Okay so I've gotten a lot of helpful advice already from here so I figured I'd continue asking questions
I was told that having plants in the tank will help to reduce the ammonia level in the water, because right now I'm having a hard time conditioning my water to the desired parameters. My tank is only a 2.5 gal unfiltered, so I really don't think a soil based tank is for me. also how do I even set up a planted tank? I'd like to continue using the gravel/rocks I've been using, is this okay to do? What kind of plants should i use? how many? I was also told to get a better heater for my tank, does anyone know of a good one for my size tank?
Also, I was told my food is not a good one. anyone know of a good brand of pellets? I don't really like the idea of using real worms and such...
Plants do really help to keep the water clean and healthy for your fish. I currently have a 2 gallon drum bowl that is pictured below.
As you can see, a soil base is perfectly feasible in a 2 gallon tank, and will definitely help your plants grow better. However, it is very important that if you decide to go with a soil based tank that you get rooting plants instead of just stem plants. Also, with a planted tank, never do a 100% change, especially with a soil based planted tank! However, gravel is perfectly fine to keep using as well. This tank started out as a gravel base and I added the soil later, but it still has a gravel cap.
Some good plants to start with if you aren't doing a soil base are anubias, java fern, marimo moss balls, and anacharis. These all have low light requirements. It is essential that you have proper lighting, especially if you want to have a greater variety of plants than listed above. A 6500K temp bulb in a basic desk lamp over the tank will work fine. The importance is the color temp of the bulb. The actual wattage won't matter much here, but will probably be around 10-15 watts for a compact fluorescent. Buy as many plants as you can afford, but make sure you have the right lighting!
Fully submersible and adjustable even though it says "preset". Also, it isn't too expensive really, especially if you need to order other things and can swing super saver shipping. :)
As far as food, New Life Spectrum is considered by many to be the best. I personally like the small fish formula, or the ones infused with garlic, but even the ones made especially for bettas are fine. You can also feed frozen bloodworms or brine shrimp, but I understand if you aren't comfortable with that.
In the picture was when it was home with me over the holiday break so I improvised with a small bedside lamp and a 13 watt 6500K bulb. Worked really well!
Normally though I have this nice little red lamp that is hooked onto my 5.5 gallon tank with the same bulb. Hence why I just recommended a basic desk lamp. Here is a picture of it. I forgot to mention the bamboo I have growing out the top of the tank. Mind you, this tank does have a lid, I just cut a hole so that the bamboo can get out. The lid is held on with binder clips so the cat doesn't knock it off.
And there is a new fish in this tank now. The one pictured above in my first post was quite sick and old and has since passed away despite treatment for parasites. I now have one of those baby betta fry. Gender still unknown!
I quite like the setup I have going on with my three small tanks, though it's a bit early to tell if I've been successful in what I've been doing...
I have stuffed my tanks pretty much as full of plants as I can get them, with a bit of space for background plants left over which will soon be filled when I can buy some more plants. I've got several stem plants, a bunch of anubias attached to driftwood, some subwassertang, willow moss and quite a few floaters.
Substrate is plain old gravel, but I dose Flourish with each water change, add some liquid CO2 daily (as per the instructions on the bottle, hope I'm doing it right!) and have ordered some root tabs to satisfy those stems.
I've got 3 LED 6400K tubes over each 4 gallon tank, with a total of 15W per tank = 3.75 watts per gallon. This calculation is almost certainly off, having not accounted for the amount of water displaced by gravel and hardscape, but I'm pretty satisfied with it, heh.
I've spouted all this garbage in the hopes of demonstrating that you are most certainly not limited to what you can do in a small tank, especially if you don't have limited funding (most of us do, but do the best with what we have - bargain hunting is awesome!). Also, don't feel you can't do much because you don't have experience doing it. I had barely touched an aquatic plant before I was taken with the planted tank bug!
Be adventurous, do a little reading, experiment and have fun with it! Good luck! ^.^
wow, this has been very informative, thank you guys! I am going to go to what seems like a bitchin aquarium store tomorrow in my area to pick up a few plants and get this planted tank started. I'm so sick of petsmart and just remembered that an aquarium store which I've read some great reviews of has finally finished moving. yippie! I must say, you guys have certainly convinced me to go all out. I might just do a soil and gravel planted tank like kytkattin's 2gal whom I really liked. im so excited!!
oh and thank you for the heater and food recommendations!