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Old 11-22-2012, 02:52 PM   #1
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Self Sustaining Tank Setup!

Ok I know this is a controversial topic but I really want to broach it anyway. Before I start I just want to ask that anybody that post on here be respectful and not just shoot the idea down. Constructive criticism is welcome-hating is not. If you post something to the effect of, "You irresponsible fish murderer this is not going to work and it is murderous!" then I will request a moderator to delete the post. To many times these threads become a big fight.
Now I do have some proof of concept to show yall:
Tom's Bucket O' Mud (semi self-sustaining aquarium)
and i have done this small scale. Also I know at least 1 other member on here does it.
Now here is what i want. The end goal is to have a tank that requires nothing but topoffs. Reasonably I can do a water change every few months but the idea is to not need to. I do not even want to feed the fish! If we can't manage that then I at least need the fish to be able to go at least 2 weeks with no food added.
So here is the equipment I have.
25 gallon tank
2x 14 watt t5 (1x 6700K and 1x 1000K)
Aquaclear 50 gallon filter
Heater (cant remember the watage)
Airstone (would like to get rid of this if possible)

Here is the tentatively desired stock (* means 100% non-negotiable)
6x Scarlet Badis
6x Otocinclus
Shrimp (red cherry or rilli red. Whats better?)
MTS (Im scared to try different snails lol)

And Plant wise
Crypts
Anabius
Pothos Vine
Suggestions?

So what I have question wise
What do you see that could be improved?
What suggestions do you have?
What stock would be best?
What plants (submergered and emmerged) would you recomend?

The idea is that the shrimp will breed providing food for the badis. I also am interested in the possibility of pygmy cories but am not sure if this is feasible.
Anyway thanks for reading and please post your thoughts! God bless!
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Old 11-22-2012, 04:08 PM   #2
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It's possible to be almost self sustaining, but it won't be easy. The lack of maintenance will likely result in buildup of mulm and detritus along the tank bottom. This will not really be detrimental but it won't look very good either.

The big problem, though, is figuring out how to keep a substantial sized shrimp colony capable of keeping the fish well fed. They aren't going to police themselves. Maybe a tank divider with a mesh size that only allows small juvies into the fish area. Having tons of plants in the tank isn't going to be enough to keep them from wiping out the colony.

One other thing that will help is to have less predators in the system. I'd reduce the number of otos also, but they are a good choice for a low maintenance tank since they are fine with algae and biofilm.

You didn't put any of your * 100% non negotiable stars next to the stock so I don't know which ones are mandatory.

You don't have to run both an airstone and a filter. Either one would work, and if the tank is well planted enough you could probably get by without any filtration. Having some surface movement is a good idea though because the water will get a film on it and you could have issues resulting from it.

I would Just keep the filter going and ditch the airstone because it'll help clean some of the particulate that is bound to accumulate.

As far as plants go, the various hygro species all grow quickly and large enough to help reduce nitrogenous waste.

Other potential problems would be if the shrimp population stops reproducing. This happens seemingly randomly with shrimp at times and could be attributed to a number of things like seasonal changes, or a buildup of something toxic enough to cause them stress. The other thing that could be an issue for them is with the lack of water changes your GH/KH and subsequently pH will drop really low. That's not much of an issue when ammonia/nitrate is involved because the plants will still deal with them, and ammonia in a low pH tank is not very harmful in modest amounts anyhow. A potential problem could be the shrimp not having enough Ca to molt properly, and if nothing new is coming in the system then this may pose a problem at some point.



Another good stocking plan would be something like a few dwarf puffers and some small pest snail species, but again I would try to devise a way to keep them separated at least somewhat to keep the population in check.
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Old 11-22-2012, 04:19 PM   #3
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Fellow member Bbradbury has a tank pretty much exactly like what your wanting to do! I suggest lookin into that. I would post a link if I could but just search the name
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Old 11-22-2012, 06:35 PM   #4
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ok thanks! Sorry about the lack of *s lol the scarlet badis are mandatory. Now just out of curiousity would this be more doable with a 40 breeder? Lets keep using the 25 but I would like to know about the 40s doability as well.
The shrimp thing is a problem. I want to avoid a separator in the tank. If I have to feed the fish it isnt really a big deal though as long as they can do without for a few weeks. What can be done to make the parameters good for shrimp and badis?
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Old 11-23-2012, 07:02 AM   #5
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The bigger the tank the better. I think your system will work well as long as the badis don't eat all of the shrimp (I haven't put the two together so I don't know what they do).

I'm planning a pretty large size aquaponics setup to begin early in 2013, this isn't exactly what you are looking to do, but many of the concepts are similar and you may glean some ideas from this.

TEDxWarwick - Charlie Price - Aquaponics - Getting More out of Less - YouTube
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Old 11-23-2012, 11:20 AM   #6
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Interesting topic. I've never attempted this myself. 2 things: plants will help soak up toxins. And something to possibly consider as a self sustaining food source could be some type of live bearer.
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Old 11-23-2012, 04:34 PM   #7
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Self-Sustaining Tank

Hello GF...

As near as I can tell, a totally self-sustaining tank isn't possible. You'll still need to routinely replace water lost to evaporation.

Attached are a couple of pics of experimental tanks I keep running with only land plants emersed in the tank water to maintain the water chemistry. The roots get O2 from a tube attached to an air pump. The water movement from the pump keeps nutrients moving through the roots and the leaves above the water take in CO2 from the air.

You can also use standard filtration for the period at night when the plants slow their filtrtion work. But, it's not really necessary, as the fish are relatively inactive at night and don't produce a lot of waste. These two have been running for about four years. I added the emersed plants roughly 6 to 8 months ago. "0" ammonia and nitrites and nitrates at 10 ppm when I last tested the water a couple of months ago.

For all practical purposes, you have a balanced tank with minimal maintainance.

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Old 11-23-2012, 07:46 PM   #8
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Thanks all!
Bradbury that is essentially what I am shooting for. I understand that replacing water from evap will be necessary but I want to avoid water changes, feeding, and plant trimming as much as possible.
Just to clarify part of the reason I am doing this is in fact because I am lazy but a big part is that I think the idea is really cool. I like the most natural environment possible. I just dont want yall thinking I am THAT lazy lol
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Old 11-23-2012, 08:44 PM   #9
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Something else just to throw into the mix but have you ever done any reading on the Walstad Method? You might find this concept very interesting also. I know PredFan on here has done true Walstad tanks and I have only done a modified Walstad. Her method is based on a self sustaining system. I've seen some beautiful Walstad tanks.
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Old 11-23-2012, 10:53 PM   #10
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Something else just to throw into the mix but have you ever done any reading on the Walstad Method? You might find this concept very interesting also. I know PredFan on here has done true Walstad tanks and I have only done a modified Walstad. Her method is based on a self sustaining system. I've seen some beautiful Walstad tanks.
I have and I am drawing from the walstad method. I am thinking instead of a dirt substrate however I am considering flourite or something similar.
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Old 11-23-2012, 11:45 PM   #11
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I like dirted tanks myself. My main tank is organic soil capped with Eco-complete so I have the advantage of nutrient rich soil with the high CEC (cation exchange capacity) in the Eco. Don't you think the dirt is significant in doing Walstad tanks? I think with wanting to do a mostly self sustaining tank you would want the nutrient rich soil as your base. What are your thoughts?
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Old 11-24-2012, 10:41 PM   #12
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I like dirted tanks myself. My main tank is organic soil capped with Eco-complete so I have the advantage of nutrient rich soil with the high CEC (cation exchange capacity) in the Eco. Don't you think the dirt is significant in doing Walstad tanks? I think with wanting to do a mostly self sustaining tank you would want the nutrient rich soil as your base. What are your thoughts?
I was thinking the eco would be enough nutrient in itself but I could be wrong. Im a little concerned about how the dirt my effect the tank in the long run though with the possible decay and the water cloudiness. What are your thoughts on that?
Another issue I am struggling with is how to keep the shrimp happy and healthy and breeding. Maybe a different species of shrimp or something I dont know.
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Old 11-25-2012, 12:25 AM   #13
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IMO I think a substrate with a soil under-layer should last many years (theoritacally)because fish and plant waste will continuously replenish the nutrients that plants extract from the soil. I've been a gardener for years and soil that is enriched with nutrients only improves the soil. I think as long as the layer of dirt isn't really thick where anerobic conditions can occur there isn't going to be any issues. With the dirt being capped there are no cloudy water issues from it.

As for shrimp I'm not a shrimp person so someone with expierence with them will have to answer that question.
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Old 11-25-2012, 12:31 AM   #14
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IMO I think a substrate with a soil under-layer should last many years (theoritacally)because fish and plant waste will continuously replenish the nutrients that plants extract from the soil. I've been a gardener for years and soil that is enriched with nutrients only improves the soil. I think as long as the layer of dirt isn't really thick where anerobic conditions can occur there isn't going to be any issues. With the dirt being capped there are no cloudy water issues from it.

As for shrimp I'm not a shrimp person so someone with expierence with them will have to answer that question.
What about the malaysian trumpet snails stirring it up? Will that cause issues?
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Old 11-25-2012, 12:34 AM   #15
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What about the malaysian trumpet snails stirring it up? Will that cause issues?
I have MTS's and I still don't have problems plus I've never seen them deeper than the Eco layer which is 1-1/2 inches.
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Old 11-25-2012, 12:45 AM   #16
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I have MTS's and I still don't have problems plus I've never seen them deeper than the Eco layer which is 1-1/2 inches.
ok thanks! Now what about stuff like leaf litter and such?
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Old 11-25-2012, 01:09 AM   #17
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I keep Indian almond leaves clipped on the side of my tank because I don't have available space on the substrate (too heavily planted). I know people use dried oak and beech leaves but if you don't keep removing the decaying ones and adding new ones I think they look messy. I wouldn't use them but thats just me.
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Old 11-25-2012, 01:17 AM   #18
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If it doesnt add anything I dont really care. I will leave the dead leaves from the plants I am growing in the tank but I think I will pass on adding them lol
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Old 11-25-2012, 06:34 AM   #19
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I have 6 Scarlett Badis in 15g with Red Cherry Shrimp and they don't even look at them never mind eat them. RCS are a recommended tank mate for Scarlet Badis.
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Old 11-25-2012, 12:32 PM   #20
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I have 6 Scarlett Badis in 15g with Red Cherry Shrimp and they don't even look at them never mind eat them. RCS are a recommended tank mate for Scarlet Badis.
Love the tank! Forgot how little the Scarlet's are!
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