Just a little bit of background:
I am a college student recently just started a 10g planted tank in my dorm. I started it about 2 weeks before I had to go to winter break. What I decided to do was keep it a bare-bottom tank so it'll be easier to clean and move back home when summer comes. I keep the plants in red solo cups with flourite substrate to help them grow.
Well here is where the problems began:
The 2nd day after I put planted the tank, the plants started to melt. I did a little research and found that this is common due to different water chemistry and transportation. As I was observing the tank, I noticed something moving, a snail. I tried to get the snail out with a pair of tweezers but I kept on losing grip because it was too small. Right before I went to break, I noticed that algae started growing on the glass of the tank. So I decided to deal with it all after break because I had to focus all my time on finals.
This is what the tank looked like before I left for break:
The dirt on the bottom of the tank came from dust and debris from the flourite substrate because I didn't wash it before putting it in the tank. Same reason why it is cloudy. I thought this was no big deal because in a way it's part of the substrate and I can only see it because it was bare-bottom. I decided not to take out any rotting leaves because I found that my water had no nitrate so I thought that the plants aren't getting enough nutrients and rot. From my understanding of the nitrogen cycle, I know that nitrate is the end result of decaying matter. Since I didn't have any fish in there anyway because I brought my betta home, I thought that there should be no harm in keeping rotting plants matter in there because I'm going to end up changing the water right when I come back from break anyway.
My break was 5 weeks long but I was too anxious to see how my tank turned out so I decided to come and visit for a tank maintenance after 3 weeks of break.
This is what my tank looks like after 3 weeks of neglect:
I know what you're thinking. I'm a terrible tank owner with all the neglecting. But that's why I'm here, to learn and get better. I was expecting a big algae bloom but instead found a snail baby bloom instead. As you can see from my picture, the second plant completely disintegrated when I was hoping it would make a comeback from the melt. Most of my plants were thinned out as well due to rotting away. But my java fern, flame moss, and my red lotus seem to be growing quite impressively.
Here is another problem that I found upon returning (hope this vid works!):
I thought snails eat plants so I thought it would starved to death because most of the plants were rotting thinking that snails will be the least of my problem. Ironically, I recently did some more research and found out snails don't eat HEALTHY plants but tend to eat it when it's weak... like when it's about to ROT... Boy did I messed up...
There are also these things that I found in the tank. After researching more, I think they might be seed shrimps and copepods. I also found this really thin worm that is about 1cm long and looks like a piece of tan thread. I only noticed it because it started thrashing about trying to swim. I had a hard time capturing it on video because it was so small.
So here are some questions:
1. From researching, I heard that seed shrimps and copepods only appear if the water condition is great. How is that possible if there's so many rotting things in the water?
2. How did they get in there in there in the first place?
3. Because of the snail, I don't have an algae problem but now I have a snail problem. If I get an assassin snail, will they lay eggs by themselves? Because I find eggs on driftwood and glass to be hard to look at. (I have a nerite snail in a tank at home and it laid eggs everywhere and it looks disgusting).
4. Some of my plants are losing color but not actually dying. I think I just need to fertilize it because I haven't in 3 weeks. (Algae might have come from the first time that I used fertilizer). Should I keep those plants in there to see if they make a comeback or should I throw them out and try other easier species?
5. I heard that seed shrimps and copepods are good snacks for fish. Will my betta eat them? Also what other fish can I put in my 10g tank to control the population without overcrowding?
6. Water changed problem will get rid of some of the seed shrimps and copepods, But it they're a sign of good water, do I want to get rid of them (especially if they can be snacks for fish)?
7. Because of the unidentified worm in the tank, will it be safe to add fish? I'm afraid of parasites.
8. Can anyone also confirm if those are seed shrimp and maybe have any ideas of what the worm could be?
I know this is a long thread but thanks for giving me your time and guidance!