I just wanted to report my progress here - I had my tank fully planted and ready for introducing fish, but I went on a 3 week holiday making it necessary to put that on hold and hope for the best during my absence. The lights were reduced to 6 hours daily and an over 50% water change was performed before leaving, as well as pruning the hygrophila and doing my best to get rid of the brown hair algae that was plaguing the upper regions of the tank (could be some form of diatoms after doing some research).
I was afraid of coming home to an algae-overrun swamp, but remarkably surprised upon returning that all signs of the hair algae as well as the dusty brown diatom patches had nearly completely been eradicated - they possibly died off, and the remnants gobbled up by the colony of Malaysian trumpet snails. Plant growth was decent despite the reduced photoperiod, and all seemed in healthy shape. The above photo was snapped after doing a 50% water change after returning.
After double checking the water parameters, my fiancee and I decided it's time to finally add some fish - a long time coming since this tank was actually set up sometime in May! We introduced 5 peppered Corydoras on Tuesday, and the new inhabitants seem to be settling in very well. They appear active and playful during the day, although one of them seems shier and mostly can only be seen during feeding. They're seen exploring every corner of the tank, grazing on virtually every surface available to them.
I'm now turning to you guys for further stocking suggestions. I think the Cories would be even happier with a few more of their kind joining them, say another 3 to make it a total of 8. Is this a good number, or should it even be higher?
The next thing would be adding some mid-swimming fish to provide contrast. Note that I have hard water (16 dGH, pH 7.5), and I'm finding this to be a fairly limiting factor in terms of stocking options.
Fish that are under consideration:
- Pristella tetra: I kept this species back when I had an aquarium in high school, and remember them being peaceful good natured fish. I've also read they do well in hard water, unlike many other common tetras.
-Tiger barbs: My only concern is their potential aggression towards corydoras, and/or other future inhabitants of the tank.
-Rainbowfish: It seems the Dwarf Neon might work with my water parameters and my needs.
I've decided that I'd have something other than livebearers, even though that seems to be a popular route with hard water. I'm looking forward to reading your suggestions.