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[APD] substrate question

Hi all,
When I set up my 55 gallon tank after about 12 years of not keeping fish, it was as a "fish tank" so I used sandblast gravel as I had always used. I found this forum and decided I wanted to have a planted tank this time so I chose fish to fit the plants, neons etc. I bought what plants I could locally and have received cuttings from APD members that are growing well enough that I want to take the tank down and re substrate it to be more suitable for plants. I now have enough cuttings and young plants to do a proper 60+% planting.

Finding anything locally is impossible for the most part, but I have placed an order with Big Al's today. They do not have eco-complete in stock (and won't match prices on "heavy items" anyway.) So I ordered First layer laterite and planned to re-use the tex blast.

I have read that the correct way to do this is to mix the laterite in the bottom 1/3 layer of gravel and cap it with more gravel. I have also read that it is a good thing to add some peat in the same layer as the laterite but am not sure exactly how much. I assume 2 good dry handfuls for a 55 gallon tank would be about right? (I would pre-wet it before using)

I can not get profile clay soil conditioner here in redneckville, but they do have the aquatic plant soil (in the 10 pound bags only) Should I add some of this to the first layer also? If so how much?

I am aware that it does contain ca and mg that can harden the water some. I already have to use about 1/3 RO water to dilute my tap to something less than liquid rock (330-350ppm out of tap), would the peat sort of even out the excess hardness added by the profile? Since I have to haul in RO water for water changes I don't want to have to use any more of it than I have to (not to mention the price @35cents a gallon x about 30 gallons a week for all of my tanks) which leads to another question...

I have read that you can use peat to soften water for changes to get out of having to use RO water. But I have also read that it will mess up the ph/kh/co2 chart because of the humic acid.
Is there a rule of thumb as to how much humic acid it takes to void the ph/kh/co2 chart? Would having peat in the substrate affect it? Is there any other way to soften hard water besides peat I have read the household water softening pillows etc replace the ca/mg with sodium ions and I am pretty sure my tank does not need extra sodium since out of tap its around 112ppm.

If peat is used to soften the water is there any other way to guesstimate co2 in a tank?

I would love to run out and buy eco-complete locally if they had it, and ordering it online the shipping is unreal so I am trying to make the best of what I can get within my budget. I would rather try to find a workable way to do the substrate and save the money to get a real co2 setup eventually to replace the diy yeast I am using now.

I would also like to be able to save that $11 a week I now spend on RO water towards a co2 setup if I can figure out a way to soften the rock we call water. Any suggestions?

NE Texas where rock comes in two forms solid and liquid.

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