talon i appreciate your candidness and is the reason why i hold your opinion in such high regard...
i myself are surprised how well my plants have grown sans co2... but the price to pay is great. i've overdosed excel and killed some poor fishies in the process before I found the right daily dosage.... also i've found it very expensive. i used a 500ml bottle in a month. so co2 injection is a logical and cost saving investment.
You have two types of basic scapes, a softscape and a hardscape (and the obvious combination of the two). With a plant driven scape, it hasn't to grow for it to look good but as I said, rescapes (with only plants) almost always look bad until everything grows in. I didn't mean to even have the be negative, it's more just the "I can't wait" factor. It will look sweet and I can see the foundation.
My 29 probably looks really unappealing to anyone but me right now lol. It's because I know exactly what it's going to look like. The pictures show a wall of plants and a bunch of grass, not too exciting. If my tank comes out as planned, I know I will get the "why didn't I see this tank before" from people who saw that tank before and thought "If I don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all" lol. I am sure you will get the "why didn't I see this already too". I have had the luxury to see how beautifully you grow plants as well so I am sure it looks 10x better in person now, and will look 10x better in pictures soon, that look 10x better in person.
I have ditched the idea of excel so long ago. Even on a small tank, it really isn't that expensive but I just find it doesn't do much compared to CO2. It prevents algae but I don't see much of a difference in growth. It is a great algaecide, either all the time, or when needed, and that is what I use it for. Everyday I am there on my girlfriends 5 gallon, when needed elsewhere. My girls 5 gallon does get algae when i don't use it for long periods of time, as said growth doesn't change. I did the unthinkable (for me) and started DIY CO2 on my 20L rock pile, compared to doubling the recommend excel does (after water change) to DIY, huge difference. Growth is still horribly slow but you may be able to see the grass in pics now, we will see when I update.
Trust me, CO2 will be an "ah ha" moment for you. You are not someone with massive algae issues looking for solutions, again, I have seen your plants, I can say that with confidence. You have a great grasp on things and your tank is about to explode. My first and favorite tank was like this. After that, I was trying to add light and using CO2 with an algaecide mentality, very frustrating, especially when you actually know what you are doing wrong and try to prove yourself wrong lol.
Sorry, talking a lot here. I can't wait to see this explode and it truly will. Keep your scissors out, you will need them (in a good way). Time to start shaping and making colorful bushes.
I don't know if you caught it but you said you had the plants ready in my thread and I gave you the word to ship. If they are ready go go, I am saving a place for them (which ironically was the place I had your last plants but decided to move them to a different tank I don't have journal on).
Sorry for the ramble, I would love to hear your reaction to the change in plant growth once you get your CO2 dialed in. Unless you are shooting way below 30 PPM, or even 15 PPM for that matter, it's not going to be a subtle change. I would love to hear back on that topic in about a week, I will get a kick out of it I am sure.