Alright everyone... it has been about 10 days since my initial post. Since then I have bought plants through the "for sale" section on this site, set up a dirted tank, and assembled a DIY co2 system.
First, I moved my fish to a temporary tank. A 30g I set up when I first bought most of the fish I currently have in the 55g. They have since grown in the 4 years I have had them and I feel bad making them stay in such a smaller tank. I know it doesn't look like it, but there are 8 fish in there.
I then emptied out my tank and removed the plastic "plants" and began to spread a 2" - 3" layer of dirt. The dirt was a little muddy and wet. When I do this again, I will make sure to have the dirt dried or slightly moist. The soil was Miracle Grow Organic Mix. I needed to remove some pieces of mulch that floated to the surface while I was soaking the soil for a week.
I left about an inch of space in front of the tank so you won't see the dirt when looking into the tank and creating a better cap.
I then spread the gravel over the dirt to create a "cap" and cover the dirt. Some of the gravel sank right into the dirt (which is another reason I would make sure the dirt was just moist). I placed the driftwood and waited for the plants to arrive. I received about 3/4 of the plants I ordered this past Friday, so I was able to get started on the planting and cycling of the tank. Here is the set up as of now.
Some floating plants I ordered. Frogbit and what I believe is Tropical Hornwort. The hornwort was thrown in by the member on here during the purchase.
I left space on the right side of the tank for the plants that are still in the mail. I received an email that they were shipped this morning.
On Saturday, I noticed that some of my Dwarf Sag was melting, but I read this is common for this species of plant when moved, however it should come back? My question is; how will I know when a plant is too far gone and needs to be removed? Just about all of the nodes still have a green leaf left on them, some have a little more.
Sunday, with the Sag still melting, I looked into making a DIY Co2 system. Using this site as a reference, I built one using some old air hose, two soda bottles, an old baby food jar, yeast, sugar, baking soda, and a q-tip as a diffuser. I ordered some check valves (I don't want my room smelling like a brewery without the beer lol) and a glass nano diffuser (much more reliable than a Q-tip) from online which should be in by the end of the week. I set up the system today, and within 5 minutes, I had bubbles in the tank.
Finally, I ordered a general freshwater testing kit. I have been changing about 20% of the water in the tank every day. I have a slight oil looking substance on the surface of the water. Anyone know what that might be? I used the kit to test the water in the tank and my water pH is a little high running 7.6 but I read that Co2 will drop that? If not, what could I use to drop it? The ammonia levels read 0 ppm, Nitrite (toxic ammonia that will harm the fish?) 0 ppm, and Nitrate (this leads to algae blooms from fish waste and old food?) 0 ppm. Anything else I should monitor? I do have a heater in the mail as well. I dropped my last one while moving it out of the tank to dirt it.
Thanks for looking and if you have any advice or answers to the questions I have, they would be greatly appreciated.