I am very new to plants, so I can only say this. If you don't like the black eco complete, look into Flourite or virtually any other substrate with a high cec. Really I don't think they are even that great for the purpose, but they look good, are readily available, and common in the practice. I think that eco complete and even flourite don't really supply any nutrient traces worth mentioning and if they do, its gone in a few months anyway. What they do is absorb nutrients/cations very well. (cec). I'd look into a gravel or sand that I liked the color of, place root tabs in it, and not worry about using a substrate I don't like. (It could mix later). It is my understanding that pool filter sand is also a very good substrate due to its cec being far higher than eco complete etc. There is also mineralised top soil (very popular), ADA soil, UP substrate, etc.
I'd check out Build My Led, and Finnex for lighting options. These two companies seem to be heavily focused on the future of planted tank lighting, and loads of people on here are having great success with them. I'll be buying from one or the other (or both) soon myself.
I know that I've read numerous threads about users here with ehiems.. I'd go with it.. especially considering a hob will interfere with co2/o2 exchange on the water surface. Seek more advice, I'm a newbie.
You will find more reliable advice as more experienced hobbyists reply. That's just what I'd consider.
Last edited by KribsDirect; 12-11-2013 at 03:38 AM.