So I got myself a 20 gallon long (I originally bought a 20 high but was able to just make enough space to place the 20" long) and I'm thinking about going NPT.
I have a lot of questions before I get ready to jump in. Trying to keep this as limited as I can:
1. Do NPT's make the room the tank sits in smelly? I have a gravel only-based planted 5 gallon and there's no stench (as there shouldn't be). Just wondering if the dirt aspect of the NPT may cause a smelly tank or not.
2. I plan on using Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix to fill about 1.5-2" as recommended by OFL. As I don't yet have plants, my plan was to simply just place the soil in the tank for now by itself (no water, no plants, etc.) Just wanted to confirm that leaving soil sitting in a tank won't eliminate the nutrients the soil has. I plan on leaving the soil in for about a week or so as I wait for all my other materials to be delivered.
3. I anticipate having driftwood, some rocks, cave-like ornaments and obviously the plants in the tank. I plan on placing the driftwood on top of the 2" soil before capping. However, with the stem plants, should I add them in the soil before adding in play sand as the cap? Or should I cap it first, then stick in the plants through the soil and cap?
#3 is based on the assumption that I'd be putting in plants, ornaments, etc. first before putting in any water. Is adding all the plants, ornaments, etc before putting in any water the correct way to approach? Or should I add some water before aquascaping?
4. I planned on adding fish/shrimp in after a week or two of the NPT aquarium being set up. However, I know that the fish's bioload plays a role in providing nourishment for the plants. Would adding in some fish pellets sufficiently provide nutrients for the plants? Or would I need to quickly add in fish to the planted tank so the system doesn't crash from the beginning?
5. In terms of live fish, I planned on the following: 1 male betta, 10 harlequin rasboras, either cories or otos (leaning towards 6-7 cories), and amano shrimp. If I use play sand as the cap, I have to watch out for potential digging by fish. Are cories or oto's known to dig through sand and create a little mishap in the tank?
6. Part of my intrigue with going NPT is how close a mature system can be to a complete ecosystem (obviously you can't completely make this set up self-sustaining. Once mature, what kind of maintenance needs to be performed? Obviously the water changes and plant trimmings come to mind, but anything else?
Appreciate your help! I've researched this process for a month or so now but I just want to make sure I have everything covered.
Be sure to sift the soil first to remove all the wood bits so they don't make a mess of your tank later.
1. A smelly tank is a dirty tank. Keep up with your weekly water changes and you will have no problems. You get the occasional gas pocket in the soil that smells like a bad fart when it releases.
2. Shouldn't be an issue.
3. Cap the whole thing first. It you decide to move the hardscape later on you will not have to deal with the mess from the soil floating everywhere. I also found a thick layer of sand is best about 1 - 1.5 inch. Again helps to prevent soil release when the gas bubbles release.
#3. Fill the tank about 1/4 full by placing a plate on the sand and pour the water over it to not disturb the sand/soil. This makes planting a lot easier. Use tweezers to help plant if you can.
4. Put them in right away. Do some research on the silent cycle
5. The betta will probably end up eating the rasbora at some point, if not right away. General idea is if a fish is small enough to be eaten it will. I have no experience with cories or ottos. Amanos are great and they tend to grow to big to be a snack. The other thing u want are Malaysian trumpet snails. They burrow in the soil and release the gas pockets so you don't have to manually. They work like the worms do in a garden.
6. Releasing the gas pockets if you don't have snails to do it for u.