Most of my experience comes from the internet, to be quite honest. I had two 40 gallon tanks that I maintained with my dad 15 years ago, which we had for about a year. Simple fish, black gravel, blue light.
I got back into the hobby about nine months ago. Started with a 5 gallon, and did what I knew- simple fish, black gravel, blue light.
Then I started reading about plants, and more complicated setups. I learned about gas exchange, so I figured out that I didn't need bubbles (which I hate). I kept reading and learned about the light demands of different kinds of plants, wattages, and light spectrum.
What I learned was that if I kept reading the same info from one website to another, it was probably pretty accurate. After two months, I moved up to a 20 gallon. After a few months of that (and many small successes with plants and fish), I decided to jump in with both feet and spent about 5k on the tank in the photos.
I've done enough homework to know enough of the basics that all I'm learning now is practical truths from my own experiences.
Actually, reading over this post again, maybe I do fit in the "pretty experienced" group, lol.