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Hello to everyone!

My 55 gallon tank looks pretty boring, at least to me, and I'd love to upgrade from not planted to planted.

I'd prefer low to medium light plants. I will not be adding CO2. Fertilizing is iffy and really depends on the plants.

I've had great success on my first attempt at a planted tank (my 10 gallon) and I'd love to try again on this one.

The fish in the tank are:
2 bala sharks
1 Rainbow Shark
4 Tiger barbs (looking to add more!)
and, soon, 2 pictus Catfish (currently in quarantine.)

So, based off from those and the fact that both the pictus and the rainbow shark love to hide and are generally nocturnal fish, I'd like to have something with hiding places but not too crowded looking. Due to the balas, I think I need to have as much swimming room in the tank as possible.

If possible, I'd like to incorporate a piece of drift wood that I found several years back. It's no more than 2 feet long, and about one foot tall. I'll post a picture and some measurements for it when the sun comes up again so I can go outside and get it.

I think I'd also like some longer plants, as well as a nice foreground covering plant.

I also would love to take some shoots of Bacopa Carolina that I have in my 10 gallon and put them into the 55. I wouldn't mind moving some of the other plant over as well.

So, to sum it all up (because that was a lot to take in.)
I'm looking for some medium to low light plants.
I will not be buying a CO2 diffuser for the tank.
I am open to dosing fertilizers, although I do not have any experience in ferts.
I'd like some taller plants and some shorter, mid ground ones.
I would also like some open swimming room with a ground cover.
Hiding places throughout the tank are a must for the catfish and the shark.
I'd also like a recommendation for a substrate that won't break the bank...


Anyone have any suggestions?

(I'll post some pictures of the current tank for a reference and some of the drift wood as well as measurements for the driftwood tomorrow.)
 
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