Hi, I've been reading for awhile, trying to learn what to do with my first tank. We had fish when I was a little kid, but otherwise this is my first time actually doing the work myself. I finally took the *ahem* plunge and set up a brand-new tank last weekend.

So I've spent the last week arguing with my ammonia levels, trying to get my fishless cycle started, and I've finally got it sitting at 4ppm. In order not to lose my mind, I am starting to look ahead to stocking the tank (I know this could still be a month away). I have a 29G tank with the HOB filter that came in the kit (a Penguin Bio-Wheel 200) plus an airstone, a bunch of plastic plants, and a cork-bark "log" which I'm struggling to keep from floating, but that's another story. I live near the mountains and our municipal water is from a glacier- and spring-fed river. Needless to say the GH and KH are off the charts, and it's very alkaline (pH seems to be just under 8.5).

I really want neon tetras.

Yes, it's silly (I want them because we had them when I was a little kid) and no, this isn't going to work very well with my water. So my first question is, how can I bring the hardness down without spending a fortune on RO water? I've heard peat is very effective. Is there a peat product you could recommend?

Second question is friends for the tetras, assuming I can make the water hospitable. My kid really wants an African dwarf frog, but I'm sort of afraid it'll eat the tetras. We also think Tequila Sunrise guppies are very pretty. And my dad recommended I get an algae-eater, to help de-gunk the tank a bit.

As a beginner, my focus would be on relatively hardy, yet cool-looking fish. I would really appreciate your suggestions. I do want to stick with one tank for now until I know what the heck I'm doing, at least a little bit. Thanks!!