Low tech questions?

Discussion in 'El Natural & Low Tech' started by foxfish, 16 Oct 2013.

  1. foxfish

    foxfish Member

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    I am still trying to get my head around how 'successful low tech tanks' differ from, say a community or even a single species tank?

    I mean 'successful' as in growing healthy plants.

    So we have a soil substrate, a fertiliser regime, one wpg, & recently it seems 10 x flow & even weekly water changes!

    In fact I have also read high lighting works too & a trickle filter helps plus tank shape with a large surface area will help.... Golly it is getting to be quite technical ...!

    So my question is... a shallow tank with square footprint, soil substrate, trickle filter, 10 x flow, 20 - 50% weekly water change, 10% EI & 1-2 wpg will be a good low tech design?
     
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  2. Michael W

    Michael W Member

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    I think the most important element is the low light/photoperiod. After I had rescaped my 5 gallon shrimp tank I started running my single 14w t8 for 5 hours a day and in this rescape I replaced my duckweed with a few pieces of frogbit. The duckweed was used to block light to reduce algae and it did wonders to an extent as I had 8 hours photoperiod which resulted in very minor amount of diatoms to appear on the glass. In this new scape without the duckweed and 5 hour photoperod i have not noticed algae out breaks or poor growth but instead slow healthy growth. I also don't have 10x flow but my rotala rotundifolia are still growing nicely the emersed leaves have not dropped yet even after a few weeks or maybe a month of adding it in the tank.

    I have not changed the water in my shrimp tank since the re-scape, my other 30L betta tank has been set up for a few months now without a water change yet the plants are still growing nicely. All I do are top ups and its lighting is a 14w PL light which is on for 5 hours aswell.
     
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  3. foxfish

    foxfish Member

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    Hi Michael, yeah you are using the more conventional low tech method that we all know works but what about these high gas exchange sets we are seeing from the likes of Troi & Alistair?
     
  4. Alastair

    Alastair Member

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    Im just using 3 times flow in mine mate. 2 ten percent water changes a week with a nice steady tds and very minimal ferts and some surface agitation. Ive noticed fantastic results using this method. Im not sure about high light though. I think 1 to 1.5 is about right. Mines about 1.6 but raised high. 8 hours photo period after 4 weeks of 6 hours initially
     
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  5. foxfish

    foxfish Member

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    Thanks Alistair, you are using a high gas exchange through a huge surface area & movement, a decomposing substrate & 2 x water changes so that is quite a recent movement in low tech tank development!

    I have paid attention on this & other forums about the latest movement in low tech design & your very successful methods seems to follow suit but, I wonder about higher flows & trickle towers to further improve gas exchange & C02 uptake?

    I was also wondering about dry start methods & or establishing a tank with C02 injection to start off with?
     
  6. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

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    Hi all,
    I like a lot of flow, but I always have a large plant mass. I just adjust the plant mass to the lighting, more light = more plants. Having a really large plant mass means that you can potentially have problems with low oxygenation at night if you don't have a lot of flow. In a shallow tank this wouldn't be a problem, or if you run a trickle filter.

    I'm a fanatical water change. I'm convinced that regular water changes have health benefits for both fish and plants, but I'm not entirely sure why.

    Cheers Darrel
     
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  7. BigTom

    BigTom Forum Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm with Darrel on the importance of a large plant biomass, and balancing biomass with light. I'm terrifically inconsistent with my tanks; I've got the big shallow one and three nano cubes (with only 1/9th of the surface area:volume ratio of the shallow one), and all have been run at very different levels of light, photoperiod (anywhere from 6-16 hours daily), water stats, with different substrates (soil/inert/bare), anywhere from bi-weekly to 6-monthly water changes and from moderate to no flow. Barring one meltdown in a nano in exceptional circumstances, all iterations of all the tanks have grown plants well and have been 99% algae-free (a little tenacious green spot on the glass is usually all that's visible).

    What they've all had in common is lots of plants, including floaters and/or emergents, non-ridiculous light levels and relatively low temperatures (20-24 degrees). I'm sure all the other things discussed will have some effect, but in my experience cramming in huge numbers of plants seems to give you so much stability that it makes everything else fairly moot.
     
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  8. foxfish

    foxfish Member

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    Fantastic...So if I were to start a low tech tank, a dry start to get the plants established, or even a long term dry start of say 3 months, might be a good way?
    There seems to be every changing ideas about low tech recently, water changes being a prominent one.
    I am sure it has been said that the C02 contained in tap water can upset the balance in a low tech but I guess using rain water or RO would avoid that problem?
     
  9. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

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    Hi all,
    I'm not sure, the advantage would be that you could get all your Moss, Anubias, Ferns etc. growing really well and attached before you added the water, the downside would be that they would then have to undergo the transition from emersed CO2 levels to submerged ones instantly. My suspicion would be that this would be problematic, but I've never done it so that maybe not be true.

    I can't remember the last time I bought a plant, so when I start a new tank I just collect any spare bits from the existing tank and chuck them in the new one, so they are submersed forms to start off with. I then basically ignore the tank for 3 months (or longer), and by the time I want to move the fish in it should be grown in and stable. The only gardening I do during the growing in period is normally is to thin the floaters, and every couple of weeks take out any dead leaves. If you add Asellus, you don't tend to get much mulm build up, or much mulm in the filter (I will clean the pre-filter sponge if flow is restricted)."Frothhelmet" has been experimenting with Asellus in his shrimp tanks, and he has also found that they reduce mulm build up.
    You could use tap water and just let it degas for 12 hours, once it warms up and isn't under pressure any excess CO2 will disappear. Personally I don't believe the "fluctuating CO2" hypothesis, you must get huge changes in CO2 concentration during the photo-period if you don't add CO2.

    I also think the "no water-change" idea started with Diana Walstad. I've got enormous respect for her, and would recommend that every-one should buy "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" <Ecology of the Planted Aquarium: A Practical Manual and Scientific Treatise for the Home Aquarist: Amazon.co.uk: Diana L. Walstad: Books>, but I think she was wrong in this respect.

    There is some discussion of this in <Fish health in relation to no water changes in low tech tanks. | UK Aquatic Plant Society>.

    cheers Darrel
     
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  10. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes...it's pretty much what I do except for the trickle filter.
    But like Tom and Darrel said you can achieve good results with a whole spectrum of different "energy" methodology, its just a question of balance, as you already know. Either way, I agree with both that it's a damn sight easier if you plant densely from the outset and if possible with mature plants...I tend to do what Darrel does and use stuff from existing scapes, or reuse from one to the other.
    As for lighting, I know w/g is a bit archaic, but I always advocate about 1.5 w/g T8 as a general rule, on for anything from 6-12 hrs, depending on how mature the tank is and how densely planted it is. But that's just my preference and the colour rendition of T8s is pretty awesome.
    Like Darrel I also think the CO2-water change thing is almost certainly hokum.
    As for the dry start method Tom posted this Hybrid methods, fusing dry start+ excel with non CO2 - Aquarium Plants I think that your chances of success will obviously be greatly improved if you use plants that like low-energy living.
    I think you should go for the dry start method, I don't think it's been done that often, and success or fail it'd be really interesting to follow your progress:D
     
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  11. plantbrain

    plantbrain Expert

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    DSM work well for carpeting plants for Non CO2 methods.

    But do not add a lot of stem plants, try to minimize the no# of species, keep the design more along the lines of an iwagumi style etc, much more open.
    If you want a more jungle like feel; then you might want to try a different method and not go for a carpeting type plant foreground so much.
    You do not want to do weekly water changes, that's part of the method for non CO2, avoid them.

    Filters for non CO2 can be something super simple as a bubbling sponge filter.
    I have 3 twenty gallon tanks out in the garage and no sediment, some driftwood and a lot of java fern I often get from client's tanks.
    Or give away plants. Some of the java comes in covered with BBA.
    I do not change the water except maybe once every 1-2 months. BBA dies and the new leaves come out and it looks really nice.
    I just have a shop light with 2x T8's and on maybe 7 hours a day.

    Shrimp which I feed once every 2-3 days basically.
     
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  12. foxfish

    foxfish Member

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    If I go for this, I want the best chance of success because it will be in my lounge tank, 90x70x40 deep, & I will be looking at it every day.
    I have of course tried the low tech route before but, I became bored to quickly to call my attempts successful!
     
  13. BigTom

    BigTom Forum Moderator Staff Member

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    Ah well, therein lies the rub. Single most important thing with low tech - patience (or having an excess of mature plants to use).
     
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  14. foxfish

    foxfish Member

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    Yes Tom very good point :)
    How about I set up all the necessarys to run a low tech, like soil & suitable plants etc & give it 2kg of gas up front, perhaps then a few weeks of liquid carbon before settling into a low tech... what do you think?
     
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  15. Alastair

    Alastair Member

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    +1
     
  16. tim

    tim Forum Moderator Staff Member

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    I've tried this with a couple of my tanks with semi success, what I didn't account for was the plants that would sulk when you take their fix away, in retrospect I should have lowered light levels (intensity) and removed them on first signs of issue. I have had a low tech running for just over a month and to be honest it's slow but issue free, maybe the tanks of the future :)
     
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  17. foxfish

    foxfish Member

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    Thanks Tim, I am going to do plenty of home revision before I take the plunge!
     
  18. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Super Moderator Staff Member

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    OK then I'll stick my neck out...for almost instant impact you could use Tom B's dry start method to get low-energy carpet plants established - that is if you're planning to use carpet plants, and then densely plant the mid and background after you've flooded. I think though that with the right plant choice - crypts, for instance, you'd be OK to use the more traditional method - C willisii is a good foreground choice, and Lilaeopsis spp grow quite quickly.

    Use T8s - 6hrs to start with and then 8-10hrs once established, and good flow - x10. Frequency and volume of water changes will largely depend on bioload but 30-50% per week won't hurt and may help, and add fertz. You could even low dose organic carbon to start with (for a month or so) to help get things going. It's worked for me in the past.

    I've found that even though plant growth is nowhere near as fast as an injected tank it can still outpace that of a more traditional low-energy tank. Using mature plants helps - they become established quicker - once they get their roots in to the soil they really take off. Finally, I think a good soil mix (high in organic matter) is key - it has the potential to contribute numerous synergistic benefits. I use 1:1 mix of aquatic compost and moss peat.
     
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  19. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

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    Hi all,
    I haven't tried limited water changes since the 1970's, when "aged water" had all sorts of magical properties and I used to kill all my fish with depressing regularity. I'd need a lot of persuading that it would work for me, although I know Tom (plantbrain) has used it successfully <Low tech - no waterchanges? | UK Aquatic Plant Society>.

    I maybe differ from every-one else in that I want my plants to grow slowly. The problem I have, even with a sand substrate and very minimal fertilisation is that over time the plants tend to fill in the complete volume of the tank, leaving very little swimming room. I don't think the fish mind, in fact I'm sure they don't, but eventually there has to be some intervention.

    I think slowly is really the important word in all of this, I want the plants growing, but as long as the plants are in active growth, I don't mind how slow that growth is.

    If my plants are growing slowly I know the nutrient status of the tanks is pretty low, but that all essential nutrients are available at some level. I can use the plant mass and health to both estimate and control nutrient levels.

    I started using this approach on the later stages of landfill leachate re-mediation, where you are still dealing with "water" with a huge BOD. As long as you add enough oxygen, and have enough plants, these plant/microbe biological filtration systems have huge biological filtration capacity whilst being extremely resilient and flexible.

    From there it is a short conceptual leap to if you start with pretty clean water you can maintain that water quality in exactly the same manner.

    There are obvious limitations to this approach, I can't grow carpets, eventually the bottoms of all the tanks are dark and interesting places filled with leaf litter, bits of wood, Bolbitis, strands of moss and the dangling roots of Anubias etc.

    I always have a wide range of some algae, I look a this as a plus, but I've never suffered from an algae "out-break", and I don't take any special measures to remove, or control, it.

    Additionally I often don't know how many fish I have, to the extent that I failed to see any Corydoras hastatus for several months in one tank, and decided they had probably died. Eventually I had to take the tank down whilst some new windows were fitted in the lab. I added some other small Corydoras catfish and quite a lot various sized C. hastatus re-appeared having bred in the mean time.

    cheers Darrel
     
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  20. foxfish

    foxfish Member

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    There seems a few options available but I prefer to be a bit radicle so trickle filters & water changes sound good to me.
    Don't tell Ceg but I have mega lighting over the tank at the moment, 4 x T5 1 xT8 & 3 x 11w LED so I have the lighting covered with the T8 & or LEDs.
    In fact I have most things I need including mature plants, I just need a re scape & soil.....
     
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