I dont think you read the thread. I'm using planted LEDs. Beamswork DA 6500k with other red spectrum LEDs with different night time modes. Those led strips you saw in the first pic were extra lights I had for night time viewing.What I see missing is the right light. It appears you use DIY spot lights and flexible strip lights that are low in K value and lacking red and blue.. Fish and plants look washed out under 6000K, but vivid in high K and rich in red and blue spectrum. Also, you have to find a way to hide the cluster of overhead light fixtures.
Here is a pic of my 125 g set up similar to yours, and I do 75% WC weekly. I do not use substrate plants, but all Java ferns (broad leaf and narrow leaf Trident) attached to rock. I don’t think you necessarily need colored stem plants as all green is fine, allowing fish to bring out the color. All you need is more lush growth that takes time to establish. Don’t add frogbit as they will shade the plants below from getting lush.
Scattering the pebbles in the sea of sand is unnatural. It will look better if you can place them contiguous with the drift wood as an island
The big difference between yours and mine is lighting. In addition to strip LEDs sit on the glass top, I tied submersible LEDs inside the tank rims to optimize the footprint for light coverage.
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Yes there was a lot of lights but that's bc I had to use my 6500k flood lights until the beamswork came. They are flood lights not spot lights and yes they do make flood lights with 6500k suitable for plants. The problem was they were too powerful for my set up. Par value was at like 60 and I knew I was going to get algae with low light plants and no co2. They have been removed since my beamswork arrived