Im glad you posted this thread. I have a 55 gal
that i am setting up. Also new to the hobby. Im going planted as well. Im sure i have everything i need to fill and start cycling. I just can't pull the trigger and do it. Afraid im forgetting something. Like the setup you have done. Its a lot like what im thinking for mine. Black substrate and driftwood. Still deciding on plants. Going to use Co2
booster liquid until i can save up for an injection system. Looks good though.
Being a noob myself I couldn't give you an answer to your questions. I have heard that you should only add a few fish at a time to allow time for the tank to adjust to the addition of the waste they generate. Dont know for sure. Good luck!