Hey, I'm still here! I kept a log on my FB page better than on the fish forums, but I realize I shouldn't deprive you all of tank pics just because I've never met ya (and you can probably help me with future problems way better than any of my family).
So, to quickly catch up: Took a total of 8 weeks to cycle the tank without fish. At one point, was getting impatient with nitrites spiking, so over 3 days did a total of 4, 100% water changes (5 gal at a time), but didn't help, so the lesson is never get anxious when stuck in nitrite hell. Built up a slate cave structure with raw slate tile I found at a local warehouse
First fish were 6 tetras (and I can't for the life of me pin down their name! red ___ ___, I think) with cool silver bodies/red fins and very active. Also got two Amazon Swords to hide the filter intake, from which I have since planted two more rhizomes.
A week later, got a Dwarf Sagittari, which will eventually form a wall of green along the back bunch of my tank. That will likely be a long time coming.
The next week (this Sunday), picked up 6 Otos and one pot of Dwarf Hairgrass, which I split into a bunch of little bunches to get the carpet going faster.
I love the Otos, and so do the tetras! They've been swimming around some together even, and the tank feels so much more alive with two kinds of fish. But, the Otos are too good at their job, and my algae has been all scrubbed out! So I'm upping the photoperiod from 4 on, 4 off, 4 on, to 5-2-5 to help the algae get moving. I've also started a little tupperware with rocks, water, and some fishfood to grow my own supply of algae in.
To get the Otos through until that works, I've bought a zucchini and am seeing if they'll take to it. Blanched for 2 minutes, cut into half-circles, and wedged down into the sand.
The tank right now:
Overall, very happy with how the setup is progressing. In two weeks, I'll get another school of small, peaceful swimmers (thinking Mollys or Platys), and two weeks after that, I'll finish the stocking with a pair of German Blue Rams!
And, of course, I'll actually be keeping this log active. I'm certainly eager to chronicle how the Otos fare over the coming months.