1. I am not sure if I am low, medium, or high light. I bought the Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus to see if I had enough light – it seems to be doing ok – Can I try some higher light plants?
2. I bought some almond leaves to add – but not sure I need to. I do not know if my water parameters are ok (ph 7.6 Gh 5 Kh 6). The water I add is at 7.0 but it rises to 7.6 not sure why.
3. My Micro Sword Bunch Lilaeopsis Novaezelandiae don't look great – trimmed them – Not enough light?
4. Would you add Co2?
5. Does my filtration seem ok? How often should I clean the sponge filter on the intake tube? The shrimp love it.
6. I feed my fish once or twice a day – they are fat and the zebras and barbs are laying eggs – is this too much? I never have any ammonia.
7. What are the algaes growing in my tank and on my plants? Is this ok?
8. will no top hurt my lights?
9. Sometimes I use spray bar return under the water - sometimes above the water to create bubbles /gas exchange - any thoughts?
Here are some of my thoughts- I am sure others will chime in as well:
1- Light might be on the medium side- but without true PAR readings hard to tell exactly.
2- I see nothing 'wrong' with your water parameters. What was your thought behind the almond leaves? I add them to my blackwater tank to add tannins and darken the water, but do not add them to my planted tank (I run purigen anyways, which would strip the tannins out). As far as pH rising, our of the tap our pH tends to be a bit lower, as it has somewhat higher CO2 concentrations. After leaving it out for 24+ hours you tend to get the waters natural pH level.
3- To me this looks like the old 'emersed' growth is dying back. Most, if not all of the plants in your tank were likely grown above water. This is quicker, cheaper, and easier for the farms. Then when we put these plants underwater they need to adjust to their new environment. In doing so, many plants will have old leaves die off and sprout new growth. Some plants do this more than others. I would guess that is what you are experiencing, and the decay of the old leaves has attracted an algae to grow here.
4- This is a personal question based on what you want to do. CO2 will help speed up growth, however it seems like you have mostly plants that will tolerate the lower CO2 and lower light environment. Completely up to you what direction you want to go- IMO no wrong answer here.
5- Not sure the specifics on that filter (flow rate) but it seems things are set up well. As to cleaning- the sponge on the intake can clog quickly and lower your filters flow. I would at a minimum wring it out once a week. As to cleaning the filter, some people are a couple times a month, others go a very long time. IME and IMO, cleaner aquariums are happy aquariums.
6- I am on the one per day schedule with my tanks, and usually skip at least one day a week. Can probably just feed once and they would be fine. IME fish need much less food than people tend to think. We eat 3 meals and some snacks every day, and at time people think that is what their fish need!
7- Algae is natural in tanks. I cannot tell you the specific types, and I am not sure it matters much. What matters is that you keep things clean. Using a toothbrush, algae pad, siphoning, etc. to remove any you are able to.
8- Shouldn't. Are you worried about condensation? Are you getting any? Many, many members here run no glass lids.
9- I run my spray bars under water but pointed at the surface. What we are trying to achieve is a nice steady ripples across the whole tank. This gentle ripple is what causes the O2 exchange and is healthy for the plants and fish. I see no need to run it above the water and hear the splashing.
With the tank being 30 years old just make sure you keep an eye on those seems. If they have have never been resealed that is some old silicone, and may be quite brittle.
I hope some of this was helpful, and as I said I am sure others will add some of their own experiences.
EDIT: I also will say nice work on the scape, and it does look like you have had some great growth over the past 9 weeks. If you are really getting into this hobby and want to learn/ share more I suggest starting a journal on this tank. I also recommend reading the journals of others who have created aquariums similar to yours. There is a whole section on just low tech tanks on this forum.