01-19-2009, 10:12 AM
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As far as substrate, there are a few things that you may want to take into consideration before you choose.
1) What kind of fish do you want? If you want something like cories or kuhlii loaches you will want to get sand substrate because of their sensitive barbels. You can pick up a 50 lb bag of sand at home depot for only $4 or $5.
2) Is it inert? You will need to check any substrate that is not labeled for aquarium use to make sure it won't affect your pH. To do this you can use the acid test. Contrary to popular belief, vinegar is really not good for this because it is quite weak. A drop from your nitrate test #1 bottle (if you use API, I'm not sure about the others) will do the trick. I did get a bag of gravel that was not inert from home depot, so it's definitely a possibility.
As for the pH, what is it at now? Altering it is a pain, so it's probably better if you just leave it alone. Some driftwood certainly won't hurt though.