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[APD] Amazonian blackwater semi-biotope tank planning

I have just received the go-ahead for my first proper tropical aquarium, which is going to be in our living room in front of some palm plants. It’s going to be a 30”x18”x15” 30 gallon tank because of space considerations, with an Interpet 150W heater and a Fluval 104 filter with some ‘Bioplast Hum-Aktiv Peat Granules’. The substrate is going to be dark sand, ‘Dupla Root’ (which I think is laterite), some peat and mulm/pre-soaked potting soil, with a 25W Rena Cor heating cable chucked in for good measure (one of the few things I have already, oddly).
The lighting is going to be a 25W Triton and a 25W Arcadia Freshwater lamp, held over the water so the tank is open-topped.
My plan is to make an Amazonian blackwater river type biotope, with two angelfish, 15+ cardinal tetras, 6+ otocinclus and lots of reedy-type plants. Some links I’ve found that are a bit like what I want are:
Although I’d like a slightly less artificial planting arrangement (but I do like the tank otherwise).
I’m probably going to use dark sand, since the only thing I could find about the bed of a blackwater river was ‘The river bed is orange/pinkish colored clay’.
I want some Amazonian vallis (if it exists), some floating plants, some nice emergent growth and some reedy plants or plants like sword plants that the fish can swim in, while leaving some open swimming room.
How would I do dead leaves? Is it alright to leave a few trimmed off leaves of plants in the aquarium?
Some plants I’ve considered are:
Any sort of Vallis from the Amazon
I can’t find any Anubias or Cryptocoryne native to the Amazon, so not them.
Echinodorus amazonicus or bleheri in the background
Echinodorus parviflorus in the midground
Echinodorus bolivianus or tennelus in the foreground
Any suitable lily-like floating/emergent plants (I would like Victoria Lily but I think it might be slightly to big :-) )
And from Tropica…
Alternanthera reineckii ''roseafolia''
Cabomba caroliniana
Echinodorus macrophyllus (for the emergent growth?)
Echinodorus martii (maior)
Echinodorus osiris (red leaves!)
Echinodorus quadricostatus ''magdalenensis'' (runner plant)
Echinodorus uruguayensis – looks reedy to me (good?)
Eichhornia crassipes – a noxious weed, apparently (I live in the UK, and I don’t think it’s a problem here, though)
Hydrocotyle verticillata – a possible lily substitute?
Limnobium laevigatum – another possible lily substitute?
Ludwigia helminthorrhiza
Phyllanthus fluitans – apparently a member of a family of desert plants.
Sagittaria subulata
Any suggestions, tips or advice would be GREATLY appreciated.

Also, if I’ve made a mistake somewhere, it might be because this now the third time I have had to write this email because of this machine crashing then being logged out.

Andrew McLeod
thefish at theabyssalplain_freeserve.co.uk

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