09-06-2009, 10:21 AM
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I'll leave questions 1 and 2 for those who have ordered online to respond to, as I always buy from local stores.
"Supersoil" I've not heard of, is it made for planted aquariums? If it is just garden soil or potting soil, I personally would not use it as it may contain fertilizers or nutrients that are not requird for aquatic plants or that could be harmful to the fish or the biiological cycle in an aquarium. Plain clean soil can be used under a layer of gravel (Diana Walstad's method) but dependng upon what you are wanting in terms of the finished aquarium this may be more mess and bother than the benefits. Aquatic plants will grow fine in regular aquarium gravel, the smallest grain. A natural or dark gravel is best, it looks "natural" and provides a good neutral base for the plants (and fish).
Temperature of the water should be determined by the requirements of the specific fish in the aquarium. Most plants will grow in normal aquarium temperatures of 75-80F (some fish prefer closer to 75, others 80 or higher, most do fine at 77-78F). Some plants grow well at cooler temperatures should you be thinking of fish like white clouds that do better in low 70's if they are on their own.
Plants require sufficient light to photosynthesize (grow), both in the type of light and the duration of light each day. Full spectrum light is ideal (around 6500K with peaks in the blue, red and green colours of the spectrum), minimum 8 hours up to 12 hours. The duration depends upon the available nutrients (CO2 and macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients) as these must be in balance or algae will take over and/or the plants will not thrive. A timer is recommended, as the plants do better with regular day/dark periods. In the tropics they receive 10 hours of daylight and 10 hours of total darkness (their rest period).
Plants can be planted in a new aquarium right from the start. I put in the gravel, wood and rocks, add water not quite to the top, connect the filter and heater, make sure everything works and no leaks; then plant. If you plant the tank, fish can be added immediately as the plants absorb the ammonia and nitrite faster than the bacteria can become established. Use a good water conditioner before adding fish; I usually use it when I plant so I don't forget.
I am of the view that filtration in a planted tank should be minimal. All you really need is slight water movement and moving the water through filter pads to remove suspended particulate matter. Plants do the best filtration job; you cannot have any filter that will do better. Just don't overstock the tank with too many fish, and be regular in the weekly partial water change of 25-40%. You'll probably need a liquid fertilizer, depending upon number of fish, tap water properties and type of plants. One of the best is Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Plant Supplement; it is a balanced fertilizer with all the various macro- and micro-nutrients plants require and in the correct porportion.