I thought they were the yellow neos the first day they were there and completely mislabeled and misspriced(WTF $9.99!). The 2nd day however, the girl that regularly works there that I make custom orders with because she places the orders relabeled them as Bee shrimp for $3.99. I do still think they're neos, but she's labeled them Bee, so that could only be YKK if she's correct. And I've definitely seen snow white bees there before.
YKK's don't look like that though. YKK are *clear* or translucent shrimp. Those appear kind of opaque... which again leads me to believe they are Neos. Here are a few that I just recently purchased... although the white heads are *NOT* common... and the breeder isn't sure about that since he didn't see the white heads when he gathered them up...
- The TDS meter, GH and KH test kits must be purchased online unfortunately, unless there's an LFS that carries them. Generally, they might carry the GH and KH test kit, but not the TDS meter. All can be purchased for under $20 or $30 on Amazon (depending on what you get), although the Sera and Nutrafin kits (easier to read, I hear) are more expensive.
If you want to be sure the TDS meter is accurate, there's also a TDS Calibration Solution that can also be purchased.
The API master test kit *should* be at Petco!
Certainly not too late to try changing your cycling process! If there's an Ace Hardware near you, they do sell Janitorial Strength Ammonia, and then you just use a calculator to dose up to x-amount of ammonia to reach a certain ppm into the aquarium.
Glad you found someone who could supply you with some blue shrimp!
And I imagine the clay could certainly be changing the parameters!
As far as sand and plants go? Yes, as long as you stick with "low light" plants... aka plants that don't require a lot of high tech care. If you do it right, it's possible to have nice plants and shrimp. Just have to be careful with CO2 (shrimp more sensitive to it than fish) and ferts, if you use them. There are some root tabs that can also be added to the sand, but again, just be careful with shrimp.
Many people do low tech setups with minimal plants or just moss. Some take it up a notch and have amazing looking tanks with shrimp!
Basically... do you want a planted tank? Or a shrimp tank? If you want plants, shrimp and fish, it's a balancing act! Most all fish will eat shrimp, and even if they don't eat adults, they might eat babies! (not that you mentioned fish, just using it as an example)
People who have great planted tanks with shrimp often dose 1/4 to 1/2 of what is recommended, and instead of dosing daily, may cut back to every other day or less.
There are also fertilizers out there geared towards shrimp tanks!