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Newbie Design Challenge


Hello all,


I think I am ready to take the plunge and convert my 120g cichlid tank to a
planted tank. I have had fairly good success at keeping a rocky tank, but my
plant success has been severely limited. After reading up a lot on keeping
planted tanks, I have found that my environment (cichlids, huge plecos, poor
light, etc.) was not conducive to live plant life beyond 3 mos. 


The challenge is that I have about a $1000 approved startup budget. $400 of
that is being spent procuring good (?) lights. 


Here is what I am starting with:


120g glass tank on sturdy stand

2x Eheim 2224

DIY wet/dry 

Emperor dual bio-wheel hang-on

2x 192w dual bulb Jalli Deluxe power compact (w/ 4x 7100K 96W)

About 100# of large honeycombed limestone rock

(current substrate is 4-6mm dia. epoxy-coated gravel mixed with crushed
seashells but I plan on trashing that)


Here's what I need (to cover about 1450 sq in of tank bottom):




Algae eaters



I am hoping with the $600 remaining budget I can take care of all the above
needs in a long-term way, so that I can eventually get a CO2 system going
and grow just about anything. 


I have found plenty of info on what kind of fish and algae eaters to get
(except I still don't know where to find true SAEs), but I am still unclear
on the plants and substrate. 


In an ideal world, it seems like I would want 100% flourite, but by my
calculations, covering 1450 sq in, 3 in. deep will cost around $250-350. I
have read that 50/50 with sandblasting sand is good, but that is still
pretty expensive. I've read about TexBlast mixed with laterite which sounds
affordable. I am still a little unclear on how to use laterite. How much
would I need? What maintenance is required for laterite?


So I guess my main question is, given no plated tank experience, what would
you do given the available budget? 


What substrate/combo gives the most bang for the buck?


Where can I order SAEs? 


What kind of plants will grow with the above lighting, and won't die without
injected CO2?


Where can I get a large assortment of such plants to fill a 120g tank? How
many of what types do I need? 


How many of which scavengers do I need? Is there a science to getting X
amount of X type per gallon or something?









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