Thanks to everyone here for answering my questions so far and leaving tons of useful threads around for me to read through. My 10g has been running for a few months and has many ramshorn snails busily breeding, lots of plants, hidey holes and moss, some leaf litter, and a gnarly layer of mulm which I have worked very hard to resist cleaning. Based on what I've read elsewhere, I think it might be ready for some Elassoma (I also have a thriving grindal worm culture for their staple diet).
I'm planning to order soon through Sachs systems, and I see that they also have small critters that might make a good in-tank food for the pygmies. Currently the only microfauna in my tank that might do the job are the newborn ramshorns, some tiny white detritus worms, and some copepods. Has anyone maintained an Elassoma colony with gammarus/scuds, specifically hyallela azteca in the tank? It sounds like the fully grown adults might be too big for Elassoma mouths, but newborn/baby scuds might be a good snack. My major concern is that the scuds might eat pygmy eggs or newly hatched fry, is that a possibility? If so, are there other peaceful small critters that can live in the tank and serve as prey for my fish?
Quick second question: is it possible to just maintain a pygmy colony without trying to breed large numbers actively? I want the fish to breed and some fry to survive, but so long as the fry survival and adult death rates balance out I'm okay. I have seen others set up secondary tanks specifically for breeding to raise fry separately from the parents, is this a necessity or is it just helpful to maximize colony productivity? I'm sure some fry will get eaten by their folks or otherwise not survive, but that's fine so long as some fraction make it to adulthood and my colony doesn't become extinct.
Thanks in advance for being a helpful group of folks.