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Okay, so when it comes to planted tanks, here's what I feel like would be a good idea to use: Some type of CEC medium - Flourite, Laterite, non perfumed or clumping kitty litter (which do you prefer and why?) I like this idea simply because I've only been using a CEC medium (fluorite) without any issues. Since I want the look of a sandy tank as well as less sharp things for fishies to try and swallow, I would like to be able to cap it. Fluorite is too coarse (so course I have an anubias nana Buried in it rhizome and all, and it's sprouting leaves!), so that means I'm looking at laterite or kitty litter. I've heard it's a good idea to cap kitty litter because it turns to mush after a while. It is also cheapest, so should I just go ahead and go with this since I want a sand cap anyways, or is there something better about laterite? Plant growth medium: Tropica or ADA substrate would be my ideal, but it's so pricey everywhere I look, and to fill a 55 it just seems like a ludicrous amount of money when I'm doing so good on CEC alone. The Fluval Stratum seems reasonably priced and has a lot of good reviews, but I've read it's also very difficult to get plants to stay in it for a while - not good with grazing goldies lol. There's also Organic choice miracle grow, which (I feel with goldfish, probably not so much with tropical) likely needs a cap as well, and from what I understand has a lot of the same goodies as this expensive aquarium stuff. Pretty stuff on top: Probably some type of inert sand, maybe with some lake gems or another gravel in the back to help the plants stay situated? I keep hoping to find some type of gray sand (not too dark not too light; I feel like a yellow sand would make my fishies oranges not seem so bright). So, do I have the idea right yet? Lol! What would you guys use? I am all up for going the nontraditional route if I'm not sacrificing a whole lot in the way of quality. I still want something with CEC value because I feel that it's important to have something to help absorb the stuff out of the water column as well, although I'm a little confused as to where it's placement would be. If I remember right, laterite goes on the very bottom. However, I feel like if it was on the bottom it would be more likely to soak up nutrients from the nutrient rich "soil" on top of it, so to me it would make more sense to have it as the second layer (but I'm probably wrong in my way of thinking, I'm no pro!) Okay, rambling done! I appreciate anyone's input!