Goldfish and Aquarium Board Articles
Step by Step: Setting up a Walstad-Type Natural Planted Tank
By Betty

I set up a new Walstad-type natural planted tank at work today (5/2/06), so I thought I would document how it's done.

It's a 5 gallon plexiglass hex that I picked up at an Oklahoma Aquarium Association club meeting. It will be home for a male betta.

The first step was to add about an inch of topsoil. I used a cheap topsoil from Home Depot called EarthGro. Sticks were removed and clods were broken up.

Then I sprinkled a layer of crushed oyster shell over the top, mixed it in and then evened it out.

Next I ran a layer of small gravel (pool filter media) around the outer edge of the tank.

and then started setting in plants. Typically, I seat each plant and then put a layer of gravel around it. Since I had some bronze crypt wendetti potted in soil already, I just unpotted those and set them, soil and all, in the rear center of the tank. Next, I stripped the bottom leaves off some stems of sunset hygro.

The sunset hygro stems were planted on the right of the crypts. On the left, I planted limnophilia and a stem of wysteria (hygro difformis). E. tenellus was planted around the front and middle of the tank in the same manner.

Then using a small plastic dish to deflect the water, I filled the tank with several inches of water.

There wasn't any cloudiness to speak of, so I moved the tank into my office and finished filling it. It's a little hazy, but not bad at all. I added some fast growing floating plants (najas grass and hornwort) to use excess nutrients while the rooted plants are filling in. I also ended up with MTS, pond and ramshorn snails in the tank, but I don't mind because they're a great clean up crew.

Here's the front

and the side

More pics are here and here.

This tank has a powerhead built into the hood, so I left the sponge filter it came with in over night to remove the haze.

It currently has an incandescent bulbs in the hood. I plan to replace that with a compact fluorescent bulb. It will be getting direct sunlight in the afternoon, so it will be interesting to see what it takes to adjust the blinds so it doesn't get boiled but still gets plenty of sunlight.

Day 2 (5/3/2006)

Tested the water and it's ready for fish!
pH: 7.8
KH: 4dh
ammonia: a trace *maybe*
nitrIte: 0ppm

Day 3 (5/4/2006)

The tank is looking great!! I removed the sponge from the filter because there shouldn't be that much debris happening with only some snails and a betta. The najas grass is pearling under direct sunlight in the evening.

Here's the new crowntail betta--he's a little manly man! He sees his reflection and is determined to run that other betta off!


Day 10 (5/11/06)
I replaced the incandescent bulb with a 20 watt 6500K fluorescent bulb. I may drop back to 15 watts since the tank is getting direct sunlight in the evenings.

Day 14 (5/16/06)
It's amazing how much the najas grass has grown. It pearls when the tank is getting evening sunlight. I think it's growing faster than the hornwort! I think those two plants work great for sucking up nutrients while the other plants are playing catch up--Better than duckweed, frogbit or water lettuce because they don't block as much light.

I pulled out most of the floaters so we could see the other plants better. Everything is growing fine. You can actually see the limnophilia now and the sunset hygro is nice and pink and growing well. A few of the larger crypt leaves melted, but the rest looks very content and the chain swords are looking great!

Front

Side

Closer up.

Here it is at one month (5/30/2006) with the floating plants removed. The plants are filling nicely and the betta is very happy.

Here it is at two months (7/11/2006). Plants and betta are very happy.

Since then, I've turned off the filter and added some cherry shrimp. I'm starting to see some hair algae. The tank and betta are thriving.