This is my first post, but I have been lurking. I was hoping to get some feed back to see if I'm good to go on stocking my established tank with plants.
I have had tropical and/or Rift Valley cichlids for most of my adult life. I even dabbled in high tech planted tanks about 15 years ago. I had a 29g long with CF lighting, pressurized CO2 and Carib-sea "peace river" and flourite substrate mixed at about 50/50 ratio. I had it about a year before I ended up having to break down the tank due to moving across the country. When settled, I went with cichlids due to simplicity. So I have a little planted tank experience, albeit it was years ago.
About three years ago, after several more moves and three kids, I decided to set up another fish only tank. Rather than drag the now very old and scratched up 29g out of the attic, I opted for your typical Petsmart special 65g with a Fluval 306 filter. I still had my Carib-sea/flourite substrate, so I gave it a thorough rinse and used it along with my river rock hardscape and a few small pieces of driftwood from my old tropical tank. After cycling the tank I bought some fish and all was good.
Fast forward two and a half years... I got the itch for another planted tank. Due to lack of funds, I am converting the established tropical tank to a low tech, low to medium light planted one. I have purchased a LED light as well as added an additional 20lb of the Carib-sea substrate to give me about 3" of substrate. If I need more, I imagine I will get more Flourite. The details on the tank are as follows:
Tank: 65g (36Lx18Dx24H) with glass top
Filter: Fluval 306
Light: Finnex Planted + 24/7 SE, 36" and the 36" T8 which came with the tank. Photo period and intensity TBD
based on observed results, but I will probably start with the 24/7 mode and run the T8 on a timer for a few hours between 2:00 to 6:00 PM.
Substrate: Carib-Sea "peace river" with flourite mixed in. My guess is about a 2/1 ratio of Carib-sea to flourite, but the flourite is about 15 years old.
Extra circulation: Hydor Koralia circulation pump. Not sure of the flow rate as it was a "hand me down".
Heater: Eheim Jager TruTemp 3616 set at 76 deg F.
Water details: Test results using API test kits
NO3: 5-20ppm (I have a hard time differentiating the colors on the API tests)
Phosphate: 0-.5ppm (once again, hard time with the API colors)
dKH: 8-9 or about 150ppm (slight change after 8th drop, definite change after 9th)
dGH: 11-12 or about 205ppm (slight after 11th, definite after 12th)
I had been doing 15-20g water changes with tap water treated with Prime every other week, but upped that to once a week about a month ago.
5 Buenos Aries tetras (they have been in the tank for over 2 years)
6 Penguin tetras (also over 2 years)
3 Serpea tetras (about 1 year)
6 emerald Cory cats (about six months)
I still need to add one piece of driftwood that will dominate about 1/3rd of the tank. It was purchased from a LFS. They say it was "baked". It is too big to boil, so I did a quick pressure wash and then did several soakings in hot water. I'm sure it will still leech tannins, but I will make w/c as needed to combat that. I have a bottle of Flourish ready to go if/when I need to add ferts. I will probably get some root tabs depending on what plants I end up getting.
So with all that said, should I be good to go with a "moderate" stocking of lower light plants? Right now my only concerns are the GH and and pH, both being a tad on the high side, though the new driftwood may help the pH a bit. I am going to look into getting RO water from one of the machines at my local grocery store if GH does end up being a problem.
Any advice, thoughts or opinions are welcome.
Thanks in advance