Don't worry about the long post ... just look at my long reply
1. First thing I recommend is you read the link below on fish-less cycling.
then ditch the bacterial starters. To put is simply, it can lead to an unstable bio-filter .. meaning the bacteria could crash on you. It's happened to member before. Your best bet is to use substrate/ media from your daughters established tank. Once your tank is cycled, then it's safe to introduce fish into the new tank.
The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling
If you are set on doing a fish in cycle ... see this link
I just learned about cycling but I already have fish. What now?!
Oh and don't bother adding any pH chemicals ... leave pH alone... your fish will adapt to your tank's natural pH. Adding chemicals to pH can cause a pH swing which can be fatal .... it's happened.
2. In regards to plants, that'll depend on the light you bought. What lighting exactly did you buy? T5, LED
, T8? What are the color temperatures .. 6500K, 10,000K? How many watts per bulb?
I've seen these plant bulbs in stores and if you ask me, I'd say return them if you can and then look for some LOW light level plants to start your tank with. Again go to the link below ... under light requirement.
PlantGeek.net - Plant Guide
By the bulbs changing water chemistry sounds like they leach tannins into the water. If that's what it is, it's perfectly safe for fish but will lower the pH slightly and give your tank water a brownish tea color. Again skip the bulbs and consider some DriftWood. Many LFS
's sell them, I use MOPANI DW. It'll leach tannins, make your water brown and lower pH ... but all that will pass in time and DW can really enhance the natural look, especially when paired with live plants. Plus DW can help set up territories that some fish establish.
3. Many AA members highly recommend the following.
a. API test master kit ... test strips = garbage.
b. Seachem Prime ... de-chlorinator and locks ammonia and nitrites into less toxic forms.
c. A gravel vac
d. Aquarium Salt