So here she is, one of the ugliest! I now have about half of the blue gravel removed, but it's a little stressful getting rid of it all. If that slate wall (about 2 inches thick) is sitting on a single piece of gravel, then the entire weight of the slate will be on a very small surface area, and I'm worried it will break the glass. Plus, I made it so it would be very tight fitting, and if I bump it too hard against the sides... well... the tank might shatter. So I have to work around the slate, and I almost broke the tank getting it in, so I don't want to tempt fate by removing it, and putting it back in later. So, finished rambling, on to the questions!
I want to put in a substrate that will actually help sustain life, that has nutrients and all that in it. What sort of substrate should I use for a low tech tank? Should I decide what kind of plants I am going to put in, before I decide on substrate, or the other way around? Also, if I put a new substrate in, lets say Amazonia, then will I deal with ammonia and nitrate/nitrite spikes? I don't have another aquarium to put my fish in while I replace the substrate, plus I have kuhli loaches which will be hiding under the rock wall, and therefore will HAVE to stay in the tank while I put new substrate in. And what kind of plants do you think would go well in front of, as well as on top of, the slate wall?
I'm sorry about the poor quality photo, I'm currently saving up for a DSLR, and should have one in a month or two, but until then, poor lighting, combined with a poor camera, and a poor photographer, doesn't make for the greatest of pictures, LOL! And in case you all can't tell, I am, by every definition of the word, a newbie to fish, aquariums, and plants, so ANY help would be beneficial.
By the way, the plants in there are some sort of duckweed (not sure which one) some grass that I pulled out of a pond near the north end of the chesapeake bay, and a piece of lucky bamboo. I'm not terribly attached to any of them, so they can all get replaced by new plants.
EDIT: Before pic
Thanks for all the help!
P.S. All the dust/junk all over the rocks is due to a melted crypt. I have sort of poor waterflow through the tank due to the wall, so it's hard to get all that junk filtered out. If anyone decides to do a full slate wall background, I would recommend something that makes some current. That way all the dust and dead plant debris will get stirred up and sucked into the filter.