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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have done some research so as not to waste your valuable time with the usual questions. I have not yet gotten wet with plants yet, but I have a plan (sort of) and was hoping for some input from those who are experienced - feel free to set me straight. I'm hoping this will save me some time and frustration over time. Here goes . . .
MY PLAN: small tank, no CO2, minimal water changes, hardy plants that require low to medium intensity light, substrate: 1.5" of soil/peat and 1" of 3-5 mm gravel, little or no fetilization, a few small fish (species unsure).
MY PROPOSED SETUP: 20 gal long aquarium, 36-45 watts (not exactly sure yet) light (6700 k) - mix of fluorescent and PC, water overflows to sump under stand with a simple DIY gravel filter and pump returns water to tank. I have chosen to go with a sump in case I want to change plans in the future - I will have a place to dose fert./add CO2 and mix.
MY QUESTIONS:
1) Does this plan and setup make sense? Any suggestions to improve?
2) Do I need to add fertilizer, or will fish food/waste do the job in this setup? what about trace elements/iron/etc.?
3) When I add water, should I plant right away, or wait for tank to cycle?
4) What are your TOP 5 plant suggestions for this setup?
5) What are your TOP 5 fish suggestions for this setup? what plant-friendly fish eat snails?
6) Should I put fertilizer sticks/tabs in substrate?
7) How do I avoid algal overgrowth in this type of system?
Any comments on these questions or anything that I have not thought of are welcome.
Thanks
 

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First off, you would probably find Diana Walstad's book, Ecology of the Planted Aquarium very benificial since you are wanting to use a soil substrate with minimal water changes and little/no fertilization. It really is a great book and worth purchasing. The only thing that I might change were I attempting this setup would be to ditch the sump, use an inch of soil and a couple inches of 1-3 mm gravel. You will have to experiment and monitor the tank to determine if you need to add fertilizer or if fish food/waste is enough. You can plant immediately after adding water, but I like to wait a few days to a week before adding fish. Cycling is not usually an issue in heavily planted aquariums. In my low light, no fert tanks most crypts do very well, as do anubias, java fern, java moss, african bolbitis, and sword plants. I also like lobelia and water sprite and hygro and they are flourishing in my tank. For fish, most any tetras are nice IMHO as well as barbs or rasboras. It really depends on what you like I guess. I wouldnt think you would need fertilizer tabs in a soil based substrate. As to how to avoid algae....the best advice I can give you is to plant heavily and throw in a good bit of hornwort to act as a nutrient soak. Its a floater that will also help to shade your low light plants. I hope this helps. Maybe someone else with a bit more knowledge on soil based substrates will chime in. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Kevin! I really appreciate your input and will follow your advice. One quick follow-up question for you or anyone else:
Regarding the substrate, I plan to just use plain old natural aquarium gravel and for the soil/peat mixture I plan to purchase from a garden shop - nothing special. Is this okay, or do I need some special kind of gravel or soil? I have looked over the Substrate forum, but much of it is beyond my understanding/needs at this point, so any help would be appreciated.
Again . . . Thanks.
 

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Get the book, read the book. Or head over to www.aquabotanic.com and hit their forums. Diana Walstad is a moderator over there.

And I see one big problem with your setup. You are talking about a soil/peat substrate and a DIY gravel filter. Well if you mean a filter under the gravel you are doomed to total and complete failure. With any kind of undergravel filter the soil/peat is going to end up in the water column.

Also with any kind of planted tank you can just plant right from the start. Read my FAQ for a good guide on how to cycle a planted tank.
 

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Since you're doing a lower light tank without CO2 check out this talk by Tom Barr. I was looking to do a simple tank and I based mine on his talk. It covers substrate, plants and what not. The talk was about growing plants without C02. I found it helpful and the first time I have tried using peat under my gravel. And the book everyone mentioned is exceptional. Great info for sure.

The transcript is a little hard to read. Tom is under the user name Plantbrain. But worth reading.

http://www.badmanstropicalfish.com/stories/chat/chat_2-27-04.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you, thank you -- Rex, Mike!
I will get the book . . . and I'll read it too.
No worries about the DIY gravel filter - not an undergravel, completely separate and in the sump, but I no longer plan to use it anyway. Although I've been to the aquabotanic website, I haven't checked out the forums there yet - thanks for the advice.
I just skimmed the Tom Barr chat - it looks interesting. I will read tonight.
Thanks again for all of your input . . . just think how lost I'd be without all of you . . .
 
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