I'm putting my 29gallon back into service as a medium light planted tank, done as cheaply as possible.
Since I'm normally promoting high light/tech tanks which can come close to a humble reef setup price-wise, I figured this would be a great chance to show how you can do something cheaply that still works for a lot of plant types...and actually ends up being a little easier on the maintenance.
So here are my tips:
1. keep the lighting fixtures cheap. I bought twin fluorescent lighting at my local Menard's (it's a home builders chain, at least here in Nebraska..a little bit cheaper than Home Depot). They were marked $14, but only rang up $8.96, so I ended up buying 2 of them. they hold 2 foot tubes, which gives me 4x20watts of lighting.... 80 watts.
2. don't spend a fortune on bulbs. Even at the local pet store chains, a 20watt coralife bulb, in the 6,700k range is $19! You can get a GE plant & aquarium bulb at your Home Depot/Lowes/Menard's for $8, and I'm pretty sure its similar to the GE 9325k's that so many of us love. So I grabbed 2 of those. I already had a 10,000k and a 6,500k that were slightly used...perfect for balancing out the pink GE bulbs.
3. build a cheap canopy. the 29gallon was the first tank I built a canopy for. I used Poplar 1x8 lumber, tho 1x6 would work too. There are a ton of canopy plans on the web...just google "DIY
aquarium canopy" - depends on tank size and lumber used, but about $40 for the 29gallon.
4. cheap substrate. I used quickcrete playsand, 50lb bag. why? because I bought it for the saltwater tank, then decided to 'do it right' and buy argonite sand. $2.50 for 50lbs! It looks nice too. You can always get a root tab fertilization kit, and make root tabs very inexpensively.
5. a little DIY CO2
. Its cheap, easy, and even on a 29gallon, totally doable. Do not fear the CO2
, it's not as likely to make a mess as you may have heard.
And now, the photos! The compacta sword is real, but the other plants on the right are plastic