There doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in this thread, but that's probably the case with any thread filled with beginner questions instead of updated pictures ^_^. I'll try to have some up by the end of the week, and hopefully get a few layout suggestions.
We decided against the minnows, but purchased a pair of (rainbow?) kribensis yesterday, pelvicachromis pulcher, that we saw at a LFS we haven't visited before. These fish are surreal, and despite having picked out the dullest pair in the store in an attempt to nab the least aggressive, they almost immediately began to brighten up when we brought them home. The odessas have certainly been curious, but not enough so to more than momentarily frighten the new arrivals. The male was pretty shy for the first couple of hours, but hasn't hidden again since he came out from underneath the hygrophila 'compact' for feeding time, and this morning he was caught "sleeping" nestled between two of the barbs.
We got the smallest sinking cichlid food we could find today, but even these tiny pellets are too big for them at the moment; I'll be breaking them up from now on. Our biggest concern at the moment is pH, which I misread at first and appears to be a 7.8. We're not worried about fluctuations, this is also the pH of our tapwater, and it's supported neon tetras and dwarf gouramis in addition to the inhabitants of this tank since early September. What I've read indicates that messing with the pH often causes more problems than it solves, but are we wrong in leaving it this high? Any advice on the subject would be much appreciated.
Our last question is whether or not cardinal tetras, which we had planned on adding to the tank when we find them, are still an option for this tank. When we bought the kribensis we were told they would be eaten, which is the opposite of what we'd read online. Would there be a risk?
Thanks for taking the time to read through this wall of text, I'll be sure to get pictures up by this weekend.