I've had this tank for just over a year, but this is the first time I've started to feel confident in it. A little background: I kept fish as a teen- goldfish first, then angelfish, swordtails and cory cats. I knew nothing about cycling back then! No fish for 15 years, then wanted to get back into the hobby. Bought a used tank and some equip, but I've had a steep learning curve over the year with failing equipment, a major leak, ich outbreak and all my plants nearly dying because I had the balance of light/ferts all wrong. I'm still working on that. Here's the stats:
Parameters: pH: 7.6, Ammonia: 0, Nitrite: 0, Nitrates usually 20-40ppm
Equipment: HOB biowheel- Marineland Penguin 170 plus a small sponge filter on air pump, 50 watt heater. I have a plastic baffle across the filter outflow, it was too strong for my betta.
Lighting: T8 17w full spectrum on 8.5 hrs/day
Fertilizers: root tabs added once a month, EI dry dosing KH2PO4, KNO3, K2SO4 and Flourish Comprehensive micros once a week after 50% water change. I'm using 1/3 the norm dose since my tank is low tech, and 1/2 of that
dose of the KNO3, KH2PO4 right now (because of Nitrate level)
Plants: Aponogeton Crispus, Rotala Indica, Watersprite, Java Fern, some kind of Vallisneria
Inhabitants: 1 male plakat betta (Pinkie), 9 cherry barb, 5 kuhli loaches, 1 nerite snail, countless malaysian trumpet snails
My goal up until now has just been to get my tank healthy and my plants growing. I have not had any sick fish for 6 months now, but I lost a few platies recently due to betta attacks (re-homed the remaining one). I have been keeping an online journal here http://greenjeane.blogspot.com
which has a lot more detail about my mistakes, thought process and many more images. I am glad I did, because it wasn't until I looked back through old posts that I realized things started getting bad when I changed my light source (mistakenly thinking the plants needed more light) and just got worse when I started cutting back on photoperiod/nutrients (thinking the brown on my plants was algae- it was dying tissue). I have the lower light back in there now, and am following EI dosing schedule, and things are finally turning around.
Now I can start to think about aesthetics. It's all a jumble. I am planning to rearrange the plants soon. I do like the watersprite- for the different shape/texture of the leaves- but not sure about keeping it in here long term. Right now I'm thinking to move all my Rotala into the background, bring the Aponos forward (they're my favorite plant to look at) and keep crypts in the front. Beyond that I'm not sure what to do to make this look better. Any suggestions?
PS: long term I want to convert the substrate to eco-complete or something else that will hold nutrients (probably wait until I move - might happen in the coming year- and I will have to tear down the tank then anyway) and when I can afford it, I want to upgrade to a 29 or 40gal (to eventually keep angelfish).
I am still learning every day, so open to any advice or criticism. I am also still trying to learn how to get good pictures with my limited digital camera!