Thank you so much for taking the time to explain of all of this. This is my first venture into planted tanks and it is so much more interesting than just having fish in.
No problem! This forum is a great resource and has helped me tremendously so love to give back. Now if I can just start that tank journal, lol!
I apologize. My GH was 120. Not sure why I worte down that value. Is there a specific range that I should keep in mind for my GH and KH values?
A GH of 120 is plenty. The range would be roughly 100- 133 but you can have tanks that could go lower than that without seeing any issues and of course you can always go higher but going higher wouldn't help the plants really it would be more for fish, invertebrates.
Kh can be a hotly contested matter though, lol
In my experience it really doesn't matter what your kh is as long as that kh doesn't fluctuate. I have actually kept fish and plants in 0 kh r/o water without incident but it's not for everyone. I keep all but one of my tanks at 1kh just for ease of remember how much to reconstitute my r/o water. A kh of 40 ppm is perfect for plants and most fish sold in the hobby today will be just fine in that environment. Just keep in mind that fish like guppies, livebearers, etc like harder water. Mostly that is gh but in nature when the gh is high so is the kh.
My tapwater is really soft, but I have some seiryu stone which, I guess, buffers it out. I measured my pH right now and it is about 6.5. So basically, as long as my pH drops about one value or half a value, my plants are getting enough CO2?
Enough co2 depends on your goals but to get your drop checker to turn green you will need a 1.0 ph drop. That number is not a hard and fast number though as many factors play into how much co2 you actually have. That's where your drop checker would come in to play. But the ckecker takes awhile to catch up. Use the ph to keep fish from gasping then use the drop checker to dial in the recommended amount.
I will say that I don't use either a drop checker or bubble counter anymore but rather rely on a ph monitor continuously checking ph to gauge how my co2 is doing. do use a ph monitor that is on 24/7 to see that though.
I do have some slight ripples that are visible. I have a glass intake lily pipe with a built-in skimmer, and I believe yesterday my skimmer was taking away from the main filter pressure. Possibly, that might be why there was not enough water movement.
Most of the tanks that I follow that use Lilly pipes just make sure that the surface is rippling at the out-take. I don't know what was going on yesterday but my 10gal high tech has purposely low flow for my Phoenix Rasboras and I have never had them gasping at the surface. Maybe the Excel you have been adding was causing problems to arise prematurely? Excel is actually used as a disinfectant at higher concentrations so maybe there was some kind of interaction there.
In terms of the Easy Green, should I use one pump daily?
That's about right. With lower plant population and mediumish light that would be ok, if not on the low side.
One way to check if your doing things right is to test nitrates. Not perfect by any means but it will give you an idea if you are in the ballpark. Nitrates should be around 20-30ppm. If they are below 10, not enough ferts. Above 30/40. Maybe too much. I see tanks on here that are absolutely gorgious and they have nitrate readings form 50 to 70 (from ferts) so again not a hard and fast rule. And of course the tank will change over time. You will more than likely need to adjust occasionally but the plants will tell you. Slower growth or more algae productions, maybe time to look at more ferts.