Hello from Minnesota! I'm new to the hobby and have been working up the courage to share my tank and solicit general advice. As you can see, I haven't had any trouble starting what might someday be a very nice algae farm.
Feel free to lay into me with what I can improve upon. This is mostly a tank for me to learn the ropes of growing aquarium plants, eventually I'll no doubt go big on a tank but i don't have the room for that right now.
I've been using RO water - my city's water is superduper hard (20+dkh) and frankly i didn't want to deal with cleaning that much calcification off of my aquarium rim.
I've had this bad-boy for about a month. If you look through my post history you can find my fertilizer dosing regimen. I don't feel the need to go into it right now, but if you ask i'll gladly discuss it with you. Since I solicited help for my green hair algae i've started dosing flourish and excel. It has improved in the short term, but it looks like the brown algae is moving into its place.
My water parameters are as follows
KH - 0 (this is a consequence of the mr aqua soil, i'm not sure whether to fight it or just roll with it)
Ammonia - 0 ppm
Nitrite - 0 ppm
Nitrate - 0 ppm (I am considering increasing my KNO3 dosing but i'm worried that my algae will enjoy that too much)
I don't have any phosphate testing kits, but am considering stopping by the LFS to grab one
Plant-wise, i'm pretty happy with the diversity in the tank. I'm hoping the plants look okay when they grow in a bit. I'm thinking about corralling some floating plants (maybe frogbit) over in front of the driftwood to provide some shade to that part of the tank. I'm less happy with my java moss wall. I'm also thinking about replacing the plastic-mesh java moss sandwich with something more low-key (maybe a net? or just remove 1 of the two plastic grids). It could be a long time before there's enough moss there to hide that sufficiently (if ever) and its prone to show every bit of algae or deitrus that lands on it until then.
I'm planning on tossing some neocaridina davidi in this spring, as i've heard they can tolerate low kh as long as gh is sufficient, and I can give them mineral food just to be safe. Feel free to leave additional/alternative stocking suggestions. For the most part, I don't think it would be ethical to house most vertebrates in here and most invertebrates need quite a bit harder water than I can get without going to war against my substrate.