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optimum aquarium

I agree with Ms. Alysoun (who's last name I can't remember how to
spell) in he saying that the best thing for a beginner to do is to
start off simple and gradually aquire more sophisticated equipment as
time, money, and experience allow.  I started with a tank that was
basically, a 2 watts per gallon, plain gravel, and some fish.  Adding
plants to this tank taught me the basics like water chemistry, layout,
plant varieties, and patience when something went wrong.  It also
meant that I couldn't disasterously muck something up while I was
still learning.  It also helped keep costs down (I was about 13 when I
first got into this and was doing it on less than $5 a week).  I have
since gone to a fairly high tech tank (VHO, canister filter,
pressurized CO2, etc.)  The added complexity helps me to do the things
I want to with my tank, like fast plant growth so I can propagate
plants to sell, and it helps keep the plants looking the way I want. 
I have found this stuff very useful, but I have also had some problems
(like my crypts melting from too much CO2 too fast) and others that
could have potentially killed fish or done other damage.  All the
added junk also seems like a major investment for someone just
gettinginto a hobby.

Now, for my own equipment question.  I am in the process of setting up
a 100 gallon and am trying to decide if I want to add substrate
heating cables to the setup.  The setup I am planning is a trickle
filter with 1/2 the bio-balls reccomended, pressurized CO2 with a
Dupla reactor in the sump, Flourite or laterite substrate (I still
haven't decided), and 420 watts of VHO in in the form of 3 five foot
tubes.  Would heating cables be worth the added expense?  Are they
much of a hassle?  Is it difficult to do DIY (I'd probably buy the
Dupla cables and hold-downs, and cobble the rest together).  Having
searched sites and done other research, there are enough voices for
both sides of the issue that I reamain unsure of their effect. 
Understanding why and how they work would go a long way towards
helping, and no one seems to agree on this point.  If someone could
explain the process to me, I would really appreciate it.


Justin Collins
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