Help for newbie to planted tanks
Long time reader, first time poster. I am hoping to draw from the experience & knowledge of the people here that know alot more about a planted tank than I do. I recently decided to dive into the world of planted tanks. I did alot research prior to making the switch because I wanted to do it right & wanted to have healthy plants. A little background on my setup...I have a 55 gallon tank that has been established for about 3 years. Currently there is about (18) 1"-2" fish in the tank. I have tried to go with the standard community tank with the Tiger Barbs, platies, misc barbs, etc...I have a compact flourescent light fixture that produces 220W using (2) 8,000k & (2) 6,700 bulbs which were replaced new within the last month. I have researched the easiest beginner plants to start with. As a result, I have purchased the following plants: Amazon Swords, Anacharis, Micro Sword, Anubius, aponogeton bulbs purchased at Walmart (I know, I don't normally do that...), Wisteria, & Dwarf Hairgrass. These plants I have read are pretty good for beginners. Anyhow, I have added a DIY co2 system which I am unhappy with at the moment & am replacing with a 5lb bottle & regulator, etc. I have been using the DIY system for about (1) month.
On to my questions, I have the lights on for 11 hours a day with the DIY co2 system, which is severly lacking in my opinion. The temperature is kept at 76-78 degrees. I have regular grade black aquarium gravel with 1lb of pure Laterite per gallon (55lbs) in the tank, about 2-3 inches total, with MT snails to help aerate the gravel. The plants are not growing as well as I had expected; I like to do things right when I do them & it's really bugging me because I don't know if I doing something wrong or just being impatient. I have read that people add vermiculite & regular garden soil to aid in the growing, which really helps. However, I have (2) Tetra Power Filters for the 55 gallon tanks, a Fluval 305 Canister filter with a spray bar & (2) tetra powerheads & I'm worried that if I add soil it will create havok with the filtration (too much filtration?). (1) powerhead is used during the day to distribute the co2 & the other is used to add oxygen to the tank at night when the lights are off (they are on a day/night timer). Does anybody see anything that jumps out at them that I am doing wrong? I would love to have a flourishing planted tank, but it just isn't happening for me at the moment - HELP! I don't know if I need to decrease the fish load & decrease the filtration to help with the plant growth or what. Anyone have any ideas? Sorry for the long post!