Sorry about the length of this,
I just want to be thorough about everything. I've bolded the important questions for easier reading.
And to start, I've created this thread because I've now read through dozens of others on a lot of different sites and everything I've read is so situation based. I don't want to make a mistake because my situation is different from another.
Around Christmas I asked for and received a 3 gallon
tank from my secret santa. At the time I didn't know too much about fish and caring for them so I rushed into buying a betta and putting him in on the first day. I had him for a few months and was more then a little lax about cleaning his tank and I unknowingly cleaned it 100% water change every time. He recently developed fish rot and died before the medicine I gave him could work.
I want to do better this time and care for a new betta fish properly.
My fish tank set up:
Round gravel/rocks on bottom with a few bigger ones that were rounded on top, clear, and flat on the bottom.
Three plastic (smooth) plants
Two random decorations (one shark, one dragon) with smooth edges
One coral reef type decoration that had two holes. One he could swim through (sorta) and one that he couldn't.
One heater with a thermometer next to it (on the outside of the tank, now stuck on there forever)
I also own a filter that I never ended up using.
Yes I used the proper water conditioner
No I never checked pH, ammonia, or nitrate levels
I fed my fish once a day around 9pm and never fasted him
I have LED lighting with a cover to keep him from jumping out.
I had NO other fish or creature in there.
So now I'd like to get a new (male) betta and create a proper home that he'll be happy in but I don't want to go into it the same way I did with my first betta.
Since my last fish died of fish rot pretty recently all I've done is a thorough washing of all the old decorations and tank and boiled the gravel. What else should I be doing to make sure all of the disease is gone from the tank?
Everything is out of the tank and the tank is empty at the moment.
Now, I want to buy new decorations (with more suitable hiding spots) so those won't be a problem. And the three plants happened to be out of the tank when he got sick. Should I buy a few live plants instead of my fake ones?
Will those be more suitable for the new betta?
I didn't know about cycling when I had my old betta, in a 3 gallon tank is cycling necessary? I hear its hard to maintain in a tank so small. How should I be dealing with the ammonia and nitrates if I'm not doing a cycle?
The test kits I see in the stores are too expensive for me right now, a starving student, what other options are there?
I may invest in one later when I can afford to.
Should I be setting up the tank a day or more before I get the betta or is setting it up just before okay?
Can I add another creature to the tank, should it be right away with the betta or a few days or weeks later? I was thinking either an aquatic frog, a snail, or a ghost shrimp (or anything else suggested). What are things to keep in mind once I get a second living thing in this tank?
Sorry for the length and number of questions, I'm sorry if someone has added something similar to this before. I may edit this later if I've forgotten anything.
All the help I can get is much appreciated! I don't want to be a bad fish owner anymore.