Hey everyone first post! I'm hoping I can keep this question short, i'm pretty new to planted tanks. First of all i've been keeping fish for a while, but becuase i'm in a dorm, and a poor college student all I have at the moment is a ten gallon with one dwarf puffer due to a massive ph drop in my tank that I have a feeling was due to replacing the water heaters in the dorm.
Anyways, without my bumble bee goby my tanks looking pretty bare, and i recently saw a nice picture of a tank with a whole carpet of dwarf grasshair. It looked pretty awesome, and the only plants i've ever really grown are lowlight no care plants that i basically just throw in the tank like water wisteria, and java fern. I'm hoping to redo my tank this summer once i allocate the funds, and i'm pretty confused about some things.
First of all co2, i'm currently in the proccess of waiting for my silicone to cure on my diy co2 rig, i've been reading about this for a while so i'm pretty pumped. I know that excess co2 can drop my ph, any other side effects i'm not aware of? I'd be pretty upset if anything happened to little megatron.
Secondly, Lighting, I currently have a 15 w t8 grow bulb in my tank. It's not extrodinarily intense, but I wouldn't consider it a low light either. Should i upgrade? I would like a nice carpet of dwarf hairgrass in my tank once everything is said and done, and the wisteria and java fern seem to do well with the bulb at the moment.
Substrate, this is where i'm really confused. I have some aquaria gravel at the moment, and i would really like to switch this out with some plant friendly substrate. I've been reading about a cheap solution using top soil with sand on top? Is this a good way to go, or too much hassle for a newbie? I'm pretty broke atm, so i'd like to go cheap.
One last question, fertalizer, I have litterally no clue about any of this. I'd prefer to avoid fertalizing if possible, i've read dwarf hairgrass isn't too demanding, would it be possible to maintiain some nice bright green hairgrass without fertalizing if i have good lights, co2, and substrate?
Sorry for the long post, I'm pretty confused about a lot of this. Any tips would be greatly appreciated,