I've been lurking for ideas and advice for the past 4 weeks while getting my first planted tank up and running, figured I would finally get my **** together and make an account. I had a very successful 55 gallon Malawi cichlid tank about 6 years ago when I was in high school and I'm finally back at it again.
I'll start with a few crappy iPhone pictures to get you up to speed on where I'm sitting now.
It's a 55 gallon tank I've been cycling it since 2/5/13 with a power filter. PH is at ~6.6
The substrate is ADA Aquasoil, mostly big pieces and one small bag of powder on the left corner to help my dwarf baby tears grip. I honestly couldn't really tell you the names of the other plants, but I've had the guy from my LFS helping me with my selection.
I also have a 200 watt light (only have 2 of the 4 bulbs on for now), DIY CO2 keeping me at about 3 bubbles/sec and a heater struggling to keep me at 77.7 F.
I wanted to ask your opinions as to what I need to upgrade first, as I can only really spend $100 a month on this baby because I just moved out here to Santa Monica and still have lots of moving expenses ahead.
I am going to pick up a Fluval 405 for $50 from someone on craigslist tonight, which will cover my filtration needs. However, with the type of stand I have (you can kind of see it in the picture), I'm worried I wont be able to house it under my tank. Which brings me to question #1. Has anyone done or seen a clean external compartment for a canister filter (as well as the CO2 tank when I get to that) that can go beside the tank.
For CO2, because I cant afford a pressurized system yet unless a good deal pops up, I have been using a 1 gallon DIY mix every 2 weeks. This seems to have kept the plants happy, but definitely not long term. I am looking to pick up a Milwaukee MA957 when I get a chance. I have a ceramic diffuser already, but recently have thought about going with an atomic inline diffuser for the Fluval. Any differing thoughts on this?
I also am hoping to get a new more reliable heater at some point, but as long as this one doesn't stop working, it'll work for now.
I finally hit all zeros with my tests on Monday so I went and picked up 10 cardinal tetras and 10 ghost shrimp. A few of the shrimp died over the past few days, which I heard is common as they are kept and sold at fish stores as live food. The cardinals seem ok, however, they all bunch and hide in the corner behind the plants when anyone goes near the tank. I would assume this is normal, but its been a few days and they are still extremely shy. I've been approaching slowly when I feed them to try to get them comfortable with me, I have no idea if its working...
I'm going to go pick up more plants this afternoon to get some taller stuff throughout the tank to help them have more protection. Any suggestions on more good midground/background plants? Also thinking about adding 10 more cardinals today as well, maybe some cherry shrimp as well?
Lastly, Id like to eventually add some apisto cichlids or other new world cichlids. Any suggestions on which ones will go well in a community as well as what other fish might be good companions as well?
Thanks in advance, I'm so excited to have fish again!