One of my tanks is an old scratched up 43 gal tank which housed a bearded dragon a long time ago, then stood empty in a garden for a few years before I got it and made it my quarantine/test tank. I thought about replacing it with a selfmade 120 gal tank, but then decided it would be cheaper to go and buy a 55gal tank for $55 plus tax and replace it with this.
Labor day was a good day to set it all up...
I have very good results with the following substrate setup in my 36gal tank, so I pretty much repeated it here:
Peat, soaked for a couple of days, will be the base layer. I could use soil instead, but I prefer peat since I know it isn't polluted or fertilized.
Next I use a good number of Jobes Palms and Ferns fertilizer sticks and bury them on the bottom of the peat layer.
A bag of CPA (Cat Piss Absorbent) costs about $2 and is readily available. A quick rinse in a bucket removes the finest dust. The 25lb bag gives me a 2 (front) to 4 (back) inches layer.
There are two things I do to prevent foggy-ness when using clay substrates like Special Kitty or Flourite. Before starting to fill the tank, I make a small hole in the substrate and siphon out as much water as I can. This moves fine particles down. The second thing is to add water very, VERY, V E R Y slowly. So slow that there is no water movement of any kind when filling the tank. This gives me a nice clear start! For the first two days after planting I won't use a filter/powerhead either.
The canopy will house two 4ft T5 bulbs with Icecap reflectors, driven by an Advance ballast. Each bulb uses about 45 Watts.
I am using glass covers (or is it cover glasses?) to prevent moisture in my canopies. Inside I give it a white coat of primer, outside some natural looking stain. I am not too concerned about the looks... this tank is located in the garage. A little fan will keep the temperature in the canopy at around 35C, optimum for T5 bulbs.
Planted and filled about 90%... One T5 is running to get plants started, once things grow in a little I will add the second one. The tank will be insulated with Styrofoam sheets to keep heat losses to a minimum in cold winter weeks.
Regarding aquascaping, I am trying to create "compartments" or areas which are separated. If things go as planned, this tank will house my four Festivums in the future, removing them from my 100 gal tank will let me put shrimp in there, along with some plants which Festivums consider lettuce right now.