Hi & welcome to AA!!
1. Plants - a lot depends on the light you have & how "high tech" you are going. If you stick to a low light set up (ie around 100-160 W of fluorescent light for your tank) you should not need any special substrate. <If you don't have that amount of light, I would strongly suggest upgrading before getting into live plants.> Coarse sand is a good medium. sand that is too fine gets packed down & form anaerobic pockets. Pool filter sand is people's favorite here.
2. Filter - Depending on the fish & numbers. 2x per hour change over is on the low side. <The filter makers are rather optimistic in their recommendation.> A heavily planted tank (that is healthy) can go "Dutch" & get by with less filtration, otherwise I would aim for 4-5x per hour (in a canister). If you keep messy fish, 10x per hour is even better. <That amount is the norm for reefs .... so if you have plans to change to SW
, get a bigger filter to start.>
3. Heater - Depends on the water temp you want vs the room temp. A cooler tank in hot climate will need a smaller heater. For tropical temp (esp. up in Canada in winter!), you should have at least a 300W, or better yet, 2 200W's for better heat distribution & redundancy in case of malfunction.
4. Cleaning sand - You generally cannot gravel vac sand - it get suck up & out .... For planted tank, all you need is to hover the vac over the top to pick up bigger pieces of debris. Finere stuff gets broken down & become plant food. The sand bed needs to be aerated from time to time. Plant roots will do this. In unplanted area, stir with fingers with your pwc
's. Better yet, get some Malaysian trumpet snails which will do the stirring & cleaning for you.
- Not recommended in a planted tank (roots will clog the plates) and definitely not for sand (falls through the slots). Your best bet for a big tank is a canister.