Don't say the other posters are yelling :/ They're just trying to help by giving what advise they have (which is really good btw).
You can get the API master test kit from walmart for 20 dollars, it's a great kit, and very accurate, not to mention it'll last a while (I've had mine for 6-7 months, everthing is about half full still :D)
With cycles, you'll know when you're cycled when you have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrItes, and 5 or more nitrAtes. Once you have your test kit, test daily for all three, and ammonia or nitrItes ever register above .25, do a 25-50% water change.
I'm not sure what the name of the plant it is, but I know that type of plant will be fine in water for a bit. :) Some awesome water plants are floaters like water lettuce (you can buy some in the garden section of Home Depot really cheap), water wisteria (if you have the right gravel/fertilizer) java moss, etc.
As for tankmates, no females, even in a divided tanks. When females and males are in the same tank, their phermones will drive each other practically insane and they'll constantly be trying to jump to the other side to breed. There have been cases where people on this forum had males and females in divided tanks, and came home to a bubble nest full of eggs with the girl on the guys side. Ghost shrimps are awesome, though some bettas eat them as late night snacks (yummy)
Last edited by JKfish; 12-07-2010 at 08:15 PM.