Just an update here. It's been a slow process, but quite a learning experience. First off, as I mentioned, I killed all of my HC by letting it get too humid and then mold took over. If you want to see what HC looks like wilting away and dying, here is a time lapse video. This video covers a mere 2 week period.
Youtube: HC Dry Start Faulre
I took a couple of weeks off from the project after the monumental failure, mainly to make sure that all of the mold was killed, and so that the Fluval stratum could recover.
I replanted on February 26th (about a month ago), and I used roughly 1/3-1/2 as much HC this time. The plan was to take it slow, let the tank breath much better, and keep a very close eye on how the plants react to changes. I have found that at least in this small of a tank, you really need to leave it mostly open. I have the saran wrap loosely fitted with a 1" wide air gap, in addition to holes in it. I just wet it down every to every other day and keep the soil moist. It seems to be going quite well. It would be further along, except that I accidentally sprayed a little excel over all the HC, and then it just started shrinking hard and fast within a day. I forgot I had excel in the spray bottle from when I killed the mold. Within a few squirts I could smell it and I stopped right away, but it did NOT like that. I was able to recover it (that was about 2 weeks ago), and now it's growing like gangbusters.
Here is what it looked like on the webcam immediately after planting:
This is what it looks like right now (April 30th). It really started taking off just over a week ago, and it's doing really well! The HC is rooting all the way to the bottom of the soil (1" deep in the shallow areas).
Here is a better picture so you can see how it's filling in between the rocks.
I don't plan on filling with water until I have 100% coverage with the HC. It's definitely slow growing on the right side. I might spritz a tiny bit of ferts over there to see how it reacts. I've also seen almost no growth to the left of the big rock. That HC is in the shade. I've added a light (not pictured) to hit it from the side, so hopefully that helps. I can aways transplant some of the HC that's really thick if I need to. If I transplant, however, I'll have to wait at least 2 more weeks to let it root before I can add water.
I'm not in any hurry though. This is just a fun little science project on my desk at work. It's fun to see how much people drop in now to check out the plant growth though. One guy is obsessed with me getting water in it. It's quite funny.