Wow, you guys have given me a LOT of great advice.
The tank is going to be swapped with a 70g and new filters next month, i just dont have anything that would handle the 5" drop currently.
I know i'll always have to do regular maintenance, but i want to reduce that as much as possible. Yes, the tank is very overstocked right now, but water changes have kept them happy and clean.
The use of insects as my CuC would/should benefit the entire community as not only would the insects help break down waste matter, but they'd provide a reoccurring "natural" food. I guess i am scrapping the CuC idea until i remove the turtles, which i am OK with considering i dont want to have my crew eaten. I will also continue to research the idea, but won't put this in to effect until i swap tanks and get the turts out. I'm an insect collector as well as a breeder. I've never tried water insects, but i believe this can be done. I've created a CuC with dry insect ecosystems that worked out well. The cycle i was aiming for was achieved, and i was growing fat predators in multi-species communities with very minimal input. Also, the filter is just a bio-bag filter. Like a mini HOB filter with suction cups to attach on the inside of a tank.
I havent done much research on snails, just know that they have to be larger then my snappers mouth. I've introduced nearly 100 ramshorn and other pestiferous snails to the tank only to NEVER see them survive longer then a few days. My snapper breaks their shells open and eats what he can, and then the white lobster comes over to pick them clean. He's more then strong enough to rip shells open (have video if you wanna see), and he's very bold when it comes to getting his meals. I've seen him sitting on vertical glass, golding on to my striped ramshorn snails trying to peel them off. He's also unable to eat my rabbit snail.
The Otocinclus is actually a very good idea. I've always know they were much better then plecos, just wasnt quite sure on how much better.
I'd LOVE to do puffers, but they'll have to wait until the turts come out. Otherwise i'm sure they'll be eaten and then i'll have dead puffer and dead turts.
And thank you for the dosing and pellet advice. I always wondered how substrate in heavily planted tanks get re-fertilized.
Back when i was big in to reefing, I had a buddy who used nearly the same practice as saltwater, and built a very beautiful freshwater lagoon. The setup had only a bubbler, and clean up crew. I don't remember how many fish he had, but it was a lot less then me. He also didn't have turtles or any other kind of predators. Due to my love for the Godzilla effect, i can't not have some kind of predator in my communities. And you are absolutely correct on the fish to water ratio. In SW, i remember the rule to thumb was 1 fish per 10g of water. I'd drop well under that ratio, but i also balanced the tank with an over sized refuge, and enough live rock to balance. I wasnt able to skimp on water changes, but that's about it.
I really like the idea of capping my substrate with sand, and may do that this weekend. I really wasn't thinking of grain size when i let my son choose the substrate as this was only meant to be a turtle tank at first. It makes perfect sense though, and it's the reason we don't use it in SW. I don't like using a vac to pull the crap up from within the substrate as it bothers my root system. Also, that picture is gorgeous. Is that yours?
The turtles have to stay for now. I don't have space for another setup, and i am planning on moving by the end of august. I do understand that the tank is overstocked, and my filtration is crappy.... for now =D
I agree! This has answered a lot of great questions, and shows that my idea may not be a bad one, just one that's not done often.
Once i move, i plan on doing about a month with no fish or turtles in the tank. This maybe longer depending on the cycle i'll be putting the tank through. It'll start off with the normal planted setup routine. Dry aquascaping, so many days dry, fill water column, cycle. But i plan on doing my cycle a little more like a saltwater tank. Once my tank is filled, i will kick start the cycle with piece of shrimp or silverside fish (dead ofc), and introduce my insect CuC at that moment. This should allow die-off, and then blooms in my insect population. They'll have plenty of time to become abundant before i add my fish selection back, and from there i will choose my champion. Could be a giant water bug that'll grapple and eat fish, could just be a newt. idk.
Tonight i will start preparing my water insect list, and i'll post it here for you guys to help me with. I know there's going to be some flaws in my planning that i hope you guys will point out, and i appreciate that. I am new to the FW eco scene, but i believe my SW knowledge can transfer over to something beautiful with your guys help.