Wow that looks Crazy Awesome. I can imagine it with plants in... and WOW does it look good
Man it's nice to hear compliments. I'm super stoked on it! Looking forward to scoping out your tanks in a sec too!
Until you get pressurized CO2, stick with medium to low light plants and keep your light low. Go ahead and fertilize. Personally, I believe the first thing to get is CO2; however, I ran my 75g with plastic plants and a 30" single flourescent strip light! Talk about low light! But it served its purpose to keep the tank algae free while I got the things I needed to go high tech.
Since I doubt you're willing to go with plastic plants until Christmas, then just stick with lower light plants while keeping your light low. Crypts are usually a good low light choice that look great when the lights are raised higher later. Keeping the lights low should work well to keep the algae at bay while you're waiting on the pressurized CO2.
Once you get pressurized CO2, the next step is to be sure you have dry ferts and are using a good fert program. I really like EI. It's simple, cheap and it works.
Next step is to get a LOT of plants to fill the tank. If you get smaller plants that will grow in, then get something like hornwort to stick in the tank while the other plants are growing. You do not want a low plant mass for the next step...
And that next and last step is to turn your bright lights on. Keep the photoperiod around 5-6 hours at first. You can run your lower lighting for about 9 hours so you can have something like 1.5hrs low/6hrs high/1.5hrs low totaling 9hrs.
At this point, you want to see if your plants begin pearling when the bright lights are on. You should get a blizzard of oxygen bubbled all over the tank at the end of the bright light time! If not, then work to increase your CO2. Inch it up until your drop checker turns yellow, beyond green. Inch it up very slowly until you know you've raised it as high as your fish can tolerate. Personally, I greatly prefer using a pH controller to ensure that the CO2 is constantly level, but a lot of people just connect it to the timer for the lights. If that works for you, great. If not, then invest in a pH controller.
The main goal is to give the plants MORE ferts and CO2 than they need so those two components do not limit the plants' growth. Then raise the lights and fiddle with the photoperiod to give your plants as much light as they need without giving so much light that you encourage algae. Upon seeing the first sign of algae, reduce your photoperiod for your bright lights and/or your low lights. Keep fiddling with the photoperiods until your tank seems to settle down with great plant growth and no algae.
The main key to preventing algae is to (1) turn on the bright lights as the very LAST part of the setup and (2) make sure you have a lot of plant mass from the very start of using those bright lights.
When you get this combination together, there will be very few plants that won't love your tank. And you will love it all that much more as a result!
Vicki, Gosh you're 75 was AMAZING before the move! I can't wait to see it back in action. The colors and the depth in that tank were just mind blowing. I'm flattered you took the time to comment on my layout.
Thank you SO much for your advice. I think you are completely right about keeping the lights down until I go pressurized. You've pointed out some things here (high plant mass, photoperiod) that I have not given a lot of thought to yet. Thank you for raising them to my attention.
I'm looking into ferts and the EI method now, trying to get some understanding. Its a little overwhelming for a beginner.
Also, do you know a link that shows a SIMPLE explanation of what falls under micro and macro? Is there a spreadsheet template somewhere that gives dosing examples for different sized tanks? And one that aquarists can use to record their dosing schedule or is everyone doing this on their own? I'm wearing out the scroller on my mouse tonight and I'm a little overwhelmed on the whole ferts thing. No rush on an answer. It sounds like you are quite busy from your posts!