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Junior Poster
Jun 3, 2007
Hi there,
I got a new tank (100 x 40 x 50 cm) and a pressurised Co2 unit and I would basically like some help in how to set it up! Assuming 10cm for gap at the top and substrate the tank holds 160L and 42US gallons.

I have spent alot of time on TFF and am now a member of the ukaps, so know a little bit. The plan was to do a Diana Walstead type approach, but then I found a cheap pressurised Co2 system and it kind of went out the window! Now I can't decide if I should go Ei, or do the low tech with pressurised Co2 route. I am a student and don't have much money, so am currently selling anything spare I have to afford the new tank. I like the idea of going Ei, spending a bit more time on the tank but managing to sell excess plants to make back a little bit of money. I just don't know if I could keep up with it when uni gets hectic. Plus what about when I go back for the weekend etc. I would like the high fish load Diana Walstead approach brings.

The tank I would like to aim for:-
Mainly 2-3mm gravel top substrate, a little sandy area for some corys, a dwarf hairgrass area, a dwarf four leaf clover area, some twiggy bogwood covererd in java moss and some pebbles dotted around. Fish wise I would like a cardinal shoal, galaxy rasbora shoal, a couple of rainbows, I have 2 4" plecos, apple snails, a red cherry shrimp population.

I am stuck what to do lighting, filtration and substrate wise.

Lighting wise - obviously depends on which route I'm taking. There are so many choices atm with T5 original, HO T5, T5 HO, T5 high-lite, PC, T6 or T8. Then I don't have a hood so if I get a luminaire variety should I get a cover glass to prevent evaporation and fish jumping out? If I don't get a luminaire type I have to make a hood. Which should I go for? A 2 x 39W luminaire would give 1.8 wpg maybe if I could get a 4 x 39W I could go Ei or low tech...

Filtration - I have a fluval 204 but I don't know if this is powerful enough considering I would like high fish load, maybe a 305?

Substrate - I would like to get one from the shop I used to work at as they would offer me discount. They have in stock:- seachem onyx gravel and sand, aquagroundclay, tetracompletesubstrate. I already have the sand and 2-3 mm gravel. I could get them to order in seachem fluorite or API laterite. Which substrate is best for long term fertilisation and what I want it for?

Water - my tap water is liquid chalk. The analysis is here:-
Portsmouth South Zone
mg/l CaCO3 ppm CaCO3 282
Clarkes d English 19.7
German dH 15.8
French dF 28.2
mg/l Calcium 112.9
mmol/l Alk Earths 2.8
It says that its about pH 7.5 but my tank water has been tested at pH 8 with just salt addition. I'm concerned it will be too hard for the plants and fish. I can get access to purified water which is like RO. Not to sure on its parameters yet but I could mix this with the tap water to make it roughly pH 7 and a good gH. This water comes from a lab, is there any way I can accurately test the gH in the lab?

Sorry this is so long. Hope you can help me!


Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 24, 2005
Sacramento, CA
The reason I didn't respond to this at first is that it is asking too many questions all at once. That would require writing a book to answer all of the questions and answer them well.

I suggest that you read Rex's Guide to Planted Tanks and see how many of your questions are answered by that. Then ask a much smaller number of questions where you need more clarification.

Also, you need to decide some things yourself to start with: how much time and effort you want to devote to a planted tank, for example. If you don't want to spend an hour a day doing pruning, cleaning, etc. you won't want really high light intensity. If you want to restrict your work to every weekend, for example, you could go to something like 2 watts per gallon, pressurized CO2 and relatively slow growing plants. If you want to do even less work, you will need even less light, and a non-CO2 approach would be best. Once you settle that issue the number of questions gets smaller.