tank, you might need multiples, or a bigger fixture. You don't need much - and if your tank gets periodic sunlight (even indirect) from the open garage door, so much the better!
 

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Diana now has an updated LED lighting section in her book. The updated pages are available for free on her website. https://dianawalstad.com/aquariums/

She lists some lighting pattern information and some information on what led light strength she uses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I have them all in fairly dimly lit tanks and they are doing fine, likely in large part from the nutrients from the soil.

I can't think of a light with a built-in timer, but if you have a receptacle for power, just a standard plug-in timer from your local hardware store will do the trick just fine (that's what I use on all of my tanks). As a rule of thumb, you want about 2-3 watts per gallon of compact fluorescent light, or about half that in LED - that is enough to support any of the plants I mentioned. If you just do crypts and Anubias and maybe Java fern and/or moss, you could probably halve that again. Following Diana's 5-4-5 siesta pattern (5 hours on, 4 off, 5 on) has worked well for me.

How big is the tank? That will help inform what lighting options would make sense. Chances are pretty good that a compact fluorescent or LED from your local hardware store will do just fine. If it's a particularly large tank, you might need multiples, or a bigger fixture. You don't need much - and if your tank gets periodic sunlight (even indirect) from the open garage door, so much the better!
The tank is 13 gallons. Problem is it gets extremely cold, I have a heater that's turned all the way up to max, and it's still not heating the tank to 26 C, it doesn't go above 24, so the garage door is going to be blocked off in exchange for skylights. The LED light should be coming down from the top into the tank, right? Also I had a lid, will that affect the lighting from the top?

So how many watts for a 13 gallon?

I have a 55 gallon, but this 13 gallon is first being used as a test to see if the Walstad method will work for me.

How did you do the plug-in timer?

Sorry for the many questions.
 

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The tank is 13 gallons. Problem is it gets extremely cold, I have a heater that's turned all the way up to max, and it's still not heating the tank to 26 C, it doesn't go above 24, so the garage door is going to be blocked off in exchange for skylights. The LED light should be coming down from the top into the tank, right? Also I had a lid, will that affect the lighting from the top?

So how many watts for a 13 gallon?

I have a 55 gallon, but this 13 gallon is first being used as a test to see if the Walstad method will work for me.

How did you do the plug-in timer?

Sorry for the many questions.
Ideally the light should come from above (it's certainly the easiest way to make sure the whole tank gets some light), because you want to maximize how many plants receive the light and not create too much distance between the plants and the light.

Two of my tanks have very weak lights but get some indirect sunlight for a couple of hours a day - the plants love that.

For 13 gallons, with some indirect light from the skylights, you could probably get away with a 9-12W LED. You could go as high as probably 18W without it becoming too much light.

For the plug-in timer, I just ran the cord from my light to one of those timers with the push-pins that you use to set what hours the light is on for, and I set it for 8am-1pm and 5pm to 10pm. It's off the rest of the time.
 

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Blyxa japonica never does well in my tank unless I have strong lights and CO2. Might be able to save it if you plant it in a jar and set it on a window sill with direct sunlight. Letting the leaves barely touch air allows it to get plenty of CO2.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ideally the light should come from above (it's certainly the easiest way to make sure the whole tank gets some light), because you want to maximize how many plants receive the light and not create too much distance between the plants and the light.

Two of my tanks have very weak lights but get some indirect sunlight for a couple of hours a day - the plants love that.

For 13 gallons, with some indirect light from the skylights, you could probably get away with a 9-12W LED. You could go as high as probably 18W without it becoming too much light.

For the plug-in timer, I just ran the cord from my light to one of those timers with the push-pins that you use to set what hours the light is on for, and I set it for 8am-1pm and 5pm to 10pm. It's off the rest of the time.
Thank you so much for your help! I really appreciate it!

Unfortunately I can't put the tank under the skylights because it will be in the way of everything, so I'm going to have to get a 18W light, if I'm correct? Or is that too high?

So I can just go to a place like Bunnings Warehouse to get the timer then. Cool.

Also, if the light comes down from the top, I have a lid that's ontop of the tank, and it obviously gets misty and water is on it, does that affect the light? Thanks.

Bump:
Blyxa japonica never does well in my tank unless I have strong lights and CO2. Might be able to save it if you plant it in a jar and set it on a window sill with direct sunlight. Letting the leaves barely touch air allows it to get plenty of CO2.
I might try that, I don't know if they've survived though, they aren't completely brown.
 

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Hi

I have a 55 gallon, but this 13 gallon is first being used as a test to see if the Walstad method will work for me.

The Walstad method will work if it is set up correctly. You need to set your tank up correctly with an appropriate light over top of your aquarium.


Also, if the light comes down from the top, I have a lid that's ontop of the tank, and it obviously gets misty and water is on it, does that affect the light? Thanks.
Yes it will. There is nothing you can do about the mistyness but you should keep the glass lid as clean as you can.

Here is a list of low light plants. One thing to note that the Walstad Method supplies nutrients with dirt via the roots of the plants. Plants like Anubia, Java Fern and Moss plants do not get their nutrients this way. Anubias/Ferns have a rhizome that should not be buried into the substrate. This will kill the plant.

Here is the list of plants:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/100-low-tech-forum/56042-excellent-list-low-light-plants.html

Hope this helps.

Cheers
 

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Thank you so much for your help! I really appreciate it!

Unfortunately I can't put the tank under the skylights because it will be in the way of everything, so I'm going to have to get a 18W light, if I'm correct? Or is that too high?

So I can just go to a place like Bunnings Warehouse to get the timer then. Cool.

Also, if the light comes down from the top, I have a lid that's ontop of the tank, and it obviously gets misty and water is on it, does that affect the light? Thanks.
Happy to help!

The "ideal" range would be somewhere 13W and 18W. If you go a little lower, you might have slower growth. A little higher, and you might need to be a bit more vigilant about algae. If you can find something in between, that's about ideal, in my experience (basically a number of Watts equal to about 1 to 1.5 times the gallon capacity of the tank.

The water buildup on the lid will affect the light a little, as someone said earlier, but I wouldn't stress out too much about that. Give the lid a clean once in a while and make sure there's no algae building up on it, and you'll be just fine.

The nice thing about the Walstad method is that the light isn't as much of an exact science as it is in a typical high tech setup.

Good luck with it - I find these setups very rewarding and really low-maintenance. In the early days, keep an eye on algae and remove what you can (reduce the lighting period a little if it seems to be getting out of hand), and enjoy the tank!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Happy to help!

The "ideal" range would be somewhere 13W and 18W. If you go a little lower, you might have slower growth. A little higher, and you might need to be a bit more vigilant about algae. If you can find something in between, that's about ideal, in my experience (basically a number of Watts equal to about 1 to 1.5 times the gallon capacity of the tank.

The water buildup on the lid will affect the light a little, as someone said earlier, but I wouldn't stress out too much about that. Give the lid a clean once in a while and make sure there's no algae building up on it, and you'll be just fine.

The nice thing about the Walstad method is that the light isn't as much of an exact science as it is in a typical high tech setup.

Good luck with it - I find these setups very rewarding and really low-maintenance. In the early days, keep an eye on algae and remove what you can (reduce the lighting period a little if it seems to be getting out of hand), and enjoy the tank!
Hi! Thanks, I got some of the plants you recommended. I have ONE more question though, I'm afraid that the plants might die because the roots haven;t been planted properly, I'm trying not to stress too much, I tried my best, got them right into the bottom, and tried to pull the large tweezers out without letting too much sand get into the soil. I have attached a photo of my tank that I just set up with your advice. Some of the roots from the plants are sticking out from the sand, is that okay? It's really hard to get all the roots into the soil, I kind of freak out because a lot of dirt comes out when I pull the tweezers out, now I'm afraid I've ruined it.

https://imgur.com/tKG26Ph
 

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Hi! Thanks, I got some of the plants you recommended. I have ONE more question though, I'm afraid that the plants might die because the roots haven;t been planted properly, I'm trying not to stress too much, I tried my best, got them right into the bottom, and tried to pull the large tweezers out without letting too much sand get into the soil. I have attached a photo of my tank that I just set up with your advice. Some of the roots from the plants are sticking out from the sand, is that okay? It's really hard to get all the roots into the soil, I kind of freak out because a lot of dirt comes out when I pull the tweezers out, now I'm afraid I've ruined it.

https://imgur.com/tKG26Ph
I think you're in great shape!

Don't worry too much about a few of the roots poking out (I get that sometimes, too).Those particular roots may or may not die off, but new ones will take their place under the sand/soil.

If it is really bothering you, you can take something like a chopstick (or press your tweezers closed and use the tip) and just push it gently under the sand. I wouldn't worry about trying to get it all the way to the bottom at all. You've got some good rooting plants there that will create their own root systems soon enough!

Next up: the waiting game while everything settles in!

As Diana said in her book, don't be too concerned if one of the plants doesn't do so well - you can always replace it later. Look at the health of the whole tank as a guideline (if none of the plants are doing well, something's wrong). But, it certainly looks to me like you're off to a great start. Enjoy it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I think you're in great shape!

Don't worry too much about a few of the roots poking out (I get that sometimes, too).Those particular roots may or may not die off, but new ones will take their place under the sand/soil.

If it is really bothering you, you can take something like a chopstick (or press your tweezers closed and use the tip) and just push it gently under the sand. I wouldn't worry about trying to get it all the way to the bottom at all. You've got some good rooting plants there that will create their own root systems soon enough!

Next up: the waiting game while everything settles in!

As Diana said in her book, don't be too concerned if one of the plants doesn't do so well - you can always replace it later. Look at the health of the whole tank as a guideline (if none of the plants are doing well, something's wrong). But, it certainly looks to me like you're off to a great start. Enjoy it!
Thanks!

The plants seem to be doing alright, would it be alright to add my snail back into the tank as well as some glass shrimp?
Also, I don't know if this is just me worrying or not but the plants have a bit of brown near the bottom, the light hits most of the plants but doesn't cover the leaves that are in the shade, is that ok?
 

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Diana recommends snails. Malaysian trumpet snails will aerate the substrate, but if overfed with excess food or algae can explode in numbers. Nerites don't breed in freshwater, so are easier to control if you don't wanna be bothered with removing excess snails. Not that they really bother anything or add a lot to the bioload.

Are glass shrimp like ghost shrimp? I've got some--they're cheap and also do a good job cleaning up algae & excess food, as well as dead plant leaves. Ghost shrimp can breed in the tank--providing free live food for your fish.
 

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It’s perfectly fine to trim back roots to 1.5-2” before planting. Most plants actually like to have roots trimmed before planting.

Looking at your picture your water wisteria (hygrophila difformis) was grown out of water and will take a few weeks to transform into submerged growth. You also need to spread them out so that there is at least 1.5-2” between each stem so it does not overshade it’s own lower leaves. It will also be a much wider plant once it goes to its submerged growth. This will be what each stem looks like after it transitions and you’ll need to go to about 2-3” or more spacing on each stem then.



All your plants really should have been broken apart and spread out more. The plants will do better and also fill in the aquarium more.
 

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Diana recommends snails. Malaysian trumpet snails will aerate the substrate, but if overfed with excess food or algae can explode in numbers. Nerites don't breed in freshwater, so are easier to control if you don't wanna be bothered with removing excess snails. Not that they really bother anything or add a lot to the bioload.

Are glass shrimp like ghost shrimp? I've got some--they're cheap and also do a good job cleaning up algae & excess food, as well as dead plant leaves. Ghost shrimp can breed in the tank--providing free live food for your fish.
I have become a big fan of snails, too. They aren't aesthetically great, but they are workhorses in the tank.

For shrimp, you have to be a bit more careful because they can be very sensitive to ammonia and nitrite. If you're testing and the numbers look good (zeroes for each of them), you should be fine to add a few shrimp. Do test first, your soil is constantly decomposing things and can create ammonia, even without adding anything to the tank. The plants will take a lot (maybe all) of it up, but you want to keep an eye out in case things are out of balance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
It’s perfectly fine to trim back roots to 1.5-2” before planting. Most plants actually like to have roots trimmed before planting.

Looking at your picture your water wisteria (hygrophila diffomis) was grown out of water and will take a few weeks to transform into submerged growth. You also need to spread them out so that there is at least 1.5-2” between each stem so it does not overshade it’s own lower leaves. It will also be a much wider plant once it goes to its submerged growth. This will be what each stem looks like after it transitions and you’ll need to go to about 2-3” or more spacing on each stem then.



All your plants really should have been broken apart and spread out more. The plants will do better and also fill in the aquarium more.
Oh crap, what do I do? should I take them out and replant them?

Bump:
I have become a big fan of snails, too. They aren't aesthetically great, but they are workhorses in the tank.

For shrimp, you have to be a bit more careful because they can be very sensitive to ammonia and nitrite. If you're testing and the numbers look good (zeroes for each of them), you should be fine to add a few shrimp. Do test first, your soil is constantly decomposing things and can create ammonia, even without adding anything to the tank. The plants will take a lot (maybe all) of it up, but you want to keep an eye out in case things are out of balance.
What would you do? Would you take the plants out and spread them out like what Dave said? Will this impact my plants? If I do replant them, will it be okay. I'm just worried that the dirt will get too much sand in it and stop the plants from growing.

Augh, I'm such a worry wort.
 
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