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intro and ?

Hello all,

I just joined this list this week.  I've been trying to read as many
websites as I can but there is so much I'm finding it hard to find the
answers I'm looking for.

First a little info on my tank.  I'm an avid gardener and this summer I
decided to start a 1/2 whiskey barrel pond on my deck.  To make a long story
short I bought too many plants and I now have a 2 barrel pond with a
terracotta biofilter.  How does this relate to aquarium plants you ask?  I
bought a 10 gallon tank to hold my shubunkins in until the pond was ready.
Once the fish were in the pond I decided to startup my old hobby of keeping
labyrinth fish.  In the tank I have one pair of Blue flame dwarf Gouramis, 2
spike tail paradise fish, a male betta, a pleco, and one gold rams horn
snail as well as some hitch hiker snails I'm hoping turn out to be mystery
snails if my fish don't eat them all. In researching the latest info I have
become very interested in planted tanks.  It seems a much healthier
environment for the fish and will help satisfy my gardening itch during the
winter months (I'm in cold, very rural E. WA. state).  So far I have 4 bulb
plants (aponogeton & agropodon ?), a banana plant, 2 small Amazon swords,
fanwort stems, another unknown bunch of stems (a cress of some sort I
think), Salvinia, rooted slips of 2 kinds of pennywort, mondo grass and
Alternanthera ficoidea.  I realize the mondo and A. ficoidea are not
submersed plants but by rural area restricts what I can find locally.  So
far all are fairly small and none of the plants are really arranged or
planted properly.

Tank parameters:
10 gallons
-1 inch of gravel
Ph 7.8
KH 11-12 dKH (I get color change at 11 but bright color at 12)
GH 9 dGH
Ammonia 0 to <.5ppm
incandescent lights has been 40 w but just upped it to 65 this a.m.
(I know I need to switch to fluorescents ASAP, its first on my list to
filter is an external Penguin 100GPH with mini bio-wheel
temperature is approx. 74 F.

My initial questions are:

Can I just layer laterite and more gravel to increase the depth of the
substrate to closer to 3 inches or do I need to break down the tank and
start over from scratch?

How often is vacuuming of the substrate needed if at all?

How do I anchor stems and amazon swords in the substrate or do I need to
anchor them?

Is the bio-wheel a bad idea for a planted tank?

I think I would like to start a yeast CO2 generater but I'm wondering how to
diffuse it properly with my setup.

Finally I need to find good mail order sources for plants and fish.  I would
appreciate any suggestions.  After investigating all the stores I could find
in Spokane, I found Petsmart and Petco the best of the lot but still not

Sorry this message became so long.

Thanks for any help.

Terry King
taeking at endlesshealth_com