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For my new 20g aquarium, I'm going to be running a 4-5 year old Rena Filstar XP1 that I've had sitting around since my old 10g aquarium.

What is the recommended media for a planted tank? I have very hard water that I'd like to soften some. Should I have a bag of peat in the filter?

Bio-media?
Mech media?
Peat?
Filter floss?

And should I put a sponge pre-filter on the Filstar? Or is that not a favored approach?
 

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tbh all you need is mechanical filtration in a nicely planted tank, the plants will handle the ammonia for you, just be sure not to over crowd your tank with fish =p, and ot to mention "beneficial bacteria" will be on every surface of the tank and filter, including the filter pads you a dd and on plant leaves and on the walls of your tank. though if you want to be extra careful for the sensitive fish you can add some bio media like biochem stars from api or seachem matrix and so on.
 

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With XPs it's pretty easy to tell when they slow down, and that's when they need cleaning.

I probably cleaned mine every other month. But then that was just running it on a 10gal shrimp only tank. Bigger tank with bigger bioload may need cleaning every month.
 

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Mine has a rena pre-filter on it cause its in a shrimp tank, then in the canister it has the course sponge, bio media, purigren, peat, fine floss. I'll probably change it around eventually since the pre-filter pretty much stops and big debris from getting it, I don't really need the course sponge, just been lazy and adding to the filter. lol.
 
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