Whoops! Forgot about this thread with final exams here and the flu that always comes around the busy holidays lol. It's definitely diatoms and I'm sort of getting them under control....sorta. I just keep cleaning and changing water. I do the turkey baster thing too! I mostly use it to puff water under plants where I can't get the vacuum in, but I've started using it after rubbing diatoms off of plant leaves as well.
As for filters, I have a couple sunsuns on this tank. The filters are indeed new, but the media inside was not. I used cycled course sponges I already had for large particles, cycled poly fill I already had for small particles and cycled K1 kaldness I had as well. I had problems with soil though, so I scrubbed down the sponges and poly fill :/ They're no longer cycled. The water I used to clean them is filtered to removed chlorine and chloramines (a shower filter I got to keep chlorine out of my hair), but it was hot so all the bacteria would have died. The tank's still ok though. I didn't wash off the kaldnes, so the important bio filter is still cycled and has been doing fine.
As for adding some helpful creatures to the tank, amanos are my favorite shrimp! I would love to put them in the tank! I think they'd get eaten though
And my lfs charges more than $5 per shrimp!! For that price, they must talk or sing show tunes or something lol. I wouldn't know because I won't pay my lfs's wacky prices for anything except in an emergency. If I ordered them online, they'd come as babies and DEFINITELY get eaten. The only chance they'd have is their size as full grown adults. Might get some otos though. They're cute
I've been saving up for some super awesome bristlenose plecos that I want. I think they'd do well against the diatoms, but it'll probably take more time than I'm willing to wait for me to afford them.