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Starting 10G Invertebrate Tank - Advice?

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Hi there, I am super new, and despite my best efforts all attempts to buy the Planted Tank Guide have left me eternally loading on the paypal page. I was hoping to get some advice on starting my tank.

I had a tank when I was a kid, and I really didn't have the resources/know-how to keep the plants in my tank alive, but now I'm going to try my best with this. I kept a lot of different snails, some cherry shrimp, and guppies.

I haven't even started cycling yet, this was sort of a Christmas present to myself and all the supplies haven't come in yet.

This is what I've ordered so far: LED lights, CO2 diffuser and regulator, all-in-one shrimp safe fertilizer, CO2 drop checker, heater, thermometer, water test kit, pre-filter sponges, net, hood, siphon, volcanic soil, gravel, cholla wood, dragon rocks, scrubber, food, HBO filter, and some of those tiny aquascaping tools. Literally the only thing I had was a 20x10 10g tank left over from when I kept mantises.

Now, this was a pretty big investment right off the bat, and I'm worried I kind of jumped the gun with all these purchases but hey, merry Christmas to me.

I would like to have a plant with dwarf baby tears, staurogyne repens, and cabomba. I want to put in some crystal red shrimp and ramshorns once I get everything set up.

This is my first real attempt to do a tank and I would really like it to be a success. I've read up (hopefully enough) on CO2, pH, hardness, and lighting. If I could get some general advice or warnings before everything gets here and I start cycling, that would be great. Or if you can see I've already messed something up...

I also have some specific questions, as I have found a lot of conflicting information:

  • Should I do a full fishless cycle then add plants or just add plants and let things settle, or something else?
  • I am getting conflicting info on whether I need to cap my soil with gravel. Some people say I have to, some say it's an aesthetic choice. I just don't want my whole tank to turn black every time I so much as think about touching the substrate.
  • Are my plants going to work well together? I know I have two carpets and one background planned but those are the ones that I think look nice. Their water conditions overlap but I'm a little out of my depth here and maybe there's something I'm missing. My soil arrived and it seems like it's not very fine. Is that an issue.
  • What is up with moss? How do I do that at all. I've seen a lot of different methods and I'm just at a loss with the moss. I've seen blenders, superglue and cotton string being used and I have no idea what is "right" or at my skill level.

I know that's...a lot of text. A huge thanks if anyone can give me any help here!
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214 Posts
I read the whole thing, we’ll see if I can answer with any value.
1) Plants can/should go in right away. I would also recommend getting as many as you can afford. I would suggest waiting until plants show new growth before adding fauna.
2) Soil cap is only required if you have a type that will loosen up and float around - like dirt. If it sinks, the cap is for aesthetic reasons, or for helping to hold plants in place.
3) If you like your plants, run with it. I would recommend setting expectations in place that you’ll want to make changes to the scape and plant latout once things grow. That’s the fun learning part. You can’t really get it without practice first.
4) Moss is easy...and difficult also. It grows easy, but takes some practice to get it to grow how you want, and maintenance to keep it there. Again, don’t put the pressure of perfection on yourself at your first go. Look forward to tweaking!

One last item: what’s your plan to feed your plants? I don’t know your soil choice exactly, but volcanic stuff likely doesn’t come loaded with nutrients. That’s not a bad thing, as it helps keep initial nutrient imbalance down.

Just to repeat one more time: expect some challenges and required tweaking. You’ll get algae blooms, plant die-off, shrimp deaths, equipment problems, etc. Move through it all with an eye on the future, learning as you go. Also, share a lot on here. Enjoy.

Premium Member
2,129 Posts
Plants go right away and can help the cycle, unless you're doing a dry start. Then the plants go in before the cycle.

Capping depends on what your substrate is "volcanic soil" is usually small volcanic rock or fired clay and doesn't need capped. More info is needed on what "volcanic soil" you're using.

Your plants should work together

Moss in the blender, mixed with yogurt and painted on rocks and wood for a dry start. (and the most natural looking growth) Attach it with superglue, thread, rubber bands, push pins or wedged in cracks. I've used all of these methods except the blender.
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