hard part is squishing an ecosystem into a tank
in my mind everything has to be compressed
higher densities of everything at every level
substrate, till i hear better, i'm following what i heard from beaslbob
peat moss with a cap, ... i'm going to add some cheap cat litter to the mix for CEC (help retain nutrients in the substrate (Montmorillonite clay - cheapest of the cheap cat litter, ingredient (single) natural clay for the clumping cat litter - no odor control or anything added
i'm unsure about what to use for a cap, possibly arcillite (baked Montmorillonite clay) or do i go cheap and get play sand, or expensive and ceramic beads (for foundry casting - cerabeads), or exotic - sand blasting glass beads, ... probably not the glass beads, i want to keep the cap ontop not have it sink under the peat moss due to density (what i am considering the cerabeads for
blackworms in the substrate (to keep it airy and help with mulm/detritus breakdown
assassin snails to help as well (possibly adding Malaysian Trumpet snails for extra)
greenwater to help absorb nutrients from the water column (beneficial side effect) but also as food for the live food
Rotifers (mixed - sessile & planktonic)
moina prefered (likely daphnia only because i can't find moina.
possibly copepods (when i looked into it again recently they're smaller than the common daphnia manga (which is huge :(
i'm debating about freshwater sponge and/or clams at this point, ... mostly for the exotic "i can do it" feature that isn't possible in most peoples 'way-to-clean tanks'
but i think only if the greenwater is still out of control with the zooplankton in the tank (not enough eating the greenwater - but again i'm not sure about this from another perspective, ... if the greenwater isn't dense enough, the zooplankton won't get dense enough as well.
these smaller critters at this point are little more than live food (with worms and snails additionally helping keep the substrate fresh... that much turning over the substrate is pushing me to get the cerabeads to ensure it stays ontop
i want lots of algae (various kinds of algae) for fresh food for the fish (flagfish), and plants that the flagfish can munch on as well (a large varied diet) ... it's really hard to find people talking about what plants flagfish will eat, most talk of "don't get these plants because the fish eat them" them (that's about what i have to go on for my search)
for algae searches, i initially went with "what phytoplankton will reproduce quickly?" a recent research report i had pointed out to me mentioned that daphnia do best with a particular type due to protiens and such it produces, ... well that threw my critter list (including phytoplankton) into chaos :(
kinda like where initially i stayed away from rotifers, no inherent nutritional value, ... so find something else, ... but there's not much else that is sessile that could provide additional nutrients for the flagfish eating aglae & have extra critters in their food.
having greenwater & zooplankton helps keep nutrients in the water column from becoming hypoeutrophic. nutrients are quickly found by the phytoplankton, then eaten by zooplankton, then eaten by fish, to be pooped out and land on the bottom of the aquarium again, to (hopefully) move down into the substrate and have bacteria release the nutrients slowly back into the water column again, and the process repeats.
that was the easy part.
oddly the hard part is plants
stem plants tend to grow without limit and flagfish have small mouths so are limited in the plants they can munch on
i think i'm stuck on more stem plants than i want, but that's a bit of trial and error to see if the plants can survive the flagfish or if they'll be eaten into extinction as well
flagfish i've heard have a tendency to eat what they want in priority, first one salad, then another when the first is no longer available, ... in my tank algae disappears first and so i can't tell if they eat the rotala (that i've heard they will eat) because they like algae first, ... did have two small sprigs of Limnophila that disappeared really fast - likely eaten
a search for plants that aren't stem plants has left me with cryps and swords, ... i think swords are softer and likely to be eaten more, ... but find smaller leafed swords, ... most are growing well over 12" tall.
i still search for swords despite the low tank as i want it to block line of site so the hungry flagfish won't eat the zooplankton into extinction (they're little piggy fish :( but to find plants that will grow without crowding the surface as the leaves reach the top & continue growing into a mat & block out light, ... not good
shorter leaves would be great, but not so easy to find :(
java fern would be perfect, ... but nothing eats it unless they're desperate, ... then the flagfish aren't trimming the leaves keeping them thinned out.
still so much up in the air, ... i settled on flagfish for their diet, ... carnivore with strong herbivore tendencies, ... what i would like to think would help reach a balance for a self-sustaining tank, ...
but the plants are really difficult, ... fast growing non-stem plants to significantly block line of site in the tank that are more of a salad for the flagfish, ... hundreds of plants to go through, well once things are sorta organized there's a start, but looking for experience is hard.