07-11-2009, 11:26 AM
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The substrate needs to be deep enough for the plants to root well. As you mention, this depends partly on the type of plants, as well as on how many you have that need rooting space. Stem plants have minimal root systems at the base (roots develop all along the stems) so they only need sufficient substrate to hold them down (the lower part of the stems). Swords and crypts have extensive root systems and require a minimum of 3-4 inches of substrate. You can't have "too much" substrate, but more than needed will take space away from water available for fish, so you don't want to go overboard. I have minimum of 3 inches along the front and it is sloped and terraced up towards the back where in the corners I have 5-6 inches. When I have moved one of the swords, it is interesting that their roots are very extensive and meander several inches outward (and down) from the base.
You can add plants right from the start, and there is no wait with the fish. The cycling of the tank has no effect on plants (but obviously does on fish, so there is your wait).
Angels will not eat your plants, but they do naturally graze the leaves for food, as indeed do many fish, even corys will continually graze plant leaves.