I'd still do a water change on a regular basis, I do 25% a week. My nitrates show about what yours does right before a water change. It goes down, and slowly creeps back up through the week. I've found that with my water supply here in Eau Claire, a big water change effects almost all my plants in a bad way. I have a high pH from the tap, which the tank lowers. I top the tank off due to evaporation with distilled water once and a while. You want to strive for stability, wild swings in anything is bad.
Depending on a lot of things, like what you use for water, plant density, stocking, fertilizers, light levels, oxygen levels, CO2 levels, and the boogeyman in your tank, you will have to change things slowly and observe what happens. Keep reading everything having to do with any problems that occur, and then read some more.
I'm glad you like your julii's, they should be very happy in your tank. They don't get very big, and they will keep things tidy. Just don't overfeed, that might be the hardest part of keeping a tank. The fish always seem hungry, but they are gluttons.
Good luck, pretty soon you can fill in your middle and top levels of your tank with fishies.
Got it! Will be doing a 25% WC today and retest my water levels. I strive to do weekly WCs to, as you said, keep things more stable. I always cringe when I talk with friends who have tanks and don't do regular WCs (we're talking not even once a month).
I have a high PH (~7.5) as well as hard water too. I do have a water softener installed at my house, but it's not hooked up currently. I have to get it serviced as it was turned off when I bought the house 3 years ago and has never been used (my fault for waiting so long, just busy with family and life).
The Juliis are very fun to watch and have quite the personality. Love their eyerolling. Not very good eyesight though! I've seen them swim right by food when I know they are hungry and looking for it because they find or have found food at this time. I only feed them enough so they eat where there isn't any food remnants left over after a short time.
I'm finding the fishkeeping to be very peaceful. I'll keep updating as I go and will hopefully get some good pics to share. Thanks again for your help.