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Experiments with the Walstad style aquarium: Make way for the Emperor


ange
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This summer we lost my mom's betta, Inferno. She's 73 and loved having him on the bar. She has a bad shoulder and chose not to get another fish because she had trouble with his 50% weekly water changes (no plants, no tests, etc so she was guessing at how much he needed taken out). I'm taking care of her now and while I'm a fan of bettas, my small tanks always turn into shrimp colonies so I haven't had my own in several years.

This setup is for the two of us, but my intention is a gift for her and therapy for me. I'm hoping that the Walstad method of setting up the tank will make the maintenance easy for her (if I do it, it doesn't feel like it's her pet). The plants I chose were rigid hornwort, an unidentified Ludwigia species, and a plant that was called Monte Carlo in a trade but grew far faster and differently than the Monte Carlo in my CRS colony.

I'm hoping I can mod the filter compartment to include the heater back there so that it is out of sight. Down the line I want to add floating plants from my other tanks.

I'm obviously going to take her to pick out a betta when it's had time to establish (hopefully this can be around the holidays), but are there any other critters that y'all think she would enjoy? I have ramshorn snails (misc colors), MTS (which I don't plan to introduce), and CRS but she doesn't like invertebrates as much. I don't like overstocked tanks very much so I'm leaning towards asking some other local hobbyists for their Neocaridina culls.

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7 hours ago, Lynze said:

Given the dimensions of that particular tank, I'd say it's probably going to be maxed out at a Betta and some shrimp. Anything more may be a little cramped and uncomfortable. A Betta would really enjoy most of that space to itself.

The tank looks great! I especially like the sprinkle of pea pebbles. 

That's what I was thinking. I'm not experienced with nano setups so am not confident when it comes to stocking. Hopefully Skittles are okay for her!

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I am planning on doing this is my next tank..the one that has been sitting outside waiting to be cleaned for weeks lol. I have endlers that are breeding like crazy and they need room, plus a predator! I love tanks that mimic an ecosystem as much as possible. I love her book, although some of it is hard to do once you have already been fish keeping and have tanks up and running. I have a tank running with partial methods of hers and it takes a lot less work! But it definitely is a struggle getting plants to grow after you already have fish to take care of and that is the main focus. I am focusing on plants first the next time.

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6 hours ago, siniardem said:

I am planning on doing this is my next tank..the one that has been sitting outside waiting to be cleaned for weeks lol. I have endlers that are breeding like crazy and they need room, plus a predator! I love tanks that mimic an ecosystem as much as possible. I love her book, although some of it is hard to do once you have already been fish keeping and have tanks up and running. I have a tank running with partial methods of hers and it takes a lot less work! But it definitely is a struggle getting plants to grow after you already have fish to take care of and that is the main focus. I am focusing on plants first the next time.

Part of why I'm doing this is so that I can apply this to my 50 hex... ANYTHING TO REDUCE THE MAINTENANCE ON A 31" TALL TANK!! I've managed to prep the soil but can't actually fill the tank until I finish my stand and that's at least a week from now (need to sand + stain).

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Plants have been added and bacteria are blooming! I'm not using a corral for the floaters at the moment. My rigid hornwort (previously planted) was uprooted and is floating with the duckweed, perhaps in the future I can use it to make an organic corral?

Sußwassertang is wedged between the ohko stones and I've also placed a portion in my CRS tank. I'm AMAZED by the texture here. This is my first time having the plant and I already want to grow a wall of it on craft mesh.

The soft hornwort is growing where the rigid hornwort once was. I like that it's a much fluffier texture and I hope the future betta enjoys laying on it.

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Plants are like crack to me. I can't impulse buy a fish because I want to make sure I have a good setup prepared for it + a backup plan. I can impulse buy a plant almost any day and I can yeet it into a tank.

In other news, I've narrowed down possible livestock to 1 of my Amanos from another tank, pygmy corydoras, and assorted Neocaridinas.

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I added livestock against my better judgment because the tank is cycled but not quite stable. I'm having a lot of bacteria blooming still but this betta was too cute to resist.

The rigid hornwort is doing a great job at keeping the duckweed in one place. The roots tend to anchor with the needles on the hornwort underneath.

The soft hornwort is transitioning to the new water so isn't looking very good, we'll see what happens 😉 

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Some new pics from today! I was able to pick up a tiger lotus from a local hobbyist. I'm very hopeful that it will do well since I know they're a popular plant that is hard to come by right now.

The betta is doing well! I'm still trying to think of a name since he is a wet pet. He is always following a snail or trying to eat duckweed (and spitting it out). He's a shy guy and hides if I put up a mirror but isn't scared of people or me tapping on the lid before feeding him.

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Aurelion has been hiding at the back corner in the duck weed. I think he's unhappy with the die off that came from the tropical hornwort since it provided a lot of cover in the midsection of the tank. I also had to remove the almond leaf because it was breaking down and starting to foul the water.

My mixed Ludwigia have also been struggling and I'm a little sad so much of it has melted. I didn't get any pinholes in the leaves, just stems and leaves melting. Suggestions are appreciated! 

Just a note, I'm not a giant fan of Seachem alerts and generally find them inaccurate (especially the pH alert) but it helps me to catch swings even if the numbers are off.

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I've run into some problems with the betta. He had been hiding a lot (assumed because some plants died back) however it seems he has some illness brought on by stress. The right eye appeara matte (first photo) and he only hides in the hornwort/duckweed at the top of the tank and has skipped eating. My water has tested 0s across the board (after testing 20ppm Nitrate 3 days ago).  I'm at a bit of a loss. I'm considering moving him into a hospital tank with a level 1 salt treatment and feeding him blood worms soaked in vita chem/baby brine for awhile to try putting some weight on him.

He's in a cup wrapped in fabric for observation tonight and depending on activity in the morning he will either move into the hospital tank or back into this original tank (after a water change, though I did a 50% water change 3 days ago). Advice is appreciated! I've never seen an eye like this on a betta before and I'm not good at treating disease in general. If things progress I may post a thread for assistance in the Disease forum.

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I guess that's a fair assessment. Aurelion has been moved to the 5.5g for now. Thanks to @Streetwiseand @Daniel for the suggestions. This morning he had clamping his fins and lethargy, though he did struggle in my hand when I was moving him. From my personal experience I'd guess he has nitrate poisoning from those two symptoms, however my water tested under 20 nitrates 3x in 24 hours (2 API liquid tests and 1 API strip test) and 0 ammonia.

I'm certainly puzzled. He had 3 pygmy cories in the tank with him and all of them are doing well, snuffling around the substrate.

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An update that I wish I didn't have to make. Aurelion passed after he was moved into the shrimp tank. I found him after preparing some Xtreme Krill Flakes soaked in garlic juice that I was going to attempt feeding him.

I have no idea what happened or caused him to decline so sharply. I didn't have him for long but every fish is a wet pet to me. I have a lot of difficulty coping when there aren't any obvious causes. Most of the things I would suspect are either absent (high nitrate or ammonia), would have impacted my corys, or take much longer to impact the fish (internal parasites).

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@ange, the not knowing is the worst, I know. And I suspect that it was something already at work in his system before you even brought him home. Comfort yourself that his last days were in a beautiful tank, that he was well- cared for & fed while with you. I'm so sorry you are hurting. Give yourself time to grieve. We are here to support you as best we can. 💔

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After Aurelion's death I spent a lot of time working on the plants that I have and monitoring the pygmy cories for signs of disease. They're all very active thankfully! My rigid hornwort has grown enough that I have made a plant corral and my soft hornwort has recovered and looks much more healthy. There are still some needles in the substrate but my snails have done a bangup job of minimizing their visibility. My tiger lotus has melted some, though it's had less than 1 month in the tank and I want to give it time to settle before passing any judgment.

The corral currently isn't very effective, I'm hoping that long term growth and encouraging it to become more bushy will improve its effectiveness. I'm also open to adding something artificial to enhance its function, like some airline tubing or any other DIY material that people have used! I know that @ShellFire wrote an excellent post on the subject recently.

I'm starting to think of some other plants that I would like to add. I know that in Walstad setups it's very rare to add new plants, but this is an experiment. I'd rather deviate and have a result that I'm happy with rather than following a discrete method. This tank is already VERY low maintenance thanks to the abundant hornwort and duckweed as well as minimal bioload. Some plants that I have in mind are Bacopa (which I have never kept), another Ludwigia species (I started with two separate species in this tank and one completely died back), or scarlet temple.

Today is the day that I usually visit one of my LFS however I ended up making a stop at Petco instead (closer to home and I've been exhausted recently). Luckily for me they had one of the most beautiful bettas I've ever seen! I sent some photos to my mom (since it's her fish) and she loves him! He's a double tail betta and has some minor fin damage. It's nothing that clean water and peaceful tankmates won't solve. He loves wiggling around in the hornwort at the top of the tank and resting on the Ludwigia! He's an incredible fish with a regal aura, thus his name is Emperor.

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