Low Cost, Low Maintenance Planted Tank

This Planted Tank system was introduced to the world by a person named Diana Walstad. Therefore, this method is called the “walstad method”. This method, now known as “dirted aquarium”, has been popularized because of its low cost of manufacture and low tank maintenance. Once the dirted aquarium is well grown, even water transfer can be minimized.

It is very important that you understand the purpose of this Planted Tank. The main goal is to create a natural ecosystem in the tank. That is, the beneficial bacteria in the soil inside the tank grow well and create a natural environment in the tank through various processes such as the conversion of the fish waste in the tank into plants available to the above bacteria.

If you create a “dirted aquarium” with the right kind of patience, you will have the best plant growth and the owner of a beautiful planted tank that does not require any Co2 or fertilizer in any way.

1. Select Correct Soil

The key to success depends on the type of soil you use. Yes you were right. Soils with good nutrient content are used for this purpose. The best medium is natural compost. Now you can buy five varieties at a very low price in the market. But here you have to be very careful. Soils made from combustible materials or synthetic fertilizers are not suitable for this purpose. Also avoid using soils that contain dolomite. Although it is very suitable for the roots of dolomite plants, it can be harmful to fish as it can convert the pH of the water to a very high level.

If you plan to use home-made soil for this purpose, first take the required amount of soil and dry it well. It is then filtered through a filter to remove any material such as pieces of wood that have not decomposed into organic matter. It should then be heated to a higher temperature. Otherwise, over time, the tank is more likely to stink and animals such as various small worms are more likely to grow in the tank.

Or you can find good soils on amazon.com and I will describe later how to make a high tech planted tank in another article.

It is best to build your first Dirted aquarium in a small tank such as 10 gallon or 20 gallon. It is advisable to build a larger tank after identifying the internal processes here.

Keep the selected tank in a place where it can be kept unchanged for a long time. After that, it is very difficult to change the tank and such a change can be an obstacle to the growing process inside the Dirted aquarium. Remember that “low maintenance” is a goal that we want to achieve here and for that we need to make the aquarium self-sustaining. For this purpose, the base of the dirted aquarium should not be changed from time to time.

2. Application of soil

After selecting a suitable soil type and tank, apply this soil to the base of the tank. Here you can add nutrients like Root Tabs to help the plants grow in the early stages. But it is a process that is by no means essential. If you want to apply such a thing, put 2cm of soil and apply fertilizer on top of it.

Then top it off again. The most important thing to keep in mind is to use 1 to 2 inches of soil. Never apply more than 2 inches of soil. Applying a thicker layer of soil creates an oxygen-free zone in the lower part of the soil to prevent the growth of anaerobic bacteria and the development of a very unfavorable condition.

3. Soaking The Soil

Then the soil layer should be well watered. This is a must do. This should be done by adding water to the soil very slowly. Water should be added so as not to damage the soil layer. It is best to add water until it is about 5mm above the soil level and leave it to soak for at least 3 days. During this time you will notice that various gases are released from the soil.

4. Cover Layer

The main purpose of this layer is to prevent soil water from dissolving. First, remove any excess water from the soil layer. Then apply the top coat. The best medium to use for this table is gravel between 3mm – 5mm. If the work is large enough for 5mm, all the water will leak through the soil layer and if it is less than 3mm, an oxygen free zone will form in the soil and anaerobic bacteria will grow and develop a very unfavorable condition. Also a layer of gravel less than 2 inches should be applied to prevent this situation. If you plan to use sand for beauty, use only a layer about 1 inch thick. However, the use of sand can be problematic in the long run.

5. Adding Water

You can add water after the gravel has completely covered the soil layer. When adding water it is always imperative to fill with water very slowly so as not to damage the gravel layer. First, fill half of the tank with water and create a water flow in the tank. Aquarium airstone can be used for a small tank and a small water pump for a large tank. After a few hours you can see that the whole water is muddy. Never panic. This condition is very common in the dirted aquarium process. This removes the mud from the top of the soil layer. Do this process by changing the water about 3 times every 12 hours. You can see that the mud level is gradually decreasing.

6. Adding Plants

  • A Dirted Aquarium is designed to maintain the tank for a very long time. Therefore, it is necessary to think carefully about the place of planting. If two very large plants are planted next to each other, in a few days there will not be enough space for those two plants. Then the root system of those plants can hold the soil well so that the plant can come out of the soil cover layer while escaping. This is the only disadvantage of Dirted Aquarium, you can very patiently remove the plant but if you do it several times the cover layer will be damaged and the whole tank will be destroyed. Therefore, once the plants you are planting have grown, understand the nature of the plant and plant the fruit in the right place at once.
  • Whenever possible When using hardscape  make sure that a large amount of the cover layer does not cover. Imagine if you use a large aquascape rocks, the soil below it may not be oxygenated and may be in a bad condition.
  • Keep at least 80% of the Aquarium Plants you hope to use before building the tank. This can be done by removing the plants from time to time and minimizing planting elsewhere.
  • Use Aquarium Plants as much as you can. Using a heavy plant load is essential to the success of a Dirted Aquarium. The compost contains a large amount of nutrients in the soil and should be utilized so that there is no excess of them.
  • If possible, use floating aquatic plants in the early stages of the tank. It can absorb excess nutrients dissolved in water and control the formation of algae.
  • Since we use a natural substrate that is rich in nutrients, some plants that belong to the High Tech category can also be successful here. You can use any type of plant that belongs to the Low Tech category.
  • During the first week, make changes in the hardscape and plants and let it grow freely

7. Filtration

It is advisable to read the following article on aquarium filtration to get a better understanding of this.

Link – Update later

The most important thing to consider here is the flow in the tank. Cover all areas of the tank but create a steady flow that does not damage the substrate or base of the tank. A hang on back filter is best for this, and if you use an internal filter, a spray bar is best.

As mentioned above, the tank should be about 3 months old to minimize water transfer. Until then, it is best to change about 30% of your water supply once a week. Over time, the environment inside dirted aquariums becomes more conducive to natural and biological filtration. Therefore, it is best to give yourself a very good mechanical filtration. When transferring water, we at the top layer should carefully remove the material and never vacuum the gravel.

8. Co2

Read the article at the link below to understand the need for co2 for plant growth.

Link – Update later

Dirted aquariums do not need to supply co2 at all. The main purpose of the Dirted Aquarium is to create a natural ecosystem in the tank over time, allowing the co2 and surface agitation produced by the plants at night to grow into the co2 tank that adds to the water.

But it is no secret that the supply of co2 can make a difference in the very best plants. There is nothing wrong with supplying co2 only if you can. But should provide a very low concentration. We need to adapt the plant to the natural ecosystem in the tank. If a high concentration of co2 is given, if the supply of co2 is stopped for a while, the tank may become unbalanced and the growth of plants may be impaired. The size of co2 we recommend here is one co2 bubble per second (this can be measured using a co2 bubble counter).

We hope to bring you an article soon on how to create a more advanced and highly effective Co2 System.

9. Light

Light is an essential factor in the growth of plants. One of our goals is to build a tank at a low cost, so the best thing to do is use a flood light. According to the article above, successful results can be achieved by using a flood light with a working value of 6500k and a watts value commensurate with the volume of your tank.

In a dirted aquarium, it is important to pay close attention to the photoperiod or the time it takes for the plants to light up. Dirted aquarium contains a lot of nutrients as compost is used. If too much light is given, the tank will soon be covered with algae. The low cost flood lights we use make it difficult to control the light. The best thing to do is to control the photoperiod. Give only 4 hours of light in the first week. Then increase the photoperiod by 30 minutes per week. It is best to light a dirted aquarium for a maximum of 9 hours. It is best to use a light timer for the table.

10. Adding The Fish

The two main objectives of a Dirted Aquarium are to create a low maintenance and natural ecosystem. The main factor influencing both of these factors is the balance of the tank. The best thing to do to maintain a good balance is to reduce the bio-load or pet fish waste. Here it is advisable to use as little fish as possible.

Also, fish that make holes in the lesson should never be used unless they can damage the cover layer.

After about two weeks of building the tank, add the fish. When adding fish, do not mix all the required fish at once. Gradually add one at a time each week.