I'm planning on doing a heavily planted tank. I'm probably going to start it when I get home over the summer. I want it to be something that's VERY low maintenance.
I suppose it would be helpful to tell you what I have.
The bulb I'm using is 15W T8 18" Full-Spectrum florescent light bulb.
I don't know what level of light that is, whether it low or medium, but I'd really like to try something carpeted, I'd like a really nice planted fixture as a centerpiece, I'm still thinking of a fake piece from petco, and strap down some anubias and moss. I've also seen many that are just rock, or a carefully construed pile of rocks complimented with some driftwood.
If you guys can give some CO2 options that would be great because I have no experience with co2.
I really like the look of carpeted grass, I think it was UG? (whatever that is) :/ with I think water wisteria and maybe some swords? I really didn't like the look of the java fern I had, but it's not completely ruled out.
As for inhabitants, I'd like to, once planted, put shrimp in there, then once there are enough hiding places and the shrimp have reproduced enough, I'd like to add some fish that would control the population. Hopefully I could throw some cool snails in there too.
As for substrate, I should probably do it right and use dirt under sand right? That seems to be the crowd favorite. What would be the best dirt to use? What sand do people like? I'd like it to be black. If any plants need tabs I don't see that being a problem.
If anyone could tell me some plant stocking options, that would be very helpful. Thank you.
You're doing the right thing by planning ahead, when you first start there is a lot of information to absorb. Its a great sign that you're so eager to learn, you will go a long way in this hobby.
The advice I'll give is not to freak out when things don't go according to plan, and don't cut corners when it comes to daily and weekly maintenance.
This first tank is going to be mostly for learning so don't be afraid to do something wrong, when things go wrong it is just an invitation to learn more and you get better at making things go right in the future.
As far as substrate goes, I would avoid going the mineralized topsoil route since once you plant something it is pretty permanent. You can't change it out on the fly as you're learning new plants and scaping methods. Personally, I would recommend Flourite or Eco-Complete.
The light you're using I'm guessing is what came standard with the tank's hood? If it is not too late I would return it and get just a standard 10g with no hood and use the money you save to get a 20" T5H0 fixture. This will let you experiment and grow many different types of plants.
My last two pieces of advice is to try and locate a local planted tank club that is the best place to get advice specific to your location, lastly use the swap n shop section of this website, there are great deals and there is a great wealth of knowledge when you know the person who grew your plants, they can tell you what will work and what won't.