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Results 1 to 10 of 10
  1. Thumbs up Ecology of the Planted Aquarium: a book review


    0 Not allowed!
    I had heard a lot about "Walstad aquariums" here on the forums and elsewhere, so I decided to check out the book through inter library loan and see what all the fuss is about. Now I know. Here are some impressions about this book, starting with a few caveats.

    First thing you need to know is that this is not a light read. Many aquarium books have lots of beautiful pictures and anecdotes to keep you interested and inspired. This book is not one of those. If you don't find the subject matter completely fascinating, this book will bore you to tears. I did find it fascinating, and it still took some perseverance to get through it. The writing has all the whit and sparkle of an undergrad biology textbook. Except maybe not that much. So settle in and pay attention, and maybe even take notes...or don't bother.

    Second, this is not a how-to book in the normal sense. Since I am a music teacher, I'll use an analogy that hopefully will make sense to someone. Most aquarium books are a bit like a Hal Leonard beginning instrument method: step by step, "here's what to do and how to do it and when to do it." I think of this as the point by numbers approach. You do what you're told and you get something that is pleasant, that works, and that doesn't rock the boat. "Ecology" is a theory textbook: "here is what works and why; do with it whatever you will." I enjoyed that approach but it might drive some people crazy.

    Third, this book flies in the face of much of the conventional wisdom. Walstad makes some statements that will be considered heresy by some: biological filtration is useless at best, probably even counter productive. Beginners should start with very small tanks or even (gasp!!!) bowls of just a gallon or two. All aquariums must have plants, and soil in the substrate. And so on. Diana isn't against hi tech tanks, but she just doesn't see the point, asserting that there are easier, cheaper, and more natural ways to accomplish the same thing. If you have just laid down multi-hundreds of dollars for a canister filter and co2 injection system, this might irritate you.

    Finally, this book is all about the plants. In Walstad's world, aesthetics and even fish are the decoration on the cake. She shares very little or no information on actual fish keeping, ignoring some ecology issues that many would consider important, such as regional or behavioral compatibility of fish species. Fish are considered for their ecological value to the plants, along with snails and other invertebrates. She says next to nothing about the aesthetics of tank design; indeed, I find her tank design and stocking, as pictured in the book, to be rather uninspired and blah looking (though very, very healthy). Walstad's emphasizes growing healthy plants. Give the plants what they want, she says, and the fish will pretty much take care of themselves.

    But WOW, does she ever know how to grow plants.

    I am a big picture person, and I quickly get bored with painting by the numbers. This book, if properly absorbed, could open new worlds of creativity in tank design and stocking. Walstad goes into great depth about plant metabolism, nutrition, and ecology, using a mix of text, case studies, q& a, and diagrams to try to keep things understandable and practical. My eyes only glazed over a few times. I found the information on plant allelopathy, carbon, and substrate micro ecology to be particularly fascinating and useful. A bit hard to wade through, but fascinating.

    I now know where the carbon comes from in nature. I now have an idea of why certain plants just don't work together. I now know why I no longer have problems with algae in my tank. I now understand what works and does not work for plant substrate, and why. And if I ever do get those three 150 gallon dream tanks to create my SE Asia, Orinoco, and Wyoming Foothill Creek biotope tanks, I know just how to go about it.

    So, if you want to really understand not just what works but why, or if you want to get your head around the theory and basic principles so you can strike out on you own creative adventures, or if you a tired of being told what to do and being expected to take it on faith, or if (like me) you simply get a kick out of understanding how things work in nature and how to replicate those systems in a semi-closed setting, this is a book you should own, read, and refer to frequently.

    There is nothing wrong with following rules and staying inside the lines; if that works for you, don't bother with this book. Otherwise, give it a look. It isn't an easy read, but it is well worth the effort.
    My computer beat me at chess, but it proved no match for me at kickboxing.

    www.whistlingbadger.com

  2. #2

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    0 Not allowed!
    It seems so many of the "experts" out there are the ones that go outside the lines - honestly I think there are sooooo many ways to do everything in this hobby, that there really is no how to available... even if there is, everyone's conditions vary from tank to tank... so, it all is by trial and error. Right now I am using at least 3 different things on my 55 that most don't use

    But I also wanna keep trying other things too... next step is a dirt and or proper substrate tank

  3. #3

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    0 Not allowed!
    Is it still in print? Last time I looked I couldn't get it anywhere.

  4. #4

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    0 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by talldutchie View Post
    Is it still in print? Last time I looked I couldn't get it anywhere.
    http://www.amazon.com/Ecology-Plante.../dp/0967377366
    10 Gallon Beginner Tank... Journal

    40 Gallon Breeder: ... Journal

  5. #5

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    0 Not allowed!
    I think my next challenge will be a dirt'd tank.. very interested in trying something like a natural substrate

  6. #6

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    0 Not allowed!
    Diana has also done a short essay on a planted shrimp bowl. Easy way to try the method out.

  7. Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Yeah I've read the book and true it is a hard book to get through, especially all those page references having you jump back and forth and going to a handful of different areas to help understand the first point she was making.

    I'm going to try my hand at a planted tank again in the next few weeks. Using that soil she mentioned in her book, the Scott's Miracle Grow Organic Choice Potting Soil, and the siesta light regimen she mentioned (save me some money). I'm not looking forward to the first 1-6 weeks though as she mentioned you would see a spike in harmful levels of mineral/nutrients. But as with anything new we may add to our tanks we need to test, complete PWC, test, complete PWC, repeat repeat repeat, until things level off. It will be interesting.
    25 Gal - Tropical
    Custom made Wet/Dry/Sump Filter System, AquaClear 20 Powerhead, RenaCal Excel 300 Heater, artificial plants
    Fish - 8 Blackskirt Tetras, Red Wag Platy, German Blue Ram, Bulldog Pleco, Assassin snail.
    "Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success." King Solomon.
    Pictures of my 10 Gal Sump Filtration project

  8. Default


    0 Not allowed!
    One thing I really like about this book is that Walstad isn't just sharing her ideas. She has done the science. So if you do choose to follow her approach, you pretty much know what is going to happen, and why...barring unforeseen variables.

    A lot of her advice would be disastrous--purposefully over feeding the fish, for example--if you didn't take her whole approach. But that's ecology for you: everything has to work together and all the parts have to be in place, just as in nature.
    My computer beat me at chess, but it proved no match for me at kickboxing.

    www.whistlingbadger.com

  9. #9

    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    We also have a part of our equipment review section dedicated to reviews of books just like this one you are reviewing here.
    If you take your time to do the research FIRST, you can successfully set-up and keep ANY type of aquarium with ease.
    "Not using a quarantine tank is like playing Russian roulette. Nobody wins the game, some people just get to play longer than others." - Anthony Calfo
    Fishless Cycle Cycling with Fish Marine Aquarium Info [URL="http://saltwater.aquaticcommunity.com/"]

  10. Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by WhistlingBadger View Post
    A lot of her advice would be disastrous--purposefully over feeding the fish, for example--if you didn't take her whole approach. But that's ecology for you: everything has to work together and all the parts have to be in place, just as in nature.
    Yeah to think in nature there's usually an abundance of food sources in rivers and lakes, and whatever the animals don't eat just decomposes and returns to the cycle of life. Even Diana still has to complete water changes on your tanks, just not as often as many of us HAVE too.
    25 Gal - Tropical
    Custom made Wet/Dry/Sump Filter System, AquaClear 20 Powerhead, RenaCal Excel 300 Heater, artificial plants
    Fish - 8 Blackskirt Tetras, Red Wag Platy, German Blue Ram, Bulldog Pleco, Assassin snail.
    "Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success." King Solomon.
    Pictures of my 10 Gal Sump Filtration project

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