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I think I’ve got all my equipment and will be putting my first low-tech tank together this weekend. I’ve been reading A LOT, here and elsewhere, trying to figure out the best (I.e., most likely to succeed) way to go through cycling period. Would love to have any/all voices of experience weigh in with any cautions/corrections/advice/ encouragement.

My goal is to set up a healthy low-tech nature aquarium that will ultimately have enough plants to look great and house a fair-sized school of tiny fish (e.g. chili Rasboras) and maybe a clean up crew (otos, a few shrimp, maybe a non-egg laying algae-eating snail if such exists). I’d like to keep the number of plant species lowish (3-5?), using multiples of each, to come up with a pleasing coherent look.

I’ll be using:
17 gallon tank (ADA 60-P)
ADA Amazonia ver.2 substrate
Finnex Planted+ 24/7 HLC light
AquaClear 30 filter
Aqueon Pro heater
Inkbird thermostat controller
Spider wood hardscape with a couple of rocks
Small air pump and air stone (I have them, but not sure if I should use them)

The things I’m currently wondering about are:

1. Amount of light for cycling and beyond — from what I’m reading, I think I should start cycling with this light at maybe 40%-60% power for maybe 6 hours/day and some floating plants, in hopes of eventual algae control? I know the Finnex light is perhaps a bit strong for a low tech tank; I will have to set up a custom timer/color/duration schedule rather than relying on its default 24/7 mode.

2. Not sure what water changes I should be doing to get through cycling. I see a lot of folks recommending frequent large water changes for cycling (e.g., 50% every day for first week, 50% every 2 days in second week, 50% every 3d day in third week, and 50% once per week in fourth and all following weeks). But I also see lots of other recommended schedules too. Very confusing. I will be doing frequent tests with API FW Master kit (happy to buy others if recommended/helpful).

3. Additives/supplements — since I’m using Amazonia substrate, I don’t think I need to add ammonia or anything else to get the cycling going (correct?). I also think I don’t need to add supplemental fertilizers or minerals for at least the first ~6 months, but not at all sure about that.

4. Not sure if I should use Prime-treated tap water or remineralized RO/DI to fill the tank and for subsequent water changes. I would need to find a place to buy RO/DI water. I know that our tap water in LA is pretty hard — 127 ppm — but I don’t know what to do about it. I do have some Sera Super Peat that I could add to the filter (also have some Purigen and polyester floss FWIW), but not sure whether/when I should do that.

5. Planning to put in a fair number of plants to start the cycle — probably all/mostly tissue culture plants, since I’m trying to avoid pest snail populations as much as possible. Might also get a couple of potted plants (submerged-grown) if it’s kosher to dip them in some sort of snail-eliminating solution before planting). Is this a good plan?

Anyway, if anyone wants to help me out with advice, I’m all ears. Thanks!
 
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