01-28-2014, 06:06 AM
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It's wonderful that you're getting back into the hobby! I hope it rekindles your love for it :D
A 10 gallon gets a bad rap in my opinion. It's small and options are limited, but PWC are MUCH easier, filters are inexpensive, décor and substrate won't break the bank (so you can GI for nicer stuff), and maintenance costs (cleaning supplies, ferts, conditioner, electricity, PWC water...) are low. I have a 10 and a 25 myself and on days my disability acts up, I can still handle the PWC on my 10 alone :)
If I were you, I would go with sand. It is very easy to keep clean with a simple gravel vac. I've had both and the gravel stayed dirty and was impossible to clean once my plants developed a root system. And the young sprouts were always coming loose. My plants really took off once I put the sand in. Caribsea Supernaturals is a little pricey, but worth it. ;)
Also, I tried playsand and pfs and let me tell ya, they are not worth the time or wasted water. You might as well buy the good stuff instead of that with a small tank. It's not worth it unless it's 50 gal or more and even then, I don't know if I would do it again. -_-
Now to fish. A betta and snails or a betta sorority would be fun. I keep them myself and love them. They have a lot of personality. How hard is the water exactly? Guppies come in an amazing variety of colors and are good from 8 to 30 dGH. A Neolamprologus brevis can be in tanks above 18 dGH and you could put 2 pair or a pair and some snails/upper level fish in there with them. They are one of the few Cichlid that aren't too aggressive or territorial (just don't overcroud the floor). Sparkling Gouramis and White Cloud Mountain Minnows can be in water up to 18 dGH. ADF up to about 12. Those are just a few options to consider and from my research, they are all (save the ADF) easy care and hardy.
As for plants, I couldn't tell you what works best for hard water, but flourish is a great liquid fert and it lasts a loooooong time in a 10 gal. Just measure with an eye dropper as it is very strong. I stay away from root feeders as I don't like using tabs and the liquid is more cost effective.
Also, Omega One is a great brand of food and Prime is my go to conditioner. A turkey baster makes a great spot vac and cheep toothbrushes are good for cleaning décor and tank seems. If you live somewhere cold, make sure you have something to cover the tank with or power the heater if the power goes out. 10 gallons can cool down pretty fast. There are lots of diy ideas online if you look.
I hope that helps. My thumbs are killing me! I miss my laptop. Typing on my phone takes for-freakin-ever! -_-
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