Hello everyone. I'm brand new to the hobby and the forum (although I've been lurking for a while).
I'm excited about getting my first planted tank (indeed, my first tank at all) up and running. I've got a 29 gallon tank. It's 30" by 12" and about 18.5" tall. After reading through all of the posts here I settled on Eco-complete for my substrate. I've decided that I can rig up my own CO2 setup. The last two things I need to get up and going is a filter and lights.
I've been looking at the Emperor 280 filter and it looks like a pretty solid deal for the cost. I can find it on Amazon with free shipping for $40.99 (instead of the $63 at the lfs). My only concern is that it doesn't allow you to control the flow rate and I'm afraid it might be too fast for the fish I plan to get started with (tetras, barbs, gouramis, rummynose, shrimp, etc). I see that lots of people love the canister filters, but it looks like the price jump is significant. Is it really worth the extra money? <The easy answer, obviously, is yes!!! But wait...
The message boards, here and elsewhere, are a great help. But sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount of info out there. In one post you'll see someone say, "Whatever you do, don't skimp on your lights" and in another post you'll see someone else say, "Don't get a cheapo filter" and in yet another post someone will say, "CO2 is the most important thing in an aquarium. Ideally I could afford the best of everything. In reality, I can't afford ANY of it (which obviously hasn't stopped me from getting started).
Thus, I'm looking for the best filter system I can find for the $40-$75 range.
I'm also open to suggestions for a "best-you-can-get-for-$100-$125" lighting system. I found a listing for a 36" 2X96 watt CF setup on Craigslist for $40... but my aquarium is only 30" long and the listing said that the bulbs were 3 years old. By the time I get new bulbs and and the equipment to hang the lights from the ceiling, I think I might be able to find a better deal for my needs. The guy at the lfs showed me a Aqualight High Output T5 Dual Lamp Light Fixture that would fit my aquarium for $100. He said that watts don't matter any more... something about lumens make the difference. I had trouble following what he was saying and the store was PACKED so I didn't want to ask the poor kid to explain it in dummy terms for me.
I expect someone to tell me that my lights/filter/CO2 will depend on what type of plants/fish I plan to keep. I think of it the other way, the fish/plants that I eventually get will depend on what equipment I've been able to afford. I would love to be able to grow the neat looking grass you see in Amano's aquariums, or babytears, or red plants... but I realize that those might require more light/CO2 than I can afford.
Thanks for the help.