Fish tank: sometime having a smaller fish can be harder than keeping a big one. In larger tanks condition are much more stable due to the larger amount of water. Amonia and ph changing substance have less of an effect on your fish due to being much more diluted. Having a larger tank also allow noobies to not make the mistake of over stocking.
Water: Your water use must fit the need of the specific fish and plants living there. Some common fishes, such as neon tetra, require low ph from around 6.0. However most plants and fishes can adapt to be living at neutral ph 7.0, however behaviors and color come out best when the conditions are right.
Remember that tap water is different around the world, where live the tap water comes out really hard (high Gh) and can be as high as 8.5 Ph! Remember that you can have high ph with with both soft and hard water, soft and hard water just means that it has a lot of calcium and magnesium ions and the Ph is actualy raise by increasing Kh (carbonate hardness).
Whatever the case, it is always best to use RO water, or mineralize RO water with around neutral Ph. This also get rid of the Chlorine and Chloramine making if safe for plants and fish. However if you have to really use tap water, you should buy a water condition like seachem prime.
Filter: Bigger is always better, for planted tank external filter are always better because they cause less surface tension which reduce the amount of c02 being lost. As always when buying filters, make sure the GPH rate is 5-6 times your tank size. For example a 30 g tank would nee about 150 GPH (gallon per hour).
go big or go home
Substrate: If you are building a regular tank, gravel or anything that is inert are fine. In planted tank however, substrate need nutrients for the plants to grow so a rich substrate are needed. Some substrate like ADA aquasoil are very good for growing plants, however they can be pretty pricey. If you don't have the cash, opt for cheaper substrate like fluorite. If you're really poor than you can grab some Walmart special kitty litter, its almost the same thing as fluorite, be careful of the chemicals in some of them and their Ph changing properties. Some people like me like to add a thin layer of organic soil and cap it off with sand or fluorite. Remember that same can get very anaerobic (due to lack of circulation) and can release harmful smelly gas.
black subtrate make the best contrast.
Lighting: The general rule is that you need 2-3 WPH to grow plants, anything with more than 3WPH can be considered high light. Remember that smaller tanks and larger tank dont really obey this rule (less and greater than 20-30g tanks), with larger thank needing less WPG and smaller needing more. However the distance of light toward your plant are also important because light intensity can be much lower even in inches. Remember that not all plants can be growing in low lighting. If you want you can build your own lights for much cheaper at home depot or walmart, fluorescent technology has allow cheaper lighting for most people.
C02: c02 are very important when growing planted tank, if your having anything more than 2WPG you probably want to start using c02. Planted tanks with c02 grow much faster and healthier. There are two type of c02 use for planted tank, diy yeast c02 and Compress c02. DIY can be cost effective in smaller tanks but start becoming useless in larger tank. Compress c02 are much better, much more consistent and more cost effective in the long run.
to learn more about c02 please go to
for diy c02
Disclaimer: none of these pics are mine unless stated so.