Thanks for the reply, AudaxViator. I did find another thread here that answered my questions for me.
Looking at their natural environment, during the dry season, habitats for Bettas become isolated. Some create black water conditions while others do not. Bettas thrive in each. So setting up a slightly acidic, soft water, black water environment for a Betta is just fine. Bettas like these conditions as I understand it.
Though there is no scientific evidence at this point to suggest that black water conditions are better for Bettas than a crystal clear aquarium environment, Betta breeders and Betta keepers alike who do use this environment report that their Bettas appear healthier and more active in black water (typically prepared from Indian Almond Leaves). So, seems like a preference rather than a necessity. Certainly doesn't hurt anything.
As for plants, those that like or thrive in slightly acidic and softwater conditions will do just fine. Anubias, Some ferns, mosses will all be good picks.
I've read of several ways to create the environment. Placing IAL directly in the aquarium. The leaves can also be boiled to create an IAL tea for those (like me) who don't like the look of decaying leaves on the bottom of the aquarium. Found a couple of products that are premixed with the stuff provided by items that produce these conditions. Saltyshrimp has a product called Black Water Powder and Tetra makes a product called Black Water Extract. Both seem to work just fine.
Finally, from all I've read and in private conversations, my tap water is just fine as is. Perhaps a small boost to KH with Baking Soda or an alkaline buffer, but nothing more.
Last edited by rpadgett37; 03-25-2014 at 09:40 AM.