What kind of substrate do I need to add to have the plants I want?
10g cycled tank
1 - Aqueon 8000K T8 15 watt aquarium lamp (says it on the bulb - I think it's fluorescent and not full spectrum - but I'm not sure)
1 Betta fish
one random hitch-hiking snail
5 beat up java ferns from PetCo (thus the snail)
large rounded gravel (slightly bigger than pea-sized)
1 large piece of Mopani driftwood
Using API Leaf Zone once a week for the ferns
Ammonia-0, Nitrites-0, Nitrates-0, PH - 6.8 to 7.2 (after the Mopani was added - 7.6-7.8 before)
Tank has been up and running since June 28th, 2010.
Right now I'm left with stop-gap items in my tank that I used to help reduce the stress on a fish while the tank cycled. Java ferns consume Ammonia and Nitrates and the wood reduced the high PH.
1) The java ferns don't look good. They are brown at the tips of the leaves and in some cases half of the biggest leaf ona plant is medium to dark brown. There are brown spots all over them and some see-through leaves. I think the light is too much on them.
2) My driftwood has a thin, fuzzy white carpet over it's main section (faces the light) and a thick white growth under one of the branches that is hidden from the light. I want to remove it and clean it, boil it, whatever I have to do to remove this stuff. I don't know what it is and it worries me. Looks like dandelion spores would in Spring.
3) I want to plant Dwarf Hair Grass and a higher level plant behind it - not sure what (ideas would be great). Gonna flip the wood (big, gnarled 'U' - shape) so the 'U' is upside-down against the back of the tank. Also need some floating plants to block some of the light, Water Sprite Ok or are there other cool looking plants to float?
4) I need to change my filter and remove surface agitation - any ideas on a replacement filter that won't break the bank?
5) Oh, and do I just use filter floss and remove the existing charcoal filter cartridge in my HOB filter? I thought I read that.
Any and all answers would be helpful. Thank you.