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Discussion Starter #1
I have just started on the aquatic plant hobbie, and I was lucky enough to find this great site.

My 20 gal tank contents:

PLANTS:
Currently
Ludwigia Repens, collected from a pond here in S. Florida
Unknown light green plant with much smaller leaves also collected from a pond here in S. Florida

To add
Water Sprite
A foreground carpet like plant (any suggestions?)

FISH
3 adult guppies
4 young (2 month old) guppies
15 guppy fry

Light
55W Bright Kit (TM) from A H Supply (got it late afternoon yesterday and did not go to bed until it was hooked up.. I retrofitted my existing plastic hood)

NEVER MEASURED ANY OTHER LEVELS except for PH, which has been consistently between 6.7 amd 7.0

Planning on adding DIY CO2.

QUESTIONS
1) I am not adding any fertilizer, I need something that will not affect my fish, any suggestions?

2) I have plain old garvel as substrate, I know it is really important to have a good substrate, but I cannot really afford any more expense at the moment... using plain gravel (I'd say it is about 5mm in diameter) how deep should my bed of substrate be?

3) For my CO2 setup I am planning on adding a Bell type diffuser, and am planning on using a baby bottle as the "bell" the idea is to be able to measure with the bottle marks, how much air is trapped in the "bell" and try to find out the ratio Oz of CO2 -> PH, are there any good papers on this, or on how big (diameter) should the bell be for a specified size of tank?

That's it for today, I am planning on posting some pictures of the tank later, not much time now.

Thanks everyone for your help,
~Benicio
 

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Everything sounds OK to me so far except for the bell diffuser. They're worthless, IME, and you'd do much better feeding the CO2 into your filter or a powerhead. Add CO2 from day one for best results...

Plain gravel substrate can work, and there are plenty of examples out there that prove it, so don't get caught up in the substrate hype. 5mm is a little big, but should be OK if you keep the depth 3" or deeper. If you want to bolster your substrate a bit, there are some fine products that come in tablet form from SeaChem, Aquarium Products, and Dupla-- just to name a few, that can help supply goodies to the roots of your plants. Just push them into the gravel near the base of your plants.

Another suggestion is to get 5-10lbs of coarse silica sand (pool filter sand works great) and mix it in the bottom layer of your substrate-- Or you could just pour it over the top of the existing substrate and over time it will find its way to the bottom.

Any commercial fertilizer made for aquariums will be absolutely safe for your fish. These are generally trace nutrient additives, and you'll need to supplement them with a series of macronutrients especially with the light you have decided on. Depending on your tap water, you'll need to add NO3, PO4, and K+. This may sound complicated, but it's really very simple. There is a TON of reading that you can do on the subject, or if you like, we could outline it all here for you :) I'm not going to waste the key strokes if you already know or would just rather do the reading about this, but if you'd like, I'll happily tell you what I know.

Not all commercial trace fertilizers are created equal. Many products are not geared toward the hobbyist/potential hobbyist, and only contain iron and Potassium. These aren't worth squat, IMO, and you'll have the best results using either Tropica's Master Grow or SeaChem's Flourish. Both are excellent products which will supply all the trace nutrients neccessary for excellent growth and minimizing algaes. There are other good products as well, but I like the 2 mentioned above.

Just a tip-- Plant HEAVILY from the very beginning. This is the most common mistake for beginners. Cram in as much plant as you can, and later subtract plant if you feel you must. The first 6-8 weeks is critical to the tank, and lots of plants give you the best chance for success. You have free plants so this should be easy 8)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Wheeler,

Thanks for your reply.

UPDATE:
DIY CO2 is bubbling, feeding CO2 to water intake of my Penguin Canister filter w/o BIO Wheel.

SUBSTRATE:
With three inches of substrate I will be taking of around 2 additional gallons of water from my tank... with that I will be over 3wpg... a bit high compared to what I was shooting for (2 - 2.5 wpg)...

I am going to need to buy some substrate anyway, cheap though, so I have a question, if I buy smaller (in diameter) gravel, say 3mm, will the required depth be less?

MACRONUTRIENTS
I will do some reading on this and come back with any questions.

Thanks for your suggestions, I will go out collecting and put as many plants as I can possibbly can on my tank.
 

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The watts per gallon thing is not really that specific. Just use the gross gallons of your tank, not the net. It's a very rough guide anyway....
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Here are some pics... took them with my DVR-TRV70 Camcorder using flash on portrait mode... I will try an get exposure, aperture, etc. from the camera.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Looks like I did not wait for the last picture to upload correctly. Here it goes. It is a close up of my mistery plant.
 

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Yes, Bacopa monneri is the mystery plant.

In FL, you should have a wide selection of really nice plants for free-- prolly in your backyard :)

Good start.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Bacopa monnieri it is.... I will probably put them right in the center of the aquarium's background... and move the ludwigia to the back corners... I figure lighter green in the middle should create an impression of depth.

I will definitely add water sprite (because its hardy) I am not sure what to do with the rocks... I am not sure I should leave them in there, florida rocks are most likely not good for aquariums... (limestone)

I want to add some foreground plant that is easy to grow, something to form a carpet in the front of the tank, any suggestions?
 

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If you are going to collect everything from the wild, why not get some hairgrass or Hydrocotyle verticellata (umbrella plant). Careful with the Hydrocotyle though. There seem to be two different species. When submerged, one shoots out small leaves on short petioles. The second species shoots out petioles up to a foot long and drapes silver dollar-sized leaves across the surface.

Those are limestone rocks. :)

Carlos
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Carlos,

thanks for replying.. I am going to have to go out and look for some driftwood to replace those stones... :D

In regards to the foreground plants I will look for the ones you recommend on the ponds around here, if not I will look for them at the LFS.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
This is what the tank looks after a week of having installed an AH Supply 55W 67000K Power Compact lights.

I went out collecting today so there are more plants than before
 

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