Ok me first: New to the planted tank thing, not new to fishies. Growing up my mother had MTS and I kept a 20 gallon through college (freshwater only-too cheap for salt!). Last September, I decided to take the 20 gallon out of mothballs and fire 'er up. I at least used a teeny
little piece of the brain God gave me to research enough into changes over the past 15 years, enough that I retired the old UGF and bought a bio-wheel HOB. Then, after the tank was fully cycled and almost fully inhabited, I discovered this forum and have been steadily monitoring ever since. What a shock to discover live plants meant more than buying a big ol' wad of Elodia, chucking it in the tank, waiting three weeks for it to dissolve, then chucking out what was left! My tank has been a tragic victim of Darwinism ever since.
Soooo....here's where I'm at now:
Current inhabitants: 1 male betta (Bert), 8 neon tetra (3 in QT being medicated right now) 2 black skirts, 4 cory cats and 2 otos.
I'm equipped with a double tube T8 hood providing 30 watts of light. No CO2, not interest in CO2. I'm using the same tank gravel I had 15 years ago. Yes I have quite the hair algae problem. Any advice would be helpful. I have Flourish Excel, but haven't been dosing because I'm all muddled about whether I'm feeding the plants or the algae. My mother has a very serious health problem right now that has made me not really care about taking the time to figure the problem out, so I've just been cleaning it up 1x/month. I've been doing 50% WC 1x/week, but I want to cut back.
My main question is I'm burning to make 1 big change to improve my tank. My husband thinks maybe switching to T5 lights for more power/penetration. I think maybe a different substrate would provide more bang for my buck. My requirements on substrate are specific: natural riverbed look with nothing to mess with my pH or hurt the barbs on my cory cats. (Rule #1: happy fish are my main goal. Especially Bert.) Sugguestions, comments, insults (be gentle, I cry easily.)???
P.S. This is only the second time I've ever tried to post anything in my life, and I forgot to read how to post pictures in here. If my picture doesn't show, I'll go figure out how to do that and attach it shortly (oops).