Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Missouri united states
Well,,I might consider a layer of plain potting soil (no additives like pearlite,etc) about an inch and a half to two inches deep,followed by a sand cap of equal depth.
This would be fairly cheap and provide the plant's with nutrient's from soil for a time (maybe a year or two).
Can also add a small amount of dry fertilizer's (aquarium fertilizer.com Macro/Micro package) each week or every two week's if no plan's for CO2 injection (CO2 would require more frequent dosing of fertz).
I would absolutely purchase as many plant's as I could afford.Preferably,some fast growing plant's along with some slower grower's if desired.Planting the tank heavily from the outset,,will help keep algae at bay.With large plant mass that is growing,thriving,,algae will have tougher time. I(f planted heavily enough,,could also add a few fish slowly) over a few week's,as plant's will happily consume ammonia produced by a few small fish and use it for growth.Ditto for nitrAtes.
I would use no more than two of the 54 watt T5's at the beginning,and place the light's on timer to receive no more than eight hour's of light during first few week's.This will also help keep algae to minimum.(can slowly increase duration after a few week's).
Would not be as concerned with bio-media as I would mechanical.
Plant's are excellent biological filter's .
If tank is more of natural planted affair,or low tech as some call it,,then flow from the return to the tank would not need to be more than 4 or 5 times the volume of tank each hour.If CO2 injection is planned,,then flow may need to be increased to help disperse the Gas throughout the tank more evenly,thouroghly.
Hope some of this help's.
Cannot stress importance (To me), of planting heavily from the start.