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Old 08-22-2011, 04:37 AM   #1
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Default First planted tank- Upper Rio Negro Low-tech Biotope. Suggestions please!

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I've kept fish for around ten years. Now, as a present to myself, I've decided to start a bigger tank- my first planted one.

My goal is to do a strict Rio Negro biotope. I've always loved the colorful schooling fish that come from this region, and the blackwater ecosystem has always intrigued me.

I'm on a budget, so a lot of this is DIY work. If you see room for improvement, please let me know!

Hardware:
55 gallon tank
Hagen Aquaclear 70 HOB filter
StealthPro 200W submersible heater
Custom DIY hood

Lighting:
DIY 2 X 28W T5NO wired in parallel. One is 6700K, one is 10,000. Fixed to hood lid, roughly 4" above the water, 22" above substrate. No reflectors, but inside of hood is painted with high gloss pure white paint. I don't have a PAR meter, but I guess I'm in the 'low' light category, so I'm trying to plan accordingly.

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The wires are hidden in the white aluminum downspout that the T5's are attached to.

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Substrate:
Mineralized topsoil taken from my garden in the early spring. 6 wet/dry cycles, cuttlebone shavings, KCL powder, and pure gray clay from the creek. Capped with sand collected from the 'beach' on the river near my house in Annapolis. About 3" deep.

Water: aged rainwater, treated with Seachem Prime
78 degrees F.
ph - 6.0
kH - 1 degree
gH - 1 degree
TDS- dunno. Probably 0 or close to it.
Still cycling, so N compounds in flux. One week in, and NH3 has to be replaced every day to 5ppm. -N02 is spiking. I don't have a -N03 test kit, so I'm just waiting for -N02 to go away.

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Hardscape: Sweetgum (?) stump taken from same river. No rocks in keeping with biotope.

Plants: Few so far, as I'm still in the middle of a fishless cycle. Amazon sword (Echinodorus amazonicus), Cabomba caroliniana, Cabomba furcata, and three bunches of Brazilian Micro Sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis). Please suggest more if they are from South America!

Livestock: None so far, due to ongoing cycling. I'm planning on a school of 20-30 Cardinal Tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi),10-15 Corydoras habrosus, a Farlowella vittata, and possibly some Otocinclus if they're biotope appropriate. I love my bulldog pleco (Chaetostoma sp.), but I'm not sure if he's acceptable. Suggestions are welcome!

Thanks everyone. I learned a great deal from plantedtank.net about how aquaria can be much more than just fish!
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