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Hello. My first post here. I'm not new to aquariums and fish, but I'd still call myself a novice at the hobby. I've been on about a 5 year hiatus from owning fish. My most successful tank, the last one, was a 50 gallon acrylic cube tank with a 20 gallon sump. This was my first time following experienced hobbyists' advice for setting up and running a tank properly before introducing the main fish population. The tank ran for 30 days while I introduced the bacteria, carefully monitored the water PH, introduced a Clown Pleco at the end of the 30 days, then finally added the small group of Bolivian Rams a week or two later. I can't recall the other thing I measured. I think it was nitrates. Anyway, it was probably far from a perfect system - who can honestly say they are perfect, especially here - but I had these fish successfully for a few years before I had to close up shop and move. I was never successful with the plants, but I'm pretty sure that was mostly due to inadequate lighting. This hobby wasn't a top priority in life, so a few things suffered.

Fast forward to now, I'm ready to introduce the hobby to my son. Though I hope to take the scientific approach a step further and create a beautiful tank, budget is a significant constraint. I've decided on a lightly planted nano tank as my target. As this is my first foray into more than just basic plants, I'd like to attempt something simple, elegant, and low profile. I'd like to keep it clean and simple at first while I'm learning. I can always adjust toward more and complicated later. I'm really undecided on the livestock. I'm initially thinking some type of shrimp and I dunno for the fish. I have time to decide, but I know I need to figure this out before too long because that affects the target PH in some cases.

Getting started, I'm about to purchase an ADA Mini M aquarium. For canister filtration, I'll use a Zoo Med 501. For lighting, I found a Mingdak LED panel fixture w/30 white/6 blue LEDs. For everything else, I could definitely use some help.

Yes, I have a lot to learn, so if I stated something questionable above about my setup, please don't hesitate to chime in. I still have a lot of reading to do here, but if anyone wants to help with the following starting questions, that would be appreciated.

1. Besides the aquarium, canister filtration, and lighting that I mentioned above, are there any other specific things that I'll definitely need getting started? I'm trying to stay away from CO2 for now (see budget constraint).

2. What's a good substrate to start out with?

3. What is a simple one or two plant types to start out with? I'm thinking something low profile/short (i.e. small grasses) in order to keep things simple for maintenance, at least as I'm getting started and learning.

4. Can anyone recommend some combination of bottom dweller(s) and fish to consider? I know that's like asking what your favorite song is, but I'm more focused on getting the setup and plants right to get this tank up and running and also don't want to target a type of fish and end up finding out that it likes to tear up the plants. At the same time, I want to figure out what I'm going to stock in this tank so I know what parameters I need to target.

5. Is there anything like specific features (i.e. types of wood or rock) to stay away from?

That's all I can think of for now. I'm looking forward the steep learning curve and getting started toward putting together a beautiful tank.
 

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Welcome to the forum! I would look around at the different tank journals. That way you can help you make decisions on substrate and could help answer some other questions you have.
 
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