No I didn't try an empty pot with pellets first. I simply potted those Catts up in regular pellets in regular plastic pots, no reservoir at the bottom. The plants have adjusted nicely. The advantage I see is in not having to replace potting medium every few years and I still can't overwater or have to guess when they may need water. In other words I still water everything at the same time. I don't think I had saltbuildup from fertilizer, as a matter of fact I don't believe the 1/2 tsp/gal of fertilizer (Dynagro) at each watering was enough with all the light I get in the greenhouse, but I had mud in the bottom of the pots and still do even after repotting, rewashing, etc. With holes in the bottom I hope the mud will wash away instead of accumulating.
Another problem I had, was roots growing like crazy bonding with all the pellets to where I had a solid mass. No air could get to those roots after this length of time in those pots and they died. Loads of roots is not always a good thing, I guess.