Update: got some tetras and corys living in the tank and seemingly happy. I'm down to about 1/3 of the plants i started with, i expect in the end i'll be down to just a couple which is pretty disappointing. They're rooting really well, but the brown algae just keeps coming back and i can't keep it down and they die off. About two weeks ago I stripped every plant out of the aquarium and bleach soaked whichever ones were still alive, and hand scrubbed each one. Then cleaned the tank really well. They looked brand new two days later. But now pretty quickly they're getting covered in it again. I have ten red racers in the tank munching away but they don't really touch the plants at all. parameters are all stable, and my nitrates on water change day is only between 10 and 20ppm so i know nitrates aren't their main food source in this tank...so the saga continues of hunting it down and eliminating it.