By "everything," do you mean everything about plants, or about keeping fish?Thanks for the information, it's very helpful! Two followup questions:
1) - I do want more live plants but don't know where is the best place to get them. I've got a couple of wisterias from my local petstore that are 'topfin'. They seem to be doing okay, but I want a lot more plants. Can you recommend not only a source, but also some hearty plants that work well for a beginner like me?
2) - Is there a book \ manual that explains everything in 'layman's term's? I'd love to have a reference book in hand rather than googling all the time!
As for the plants, knowing your light will help, as different plants have different needs. Be specific; also, mention the tank size (length and gallons) so we can associate the light you have with the tank.
I have a series stickied at the head of the Aquarium Plants section on A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium that should give some background on planted tanks.
Before I forget, I'll mention our fish and plant profiles, second heading from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page. Each profile has one or more photos, and the profile mentions data on the species.
Back on the nitrates, have you tested the tap water for nitrates? And by second colour on the API, do you mean the orange which is 5 ppm? That's OK.