12L Nano Ryoboku Tank “Redwood” – Setup

The term DSM gets tossed around often in aquascaping and I’m curious to know how it works. So, I gave it a try with my nano Ryoboku tank.

What You’ll Need

First of all, DSM is not a dirty word or something. It stands for Dry Start Method and that means you’ll start up your tank with very little water for a few weeks. After that, it’s the usual high-tech setup all the way.

As usual, I’ll list the thing that I used in this setup. Hopefully, you can get everything that you need where you reside. I do know that certain aquarium equipment can be very hard to get in some places. Use what’s available to you.

The Basic Equipment

  1. Tank (ANS Opticlear Tank 30M)
  2. Filter (AZOO Mignon Filter 360)
  3. Light (FLEXI-mini HCRI LED Light)
  4. CO₂ system (ISTA 95g CO₂ Disposable Supply Set – Premium)
  5. Fan (Crab Aqua Mini Cooling Fan)*


Substrate And Conditioner

  1. Aquarium soil (Tropica Aquarium Soil Powder)
  2. Water conditioner (Seachem Prime)

Plants And Wood

  1. Plants (carpeting plants like Micranthemum ‘Monte Carlo’, Elatine hydropiper and Eleocharis acicularis ‘Mini’ and mosses like Vesicularia dubyana ‘Christmas’, Taxiphyllum barbieri and Fissidens fontanus should work during the dry start phase but a good mix of stem plants and etc. can be added after the tank is flooded)
  2. Wood (just like using stones in an aquascape, it best to use one type of wood and Manzanita or Redmoor wood makes good candidates)

Setting It Up

Setting up a tank using the Dry Start Method is split into two phases. The first phase, you add your substrate, hardscape and carpeting plants plus moss (if any) and let it grow for six to 10 weeks.

At the second phase, you’ll add the other stem plants and etc. and then “flood” the tank with water like you would with a normal setup. Of course, the other tank equipment gets hooked up at the second phase too.

Step 0 – Place the tank on a flat and level surface.
Step 1 – Pour soil into the tank and slope it higher towards the back.
Step 2 – Arrange wood in the tank.
Step 3 – Spray the soil with water and start planting.
Step 4 – Dry start method for 6 to 10 weeks.

During The Dry Start Method

For the Dry Start Method to work, you’ll need to do three things.

  1. Cover the tank with cling wrap to retain moisture.
  2. Spray it with a bit of water daily to keep the plants damp.
  3. Leave the lights on for around 12 hours daily.

These can be challenging to do for six to 10 weeks as you will get excited and/or impatient with your tank. It will be worth the wait to see how well the plants have rooted in and grow at the end of this period.

8 weeks later…
Step 5 – Spray the soil with water and continue planting.
Step 6 – Fill the tank with treated tap water slowly.
Step 7 – Fix equipment onto the tank.
Step 8 – Switch on all equipment.

Tips For Success With DSM

I’m glad that the Dry Start Method works for my nano Ryoboku tank. I have seen some people fail with this method and here I draw an assumption as to what might have gone wrong and what could have been done.

The number one culprit might have been too much water and the plants start to rot. During the dry start phase, you’re actually growing your plants emersed like as if they are land plants.

The plants should look damp (droplets of water) after spraying with water but it should not be under water. If you see a pool of water over your plants or substrate, then it is too wet already.

Take action immediately to remove excess water. Throw in a couple balls of tissue and gently press it down on the plants and substrate. Wait a few minutes for the tissues to soak up the excess water and then remove it.

That’s what I did and I’m glad that I did it. Want to give DSM a go?

What say you?

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