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I have been doing huge water changes for the past couple of weeks - there is
so much stuff in the tank, it's really annoying - kind of a fine grayish
dust on everything, not to mention melting crypts and flagfish poop. And
scrubbing all non-living surfaces. My most recent change took 3 hours. First
I took out 3/4 of the water using a siphon & sump pump combo. Then I
scrubbed down the walls. Then I started adding water while still siphoning
out gunk. (that's the part where I killed the cardinals). While I was adding
water and siphoning, I pulled up my Rotala indica, Hygro salicifolia, and
Lindernia rotundifolia, hacked off the bottom 2/3, and replanted the tops,
spreading them out a little more that I had originally. Then I cleaned out
all the intake/outlet hoses on the filter.

When you talk about "scrubbing as much as you can off", do you mean off the
plants? Out of all the plants in the tank, only 3 show the buzz-cut algae:
Nomophila (maybe H. corymbosa stricta, giant hygro?), H. polysperma, and H.
salicifolia. I can rub the leaves with fingers or algae scrubber and the
buzz cut algae doen't come off. It's on all the leaves, too.

I am trying to take an old-timer's approach to this, even though I'm a
newbie, and not get discouraged. But I am also trying to figure out what the
right things to do are to get this tank balanced out.

I'll keep adding the powdered K&N&P and the flourish & flourish excel, and
keep watching what happens. Thanks for all your help.