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Re: New Tank Setup Guide - Parts 1 and 2

You really don't have enough light for the plants you have. Only mosses, perhaps anubias, maybe valisneria would grow with that light. But, you didn't really give us enough information to understand what your problems are: tank size, light wattage, what fish are dying, how you feed them, etc? I suspect overfeeding the fish is causing them to die, but I'm not sure.
 

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Your tank is 48 inches long, so there are very many aquarium lights made to fit that size. I suggest you look at ebay, craigslist, and other websites for 48 inch long fixtures. Here is one that is cheap and will give you 80 watts of light, excellent for lower light plants: http://tinyurl.com/4dgp6p
Here is a better one, but you would have to replace the bulbs with 6700K to 10,000K bulbs, but it would let you grow almost any aquatic plants: http://tinyurl.com/3l2tdl
And, another one that would let you grow almost any plants, but should use 6700 to 10,000K bulbs: http://tinyurl.com/4zufrr

There are many others available both on ebay and on other websites.
 

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The way to set up a planted tank is to put a lot of fast growing stem plants in right from the beginning, and that means covering the substrate with individually planted stems. Those fast growing plants will use up whatever ammonia is released by the fish and substrate, as it is released, so ammonia never is a problem, which means nitrite never is a problem either. To make those fast growing stem plants grow fast you need to be dosing a complete fertilizer menu, from NPK and traces to CO2. In a week or so you can add a few algae eating fish, like otos and a few small cheap fish like guppies. Then, after a couple of weeks to a month you can start replacing the stem plants with other plants you want to keep.

Don't be concerned about pH. Instead, try for low KH if you want to keep fish and plants that prefer "soft" water.

If you have a fish only tank, the "rules" are different and what you look for and do is also different, but this is about planted tanks.
 
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