Originally Posted by jimmyhoye
my tap water ph is around 7.4 i havbe a fluroescent light wiht one tube. And i thionly dwarf chiclids tank but i am unsure yet
This will work fine. Make sure the flourescent tube is full spectrum with a rating of 6500K or higher. These are more expensive to buy than the "regular" tubes sold in hardware stores, but they are much stronger (which means more intense light that will penetrate the water and reach the plants), they have the right spectrum (closest to midday sun whch is what the plants need) and they look better (colours of the fish are best under full spectrum). Any good fish store will carry these tubes; to ascertain the length of tube measure between the end brackets in the light fixture. There are some newer types of tubes out now that provbide more light at less wattage than even 10 years ago. Any of these will be fine, just make sure it is full spectrum light.
To the plants suggestions. Almost any of the amazon sword species (Echinodorus) will be good. Some get big, others stay small. Several will send out flower spikes from time to time; these don't usually flower (the plant needs to be grown partly emersed, or requires much more light and CO2, etc) but plants will form at the nodes and you can either let them float along the spike in the water, which looks realistic, or when they grow a bit break them off and plant them as new plants. Most of the swords have dark green leaves, some have reddish-brown which is a nice contrast. If you look at the photos of my two aquariums, most of those plants are Echinodorus, and I have several species. They should be OK in your pH. Dwart cichlids will feel comfortable with these plants, they live together in nature at least during the floods. Arrange your rock work where you want it (and a piece of bogwood would be very nice) and then plant the plants around it. Make sure none of the rock or wood is dead centre in the tank, it looks odd and unrealistic.
Echinodorus bleheri is a good plant for along the back and sides, it will grow close to the water surface in your tank, and probably send out flower spikes. Easy to grow. Echinodorus tenellus is a small sword that will send out runners and little plants will root themselves in the substrate, and in time could cover the bottom of the tank (I have these in both tanks, the light green plants along the gravel). You can break off the runners and move them around. Nice plant, and does well with the light it will receive. Echinodorus osiris is a nice specimen plant, looks better on its own off to the side (never put a plant directly in the centre of a tank, it looks very artificial). Slightly wavy leaves, about 8-10 inches long; you can see one on the left front of my 70g.
Vallisneria will grow in your water, it has long strap-like leaves, and there are several varieties. Saggitaria is a very similar looking plant. Most of the bunch plants (the ones you buy as stems tied in a small bunch) require more intense light. However, I have good luck with Brazilian Pennywort, you can see it in the rear corners of my 90g. It grows very fast, has to be trimmed every second week or it would cover the surface. You can break off the stems and stick them in the gravel and they will root and grow. Once started, yuou'll never run out of this plant. I throw bits away every week after I've trimmed it.
Be careful with surface plants; they look nice, but reduce the light getting down to the rooted plants, and with only one tube I would stay away from surface plants. The light won't be too intense for the fish.
Rooted plants like swords are heavy feeders, but I find that liquid fertilizer keeps them growing fine. Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Plant Supplement is good, as is Kent's Freshwater Plant Supplement. You want a basic trace elements fertilizer like these; they also make many others that are specific to this or that mineral, but the trace element one is mandatory and all you'll need. Use the recommended amount after the weekly water change. If the plants start developing yellowing leaves or leaves that become transparent (like cellophane), do a second dose midweek. I've experimented with mine, they are fine with two doses per week, but if I cut back to one they start showing it.
A last note on the gravel; get the smallest-sized grain of gravel you can. In most fish stores you can buy this in bulk (rather than the bags) which is much cheaper. Whatever type you like, but the darker or tan coloured are more natural looking for both the plants and the fish. Plant roots are best in the smaller gravel, and it will not trap uneaten food.