Thanks all! This is my dream tank too. Fish seem to like it too. They aren't smashed up to the front with too much plant mass in the back - not yet at least. They like swimming through the wood and plants and I sure like the way the rocks work in there. Love using the drilled tank over the HOB overflow too. Water changes do take about 2 hours total but can I walk away during the draining and do other stuff and can just stay in the room with the tank while filling and do stuff.
Eh, $30 for tops that can be used elsewhere is fine. I would love to go open but it is sure nice not having jumpers. The Congos will bump the tops as is when flies come close, am sure they would go after bugs or get spooked and leave the tank.
The platies were more that I wanted orange fish because I have several glass paper weights that are shaped like plastic bags with orange fish in them! I just bought 3 strains I liked so the babies would be a bit different and I could tell them apart. They are lots of fun to watch unless a male gets too rude and really bothers a female. That is one reason for the floating pennywort, for some reason it is easier to hide in it than elsewhere in the tank. I didn't know that the orange/red/yellow/black would both blend and contrast with the plants that are in the tank!
The clay is the root tab matrix. I don't know if it has a lot of iron in the clay but I put iron powder in the mix. I just followed sewingalot's recipe. How to make DIY root fertilizer tablets with clay
The Marsilea has already grown over the cut stems and now the mini java fern is overwhelming its stump! Will cut that and attach elsewhere.
I have heard at least 3 slurps this morning. That usually means corydoras have gone over the edge. How they get through the mesh I don't know! Last week there were 2 in the overflow. Since there is a tall standpipe in there so it isn't super turbulent in there and some food gets in there they will be fine until the next water change.