I would probably have several guppies, not just one as they're pretty small fish to be on their own in a reasonably large tank. Skip the swordtail as these really need a 4ft to do well.
Easy-care plants don't need a specific substrate - you can just pop a root tablet underneath the plants to feed them. Special plant substrates are only needed for heavily planted tanks with plants that are more demanding, and they tend to need extra lighting and CO2 injection in addition.
The best way to deal with algae is to clean it off yourself - an algae-eating fish will create more waste and thus encourage more algae growth, and most don't really eat much algae as they prefer (and need) fish food.
You can clean the tank with a weak bleach solution - dilute about 1:20, and if you have any stubborn limescale marks, white vinegar will deal with them. Rinse well and allow to dry thoroughly before setting up the tank.
Aqadvisor says capacity is 86% without the snails, as it doesn't include those.
A few questions - I would like to have some real plants - is there a specific substrate I should look for, and is there a calculator to determine how much I need? Will the snails be enough to control algae in the tank? Should I add an algae eating fish? Especially to get the algae at the top of the tank, seeing as the snails tend to stay on the bottom. What should I use to clean the tank and filter etc with? I don't want to introduce chemicals that will upset the fish.
The products which claim to curtail the cycling process do not (yet) have great evidence for effectiveness - a couple of them may have the correct nitrifying bacteria and thus are more likely to work than others but only if the correct procedure/instructions have been followed during the process from manufacture to use, which of course cannot be ascertained. In rare cases, they may work; in most cases, they'll make no difference, be a waste of money, and potentially cause confusion about where in the cycling process you are (and may thereby even prolong the cycling process).
Those in local aquatic/fish shops are trained to sell such products, as well as a whole host of other products to counteract the effects of incomplete cycles or ammonia/nitrite presence and high nitrates, medications for sick fish, and new stock to replace those which succumb.
The fishless cycling method using ammonia is the 'tried and tested' method proven to work, and, as yet, no product has been identified to compare to its effectiveness.
Quick update - a month in and tank parameters are just about ideal for our stock.
I won't bore you with the detail but no mini cycle, hardness suiting and by heck are these loaches growing!
Absolutely religious daily water changes, daily strip testing and twice weekly master testing, this beaut of a tank has remained stable. We have also used RO to reduce hardness to 10. I'm paraphrasing here as hubby does the RO and hardness parameters, I'm not really sure, I just do as I'm told with how many litres of RO and tap to add.
We have used Seachem Prime, Stability and Matrix, I suspect these have helped hugely.
This is our accidental beginner tank and I'm so pleased we have managed to give these guys a good environment to enjoy life.
Next step is a few extra souls, shall keep you updated! Oh and starting a shrimp tank too, a whole new thread/subject.
Hi there. I want to get an air pump to run a small single sponge filter in a 24L (which I think is just over 5 Gallons) tank as a Spare tank I have tried to look up what I need but it all gets really confusing. I know it’s a small tank so tempted to go for mini ones or the smallest ones but wanna make sure it’s strong enough to run the sponge filter. Does anyone have any recommendations. A quiet one would be good too. Thanks