Upgrading my hood will be no problem assuming the new electronic ballast will fit in there with a 24" light. My stand, tank trim and hood all match.
Since you're replacing the ballast you may want to try and fit two t5 bulbs in there if you can. They are much smaller but I'm not sure if the heat would be an issue.
A simple solution I did once was to use vinyl gutter material with end caps covered with vinyl contact paper. The paper comes in every color, wood grain prints etc. I mounted the ballasts under the tank. It was cheap easy and home depot or Lowes carries everything you need. I had six t12s over a saltwater tank using that technique. The same method could house more T5s but again not familiar with the heat aspect.
If you use separate dry fertilizers how do you know what your tank needs? Are there tests or do you know from experience?
Yes testing for nitrates, phophates, GH and KH guides the dosing. It depends on the method you go with. EI for example is basically flooding the tank with more than it needs then doing a 50% water change each week. The plants will show signs of deficiencies to let you know. There is no lack of images online to show what the problem may be. You sound like me. If I need more Nitrogen I want to add Nitrogen not 1,000% more trace elements or potassium simply because I have one bottle of fertilizer. I'm also cheap! lol $40 will buy enough dry ferts to last for years versus $10 a bottle.
It sure would be convenient if they had a tank that my wife liked the aesthetics. I could copy their equipment, plant, and fish setup and trial and error it from there.
That's actually not a bad plan. Google images is a great way to see what you like as well.
The water is not crystal clear today. You can clearly see small particles floating around. Also the algae growing on the tips of the grass and red plant is substantial enough that I can get a picture of it. Any idea what that stuff is? There doesn't appear to be any growing on the glass yet. What would be the best way to deal with that crud.
It's hard to tell but it looks like BGA (blue green algae) which is actually not an algae but instead a bacteria. You already know the glaring problem which may be causing it. Leaving lights on too long will cause algae problems. I would certainly start dosing with excel or API CO2 booster which are both watered down glutaraldehyde. Rather than explain all the reasons and treatments check out the algae section here
. It covers it far better than I ever could. Make sure you follow the links in the sticky for images and solutions.