04-11-2012, 03:54 PM
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As this is your first planted tank, it would be advisable to stay natural or low-tech, which just happens to be what many of us here have ourselves. There is a 4-part series stickied at the head of this section entitles "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" which will provide a comprehensive summary.
CO2 is a non-issue in a natural setup as it occurs from the fish, plants and bacteria/breakdown of organics. Light does not need to be high, and CFL is a good way to go as there are some very good bulbs available. Over a 56g, I assume there are 4 sockets? I would suggest 13w CFL "daylight" bulbs, having a Kelvin of 6500K. I use GE brand but Phillips and Sylvania also make them, all are available from hardware-type stores.
Canister is ideal filtration. On the substrate, you mention gravel and sand, so a caution here. Sand and gravel will mix with sand on the bottom no matter what, if they are mixed over each other. If side by side, they will also shift to mix unless there is a distinct division of some sort. Fine gravel or sand is best for plants.
In addition to the low light species that ladayen mentioned, swords (Echinodorus species) and pygmy chain sword are good moderate light plants. There are several species in our profiles, second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page. If the name is used the same in a post as in the profile, it shades (as some did here) and you can click the shaded name for that profile. Photos are included so you can see what they look like. In a 56g I would suggest 3 Echinodorus bleherae (this is the usual sword one sees as "Amazon Sword," and an Echinodorus cordifolius is a good specimen plant. If you have medium hard to hard water, Vallisneria species (two are i the profiles) will do well, but not so good in soft water. Floating plants are essential to shade the fish (tetra do not appreciate bright overhead light) and there are several in the profiles.
Last comment...welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Glad you joined us.