Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Hendersonville, TN
Well, the lighting is fine, either way. I've always found that higher intensity bulbs lead to better plant growth, but others seem to prefer a mixture of intensities.
You could do a simple DIY CO2 if you wanted; there are plenty of ways to do that which usually entails harnessing the CO2 gas from fermenting yeast. Sugar, water, yeast, a two liter pop bottle, and some tubing is all you need. I run pressurized CO2, so I don't remember the recipies exactly, but they are easy to find. Or, you could buy a cheap yet effective tablet reactor that uses a plastic bell to diffuse the CO2 into the water, and they are readily available at your LFS, or online shop.
However, before I ran CO2, I spent years with nicely planted aquariums which I only added FloraPride every week, and limited water changes, and had great results. I had cabomba, ludwigia, and vals flowering all of the time. So, my feeling is that if you want a nicely planted aquarium without using CO2, it is entirely do-able. If you want good plant growth without CO2, I would make sure that you don't change as much water during water changes, which will lead to an accumulation of mulm, which will soften the water and help to keep the pH at a nice level for both your plants and fish. You will need to fertilize with iron, nitrogen, potassium, and excel. As long as you keep a high nutrient load in the water column, your plants will be fine.
They won't grow as FAST, but they will grow well all the same. And it doesn't need to take that much time either.