So, thought I would finally update.
First, scaping in a 12" wide tank is horrible. WAY too narrow. I am kicking myself for not getting a 40 breeder. Live and learn I guess. For a learning tank, this will do.
Things have changed quite a bit in any case. The HC was removed due to being overcome by algae. Instead I will propogate chain swords and pull them out as they get too big.
I determined that my lights were simply too close. I have moved them to 24-25" above the substrate, which is still probably around 60 PAR at the substrate (estimate - reflectors aren't as good as catalina, tek, etc). Algae problems have been nil since then.
I added some new plants and am in the process of growing them out. The background plants are not really "background" just yet. Should take another couple months of pruning and growing to hit the tank's peak. The DD is about due for a trim, as it is outgrowing the Ludwigia behind it.
Rummies are my favorite fish yet. What an amazing bunch to have in a small tank! They never quit from dawn till dusk. I am salivating at the thought of a large school in the 90g I am planning to get eventually.
Another bonus, I have not lost any fish despite people saying how hard they and the otos can be to acclimate.
Here are a couple additional pics.
Ludwigia and DD
His poor tail needs some time to grow back yet.
These guys are so great, but nigh impossible to get a good picture of. I need to acquire a remote flash.
He is so fierce! He thinks he can take me...