First of all, thank you everyone for your responses. This forum is great! I use forums for some of my other hobbies (audio and auto), and while those forums are helpful, nothing like this one!
Read up on the fishless cycle first, I didn't see you mention it. When you get your stand, just add water and start running the filter and doing the fishless cycle.
Freeman, I decided to do a little more reading on fishless cycling and it makes a lot of sense and seems better for the fish in the long run. I've honestly always done cycling with fish and slowly added fish and never had any problems with just transplanting some filter media. However, this seems better for many reasons - one is I can add fish at a much higher rate (once cycled). I've started looking for places to buy ammonia without all the additives, but have had some trouble finding the right one except for amazon. http://www.amazon.com/00051-Ammonia-Clear-64oz/dp/B002M8NEDS
I've also found this Ammonium Chloride Solution | Fishless Cycling | Aquarium Cycling
and wondering if it's worth giving a shot.
(However, with this product I see that the standard API Master Test Kit won't be able to test for ammonia so not really sure where to go from there.)
I highly recommend adding a temperature controller to your system.
Thanks, I've read this in a few other places that the inlines might fail after a year or two and cook the tank! I'll definitely order one.
Went ahead and read through that entire thread. Very helpful, thank you.
All that said, it's totally fine to do sand on top of another substrate; just know that it's not going to be a neat layer on layer look for very long. If you want, you might actually do the Eco Complete only for a while, and then add sand when you feel like your aquascape is stable (that is, you're done with massive re-scapings for a while).
Definitely read mattinmd's 24/7 review too, but my experience has been great so far. I have the 36" light on a 38-gallon tank (around 20" tall, so 16" or so above the 4" of substrate -- pretty close to a standard 55-gallon's height I believe). I planted fairly heavily from the beginning but don't use CO2, and I have not had algae issues with this light on 24/7 mode so far. My guess is my success is a combination of the heavy-ish planting and that I use a double-dose of Excel daily, which, in addition to adding carbon for the plants, serves as a mild algacide (I think -- someone correct me if I'm wrong). Plants like Ludwigias, Moneywort, and swords are growing well. (I should note I also use EI dosing and osmocote+ caps.) See more info on my setup in the "My tank" link in my sig.
Glad to hear your 24/7 is treating you well! I'll be sure to take note of what you're doing and try to replicate.
I was actually thinking today I might just play with the ecocomplete for awhile until I feel everything is settled, and then just add the sand a little while before I begin to add fish. Was actually going to come on here and ask if that was an okay thing to do.
Also, can I use some kind of little planter pots to temporarily place things around the tank before I actually settle on a layout and before I begin planting them into the substrate. I feel it would be a lot more efficient to do something like that. If so, what kind of pots should I use and where's a good place to get them.
Edit: found the underwater pots I wanted. I'm not a 100% they'll actually sink with just substrate, but if anything I'll put a couple rocks in there. http://www.amazon.com/Inch-Round-Orchid-Hydroponics-Slotted/dp/B0058PB574/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1443578089&sr=8-2&keywords=2in+net+pot
Sand >>>>>> Eco Complete IMO. I hate eco complete and getting rid of it was the best thing to happen to my tank.
Find someone with a journal of a successful tank of similar parameters you are looking to achieve. Their journal and tech setup can help guide you to achieve similar results. I think you are thinking high tech with the 'green carpet' idea which is extremely difficult to pull off without a proper CO2 setup so be prepared for that not to work out. People can pull it off but it takes a lot of time and care
Plan equipment based on how committed you think you are to the hobby. I always recommend this... Don't skimp out with the intentions of upgrading to a top-line setup later in the game. I personally planned on going all out and still bought some cheaper stuff that I ended up replacing eventually. Waste of $$$. If you think you will want CO2 for maximum results then get a good light to support that goal. Don't buy a light that won't cut it when you want to take your tank to the next level.
Klibs, I think you may be right in many aspects. I do tend to get fairly ill with upgrade-itis. Haha. (thinking I might as well make CO2 part of the budget now) Also thanks for recommending following someone's journals. I did not consider that before, and will give them a look.
Before I get to CO2, is there any other reason you didn't like eco-complete other than better root structure? I ordered off amazon and can always return. Will some of these concerns be alleviated by me capping it with sand? Or when I cap, is the idea that I FULLY place the roots in the underlying substrate and just use the sand aesthetically.
So I've been looking at CO2 systems. I've only put in about an hour or two of research so please forgive my ignorance. I was a little intimidated beforehand figuring it was far too complicated and time intensive, but it actually feels fairly straightforward. I looked at things from DIY to the more expensive automatic CO2 systems. Right now I'm leaning towards the solenoid regulators as they seem to be sufficient for my purposes.
The only one full kit I've really found so far seems to the Foster and Smith for about $132. (minus a tank) Freshwater Planted Aquarium Plant Care: Drs. Foster & Smith Semi-Automatic CO2 System
Also, have found this one on the classifieds here, but not exactly sure on how good the condition really is. https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/15...quipments.html
If anyone can offer any input on the Foster and Smith, I personally would feel a little safer purchasing a new product when dealing with a pressurized gas. However, saving money is always something I want to do and would be happy putting out a WTB and surfing the classifieds for a week or two.
On that note, you referenced CO2 synergy with a light. Are there any problems or things I need to be aware of when researching CO2 for use with my Finnex Planted+ 24/7?
I believe I touched on all the questions I have right now. Again, thanks everyone for your help.
Edit: Wanted to add this link I found with plants (pictures and info) for any other newbies reading this thread. http://tropica.com/en/plants/