OP - I think you should build it If for no other reason than to show iy can be done. We we don't rgibk outside the glass box, the hobby never mores forward.
I recently syphoned off the BlackDiamond Cap top replace it with sand (didn't like the look). The MTS did not make a mess. It just sat there.
I don't think a dry start would be a must. I would wet the dirt enough to make it the consistency of mashed potatoes. I'd plant and slowly fill the tank.
I'd think shrimp would work, a beta , smaller tetras.