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Discussion Starter #1
I've been out of the hobby for a few years but still had my old (probably bought in 1999 or 2000) 44 gallon in storage, which I just recently set up. Just some simple community fish; a trio of angels, a small BGK, a dozen bentosi tetras, a trio of BNPs, and a lone black phantom tetra leftover from cycling. Last weekend I came home to a puddle of water on the floor so now I have a brand new 75 gallon setup in the spot the 44 used to occupy. I washed 50lbs of pool filter sand and threw it into the new tank figuring that it was the bare minimum I needed to do before transferring the fish.

A few years back before I took a break from aquariums I had a group of L128 blue phantoms and some Sturisomatichthys, plus some dithers (tetras, pseudomugil). I love Loricariidae, so I'm feeling the pull to get back into them. My old tank looked kinda boring though, with plecos sticking somewhere, often hidden during the day and not much else happening. I'm wanting to do something that will look brighter and more vibrant, with more than just caves and rocks for plecos. My thinking here is that I should be able to plant what I want and get good growth for a low tech system for an attractive look while maintaining a diverse range of fish species that I like. For plants this is what I have in mind so far:

-Vallisneria
-green and red tiger lotus
-moss on wood
-large sword or two
-Anacharis
-maybe a couple other plant species for height and texture variance.

Still want to include wood, rocks and caves to accommodate plecos. Some of the fish species I'm leaning towards adding eventually are:

-L46
-L260
-L128
-Sturisomatichthys festivus, if I can source them. Otherwise aureus or whatever is available
-Apistogramma cacatuoides /agassizii
-Dicrossus filamentosus
-Threadfin rainbows Iriatherina werneri
-More angels or discus

Here are some of the thoughts I've had so far. There's a good chance that angels or discus might not work well with small L46 or small rainbows and if that means moving the cichlids out, so be it. It may be a while before I can source (and afford) any L46 anyways. When I am able to get some L46, I'm expecting to find F1s, and my plan is to build up a group from one set of parents and then a group from another, and raise these groups separately in order to cross them as adults and maintain what is essentially F0 genetics. That's the dream at least, and beyond the scope of what is possible right now. The plants should be fine at ~80° temperatures as will the fish, even the Sturisomas are within the limits of what they will comfortably tolerate. I might leave the substrate as pure sand and add root tabs; looks like these Osmocote tabs are all the rage now. Will need to upgrade filtration, just the AC50 from the 44 gallon running on this tank right now. Might wait for a boxing day deal or something to come up on the classifieds. Must get 48" lighting; found a deal on a Fluval LED so I will check that out this coming week. These new lights are so advanced, I was thinking I could program them to come on around 5 or 6 when I'm waking up, run for maybe 5 hours, turn off, come on again around 5 pm, and turn off again around 10 or 11 pm in order to maximize atmospheric CO2 uptake and keep water chemistry more consistent and be on for more of the hours I'm home and can enjoy the tank.

I'll post up some pictures tomorrow to show what it looks like now to get a starting point. In the meantime I want to know what people think of this so far; what kind of filtration would you go with? Will my lighting plan work? Where are people going nowadays to source L46, L260 and Sturisomas? I'm thinking these are going to be the toughest to find, especially S. festivus. A festivus for the rest of us. What kinds of things have I not thought of, any problems I haven't anticipated? Should I scrap the idea of having angels or discus? Let me know what you think.
 

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Your lighting plan is very similar to what I do. Have it turn on in the morning as I'm waking upturn off when I go to work and then turn on a bit before I get back. It works great in my opinion and definitely helps keep rampant algae problems down.

I'm assuming you are going pretty low lights? If so I think those plants will be totally fine and they will work adequately in the pool sand substrate. I'd look at getting some anubias nana to place is crevices between the rocks and driftwood, it helps to give a nice jungle look and they are extremely hardy. Cryptocornes as along stem/leaf plant that can take it all.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Here is a belated update to show the tank as it was on Dec 27 2019, right after hitting up all the Boxing Day sales. I went nuts on Boxing Day, here's the list of new purchases:

Fluval 3.0 LED 48"
Eheim 2215
Spider wood

Celebes rainbows
Neon tetras
pair of L128
and a koi angel

Vallisneria
Tiger Lotus
Chain Sword

I was able to basically get the best deal available on whatever I picked out. It felt great, but it's put me on a bit of a spending freeze for aquarium stuff ever since.

IMG_20191227_215321.jpg
 

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Thanks! I'm really pleased with the scaping. Maybe my proudest job yet. The vals have taken off, as has the water sprite (hitchhiker that came with fish purchases) that I planted on the left side. Having a bloom of cyanobacteria at the moment.

I did some reading and brushed up on fertilizing, and thought that Flourish Excel was the way to go, until I read that it would kill the vals and Java moss. Now I'm trying to come up with a better long term plan. Maybe I'll replace those plants with something that can survive Excel dosing.
 

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Looks very good my friend. I like the clean look, even though my own tanks tend to get overcrowded and full of plants and wood.
Just give it a few weeks or months...those Vals will start spreading out and taking over the scenery in no time! You actually can use Flourish Excel (though you will of course need some other fertilizer product in addition.) Just decrease the dosage with the Excel initially and slowly work your way up to the recommended amount. After just a little initial melting my Vals adapted quite nicely and after a time it didn't bother them at all. To be honest though, these days I don't use Excel very often anymore due to the fact that the plants I now have don't really need the extra Carbon.
 

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oooo the growth on this is gonna be one to watch.
 
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