Join Date: Jan 2008
You can use sand fine, or you can also use a specialized substrate. For beginner plants, I would stick with the Anubias nana var. 'Petite' and some moss (Java, Fissidens, Flame, etc).
For shrimp, it depends. What kind of shrimp were you planning to keep?
As for cycling, you will need to be careful and cycle the tank properly, as shrimp are sensitive to ammonia and nitrite.
Regarding the filter, you will need some sort of filtration. For a tank this small, I wuld recommend the Red Sea Nano Filter. For the heater, it depends on how cold your house gets. I would imagine since you are in Texas, even in the winter time, it is not too cold, so you may not need a heater.
Finally, the canopy specifications that you have indicate that you should be able to use a CFL bulb (under 7W) to light your tank.