Having just re-read your excellent article, and after a year of keeping a low light tank, I see something else that would improve the article a lot. It can be difficult to decide on what plants will do well in such a tank. I found that many plants just don't seem to make it, even though I thought they would be good candidates. So, if you were to add a list of plants you have found to work well in that type of tank, that would be very good. One group of plants that would be especially useful to know of is low growing, carpet plants. You did note that HC didn't do well, as I would have guessed, but some of the photos seem to show dwarf hair grasses doing well. Do they really?
There is a big list of "low light" plants in this forum, but, unfortunately the list was mostly made when people considered light only in terms of watts per gallon. A 20L and a 20H tank are both 20 gallon, but the light that would be low light on the 20H will almost certainly be high, or at least, medium on the 20L. Any new list should, in my opinion, include only plants found to do ok with 20-35 micromols per sq. meter per second of PAR.
I'm about ready to re-scape my 65 gallon tank again (I'm bored) and I think I want to do a dry start, possibly with Aquasoil, then follow this method with the tank. So, any information that improves the article will be very helpful to me.
Hi Hoppy, Yes, I do agree that a list of plants would be beneficial. Unfortunately, I don't think I would be the best person to make that list as I have only had the one tank and I haven't been very adventurous with the plants that I used. Dwarf Hairgrass works really well in a tank with Excel supplementation, but once I transitioned away from Excel and made it a true low-tech tank, it started to die out. Certainly the anubias and java ferns work very well, though they grow quite slowly. Perhaps I should start a forum thread asking for input from other members in this sub-forum to get an idea for what plants have worked out for them in their low-tech tanks. Also, I read your comment about substrates:
The most effective substrates are the fertile ones, like ADA Aquasoil, Fluval Stratum, mineralized topsoil, etc. If you do the simple mineralizing process on ordinary topsoil you have an excellent bottom layer for a substrate. Top that with a high CEC substrate, like Flourite, and you have an almost unbeatable substrate.
Could you clarify that bit about mineralizing the topsoil? Is that the same as cycling the topsoil. I remember that when I wrote this article, ADA Aquasoil was getting very popular but a big thing with it was to cycle it to get rid of ammonia, etc, before you established your tank. I left it out at the time as it seemed a bit complex and challenging for someone completely new to planted tanks. At the time, it seemed like you really needed to know what you were doing if you were going the route of aquasoil. Unfortunately I haven't followed up on substrate developments in the past few years along with best practices.
If you could give me some more details or point me to some forum threads here or on Tom's site, I'd be happy to read up some more and update the article. I just want to make sure that I don't end up getting someone in over their heads by recommending fertile substrates that need more initial prep work. So I'd appreciate your suggestions on an idiot proof guide to setting up a fertile substrate based tank