New 55

> From: Tom Misiak <misiak at fsu_fsufay.edu>
> Anyways, can anybody suggest a good substrate and variety of plants I
> could use succesfuly in this set up?  

For substrate, I would recommend using quartz gravel with a grain size
of about 1/16".  Use enough for about 3" total depth.  Order 500 grams
of Duplarit-G (specially processed tropical laterite) from Pet
Warehouse ($12.98) and mix it into the lower 1" of the gravel. This
supplies initial amounts of iron and other nutrients and provides 
binding sites for replacement nutrients. Tablets with nitrates and
phosphates are supplied with the Duplarit-G to act as a "root starter"
until the natural biological filtration kicks in to provide a steady
source of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Get a lot of fast growing stem plants to start with.  These will help
the tank cycle by keeping ammonia and nitrite spikes very low.  They
will also give off allelochemicals to help prevent algae from getting
a toehold. The more starter plants, the better.  Use Hygrophila
species, especially H. polysperma.  Ludwigia sp., Bacopa sp., Rotala
sp. are also very good initial plants.  Don't worry much about
aquascaping at first.  

BE SURE to set up your CO2 injection right away.  Don't make the
mistake of waiting "until the tank stabilizes".  The initial plants
need CO2 and good fertilizers right from the start.  The freshly
set up, sterile tank will be hostile to plants and they need all the
help they can get. I would highly recommend Duplaplant tablets and
Duplaplant-24 drops.  Pet Warehouse also carries those. They may seem
expensive but they go a long way and WORK.
BE SURE to have some algae eating fish in the tank RIGHT AWAY and
DON'T FEED THEM!  The tank is very unstable at first and some algae
*will* crop up.  With a good mix of *hungry* algae eaters, you won't
have any problems.  Get a variety - different kinds like different
algae. I would recommend at least 1 Farlowella acus, 6-10 otocinclus
sp. (some will die right away - get more than you need) and some
Siamese Algae Eaters (Crossocheilus siamensis) if you can find them. 
Some lyre-tail black mollies also work, but they will not like the 
salt-free water and will die after awhile. Don't bother with
Plecostomus.  Also get a couple Corydorus catfish to start with.
Don't start adding "real" fish until the tank has been running 6 to 8

> I've heard various opinions on peat moss, vermaculite etc.  I will not
> be using a UGF.  I've thought about using peat, vermaculite, sand -
> but don't know if that would be a good idea.  

Not a good idea, IMHO.  Don't listen to them other folks :-)

> btw, what would be a good 2 or 3 bulb combination?

I use 1 or 2 40w Penn-Plax Ultra Tri-Lux bulbs and 1 40w Triton bulb.  
A little expensive, but well worth it. 

I would also recommend you obtain a copy of "The Optimum Aquarium" by
Horst and Kipper ($19.95, Pet Warehouse).  It has very good background
material on successful plant tanks even though it tends to heavily
promote Dupla products. A great start for your library.