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Big Ol' Question from a Reassured Newbie

Matt wrote:

> So, on to my main question: I am setting up a 20 (english)/25(American)
> gallon planted tank
> 1/2 inch of sharp red sand (sharp as in contains pieces of sharp gravel)
> 1/2 inch of garden soil, very rich, nearly black in colour,
> 1 1/2" of rounded aged aquarium gravel, mostly 5 - 8mm in diameter.

I think your plants would appreciate more gravel.  3" - 4" is pretty

> I filled the tank with this lot, then thought "Hmm my garden is
> pretty lush. Maybe there's too much algae food in the soil! Erk!"

Presuming you're afraid of phosphates, they generally stay bound in the

> - -Vallisneria spp at the back
> - -Echinodorus quadricostatus at the front to provide a "lawn"
> - -Another Echinodorus species (bleheri?) somewhere about the middle
> - -A large red leaved feature plant , possibly Alternanthera sessilis
> - -Some Hydrocotyle leucopetala or Green Cabomba at the
> sides/back to provide  height.

> As for lighting, I plan to have 3 15" fluorescent tubes (no idea
> of wattage. 30 watts sound about right? or too high for small tubes? the
> one I have  is ::sealed:: inside a fitting at present and the writing is
> turned away from  the glass!)

10w - 15w per bulb is likely, bringing your total wattage to between 30w and
45w over 20gal.  If there's any way to determine how much light you really
have, and the spectrum, you'll have a much clearer idea of what you can
grow.  Cabomba, for instance, isn't happy at under 2 w/gal, and you may have
trouble with the pennywort as well.  The vals and chain swords should do

> The budget won't run to a CO2 tank at present but I can at least use a
yeast bottle.

DIY CO2 should work fine for a 25g tank.

> No idea of my water hardness at present, but the water comes out
> of the tap at pH ~7.1 and is 'Medium hard' compared to other water I have
> drunk/washed in about the country.

You'll defintely appreciate knowing both your GH and KH.  The Tetra
combination kit is cheap and readily available.

> The fish I have at present are: a pair of Blue gouramies, a Gold
> gourami and two (probably not a pair) Speckled Corydoras cats. (Got a fish
> book open in front of me ... my but those Diamond Tetras are
cute....Ahem.) I
> would also  like to add a Ram cichlid pair (Not even going to try for the
> latin name :)  and a shoal of Cardinal tetras or Tiger barbs.

Sounds ambitious for a 25g.  The best advice I've been given about starting
planted tank is to plant it heavily right off the bat with fast-growing
species (which can be abandoned later if necessary), a few Otocinclus and
SAEs and no other fish.  And don't feed for a month.  They'll have plenty of
algae to clean up for you.  After a month one can slowly start adding more

> 1. Will this set-up, in its present form, cause me any great
> problems? Am I  doing anything REALLY wrong?

Buy a GH/KH test kit and learn about the relationship between KH, pH and
CO2.  Plant heavily and add your CO2 source NOW.  Fish Later.

> 2. Will this set-up, with proper care, produce good plant growth?
Of course not. <g>

michael rubin
michael at rubinworld_com