Couple newbie questions


Junior Poster
Sep 4, 2007
Hi - I'm on my first tank, trying to make do without CO2 and looking at the strategies here I see I am lax on a couple of things.

My goal is to have a healthy planted tank that provides good cover for my fish and improves the water quality. I also feel a need not to waste money, and to keep costs reasonably low.

So far most of the cover is in the middle to bottom areas of the tank. Great for my keyholes, so so for the rainbowfish.

I have only fluorite, about 1-2" as a substrate. Should I add something on top, in the planted areas, like soil or laterite? That could be messy to do. I have peat moss and triple mix at home.

Our tap water is pH 8, GH 15-20, kH 12. My tank is about pH 7.8-8.0, kH 9, GH 14.

Tom suggests fully planting to start with. How do I know how much is enough?

Here are my details so far:

My tank is about two months old. I've been adding things bit by bit, maxing out my hobby budget every two weeks.
20G - 18" high, 12" deep, 24" long
AquaClear 50 with foam and Biomax. Set to low flow setting. Outlet only 1 cm from water surface. Provides a slow current throughout the tank as well as a strong downward current at the outlet, with some surface ripple there.
28W coralife freshwater aqualight 24" (this was an upgrade a week ago)
fairly large driftwood piece for the tank - almost 2 gallons of wood, providing great accomodations for the keyholes.
On it, java fern, about 4-5" high, 3-4" wide.
Small anubias nana - 8 leaves
6 straight vals (americana?) with 5-6 leaves each, plus runners. Longest leaves are 20" or so. Runners are sprouting red, pale-ish leaves.
1 barthii sword - new last week. About 9-10" high, about 10 large leaves and several smaller ones. 4 large leaves in last week (red, crinkly)
8 stalks of moneywort, 4-8" high.
The java fern, val, and moneywort were the first plants, and they have slowly improved since I got them.
3 keyhole cichlids, 2"
6 forktail rainbowfish, 1-1.5"
Feeding cichlid flakes or pellets or fd bloodworms, or froz. daphnia, 2x daily with a day off once a week.
Brown algae has increased on all surfaces since the light was ugraded. It was there before, too.
4 gal water change plus top-up once a week with Prime
Started Excel - 2 caps last week, 1 cap yesterday.
Wouldn't mind trying some ferts if I can get them locally. Perhaps would rather stick to Seachem liquids; they are all available and it's a small tank. I'm in Aurora, Ontario, Canada.