Alright, it's been about a month since I got everything set up. Here's what's going on.
Most notable addition is probably some plants coming out the top. There's philodendron, some ivy from the back yard, and a small stem of dracaena of some type. I have a CFL shop/clamp light attached to a lamp post that illuminates them, but it looks really ghetto so I moved it out of this shot. Anyway, the plants are growing really well and I'd like to add a lot more.
I got a few animals: 4x otocinclus, 6x rummy-nose tetras, and about 20 Taiwan fire red shrimp. There are still plenty of tannins in the water but nobody seems to mind.
The rummy-noses wouldn't stay still for a photo so you'll just have to use your imagination.
A month ago I tied a bunch of moss onto rocks. This is what a month of moss growth looks like for me:
There are three moss rocks in the center of this photo. The one in front is peacock moss, top left is christmas, top right is willow and the only thing that has grown on that one is some BBA that I need to take care of.
A fissidens rock
Evaporation was becoming an issue so I made a lid out of a piece of acrylic. It is two panels -- a front and a back -- with holes for the wood and tank equipment. I can put the roots of my surface plants through the holes. I cut this all out with a dremel, which was probably the least efficient way of doing it but it was all I had. It looks pretty rough in person but it's better than nothing!
Before I made my lid I just covered the surface of the water with sheets of saran wrap. The plants (and algae) grew like gangbusters. When I switched to the acrylic sheet the light was reduced considerably. Some of the parts in the back got so dark that the plants died. I'd like to get a second light for the back. I'm thinking of a Finnex Monster Ray. The quality of the light is gorgeous, especially in combination with the Ray 2 (what I'm using here) but I don't know if the light is strong (or useful) enough to reach all the way to the bottom. Don't know! Suggestions welcome. Most of the plants in the back are all low-light so they're doing alright.
I have some dramatic slopes in the back, too. In the back corners the slopes are about 7" high. Here you can see the strata of substrate:
Fluorite at the top, lava rocks and aquarium gravel underneath.
And finally, some sound-proofing for the filter and air pump. Supposedly the canister filter should be silent but mine is really loud. I think I may have damaged it the first time I turned it on. Boo.