Hi there! I'm getting ready to set up my 75G after a couple of years away from the hobby. This time, when I do my plants, I want to do it right and avoid some problems I've had in the past.
The problem I had previously was stunted growth and some plants would just melt away. After doing a bit of research I suspect the problem was insufficient CO2 for the amount of light I was providing. I was using a decent amount of Excel and Flourish but still couldn't get plants such as Alternanthera reineckii to maintain. The stems would turn brittle and never establish a root system. The leaves of Ludwigia natans would melt away and break off. The plan at the time was to raise my lights around 8"-10" off my aquarium and maintain the dosing I was doing. In the middle of working this out, the house flooded, and I had to break the tanks down to replace flooring. I wound up turning all my fish and surviving plants in to a LFS for in-store credit. One thing lead to another and it's been about 2 years, but now I'm ready to set everything back up and get going again.
At present the tank is empty and just sitting on the stand, so nothing is in stone. I'm open to any and all suggestions.
Currently the equipment I have in hand is:
Dual T5HO Light System with 2x 6500K bulbs
+/- 150lb Inert Gravel with about 50lb of Fluorite mixed in
Marineland Magnum 350 Canister Filter also have an Eheim 2213 laying around.
If anything I plan to understock the tank in terms of fish. Looking at just doing 6-8 Boeseman Rainbows and Red-Tailed Shark with a pair of Bristlenose Plecs.
I'm looking at trying to mix in some reds with the greens in terms of plants. Nymphaea zenkeri, Ludwigia natans, Echinodorus barthii all come to mind. I would like to do a carpet of some kind, but not sure which to go with. Greens will be Hygrophila corymbosa 'stricta', Hydrocotyle leucocephala, and probably either some Corkscrew or Jungle Val. I would also like to get some floating plants... the only one I have experience with though is duckweed... and the last time I had rainbows, they ate it.
The questions I'm running in to are:
1. Soil Substrate under the gravel... good idea/bad idea?
2. Can I avoid going with pressurized CO2 with the slower growth trade off using my light system? If not, which would be the better investment, pressurized CO2 or different lighting? In my apartment, I do not have the option of suspending the lights, and in order to get the lights I have 10" off the glass would take a ridiculous looking canopy I'm afraid.
3. What kind of ferts/dosing should I look at doing?
4. What kind of carpet/floating plants would you suggest?