So the update...
Added the ActivFlora substrate - man that stuff is awesome! No rinsing at all and immediately running clear. 2 bags = perfect amount.
I did exchange the filter to the AC50. It definitely seems to be the right choice - thanks to everyone who recommended that.
Played around with my driftwood and ended up with this hardscape:
It's hard to see but there is part of the left piece of driftwood comes out to make an archway that reaches nearly to the front pane of the tank.
The background isn't quite that light in person. Also open to changes in the right hand driftwood arrangement (it is 2 pieces) if recommended. The left piece is pretty well stationed there as it doesn't have a lot of "wiggle room" so to speak.
Ended up with some changes to the plant selection - they are shipping now and should be here in a day or two.
-Hydrocotyle tripartita (Sp Japan)
-Lobelia cardinalis 'small form'
-Echinodorus angustifolia 'Vesuvius'
Keeping in mind I've really got no experience with these plants, my plans are as follows - please offer suggestions as to any thing that needs to be altered or what may work better.
-Marsilea minuta in the middle, between the driftwood pieces, probably leaving a "beach" area in the front middle for the dwarf cories to forage. Also maybe under that archway in front?
-Ranunculus inundatus on the right hand side, between the wood and the right glass (there's a doorway there so that side will also be a viewing pane).
-Hydrocotyle tripartita on the left side between the wood and glass. Also maybe under the archway instead of the M. minuta - and/or along the back behind the M. minuta. Suggestions?
-Lobelia cardinalis 'small form' against the right driftwood (in front of it / amongst it), also maybe along the back behind the M. minuta instead of the hydrocotyle?
-Hemianthus glomeratus behind the left driftwood in that corner, a nice big grouping of it as a good hiding spot (the least visible area anyways).
-Bacopa australis in the right rear corner / behind that driftwood.
-Bacopa salzmannii up against the base of the left driftwood.
-Echinodorus angustifolia 'Vesuvius' - not sure - maybe to the left of the left driftwood? Or right up against the vertical driftwood? Or poking up between the L. cardinalis & the right driftwood?
Should I have something tall growing up along the back middle, behind the driftwood? I was thinking it will give it a more "roomy" feel with just short stuff back there but maybe it will just look odd instead.
Thank you for any input.