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[APD] Help With My New Tank!!


I have just subscribed to this mailing list so I hope
this goes through okay...

I am just starting on a new 120g tank which I hope
will end up being a planted discus biotope. 
Unfortunately, there is a bit of a rush on this since
I have small discus in a makeshift quarentine tank.  I
really don't think its good to have him in there for
too long...

I have been doing a lot of reading and so I have a lot
of questions.  Please bare with me.

I guess the first place to start would be the
substrate.  I guess I should mention that while
asthetics are very important to me, cost is even more
of a concern.  My original concept was to use a nice
tan/yellow color sand for the substrate. 
Unfortunately, I can't seem to locate any such
substrate anywhere.  Silica sand / play sand don't
seem to have the appeal I am looking for.  Unless,
anyone can suggest a better looking sand I might be
forced to use black sandblasting sand.  

I guess besides asthetics the real question for me is
should I use all sand or mix of other substrates.  I
recently read an article that suggested soil + sand.
http://www.aquatic-gardeners.org/budget.html  Is this
a good option for plants?  Does it prevent compacting?
I'd rather have a substrate that did not change its
properties after a few months.  ie I don't want to
always be fertilizing and such.

Next the big debate, should I use heating coils. 
Based on what I have read I am interested in trying
them if I can find them!!!  Have not been able to
locate any website that sells them.  Do they still
exist?  My other big question about the cables is:
Since I need a water temperature of 86degrees won't a
higher temperature substrate be too hot for plants?

Lastly, for lighting I was interested in have numerous
spot bulbs for the tank. Something like the sun
hitting the water through the trees.  Varying areas of
light and shadow.  Maybe 4-8 bulbs.  Is this
possible???  What type of bulbs would I need?  At the
extreme I was thinking that I could even have the
bulbs on a timing system to vary the look throughout
the day.  ie something like the sun rising then
setting on the aquarium.

Thanks in advance for any help offered,


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