New Member Looking for Consolidated Advice
Hello, all! I am a new member of The Planted Tank, but I have been enjoying the forum as a reader for a little while now. For about 30 years now (nearly most of my life!), I have been keeping tropical fish. I have had everything from Lake Malawi set-ups to betta breeding operations, and I have a goldfish pond, too. Thus, I have a fair amount of experience keeping aquaria.
Last year, I decided it would great to start up a serious planted tank and keep a host of South American tetras, mostly neons. I set up a 20 gallon long (is that called a breeder?) and used white sand as the substrate. I chose the sand because I have found over the years that it stays significantly cleaner than gravel and that the fish (especially corys and the like) enjoy digging through it for what they can find. I have since found out that this was a poor choice for a real planted tank, but I'm not really in a position now to take down the tank and start over. So, my first question is, what are useful ways around the presumed deficiencies sand causes?
The tank has been up for about six months now, but the fish were transferred from an older tank. I have 5 pygmy corydoras, two platys, about 18 neons, 3 serpae tetras, and one baby angelfish who will be transferred eventually. The fish are all doing extremely well, and I think the corys are beginning to breed, but I haven't paid that close attention so far, so focused am I on my plants.
So, the plants: I run the lights (very basic fluorescent tube that came with the Aqueon hood) about 12 hours a day, I use the Hagen CO2 Nutrafin reactor (and have it set on the biggest degree of saturation), and I dose 20 ml of "Aquarium Plant Food" (macro/micro pre-mixed solution) every week. Last week when I checked parameters, I had 1 degree of carbonate hardness and pH of 6.0, which meant, I think, that I had CO2 saturation of 11. Temperature runs about 74F.
The aponogetons, banana plants, java moss, pennywort, and duckweed are all doing quite well, but I do seem to have more vertical growth in general. I recently bought an amazon sword and some glossostigma, but the jury is out on both. The tank receives a fair amount of sunlight throughout the day.
So my questions are: 1) do I have enough CO2 going, or do I need to add liquid CO2? 2) what kind of lighting upgrade could I do that would allow me to keep my hood? special plant bulbs? 3) I studied all about dry ferts last night, and I'm willing to go that route, but will they necessitate weekly water changes of 50%? Not really willing to do that (busy as heck with the rugrats in the house).
I'm sorry for the long first post and for all the questions, which I imagine have been answered innumerable times before. If someone can direct me to one source (for instance, should I just buy a pre-mix of aquariumfertilizer.com?), I would be most grateful.