So I've been digging back through the forum and doing some research and I have decided to turn my 30 gallon community tank into a full out npt but I still have a few questions before I go shopping and get started.
1. Is there anything I need to avoid or look for when buying topsoil? Any recommended brands?
2. Should I leave my filter running for the first (days, weeks, a month???) until the cycle is established?
3. How long should I wait to reintroduce my fishies? I have read conflicting opinions from months to immediately? As long as my levels are fine are the fish ok to enter?
Thanks in advance for any and all advice! Sorry for all of the questions (and the million more I'm sure I'll have before I'm done).
I'm setting my 30L NPT up this week too.. the advice I've had from OldFishLady and others is -- if you want to put the fish in right away, make sure to have lots and lots of fast growing stem plants to uptake the ammonia. Some swords and other heavy root-plants are good to help aerate the soil. Swords like to eat nitrates, too.
Clean topsoil is okay, many people use that with a cap of sand. I'm using half aged organic potting mix, half organic soil activator (I've heard wonderful things about this mix, looking forward to trying it) capped with washed river sand.
I'm choosing to use a sponge filter, necessary or not, for some water movement.
I always add livestock the same day I set one up....Red cherry shrimp, common snails, trumpet snails, a small pleco and either Bettas or guppies-sometimes both depending on tank size...I have never lost any livestock.....But as Aus posted.....I start with lots of stem plants and floating plants....at least 75% of the floor will be planted and 10-25% of the surface with floating plants.....
As far as soil.....top soil, organic potting soil...all work provided that it doesn't have any additives-You want to sift it or pick through it to get the large piece of organics out. With top soil-you may want to lay it out on a tarp or something to let it air out for 24h-especially if its wet....
Lighting is one of the most important things for successfully planted tanks-dirt or not.......without proper lighting to promote growth-the plants can't take care of the water.....I use daylight 6500k bulbs I get in the lighting dept and start on 12h/day PP-I want fast growth and need to trim within the first 4-7 days of planting...If the plants are growing they are eating....lol....
Filters-I generally will use a filter of some type for at least the first 30 days...In tanks 10gal and smaller I don't use filters long term and will remove them-But in 20gal and larger I do...but it more for water movement-they get clogged pretty fast and I may turn them off for weeks to months with no ill effect to the system or livestock...but I like the look of the plants waving in the current.....
Remember that, you need to test daily, to make sure you have enough plants sucking the ammonia up, or you will need to remove the fish and any other sensitive animals.
Buy a lot of plants, I thought I bought enough, but nope, I didn't even have half enough, so that is whats gonna break the bank.
Thanks for the heads up! Not finding enough plants is my main worry. My one LPS is pretty consistantly stocked with tons of plants but if not it may be a slow process, my Petsmart's plant selection is pretty nonexistant. Still I can't wait for tomorrow even if I have to scour my entire county!! :)
Npt update: My dream of a npt has been temporarily placed on hold :( Just when I decide to go all out there is a shortage of aquatic plants in my area :( I did go ahead and switch to sand substrate which was quite an experience, and moved my fake plants to my sorority tank adding in the few real plants I did manage to find. Anyways here is the new tank in progress...While plant shopping my husband spotted this Titanic like cave so apparently we are switching from Super Mario to a Titanic theme which fits because we are going to the Titanic museum and Ripley's Aquarium in a few weeks :) . We will have to check Petsmart later on for a good background and another decoration or 2 but it's a start and my first experience with real plants other than the anacharis I have in the sorority tank.