i didnt see the part of your post on automation.
im doing the same thing, and im using aqualifters. the thing is, they cant lift the water too high. also, if its too low, itll dump in too much water, unless you have a very good percise timer. im using them since i can hook them up to X10 which gives me control down to the second, but an average timer with 15min intervals would be no good.
unless you can do something like that, i suggest you get these:
epicfish showed me those, and they pump in mls per minute if i remember right. so they would be perfect if you plan on using regular timers. also, you only need 2 pumps. macros in 1 bucket, micros in the other.
here is the thread, look through it, it may help:
oh, yeah. forgot about the whirlpool. for me that wouldnt be useful, since i have an eheim surface skimmer attached to my eheim prefilter, so that sucks out all the skum, but yeah, you need SOMETHING, or it looks really gross.
so, will it be an iwagumi? or will you put wood in with the stones?