Been out of the hobby since I graduated high school in 93'. Not counting a Goldfish tank I had with ex-wife lol. I have a friend with a 55 gallon African Cichlid tank, with all fake plants.
After discussing my earlier days with planted tanks, he bought a 29 gal for his home office and I'm starting a 38 gal (36x13x20) in my bedroom lol. It will be a slow project starting out, on limited budget. Got a great deal on my new Aqueon tank, stand, glass canopy and a super deal on Coralife t5 HO light. Coralife has the stock 10k and blue bulbs (39 watt each 34in) for now. Got all of that for right at $300, and it is all brand new.
$200~300 is my budget for next month. Need advice on low tech, moderate to low (6700k) light setup. Going for Iwagumi style. Carpeting plants (grass like or moss), mounded substrate (not flat), scattered rocks and not so tall plants, don't want plants reaching top of water. Looking to keep a somewhat low maintenance tank.
Great thing is I have a buddy to help split cost on chemicals/food and share in the experience. And I can "borrow" buckets and other tools from hehe.
What I have now is a empty lighted tank and a month to plan. I have only used HoB filters in the past and he swears by his canister filter he uses now (Cascade 1000). So we are both looking at Aquatop canisters with UV lights built in. He is sticking with Cichlids and I want just a couple of Blood Parrots with a "workforce" of shrimp and catfish, maybe a few snails.
That's all I got for now. Got all month to plan this out, I want to do it right. Open to all suggestions. What substrate to use, how much filtration (GpH, UV necessary in planted tank?), bubbles/no bubbles, single high watt heater/dual low watt heaters...etc. I can get a deal on Aqueon branded heaters and accessories. Also need some ideas for aquascaping. Cichlids are territorial and I did flat gravel overgrown/jungle tanks in the past, with tetras and barbs. I know I don't want fake ornaments or driftwood for fish to hide in so I could really use advice on making cave like structures in substrate or with rocks.
Will be painting back glass black after initial leak test soon. Here is pic of my tank as it sits now. Looks close in pic, but TV is more than 12in away from tank. I have stand doors open but, can't see dedicated outlet and surge protector mounted inside. Thanks for reading my post