Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Aquascaping Answers: El Natural

Each week in Aquascaping Answers, I do my best answering your aquascaping and aquascaping related questions. Just leave your question in the comments section!

Well, this is the long overdue Aquascaping Answers that I've been too busy to write for a while now. Sorry if you left a question and were disappointed, I've copied them down and will try to get to them all eventually!

Unfortunately I have decided that I shouldn't spend a whole lot of money right now, and I don't think I will be able to handle dosing fertilizers every day or every other day (I'll forget...). But, there's hope! An El Naturale tank. I know that they typically use no filters, but I have already purchased my Eheim Classic 2215. My sense tells me that I could still set up an El Naturale tank, but I may have to dose Nitrogen (which is easier and cheaper than everything else in addition!), to replace the ammonia which the bacteria would be eliminating. My setup would be a 46 gallon bow-front with a DIY 96 watt PC fixture (about 2 watts/gallon) with the Eheim 2215 and a soil substrate... Is this feasible? Would I have to dose Nitrogen? How heavy should my fish-load be? Thanks for helping me get started in the planted tank niche with a beautiful tank!!

I would become fully familiar with the differences between an El Natural tank and a higher-tech Dutch or Nature Aquarium aquascape. They're very different styles, in almost every way. If you'd like to grow fast growing, high light plants, I wouldn't settle for an El Natural. On the other hand, if you are perfectly content having a "set it and forget it" tank that you can pay attention to whenever you have a spare minute every couple weeks or so, and that won't necessarily rival Amano's tanks, El Natural may be right for you. Pick which ever one you think you would enjoy more.

If you are only worried about dosing and remembering to dose fertilizers, build a simple and cheap DIY fertilizer auto-doser. It doesn't cost more than $30-$50 and you'll never have to worry about forgetting a dose again, except that is till it runs out of mix (no wonder my algae was coming back with a vengance!).

For details on an El Natural and whether or not you should dose nitrogen (I highly doubt you'd need to) I'd suggest buying Diana Walstad's book or checking out the El Natural forums on Aquatic Plant Central. The rest of the tank specs sound fine, and I'd stock it only slightly heavier than a normal tank.

Good luck!

Ask a question about aquascaping, keeping aquatic plants, plant-friendly fish, lighting, CO2, fertilizing, or any other aquarium plant related question in the comments to this post, and I'll answer them in next week's edition.


  1. I've added your blog to mine, if anything is not to your liking and it will take me


  2. EI natural.... Back when I was a young child, (50's) I had a neighbor with a long small guppy aquarium tank. (what would be called Nano today, and back then those stainless steel rimmed tanks came in sizes no longer found... so imagine about 16 inches long, maybe 8 deep by about 6 tall...

    It was placed in a back room where she grew African Violets, and therefore light was bright but filtered.. I remember it looked like a forest! Full of Sagitarius (one could only get certain plants then) and it was fully rooted deep into the sand/gravel and again - like a forest. The original guppy no less but no filters, no air stones it was self contained, self limiting and lived for decades until she passed.

    She gave me my first guppy and that's when the madness started! I would only add with decades of fish rearing that I would at least add an airstone. I discovered one late night when I went downstairs and heard my fish gulping air at the survace - of course with all the plants now producing co2 they were gulping air at night. In nature this would not be a problem but is in our limited systems.

    (I set up all my aquariums with gravel/sand from local freshwater rivers, wood, rocks so on and local plants I traded for fish I bred.. Back then fish were vibrant (even if less selection) as most were "home" grown in greenhouse type set ups or homes. None of the diseases so common now.)

    Now at a much later age it is interesting to see the old wheel "re- emerging"...


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