My first planted tank, lots of questions
Hi, this is my first post here. I am new to aquariums in general and planted aquariums in particular, and am in need of some help to ensure that I set up my first planted tank properly. I think this is going to be a loooong post, apologies in advance for the length :-)
My first tank was a simple 10-gallon with some minnows, and things have gone pretty well with that so I feel I'm ready to set up my next tank. It is a 20-gallon long, which I plan to populate with a variety of low-light plants. For fish, I hope to have cardinal tetras, otos, panda corys, and some shrimp (after the tank cycles of course).
I have been doing a ton of research, but it seems like the more I learn the less I know. If I may, I'd like to lay out my plans here and see if I'm way off track about anything, and/or neglecting any important areas.
The 20-gallon long will have an Aquaclear Power Filter 50 (200 gph), Eco-Complete Substrate, and hooded lighting of 20 watts. I plan to set it up and plant immediately, then do a fishless cycle by adding ammonia and monitoring (I found an excellent post on here with step-by-step instructions of how to do this).
The plants I'm considering are Anubias, Java Fern, Java Moss, and Crypts. My questions:
1) Are those good plant choices for a low-light tank? Are there others that would be good too? I don't plan to use CO2, I want to start out low-tech and low-maintenance.
2) Will the Eco-Complete (and then later the fish) provide all the nutrients the plants need, or do I need to use fertilizer too?
3) How many plants should I get for the tank? I would like it to be pretty heavily planted.
4) I have read that carbon filter material isn't so good for plants (or good in general really), but I am confused about it. Should I not use carbon at all in my filter? It accepts 3 kinds of media -- sponges, carbon, and those little tube things -- so I can mix-and-match media (I think), eliminating the carbon if necessary.
5) When I'm doing the fishless cycling, will the straight ammonia harm the plants? Should I cycle first before adding them, or is it okay to add the plants on the first day and then proceed through the cycling instructions?
6) I have learned that some plants get their nutrients from the substrate, while others get them from the water. Would it be okay for me to plant all of my plants in/on the substrate, or do I need to attach some of them to decorations instead? I do know not to bury any "rhizomes," but would it work to put any rhizomes atop the substrate?
7) As far as decorations, I fear I might have made some poor choices in this regard. I have chosen two decorations that look like roots/branches, but they're not real -- they're some kind of resin material. I ordered them from Drs Foster & Smith. Real driftwood just seemed too complicated for my level (boiling, soaking, etc). Are these fake decorations okay? If I attach plants to them, will the roots grow on them or no, since it's a fake resin material?
8) The stand I got for the tank is a metal (steel) "arch" stand. I have assembled it, and now I'm not so sure about it. It's supposed to be suitable for both 29-gallon and 20-gallon-long tanks; will it really support my tank okay? The top shelf is exactly the dimensions of the aquarium, and the aquarium itself only contacts the stand along its edges (this is the tank design really, it has a black "frame" type thing so that the actual bottom glass is slightly raised from any surface). Not sure I'm making sense, I will post a picture if I can figure out how. I'm just wondering if this stand is totally stable, or not.
I have tons more questions, but I'll save the rest for later because this post is already so long.
Thank you so much to anyone who can help me. I am very new to this, and very excited, and want to do everything properly from the beginning.