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Hello. I'm setting up a planted tank for the first time. I think stuff
I've read on lighting and CO2 is pretty straight forward, but I'm not
as sure about the substrate...

First, some tank details: 40 gallon, 36"x16" bed, fresh water, will
have lots of well-fed fishies, AquaClear 500 power filter, probably
kept at something like 75-77 degrees. Lighting will be from a strip
light that holds two 36" fluorescent bulbs (I forget what kind I
ordered, but it was a bulb that seemed widely accepted as decent.)
For substrate, I have a bag of laterite, and will get some fine gravel/
course sand for the top layer. The thing I'm wondering about most is
whether that's good enough for a substrate, or whether I should be
planning to add fertilizer as well, or what's good to add if it's
not enough.

My LFS was suggesting a liquid additive with NPK (I forget the amounts)
and when I asked about algae problems, the person just told me to get
some algae eating shrimp and some flying foxes.

The local nursery sells two products that I examined for a while,
before deciding to put off making a decision. The first one was a
liquid trace element additive. It had something like 3 or 3.5%
chelated iron, and also had chelated manganese, and a few other
trace elements (I forget which, although I do remember that molybdenum
was not one of them). The second one was a tablet to bury in the
substrate that had NPK (something like 20-10-10, I think) and about
.3% iron in the form of ferrous sulfate.

I wasn't sure about either of these -- will the liquid one help the
algae as much as (more than?) the plants? Will the solid one add more
nitrates and phosphates than I need? Won't the ferrous sulfate just
dissolve and oxidize? (Is laterite capable of adsorbing it and
preventing that? This was sold as an aquatic plant fertilizer. If the
laterite can do that, then I could even get both and soak a drop or two
of the trace element liquid into the solid tablets before I bury them...)

So...any advice? Or is this something I should wait to play with until
I see whether the tank needs it?