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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey all,
I'm new to the planted tank hobby, and I've decided to start with a low-tech 30 gallon planted tank, which I might transition to high tech once I get more money. I was wondering if yall could give me pointers to the tank I wish to set up.

The Gear:
  • 30 Gallon (36Lx12Wx16H) Tank
  • Aquatic Life T5 Dual HO 39W Light Fixture (I bought this light before I realized it was way to intense of a light, so I plan on dimming it to low-mid light with fiberglass window screens)
  • Marineland C160 Canister Filter (I'm going to make a DIY spraybar for this)
  • Jaeger 100W Heater, as it gets really cold here in Iowa
1-1.5 Inches of MGOCPS capped with 1 inch of red flourite

I plan on purchasing manzanita driftwood and using sand to make a layout inspired by this:

I plan on using low-light plants that resemble the plants chosen by Sergio for his aquascape:
Anubias Nana v' Petite
Hygrophilia (Haven't chosen what type)
Rotala Rotundifolia 'Green'
Hygrophilia (same as before)
Rotala Rotundifolia 'Red'

Although I haven't decided on the fish yet, I know that for this tank, I want a single species schooling fish. I was thinking about doing 10-20 rummy-nose tetras or cardinal tetras (or maybe I could do 15 rummies and 15 cardinals?).

My questions to you:
  1. I'm having trouble deciding how many of each plant I want to start the tank out with, how did you guys decide?
  2. I was planning on dosing carbon with Excel and nutrients with the EI method, would that be overkill for a soil based tank?
  3. Will putting 2-3 screens on my T5 fixture be enough to reduce the light to low/medium, as right now, using Hoppy's PAR charts, I'm at really really high light?
  4. What other recommendations do you guys have?

Thanks all!

11,721 Posts
If you can run the light with just one bulb that might be the answer. Then if you need just a little more light, can you run each bulb separately? One light would be on most of the time, the other would just be on for a couple of hours. Mid-day burst.

One species of schooling fish and a few Otos for algae.

Excel + EI + soil substrate is fine. You will be adjusting the EI dosing down to suit what happens in the tank. My low tech tanks had so much N and P from fish food that I ended up dosing K2SO4 more than the others just to add K without more N or P than they needed.

204 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I tried running the light fixture with one bulb. Apparently it needs both bulbs in place to work, so I layered 2 sheets of fiberglass window screening over the bulbs (in between the bulbs and acrylic cover glass). The only worry I have about that is, I really hope the fiberglass screen is heat resistant.

Hopefully I've reduced the PAR enough. I think Hoppy estimated a 70-75 Par without fiber glass screen, and I read somewhere that 2 sheets of screen lowers the PAR by around 60%. I'm estimating that I'm between 28 and 30 PARs right now. This should put me into low-light. I might actually try only 1 sheet (40-45 PARs) with the Excel dosing.
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