Ok... here we go again! Last year I set up a 'semi el natural' tank. Why 'semi' ? Well, i used more light than you might otherwise use in an el natural (4 x 38w tubes in a 240litre tank) and had an external filter. I also used a laterite and clay mixture beneth the substrate... but no C02... Well, i started out with DIY C02 but it quickly became a hassle so i used flourish excel This i what the tank looked like on set up: This is what it looked like after a few months: So... after a while this tank became really to much work. I revisted it and removed all of the stem plants... Oh, i also removed two of the lights... it became much more el natural... the tank matured into this: It went really well until a mistake caught up with me... I used silver sand - my plants did really well, then all of a sudden they died back... and i discovered my subsrtate was rotten. UGH... REALLY ROTTEN. I was quite disapointed having to tear the tank down... and it STANK. honestly... getting 15 - 20 kg of stinky clay, sand and laterite out of a tank is not fun. Just redid it as a community tank and have raised some parrot fish and severums and a couple of clown loaches in it. Anyway... The severums mean that my tank doesn't support many plants! and i really miss my old 'lush' looking set up... I was looking at my tank today thinking 'i can do better than this' Another thing happened... a friend gave me eight 1.5" angel fish... and i started thinking what a lovely idea it would be to do a tank with lots of onion plants for the angels. So first things first: I have 2 7" blood parrots and 4 4" severums free to a good home... along with a common plec and a red gibbceps. I am based in Norwich, UK... if you want them, PM me and they're yours. MY PLANS: I have another pressure on my hobby apart from a simple desire for more plants... energy prices in the UK are going up and up... so I need to reduce the cost of running my tank wherever I can. This means I can't justify tons of light again... and am going to have to replace my canister filter + UV with a sponge-based eheim internal filter that only uses 6w (aquaball 2012) - doing this alone will save me, over the course of the year, several times the cost of the new filter in electricity - the fact that I can sell the canister filter and UV to fund the changes to the system for what will hopefully be a cheaper to run and easier to maintain tank is an added bonus. So, at this stage, I have questions... 1 - Do i need to strip the tank down completely? I've read about using frozen soil inserts... if i use these with root fert tabs... will that be enough to get the plants going? Basically, is a soil 'layer' essential? 2 - i've got pea-grade standard aquarium gravel what are the odds that this will stagnate? I REALLY don't want to go through that again. 3 - I live in a flat and don't have access to topsoil have any UK members here used any 'off the shelf' soil products with success? By that i mean commerical soil / compost - not expensive aquarium products, Thank in advance for you advice. So... This is where it begins. Again... eek.