the gravel is just rinsed paver base. i saw several bags of paver base and paver sand on sale at Lowes for like a dollar or two per bag, so i stocked up on all ill ever need... about 800 lbs i think. if i remember correctly, i paid 42 dollars for all of it. i have no idea how it affects ph and i really dont care. by the time i add fish to a tank, the water has pretty much stabilized anyway. as for lighting, its just two dome shop lights on top. i really dont care if the staples rust, but i dont think they will. i have dunked many a stapler into water and the staples never rust in the stapler, so i dont think they will rust in the tank.
here is another pic, with a couple pieces added. the wood is starting to stain the water, so ill probably do a water change next weekend.