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Low tech tanks

> Hi folks,
> I am interested in the experiences of others who keep low maintenance/low
> tech tanks. I am trying to learn ways to keep a planted tank that requires
> almost no work.
> Currently I am trying out a 10 gallon by the window. I use no filters, or
> heaters. The only wire for the tank is for one fluorescent tube (a shop
> light.) I have 2 tetras, 1 black molly, 1 guppy,  lots of snails, and lots
> of plants - hygro, cabomba, anachris, java fern, banana plant, floating
> fern - on cat litter plus sand. I feed the fish once a day (tetraMin flakes
> 2 minutes) and change the water when I feel like it - maybe 30% twice a
> month. I want to get more fish but feel that I don't have the setup just
> right yet.

So how long have you had this setup?  Long enough to say that the plants 
are all well established and adjusted and the  conditions you describe are 
stable?  Or are things still adjusting?

If you have pairs of livebearers then you can let their population 
increase to the point where it's in balance with the resources in the 
tank.  My low-tech tanks have a basic population of otos and shrimp that I 
maintain, and a population of guppies - I just use feeders - that moves 
up and down as conditions in the tank vary to support more or fewer 
fish.  Probably any omnivorous livebearer would do - maybe even some 
killies, but I don't keep them.

You might also try some kind of filter feeder instead of or along with 
the fish.  I don't think that fish - especially predatory or insectivorous 
fish (I think that includes most tetras)  - are particularly good for a low 
maintenance tank.

> There is still algae, water is slightly colorless cloudy (though
> I suspect it's the salt that I add, which has additives in it so it's 1/3
> less sodium.)
> Bain Chin
> bchin at mit_edu

Hmm.  Unless you know what the additives are and are willing to put up 
with their consequences, then maybe you should just use salt?  Two other 
possible explanations for the cloudiness come to mind.  It could be 
caused by the kitty litter, which is after all clay and wouldn't 
necessarily settle very well.  The other possibility I thought of is that 
it's phytoplankton - possibly the start of a green water problem.  When I 
get green water blooms in my low-tech tanks it starts as colorless 
cloudiness and doesn't show green until it gets rather dense.

My low-tech tanks aren't quite as low-tech as yours.  They're heated.  
Also, I run small powerheads in them so the water circulates.  Right now 
the tanks are changing a bit because I recently pulled out and replaced 
their substrates.  Prior to that (I've had them for a few years) they 
were generally in pretty good shape; I get green water blooms from direct 
sunlight over more than a couple hours/day, and I have had fits with hair 
algae but that seems to stay under control with the right, fast-growing 
plants and a functional substrate.

Adey and Lovejoy's book "Dynamic Aquaria" provides some interesting 
thoughts that can be applied to low-maintenance freshwater tanks.

Roger Miller