Time for an update!!
After first seeing the ammonia spike two weeks ago I think my tank has finally built up a large enough bacteria colony to process everything. Today was the second day in a row registering no ammonia or nitrites. Nitrates are low at 5 ppm and pH, gH, kH are all holding steady at around 7, 7, and 2 respectively.
I still feel guilty for rushing the addition of livestock - in the last week I have never seen more than four of the blue dreams at one time. I really hope more than 4 survived, but happy at least some did. Hopeful that I have a mix of males and females left. All three Amanos and the four snails I added all made it through which is awesome, along with some hitchhikers (I think pond snails, but could be a mix of pond and bladder).
Some of the plants also took a beating through the ammonia spike but everything is doing pretty well now. Trimmed the ludwigia and replanted in the to corners as well as one stem in the back somewhat out of sight. It's growing pretty fast and looks great - will eventually have a few dense clumps. The hygrophilia is doing well, not growing as fast as I would like but still growing and looks healthy. The crypts went through a second melt with the ammonia spike but are bouncing back again, I really can't wait for the crypt parva to spread a little more in the front and for the becktii to gain some height and fullness. I think the wendtii bronze plants may have died though, no leaves and no new growth poking through the substrate yet. And as mentioned before the buce all melted away but there are signs of new leaves on two of the root sections, fingers crossed they all bounce back. Java ferns, hydrocotyle, moss, and dwarf water lettuce are all growing like crazy and doing well.
I leave tomorrow for a week for work, my wife is going to be in feeding and top up duty, then home for a week, and then on vacation for a week. That second trip I am contemplating shutting my filter off as I am worried about the evaporation being too much and the water level dropping below the skimmer - no one will be here to top it off. Alternatively, I could cover most of the tank with saran wrap or something else. I would love thoughts on this if you have any! not looking forward to how much algae grows while I am gone - I think I have a little of every type now lol.
Once I return from that second trip I am going to order a few more blue dreams and amanos and I think 6 otos. Also thinking of buying one cup/bunch of hairgrass and mixing it in with the crypt parva up front. Looking forward to it!