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At the bottom of my first tank in a decade

Hello.  I'm new to this group and excited to see all the ideas flying around.  I ran reef tanks in the 80's and early 90's and resources like the internet would have be a god send back then.  Anyway I digress,

I want to setup a new tank.  It will be freshwater and for an extra challenge we want to try having the tank heavily planted.  Will probably go with various tetras, corys, some barbs and maybe one larger fish as a kind of centerpiece.  I have been reading a lot about various substrate available to aid in plant health (onyx, fluorite and some others) and they look useful.  I don't think I want to mess with light materials that will need to be weighed down by other types of substrate.   It looks like that various types effect hardness.  All my tap water goes through a softener first, although I don't have test kits yet to get details.  What are your suggestions for a new plant tank substrate?  Does the substrate have to consist of 100% of these substrate types?

And the other big question.  Should I place most of my plants at the time of aquarium setup, or after it has cycled?  I have read several (sometimes differing) opinions on this.  It seem to get complicated.

Other questions:  
Will C02 be needed?  I bet there are DIY ways to accomplish it.
I will probably start with about 150w of lighting with daylight type bulbs.  Is this way off?
What additives are suggested for plant health?
Has anyone bought the plant groupings from Pet Solutions?  Seems convenient to get started.

Is there a search engine available for the big lists of monthly archives?  All this data is cool.  



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