07-07-2007, 05:24 PM
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Substrate isn't necessary for tanks. It's more asthetics for owners. If you plan on doing plants, then 2-4" of substrate is necessary to anchor the plants. You want to avoid substrate with metals in them, particularly copper. Your LFS will generally sell fish safe substrate, so you wouldn't need to worry about whether it's got copper, .... Also, calcium in substrate lowers the pH of the tank and raises the hardness and unless you are going for an African Cichlid tank, you want to avoid this as well. What ever substrate you get, thoroughly clean it prior to adding it.
As for adding the filter, heater and cycling the tank, what fish do you intend on putting in the tank? This may dictate what decor you want to put into the tank. You should get this all prepared before starting the tank. Also, what method of cycling are you looking at?