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Re: NFC: Basic new aquarium set up, basic aquarium maintenance schedule

This is just a suggestion of one possible scenario in setting up the kind of
display you've mentioned based on my own experiance. Hope it helps.

Setup and Maintanance of Public Aquarium Displays
Initial Set Up

Tank- 20 gallon long

Lighting- single standard commercial hood light, with a full spectrum daylight

Substrate- 50/50 gravel and archilite( Profile's Proffessional Aquatic Plant
Soil) Mix a handful of gravel from a well seasoned tank including the mulm.
Also add about 5 gallons of seasoned water on initial setup. Place a few   (
less is more ) pieces of Plant tabs for aquatic plants strategicaly throughout
the substrate to get the plants growing. With age and an accumulation of
ditritus, the substrate will be able to maintane the rooted plants with the
need for additional fertilizer.  

Water- Use a conditioner such as Amquel to remove the toxins ( chlorine,
chroramines, ammonia ) because this product will not intefere with the
essential elements required by the plants and fish. Some of the other products
lock these essentials up, making them unavailable to the plants and fish. Add
5 gallons of seasoned water from a old cycled tank or pond. If you know the
water conditions to be adaquate, not polluted, than 5 gal. of wild lake,
stream or pond water on the second week of cycling would also help increase
the infusoria and other essential microbes.

Filtration- Aqua-Clear power filters are cheap and effective and relatively
maintanance free. Use it at initial setup to remove particulate, then discard
the charcoal filter bag and use ceramic bio-blocks in it's place. At this
point the filter isn't really removing anything from the water, but instead,
transforming the ammonia into useable nutrient.

Temperture- The tank in my setup stays constant at around 78F from the ambient
heat of the lighthood. I doubt a heater would be nescessary, though easy to
add if it becomes so. I use a 'stick on the side of the tank' thermoreader to
keep track of the temp.

Plants- Live plants are an nescessary elemant in the setup. They remove toxins
and filter the water naturally.
The best plants for this purpose and in conjunction with the lighting would be
Java moss, Cerataphyllum demersum, young Vallisnaria, or other grasslike
aquatics and dwarf or slow growing Nymphaea species. Do not use plants such as
Cabomba or others that produce large amounts of mulm. Remember, a heavily
planted tank is able to support more fish without more maintanance. I have
recently added water sprite, though not much growth yet, it may prove to be an
intersting addition as a low growing foreground plant.

Fish- a community set up will work well in this low maintanance setup. I would
suggest adding all the fish load at once so they can set up territories. Later
additions would be susceptable to disputes, sort of like adding to any bio-
load even in the wild. I have had up to 20 fish in a 20 gal. long for almost a
year now with relatively no probs and very little maintanance. I would ,
however suggest no more than 15 or so. The stress of overcrowding has a
tendancy to produce fungal infections. A single dwarf crayfish might be in
order too, as they only feed on ditritus( mulm ) and won't bother the fish.
Just make sure the fish are compatable both in numbers and gender.

General Ongoing Maintanance

Place the tank away from any natural light source.

Feeding- Feed every other day with frozen foods such as Brine and occasionaly
bloodworms. Shrimp heads would also be a nice treat and help the fish keep
color either dropped in whole or chopped up. Feed only what the fish will
consume in 10 minutes. If food remains any longer uneaten, then you've fed too
much. Flake and dry foods tend to cloud the water and mess with the chemistry.

Water- Change the water once a month or so. 1/4 tank (5 gal.) changes will do.
Use Amquel to condition the tap water the day before and put an airstone in
the bucket. You can also use a bag of peat balls to temper the PH if
nescessary. Squeeze the peat into the bucket once it is waterlogged.

Cleaning- You probably won't need to clean the substrate, especially if you
stick to low mulm producing plants. Clean algea growth ONLY from the viewing
sides of the tank. Algea is a great natural filter and I believe nescessary to
the health of the tank. The filter should not require any cleaning after the
initial setup.

Disease- On the first sign of fungal infection, usually seen as the fish beat
or brush thier bodies against  against plants and substrate, dose the tank
with Quick-Cure. I use it at just a little over half the recomended dosage and
use it for a few days until the infection or the signs thereof clear up. I
know salt is also a recomended treatment, but again, it  messes with the
chemistry and requires water changes following the treatment. The Quick-Cure
does not interupt the regular maintanance scheduale. If the infection
persists, replace the infected fish. Eventualy you'll end up with fish
resistant to the fungal infections. 

These suggestions are based on a 20 gal. long setup I have had running for
almost a year now. I change the water once a month following the prcedure
mentioned above. It hs Java moss over the entire footprint interspused with a
Nymphaea species and Cerataphyllum growing across the top of the entire tank
which needs occasional trimming. Rocks for hiding places would work also. I
would refrain from using wood as it too will tend to change the chemistry of
the water. But thats a judgement call. If you have a stable wood, use it. This
is one of the easiest tanks I've ever had, hope this helps.
Good luck with your project Charles and keep us informed.