Thanks guy (or gals!). I think there are some saltwater clubs in the state, but I'm unsure of freshwater. I didn't buy anything because I know those stores were just trying to sell me stuff.
I found a smaller "freshwater only" fish store that was tucked away in a shopping center on the edge of town. I was impressed with this one store becaues he carried a lot of cichlids and mbunas. I asked why there were so many, and the owner stated that it was because the local water was pH 8.5 (higher than mine even!) and he wanted only to sell fish that would live in the high pH and the owners would be happy and not have to mess with the pH a lot. He breeds most of the fish himself. He seemed quite nice, knowledgable, and sympathetic without making me feel too much like a fool. He didn't however have any live plants. While he doesn't accept fish for trade, he does allow people to post available fish on a bulliton board.
The other "chain" store did have plants, but like I said I didn't know what to buy (as I didn't have time to read up this morning) and elected not to. The worker there wanted to sell me crystals to put in my new filter to remove the ammonia. Considering he had a "pet groomer" shirt on, I figured fish were not his specialty. And at the price of my canister filter, I really didn't want to put anything in it that might ruin it.
As far as the old media goes - 1/2 of it is in my 20 gal tank and it didn't take there, so I'm currently cyclying that one too with 4 goldfish in it. It is easier to maintain tho because it is barebottom. I change the water everyday.
I started to wonder if there was something going on with the filter long before it quit. Maybe why my fish were having so many new and varied problems this last couple of weeks. So I did elect not to keep the old media. It may not have been a wise choice, I know. I figure water changes and close monitoring will get me through this and maybe the fish will be happier with daily water changes too.
I bought lights a while ago, knowing that I will eventually be adding plants to the tank, so I just have to get the plants.
Going to order from the website now - since I wont be going to the "big city" now for another couple of weeks. Sometimes I hate small towns - not always - but sometimes!