Re: lighting

>    and am presently constructing a
>500 sq. ft. basement fishroom.

lucky :)

It is 2-3mm diameter.
>There are no additions in the substrate. I discovered an interesting thing
>about this gravel purely by chance when cleaning glass with a magnetic
>scrubber. As I got close to the gravel, the magnet would become covered with
>gravel; this gravel is loaded with iron.

That's interesting but I don't know how beneficial this will to plant
growth.  In my understanding, plants use iron in the chelated form (EDTA
mainly).  That's why dropping a nail in a tank will not have a positive
impact.  I would still recommend a fertile substrate (laterite, soil,
vermiculite earthworm castings, or any combination plus several others).

  Filtration is a Fluval 303 in which
>I used various chemical media. The consensus from this list seems to be NO
>chemical media due to removal of micro nutrients, is this correct?  

I don't like the use of carbon in FW or SW aquaria for extended periods but
running a high-grade carbon 1 week a month might be beneficial.  I haven't
owned a canister so I can't comment on the other media.  

I have no
>co2 system.

Two solutions:  yeast method (very cheap but not the best if your water is
too soft) which I use with good results or the more expensive and
controllable CO2 tank method (either manual or fully automated with all the
bells an whistles)

  The homemade hood has room for 2 bulbs on each side of the "L",
>2-24" and 2-36". My main question is what are the best tubes for the "generic"
>plant tank? I have 1 Triton, 1 power-glo (Hagen?), and 2 cool whites, 1 on
>each side (no need to comment on the latter).

Gro-Lux are cheap and fairly effective as a supplemtary bulb.  Phillips
Chroma 50s are also fairly cheap and work well.  If you've got the money,
Aurora 50/50 are like little suns.  However any combination of Tritons,
Chroma 50s and Gro Luxes should work fine.  DOn't use Gro-lux alone because
they provide a fairly dull light (very scientific, I know :). I don't know
if you mentioned how deep your tank is but unless this is standard height
(18"), I would go with a little more light (closer to 2.5W/gal).  However,
many people use less and more with good results so don't worry too much.   

The tank is now dominated by
>Java fern, four 1 cubic foot pieces held in place by there own weight,
>obviously doing well. I would like a more balanced plant community.  Also are
>there any resources that have a spec listing of the newer bulbs: K degrees,
>lumen, etc.? Are the tri-phos types better with plants or are the flatter
>response full spec. like Vita-light? Any experience with the new Vita-light
>Aquatinic bulb?  Thanks for tolerating the long message,

I use the GRainger catalog for my lighting needs (though I recently saw an
identical ballast cheaper at Home Depot).  Look in your phone book.  THere
are branches all across the country.  Vita-lights are also a good bulb.
Aquatinics are 50% daylight, 50% actinic bulbs designed to simulate light in
the ocean.  Probably not the most useful thing in FW planted tanks :)