If you look around on
the net, there's tons of info on setting up and maintaining a planted
tank cheaply. With DIY lighting and CO2, and knowing tricks like
using Profile instead of Fluorite for a substrate, to name one
example, a simple planted tank won't cost that much if any more than a
tank with plastic plants and decorations.
True, but I'd be really hesitant to recommend DIY CO2 to a complete newbie.
It's one more thing to learn, and one more thing that can go wrong.
It is possible to set up a planted tank inexpensively, but a lot of people
won't do the research or do the work required. Often, someone setting up a
tank inheritied it from someone else, so they don't have to buy anything.
Plastic plants and decorations aren't a requirement. But for a planted tank,
I also don't think that there's all that much more of a learning
curve. Even if they start out with just a bunch of java fern so that
they don't need to add or do _anything_ special to their
tank/hood/pink gravel start-up tank, the concept is the same: plants
can be viewed as biological filtration just like the bacteria in the
filter. Aside from the plantless tank/fishless-cycling subject, start
out with a good filter, some easy plants and a couple little fish in a
typical beginner setup, and you shouldn't have any problems as long as
you maintain it properly and don't overstock.
Low-light plants are great for newbies, and I do recommend those. IME, they
grow so slowly in low light, they are almost like plastic plants. Little care
required, no fertilizer or pruning needed, but you do have to rinse the algae
off them once in awhile. g They don't do much filtration, either.
As for the whole plants-only vs. plants & filter debate, I personally
come down on the side of having both for the majority of people,
especially newbies. If one fails, the other is always there as a
backup, and redundant filtration is never a bad idea.
I agree. I always try to have redundant filtration. A UGF and a HOB filter,
say. In planted tanks, I consider my plants the backup filter.
IME, beginners usually need that redundancy. As you noted in your other post,
their constant, frantic posts to fish-oriented newsgroups and message boards
prove that. It's been my experience in real life, too. A friend of mine saw
my tanks last winter, and decided to set up her own this summer. I warned her
to go slow, and even offered her a lot of equipment and stuff (since I have a
bunch of stuff I don't use, from many years of fishkeeping). But she went
right off the deep end. Bought two tanks, with stand, lighting, filters, etc.,
for inside the house, one for her porch, and a huge tub for her backyard, along
with a pond filter. (I think it was meant to be a livestock watering trough.)
She asked me for advice, and I gave it to her, but she ignored most of what I
said. She bought hundreds of dollars worth of fish online, and dumped them in
her tanks with no cycling or anything. (She "aged" the water for two weeks, as
many old books and old-timers recommend.) Worst of all were the four extremely
expensive show koi she bought for her outdoor tub. The tub was only 100
gallons; I told her it wasn't big enough for four koi. She said it would all
right, since they were only babies and she had a good filter. She put tons of
plants in the tub (including several pounds of clippings from my tanks), but in
a couple of weeks, the poor koi were all dead. She tried goldfish next, and
then mollies, then platies; they all died, too. I think I'm going to buy her
an ammonia test kit for her birthday. :-P