I am setting up two native tanks in the semi-near future. Since I live in Cali where collecting is not allowed (and we don't have any fish I fell in love with) I am ordering in fish from the eastern half of the US.
The first tank will be a sunfish community, with (luck allowing) northern longears, dollars, and a smaller species like Bantams (thanks to Brian for all his amazing help in figuring out what I'm putting in my tank haha). It will be heavily planted with Sagittaria, Ludwigia, Cabomba, and Myrio (and other cool native plants if I can find them - if anyone has a suggestion of something colorful found in the eastern US lakes and rivers, I'd love to know about it.). It's a 40 gallon, drilled overflow, 20 gal sump. The sump will probably have cabomba and hornwort, an algae scrubber (if I can manage to make it) and some biomedia.
This is going to be a loose biotope with all native plants. What substrate would be appropriate? Sand with river rocks seems like it would look best, but is that the type of substrate these fish are found over? Should I use silty sand, or coarse sand? Any particular color that will really look good with the sunfish? If I do this, I'll likely use a soil layer below it to fertilize the plants. Also I'd love to know if snails are appropriate for this tank, and if so, what type and where do I purchase them?
The second tank is going to be what I'm calling my "north america" tank. Bluenose shiners, heterandia formosa, and micropoecilia picta.. It's a 20 gallon long, on which I may try to run a 3-5 gallon sump. The bluenose shiners are going to be the "feature" fish. I plan on a light to medium current, and again native plants, with the addition of azolla caroliniana and hornwort (as the fish in this tank range further into the tropics where these plants are found). Again I would like to know opinions on substrate for this tank. Color, type, layering, etc. And again advice on cleanup snails. It is also possible, depending on how the tank goes, that I might get a brown darter pair to add. Because they are beautiful. It's dependent on how the micropoecilia and heterandia do, as they're the ones likely to be eaten by darters lol.