This is my first ever planted tank. Started on July 15, 2017. I know that this hobby can get expensive, so I set myself a budget of $300. I got this used 65 gallon tank from Craigslist and the stand for $100 (the seller gave me everything he had, which saved more cost). Got used CO2 tank, air, regulator for $100. And UV lamp and CO2 reactor cost me $50. The substrate is a big bag of diamond coal slag ($7) and I got mixed plants from this forum for $20. And finally got tank inhabitants for around $30. I think I upgraded my lighting for additional $20. I went a little over the budget, but I don't think anyone can beat this price for starting a 65 high tech planted tank.
But after 4 algae bloom (brown algae, green water, black beard), nothing mattered. I almost threw the tank away. But I am glad I persevered because I enjoy this tank so much now. Started out the first month as low tech and very minimal. But after a month I added 20lb CO2 tank with a CO2 reactor. I was dosing fertilizer as if my tank was heavily planted. The plants were not growing because the water was toxic from over fertilization. Also I found out that I did not have strong enough lighting. So I added extra light. Here's a quick picture journal of my last 5 months:
On Aug 26, 2017 - This is a month after I started the tank. As you can see the drift wood and all the surface is covered with brown and green algae. The tank was not cycled at this point. I opted for to cycle the tank with 4 guppies (they are hardy!) Later on I regretted this decision, as I ended up with 40+ guppies within 2 months.
On Sep 08, 2017 - Just had the 2nd algae bloom. I had to scrub all the surfaces. The foreground plant "grass" (I got them as seeds from ebay-[China origin]) are growing like weeds. The rest of the plants are fairly new and is going through transplant shock.
On Oct 16, 2017 - Some of the plants did not make it past the "transplant shock stage." I threw them out. A week or 2 before, I went out to a local stream and pick out some plants without knowing what they were. I think one of them was watercress (the edible kind) and the other one I got was java moss and elodea. At this point my water changed into murky green 3 times and after some research I decided to the UV lamp. This was one of the best decisions. Not only did I never have green water, I have never seen my water this crystal clear.
On Nov 25, 2017 - Tank is now stable. I moved some plants around and rearranged so that large plants were all in the background as it was blocking my midground plants. This is the look I envisioned. All I had to do is wait for the plants to grow.
On Dec 19, 2017 - At this point, I am still trimming and replanting to have the heavy-planted look.
Yesterday Jan 26, 2018 - The look I envisioned is near. In about 1 month, I think the background plants will be completely full, blocking the "ugly" wires and uv-lamps and co2 reactor. I will then fully enjoy the tank. I am in the process of stocking the tank with shrimp and more inhabitants.
Thanks for reading!