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The general consensus for addressing this simply and long-term seems to be by adding crushed oyster shell to the soil during set-up.
As others have mentioned, Wonder Shells work really great! I am in PNW like maico and my water is 0-1GH. I added a couple wonder shells to my setup a year (or longer?) ago and it has maintained a ~13GH since and hard-water plants grow great. I also add baking soda (in the form of Seachem Alkaline Buffer) when I do water changes. So it's definitely possible to have hard-water plants in your aquarium.

should I avoid wasting money on soft water species that would just be outcompeted anyway?
In Ecology of the Planted Aquarium Diana talks about this - soft plants grow even better in a hard water environment than a soft water one. They can (and prefer) use those nutrients, but have just adapted to water where they are not as frequent. In my experience vallisneria will absolutely overrun a hard-water tank and out compete a lot of other "hard-water" plants. Honestly, I have pretty much completely ignored whether plants are "hard" or "soft" water in my setups and most things grow pretty well.

But I have also seen that the lid can negatively impact certain floating plants by keeping the humidity too high and dripping water on top of them, resulting in die-off. Also, I want to encourage amphibious and emergent growth. So, I guess what I'm getting at is, does it benefit plants to be lidless? Would it be reasonably safe for livestock to go lidless but have floating plants as a sort of pseudo-lid to discourage jumping? I think I would prefer to go lidless for aesthetics and emergent plant growth, but the health of the tank is the first priority.
The biggest difference I've seen is evaporation. You will have to top off the tank much more frequently without a lid. I have a variety of floating plants and they seem to do slightly better with no lid (or a higher lid), but they still do fine with one as well. I think your biggest consideration will be your fauna. If you have something like killifish or another jumper, a lid is the way to go. Otherwise it doesn't really matter.

Is a heater cover necessary to prevent plants or animals from being burned?
I've never used one, had many plants growing up against the heater and they don't get burned. Shrimp sit on it and pick off of it, I guess they just leave if it gets too hot. I have had some unfortunate snails (mostly baby ones) get stuck in between the heater and the suction cups, but other than that the plants and animals just treat it like any other part of the tank.

what wattage and what type of light should I look for?
Like maico mentioned, having something you can adjust the intensity on is invaluable. You don't even need a fancy light for this, I believe you can buy dimmers for some lights as well. My main "treatment" for algae is to turn the light down a few notches and wait for it to disappear, then adjust it back up again over time.
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