This is my first time posting to a forum about this. I'm just trying to make sure I'm as informed as possible.
So I have a 150 gal tank, dimensions are 63"x22"x26" with an overflow on the left side. I recently purchased 2 xr15 lights and am unsure about substrate. Currently in this tank, I have medium grained black sand. Now I've heard mixed reviews on how sand works for planted tanks.. and I'm not sure what to think. From what I understand, I won't be able to grow carpet plants; I'll need to stick to mainly water column feeders and dose ferts, and the substrate feeders that I do get, I'll need root tabs for that I'll have to put out every 3 months or so.. is this about right? It doesn't sound like having sand will be that difficult.. or would I be better off switching it all out with some actual plant growing substrate? Looking for opinions, personal experiences, any input on this matter. This is going to be a fahaka pufferfish tank, with a couple of bigger SA cichlids living with him.
Welcome! Planted tanks are a lot of fun and (in my opinion) aesthetically wonderful. It's a fun dimension to the hobby.
So a few things. First inert substrates are just fine, you can grow any plant you want in an inert substrate. Sand is also just fine and works great. You will definitely be dosing fertilizers but in pretty much any planted tank that is going to be around longer then a few months you will need to dose fertilizers to get the best out of your plants. What you dose and how much depends a lot about what you have in your tank etc.
Regarding your particular situation, you will want to be careful choosing your plant selection. I am unclear about the habits of that puffer but I know he gets pretty big. I have seen recorded feedings of them eating clams. Additionally a LOT of large cichlids are straight up not plant friendly and will either eat or uproot anything in your tank. Whether you can have a carpet with those fish is a giant question mark. I would lean towards no if you plan to feed your puffer clams like I have seen on youtube. The crunched up shells go everywhere which would be a nightmare trying to pick out of a carpet.
Other types of plants are very possible if your cichlids are plant friendly.
I am not familiar with the lights you mention. A google search showed lights geared towards saltwater.
This would lend me to believe you are planning on high light which would typically require pressurized co2. Whether you use CO2 or not will also determine what plants you can grow.
You can use root tabs for fertilizing some of your plants but its not required. Dosing the water will get ferts to the roots buried in substrate as well.