Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Morris County, NJ
What I did to cycle my 15 gallon tank was really simple. I just put in plants, let it run empty for a month. It was already ready for fish, But I couldn't find just the right species until December (tank set up in September). The reason why this works is because the snails that come in with the plants populate the aquarium, providing an ammonia source and cycling the tank.
For the carpet, I would suggest baby tears (Hemianthus cuba?). It grows very low and spreads by runners.
For the fish, I would add the rasboras first, two at a time. If they thrive in your tank, and there is a sufficient algae growth in a month, put in the ottos.