Things slowed down in the late March through May time frame. I ended up using my aquarium as a mini-greenhouse for some vegetable garden plants:
The week of May 18th, I filled up the aquarium to do a leak test and then the subsequent week I went ahead and put in my substrate and driftwood (no scaping done at this point). During this stage I also hooked up my canister filter (Eheim G160) which I have had for roughly 7 or so years. I quickly discovered one of the gaskets had failed and there was a steady leak, so I went ahead and replaced all the gaskets and the filter is no longer leaking.
I then went ahead and added my in-line heater and DIY CO2 reactor to the aquarium and both of those are working fine. The CO2 reactor has some light weeping (couple drips a day) on the brass to brass connectors, I am hoping over time that will plug itself. After getting all the hardware components sorted I moved onto selecting the plants which I will describe in a separate post.