Nice little duel you have.
I would have to agree with the others as far as substrate goes. The darker the substrate, usually means, the brighter your colors will be in the tank, for both plants and fish. Also you could try using plant fertilizer tabs if you don't want the hassle of dosing ferts all the time. In all of my tanks I dose at least 2x a week, however the ones that have the pft's look better overall. Anyway, try baby tears or it's micro version.
Windolev fern works great tied to driftwood, I have that and anubis nana in my 1.5 gallon betta tank. However, it might melt a little with such high lighting. Dwarf Sagittari works great for giving small tanks that "high grass" feel for the background.
Crypts such as luciens stay smaller so they would also be a good choice.
As far as the layout, I think you need to reconsider, from the looks of it the planted tank looks to be very cut and dry, basically like you just placed them in the substrate just to get them there. Try going for a more balanced approach, maybe add some driftwood or stones to make a better focal point.
Oh almost forgot, Flourish Excel seems to do a wonderful job for different types of algae, I don't know how but it wiped out thick green mat algae that had grown across my driftwood. It cleaned it out faster than my florida flagfish killie could eat it.
Try using a background as well, usually a black or deep blue will help keep in some of that light as well not cause the rest of the occupants color to fade as bad. A top (maybe plexiglas would work) would help regulate temperature and stop the water from evaporating so fast..
Anyway, that was a mouthful so I will await further pics.
By the way, what do you have in the Reef tank?