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I would pull the carbon out while establishing your biofilter. I'm not sure what their reason is, but my LFSs all agreed on that when I was asking them about cycling a tank.

I don't know much about shrimp, so I don't know that species' specific needs, but tetras usually pair well with shrimp. Some cardinals or rummy nose would almost certainly work, assuming other water parameters are in range as well.

If you aren't including stocking in a the budget, you have plenty left for a nice light. I have the Aqueon Optibright + on my 75 and I love it for it's programmability and the overall way it makes my tank look, but it isn't perfect and there are much brighter lights. What kinds of plants are you looking to keep?
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