General and Beginner

Adventures in Nano-Scaping #1


In this series of blog posts we will be following the design and setup of a new freshwater desktop nano-aquascape from start to finish, including future updates on how everything is doing. The goal of this particular setup is to showcase an ultra low-tech, low maintenance solution using the Walstad method of a naturally balanced ecosystem in a small aquarium. There are certainly other ways to set up and maintain thriving planted aquariums and aquascapes, some utilizing more advanced technology or more stringent maintenance regimes. These options, and others on the broad spectrum of equipment and maintenance choices may be a better fit for you. We hope you find this example both interesting and educational as we navigate the pros and cons, successes and (possibly) failures of the process.

The equipment used will be very simple and straightforward. There will be no filtration or aeration. There will be no heater, so species that can tolerate normal room temperatures will be selected. CO2 will not be injected. An LED light intended for small planted aquariums will be the only “plug in” piece of equipment used. 

One significant deviation from the true Walstad method we will be attempting for this setup is to not utilize a “dirted tank” setup. Meaning we will not be using a potting soil base covered with gravel or sand as a natural nutrient source for the plants. Instead we will use UNS Controsoil and supplement with liquid fertilizers as necessary to provide essential nutrients not found in the source water and fish waste. A little less natural, but should give us more control over the nutrient load.

The aquascape will be planted heavily with hardy plants of both submerged and emergent varieties. Some floating plants may also be used. Algae eating (Amano) shrimp and Japanese Rice fish will be the intended tank inhabitants. 


Tank – Ultum Nature Systems 30C Ultra Clear Rimless Aquarium, 7 Gallon, 11.8’’ x 11.8’’ x 11.8’’

Lighting – ONF Flat Nano LED Light, 15W, 1300lm, 7000k

Substrate – Ultum Nature Systems Controsoil, Fine Black

Japanese Seiryu Stones

Malaysian Driftwood

The basic hardscape was laid out following the “rule of thirds” with emphasis placed on an asymmetric layout with focal points at intersecting lines. The driftwood is positioned to be primarily emergent allowing for the attachment of epiphytic plant species and use of terrestrial climbing plants. It evokes the appearance of a mountainous landscape with a large weathered tree atop.

UNS Controsoil heavily sloped towards the front of the aquarium was used, and further built up into “terraces” using some thin clear acrylic to prevent it from falling. This allowed the soil to be built up quite high to support the driftwood and allow for the rooting of marginal and/or climbing terrestrial plants.

Check back for the next Adventures in Nano-Scaping blog where we will discuss plant selection and plant layout!

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