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Discussion Starter #1
After several years away from planted aquaria with several moves around the country we have settled back into our home state of Texas. This build will be a low-moderate tech 125. I finally have the tank and am waiting for a grocery list-worth of upgrades and replacements, but here's what I have so far (ignore the plant-species on the garage floor chalk...I am just roughing in some height and color concepts for now):

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The glass needed some TLC but is cleaned and ready

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The lights will be replaced with twin Finnex FugeRay Planted Plus 36" fixtures

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The kids helped with a concept sketch

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My "artisitic" garage floor chalk outline to see how the driftwood will line up

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Substrate is ready and waiting for some 8" bowls that will house some Crypt.retro.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Fun to watch! How are you going to use the bowls?
The bowls will just be to keep the Crypts in their place. I used to use Crypts pretty heavily and found out that they do not understand the difference between the background and the foreground!!! So this is to keep roots contained. Hopefully with the driftwood and the plants in front you will never seen the rims, but even if you do they will blend in well with the landscape colors.

I may end up using C.c.balansae instead of C.s.retro...may be bugging CrownMan soon... One of the hardest things with mid-large aquariums is getting enough plants to get it started. That's a lot of real estate to fill.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I made some progress this evening now that my driftwood seems to have leached the heaviest (or whatever the term is) of the tannins. I am fine with a little, as some amount of tannins work really well with a lot of species.

Tomorrow the lighting, "grocery list" and the black background show up. Once I get the background on I can set the tank where I want it fill'er up...so it's ALMOST plant and critter time!!! :)

In the meantime here's what I've got so far:

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There is a slight chance that Melinda will want to let Pio, her betta call this place home, in which case there will be a small piece of driftwood added toward the right side somewhere. My guess is one betta in a 125 is not going to make much difference to the rest of the fauna.

Tentative plans are just that, tentative, but the main attraction will be Apistogramma elizabethae IF I CAN FIND THEM...not an easy task so far.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The lights are IN!!! I'll do the background this evening, but the lights have come in and I am a new believer of LEDs. The Finnex FugeRay Planted Plus are very, very slim and it made me a bit nervous. So I plugged just one in to compare to the Aqauclear LED fixture...difference below:

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This is a single Aquaclear fixture running on the left side of the tank

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This is a single Finnex fixture running on the right side of the tank

I put both on a moment ago and have no problem believing that these will grow plants. LEDs have changed A LOT since I've been away.
 

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It looks like the wood pieces rest on top of the substrate. That is an invitation for hydrogen sulfide to form under each of them, leading to very bad smells, and toxic problems for the plant roots. We need to sit pieces of hardscape directly on the bottom tank glass, with the substrate surrounding them, not sitting under the wood.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
It looks like the wood pieces rest on top of the substrate. That is an invitation for hydrogen sulfide to form under each of them, leading to very bad smells, and toxic problems for the plant roots. We need to sit pieces of hardscape directly on the bottom tank glass, with the substrate surrounding them, not sitting under the wood.
Thanks for the warning Hoppycalif. I've never had a problem with that in the past, even in an El Natural setup, but perhaps it had something to do with the substrate type and plant species I was running. My concern was always making sure I DIDN'T set the driftwood on the glass (anaerobic concerns with the wood itself), and was always told that keeping it on top allowed for the plant roots to access the areas beneath. I'm using a fired clay (Flourite) for substrate in this setup (does that matter?). I'll let it play out a while after the system is up and running and see if a problem arises.

Is there something specific I ought to watch for (bubbles coming up from that area, changes in water chemistry...)? Or is this more serious than that?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
The aquarium is full of water and has MOST of the plants in...still have one more visit to make and I've got a few sample stems coming in this week as well. I'll update pics once the water clears up some, as well as make a list of what's in there.

This will not be "biotope" style...my water is moderate with a pH somewhere between 7.0-7.5 and moderate KH and GH values (a slightly darker color shade than the 60 and 80 color chips respectively)...so seems like it'll be a stable environment with a broad suitability, but limited to only two species of Apistogramma (A.caucatoides and A.eubotus)...so no A.elizabethae as I had my heart set on. Temp is set at 76 F.

I have the lights set up such that there are some intentionally lower light areas and higher light areas, so I'll have to wait a while to see how the various plants perform in various placements. Anyway, I am glad to be making some progress and look forward to snapping a pic perhaps later this week.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I finally have all the plants in. The tank is a complete wreck with substrate debris, so please be patient with cloudy pics. I'll be out and about for a few days so hopefully after I am settled back in the tank will be clear and I can really see how this is all going to work.

I'll post a list momentarily, but first a HUGE thank you to Michael, CrownMan and DustinsFishtanks.com for helping me to come at this new set up with an amazing variety and plentiful start to the set up. I am starting off with a LOT of species. This is my first experience with these water and lighting parameters, so starting off thick and variable will help see what is going to work without worrying that a couple of species or placement failures might wreck the whole thing.

Pics in next post, then the list...
 

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Discussion Starter #10
From the front:
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Starting at the right side - the Anubias is NOT planted in the substrate; it's tied to mesh which is buried:
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Then right half front:
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Left half front - the blob in the back is filter floss around the intake to help with substrate debris:
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Left side:
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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
...and the List:

Critters so far are Endler's, some natural-form Neocardina (spelling?) and Malaysian trumpet snails.
Still waiting to add my final specimens until the tank has settled in a bit.

Plants - 23 species to see what works:
Staurogyne sp.
Blyxia japonica
Sagittaria subulata
Micranthemum 'Monte Carlo'
Fissidens fontanus (tied to screen)
Anubias 'nana' 'petite'
Anubias barteri var. coffeifolia
Bucephalandra (var.1)
Bucephalandra (var.2)
Bolbitis heudelotii
Crypt. wendtii (a few varieties)
Crypt. pontederilifolia
Crpt. crispatula var. balansae
Bacopa sp
Ludwigia arcuta
Ludwigia (was once called glandulosa...not sure on exact epithet)
Proserpinaca palustris
Limnophila aromatica
Unknown large aquatic (maybe a Largenendra?)
Hygrophila corymbosa var. angustifolia
Hygrophila polysperma var. sunset
Lobelia cardinalis
Nymphaea lotus micranthra 'Gefleckt'

(edited because I can't spell LOL!!!)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
While the water slowly clears, I snapped a pic of one of the Anubias sets, and got a couple of Endlers in the pic :)

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Discussion Starter #15
I'm a sucker for endlers! Nice, clean plantings, too. Did you order the fish?
Thanks. I can't wait till they fill in some and I can so my first scaping-trim...it'll be a while.
I have not ordered fish yet. I am waiting a couple weeks to see if I can find Apisto. eunotus (water parameters et cetera). I am certain the A.elizabethae will be fine in here, but not "peak"...plus so far I simply can't find them for the life of me...so be it. If I am not successful in locating them for a reasonable price I'll probably go with A.caucatoides, as they seem to be reasonably available AND reasonably priced.

Unless you happen to know someone with some A.caucatoides or similar (and/or some Otocinclus) that are already ready and available for sale?
 

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Looking good, bro! What was the fish species you had back in...[Nacogdoches??...when did you have that 125 so many years ago?]? Something that ended in "macmasteri"? Those were a fairly good species for that size planted tank, good color, and seemed to get along well with angels and such.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Hey Dave! Not sure if this is posting a reply or not (first time trying to use a phone for this) but those were also Apistogramma, and I got them from Niko when he was selling fish. They were AWESOME, but really like acidic water I had back then. They could do “okay” in what I have now but I am going to try to get fish that really like these parameters. I put a bid at AquaBid last night on a set of 9 juvenile A.cacatuoides so I’ll know if I end up with them by tonight.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
As an update I did NOT win my AquaBid, but that's okay. I am glad my little quarantine tank will have more time to cycle, plus I contacted a nearby LFS that happens to carry everything I need. So I'll be calling them early next week to place my order. In the meantime, Pio (Melinda's blue-butterfly betta) was introduced into the tank to hang out with the endlers and the shrimp. I'll have a Pio-pic soon-ish...

The aquarium is still cycling and has NOT fully cleared (dang) but I've not lost a single critter, and the water-test strips keep saying all is well...so maybe I'll just have a cloudy aquarium. We'll see...once I get my new R&J stand delivered (already ordered...couple more weeks for the build maybe) I'll be setting up a sump so I'll be able to customize my filter media a little more.

Some of the plants are not really happy, while others are doing GREAT!
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Lobelia cardinalis
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Proserpinaca palustris
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Discussion Starter #20
looking good. Any CO2? Might help with the plants that aren't doing well.
I hadn't planned on adding any CO2, which is why it was nice to be able to start with so many species all at once...see what will work with this lighting and the modest amounts of dosing I'm willing to keep up with. With my travel schedule I need inhabitants and a setup that are not quite "El Natural" but at least on the lower end of the tech-spectrum. My older kids are always willing to help with things, but I wouldn't want them responsible for monitoring CO2 levels, pH fluctuations, algal blooms et cetera while I'm out.
 
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