This is my first post here. I've always been interested in aquariums, and want to start a planted tank. I currently have a 10 gallon that has been running for several years. I am currently running the aquarium low-tech, but the java fern I have in there has been thriving for years and has basically overtaken the tank. Anyhow, I would like to upgrade to a 20 gallon high and want to see if I'm on the right track. I am planning on planting low-maintenance plants like the java fern, vallisneria, water sprite, and the like. As for the fauna, I plan to stock the tank pretty lightly. 7-8 small schooling tetras, 3-4 smaller cories, and a blue ram or betta.
For the substrate, I plan on using Eco-Complete. I realize that there aren't necessarily any nutrients in it (it has a high CEC, which is apparently an important property for substrate if I want to grow rooted plants), but I plan on dosing some liquid fertilizers and using root tabs if necessary. Based on what I've read, eco-complete seems to be a good no-fuss, low maintenance substrate. Would two 20 lb bags of the stuff be enough to cover the bottom of a 20 gallon high?
For CO2, I'm thinking of getting away with not adding much beyond Flourish Excel depending on my lighting situation (see below). I could easily set up a DIY system though if necessary.
Lighting seems to be a little more complicated, and this is where I could use the most help. I want my tank to be a low-medium light tank, and based on my research, I seem to have three options for lighting: t5no, t5ho, and LED lights. I've been eyeing the Finnex Fugeray 24, but at $75, it is a bit on the pricey side. The t5 fixtures are less expensive, but I've read that bulbs go out pretty quickly and I don't want to have to deal with replacing them so often if they are expensive.
I have some questions about t5 lighting. I am looking at this model:
Based on what I've read, the double t5ho would be too much for a low to medium light tank. If I just used one bulb instead of two, would that give me sufficient lighting?
I am also open to buying a t5no fixture. Does anyone have recommendations for one? I've read that the Coralife ones are unreliable, and having used a Coralife fixture for my 10 gallon at some point, I would have to agree.
Lastly, could I buy t5 bulbs that would work for an aquarium at let's say, Home Depot, fairly inexpensively? I would like to keep costs down, and was wondering if these bulbs can be obtained inexpensively?
Thanks for your help!