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RE: Newbie Design Challenge

Well if you have not purchased the light yet then go over to www.ahsupply.com and get the lights there. You will save a bunch of money you can use on other things. And the added bonus is the AH Supply reflectors really do put more light into the tank. BTW, is your 120 gallon a 4' or 6' long tank? If it's 4' get the AH Supply 55 watt kits as their 22" length works much better than the 96 watt kit 33" length.

You will want to dump the limestone rock also. It will mess with your kH and pH too much to do you any good. As for substrate with that much area to cover and the budget you have you are not going to be able to use straight Onyx or Flourite. So you will want to go with a 50/50 mix of Flourite and gravel. That would take eight bags of Flourite to give you 2" and then 2" of natural gravel in the 1-3 mm size. For the gravel you want to check out the industrial supply houses and buy it in 100 lb bags which should run you around $10-$15 a bag. You are going to need around 150-200 lbs of gravel as I find the 50/50 mix should be based on depth other than weight. I would avoid the laterlite as it can cause problems when removing plants. And you will be removing plants.

Then the next thing you want to put in the tank is plants, lots of fast growing stem plants to avoid as much algae as possible in the startup. I would head over to some where like www.aquabotanic.com and get some algae buster packs. Depending on your tank length you would want to get around 4-6 20 packs of plants to start. Then when those plants are going good you can take the clipping to the LFS and trade them in for credit and extend your budget.

Algae eaters... well you are going to need some Ottos, and some SAE. If you get the smaller Ottos get as many as your budget will allow. I normally keep one per 5-7 gallons. With the SAE you want to get around 4-6, remember they get big quick. Get them all at the same time and you will have less aggression problems among them, at least that has been my experience. If you want Amano shrimp then get those, but they are budget killers.

You did not mention where you live so it's hard to give recommendations on where to get items.

Now you have an idea of how your budget is going to run and you should find that you can also get a CO2 system if you do it right. And at the light levels you want to start at a CO2 system is really going to help. All you really need is a cylinder, regulator, needle valve and reactor. The cylinder can be found at a welding shop, home brew shop, or welding shop. Call around and get prices on a 10 lb tank. You should be able to get a tank for around $50 if you shop around. The regulator can get gotten on-line, at a welding shop or home brew shop. A regulator should not cost you more than about $50 if you shop around. The needle valve is going to run you $10 if you have a Clippard Distributor close by. Otherwise save yourself a lot of hassle and buy one from Aqua Botanic for $18 that already comes with one of the adaptors you will need to fit it to your regulator. The reactor you can build out of PVC pipe and plug it into the output side of one of your Eheim filters.

Feel free to ask more questions.

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