thanks everyone! yes, the whole plan was to create a "big" scape within a small tank---what helps create the scale are the plants being used. small plants with small leaves, small pieces of driftwood that are intricately branched all help create the illusion that the tank is huge. small critters also help!
@sampster: the lighting was a hand me down from a friend. it's from Catalina Aquariums.
@caton: maybe not enough solution? but im pretty sure the reason why it appears clear is because the indicator's telling me that there's too much CO2....the fish dont look stressed out and since it's DIY, im not too worried about it.