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Discussion Starter #1
I am in the planning stages of considering setting up a dirt + cap natural planted 20 gallon long (male) betta + community tank, following OFL's wonderful guidelines.
I'll have lots of questions on plants and fish, but for now I'd appreciate any and all feedback on the setup.

Goal: EASY MAINTENANCE. Low tech, low light, hardy plants, hardy fish. I have young kids, large dog, and house projects galore- I need this tank to not be a time sink after the first couple of months at most.

Constraint: Water is midwestern city water, hard and very high pH; our current 5.5 gallon--not planted--tank has a pH of 8.4 (Do I need to figure out how to measure GH and KH...?)

THANKS!

Proposed equipment list (this is my list-to-self, so I added prices for my reference. Sorry it's so long!!)

* Tank. It's going to be a living room tank where you can see it from all sides. Considering going with acrylic, for looks, weight, and not breakable...Basic Glass 20 gallon long $30, or Clear for Life, $200 (if I can get it without the background?), otherwise Glasscages $207-232 incl top
* Lid...a glass lid and then the light goes on top? Marineland glass canopy $19
* Lights. Thinking Aqueon expandable LED $60, because it's expandable. Or: 30" single bulb fluorescent strip $30 with [???can't find 30" bulbs @ ~ 6500K], or Finnex Stingray $53
*Substrate: Miracle Gro Organic $8/bag (then sift thoroughly) Or Mineralized Topsoil, $5 + ship. Cap - black aquarium sand $5 (then wash thoroughly).
[?do I need to add clay to the soil? I keep seeing this..]
[ or Aquasoil with Osmocote+? PRICEY but will it lower the pH & ease replanting...?]
* Filter. I care about adequate circulation for plants and QUIET--this tank will be in our living room. I have better results removing the stock cartridge and filling our HOB with filter floss, so I'd expect the cartridges don't matter so much (?).I don't have room outside the tank to put a canister filter (e.g. Sunsun hw602 $36)...but maybe I need to figure that out...HOB: Aqua clear 20, $26 or Fluvial C $35
* Heater Hydor Theo 100W, $18
* Thermometer Hagen glass with suction cup $3
* Plants. TBD, following OFL's list and recommendation to start with fast-growing, 3-4 types of stem plants, a few rosette, and a couple types of floaters to see what does best. (?Where to buy? ?Buy individually or a starter pack?)
* Driftwood/rocks. Having major sticker shock!! I'd like a piece of driftwood and some rocks and hope to create a cave-ish formation out of some of them. Ideas:Mopani medium, $7 (boil for tannins). Search for my own rocks- pour vinegar on it and check - want no bubbles
* Airstone for looks/increase CO2 (?)
* Fish. TBD. Male betta + a couple types of small, schooling, non-nippy fish. Fish algae eater needed. [Snails: Unlikely. Not trumpet (don't want to have to cull the herd), not nerite (egg clouds would drive me nuts)...think betta would eat antennae off others. Shrimp: Unlikely as water parameters might not meet their needs and they are so sensitive.]
 

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sounds like you have a plan. asfar as plants go, find a local store with lots of plants for a good price or buy online. jdaquatics plants were very reasonable and all are doing great in my tanks( he is a member). there are some plant deals in the market place aswell.

water can be easy, maybe find a local shop you can buy good water from. we buy our saltwater for a dollar a gallon ready to go.

there is cholla for sale in the market place with some very interesting looking pieces.

mystery snails are pretty neat.

i think airstones slightly remove co2

i just ordered a stingray for 1 of our tanks. many recommend them
 

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I can't remember where exactly I heard about it (I think from a member here long ago), but this is where I'm planning on getting plants for the 20G long I just bought. I've remember hearing great things about them and asking some questions with the owner and getting great responses. I never ordered in the past because it was always easier to go to the pet store, but after getting a batch of pond snails I'm over Petco. :roll:

Also, Petco is running the $1 per gallon sale through the end of the month (while supplies last), so if you grab your 20G there it'll only be $20 for a basic tank with NO extras. That's what we did!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the info re stingray. Do you just put it over a glass top? All the pics I've seen have no lid, but with evap and jumping I'd need a lid.

Will look more into mystery snails. No Petco nearby :(

I might need to make posts for specific questions...

Do you know what a quiet filter would be for a 20G that doesn't require external room? Can a sponge filter be used in a planted tank or is it a pain to maintain?

Any experience with acrylic tanks? That's an expensive decision- I'd like to make the right one the first time.

Thanks!
 

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Thanks for the info re stingray. Do you just put it over a glass top? All the pics I've seen have no lid, but with evap and jumping I'd need a lid.

Will look more into mystery snails. No Petco nearby :(

I might need to make posts for specific questions...

Do you know what a quiet filter would be for a 20G that doesn't require external room? Can a sponge filter be used in a planted tank or is it a pain to maintain?

Any experience with acrylic tanks? That's an expensive decision- I'd like to make the right one the first time.

Thanks!
I think I would look into a HOB (hang on back) filter for a 20 gallon. These are not hard to maintain at all. Another posted recommends checking the motor every once in a while just to make sure it doesn't get clogged. I am partial to the Aqua Clear filters.

Glass tanks are far cheaper than acrylic and I find there is less distortion (I have one of each). Acrylic tanks are also easily scratched. :(
 

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I would like to recommend trumpet snails for your aquarium. They spend nearly all their time in the substrate, aerating and moving 'fertiliser' from on top of the soil to below. I have them in my aquariums, I almost never see them, I've never needed to cull the herd, and they do serve a pretty important purpose in low maintenance NPTs.

I would also like to second the vote for glass. Acrylic scratches so very easily, and you will need to clean algae off sooner or later, plus you have sand... it's literally a matter of time before you scrape a sand particle all over your front glass. On glass, this will likely do very little. On acrylic, this will leave you with a giant scratch.
 

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RusselltheShihTzu
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I have a lid on my 20 long with the Finnex Stingray. www.truaqua.com has a site-wide 20% discount for BF members. I have two of these in my 20 long (I'm the Queen of Overfiltration). If anything on the site interests you send me a PM for the code.

http://www.truaqua.com/aquatop-internal-filter-ifs-10.html

This is my 20 long PetSmart buy. Not NPT but it does have two Finnex StingRay fixtures on it. This picture was taken before I added the Dwarf Water Lettuce from Lilnaugrim and the Frogbit from Aqua Aurora (Betta Classifieds) to cut down the brightness a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the info!
Re trumpet snails. I am really conflicted on this one, and appreciate the input. They seem so important to the aquarium, and I'd enjoy having them, but I hear horror stories of overpopulation issues and have seen experiments demonstrating it's not related to overfeeding... some NPT'ers seem to manage by culling occasionally and then using them as food for the fish. Think I might post a separate thread for MTS experiences once I've got the aquarium ready to think about stocking.

Do you have loaches or use other population controls?

And thanks for the glass/acrylic input. Definitely seems like glass is the way to go.

RussellTheShihTzu- Your tank is gorgeous! And you always give the most informative replies- it's appreciated. I'll check out that site and PM you for the code once I'm ready to buy. Two stingrays is out of my price range, unfortunately.

Internal filters would be nice looks and noise-wise and the price is sure right- are the PIA to clean or would they clog easily with a soil-based tank? Would two IFS10s be preferable over just buying an IFS20?

Thanks!
 

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RusselltheShihTzu
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One Stingray will work just fine. I got carried away. :)

I like having two because I can put one in each back corner and get equal water flow. I turn the spray bars to the side walls. I don't have any trouble cleaning the impellers....just remembering to do it. :roll: Overall cleaning is easy peasy. When the charcoal runs out you can put in Purigen. I believe I chose the IFS10 originally because I felt the IFS20 would be too tall.
 

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for the filters I would actually recommend using Sponge filters with an air pump. Pricing wise is far cheaper and utility wise I feel they work FAR better than HOB filters.
 

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Airstone for looks/increase CO2[/U][/B] (?)]
An airstone will actually decrease the amount of co2 in the water. It's still a good idea to have one though, because fish tend to do better with more oxygen. If you want you can just run it at night, when your live plants stop producing oxygen. If you want to boost co2 levels, flourish excel is a good option. You can also either buy or make a co2 diffuser. Here's a great video if you decide to go the diy route: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHy4CtmnzeA
 

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RusselltheShihTzu
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Seachem Flourish Excel is great but be careful if you have Anacharis which Seachem strongly recommends not be planted in tanks using Excel. If you have Crypts and Vals start slowly and build up to full dosing.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for the info. I'm going to be buying equipment in the next few days- and then I'll make a post of my proposed plants for feedback :) My plan is to buy a cheap glass 20L and an internal filter (quieter, hopefully easy to clean)- I'm looking at two IFS10's. I won't start with an air stone, and my goal is low-tech, low maintenance. I'm hoping to avoid things like Excel and fertilizers, but it's good to know and the info is useful in case its needed. I'm between the Stingray and Fugeray plus lights...Thx again!
 
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