09-29-2008, 03:57 PM
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Here's how I'd do it:
1) Come up with a budget. Having a really beautifully planted tank with some of the more difficult plants (or any plants with much red in them) requires high lighting conditions and CO2. Lighting, CO2 and even substrates and fertilizers all cost money, so if you can give yourself a dollar amount to work with the rest will be easier.
2) Get the best lighting you can get within your budget. Generally, more powerful light fixtures are more expensive.
3) Based on the lighting you have, look at lists of plants you'd like and the lighting they require. Also take into account fertilization and substrate. For example, if you're working with medium level lighting, you can exclude plants that require high or very high lighting.
4) Set up your tank, put in your substrate and conditioned water, buy your plants, and start aquascaping! You don't have to wait for the tank to cycle to start planting it, and adding plants can actually help your cycle along.
5) Once the tank is cycled, you can start to add fish.
Alternately, instead of coming up with a budget first, you could have a look at aquatic plants and pick the ones you like, then choose an appropriate light fixture for the plants you picked.
If you need more help along the way, feel free to ask in the freshwater plants section so we can offer more advice.
To give you an idea about the budget side of things: for a 20g high tank (24" x 12" x 17" roughly), low-end fluorescent lighting will run you about $30, while a more powerful compact fluorescent or high-output T5 fixture would be more like $150.