Originally Posted by kinbari
orangeaugust: Hello! How exactly does one cycle a tank? Thanks for the advice! I'm excited to get a heater for him today, hopefully I find one of the suggested ones.
There's a really detailed thread about the betta-specific nitrogen cycle here: http://www.bettafish.com/showthread.php?t=107771
You definitely should read it. I didn't understand cycling at all, no matter how many websites I read about it. But then that thread helped me a lot.
A quick summary is that in your filter and on surfaces inside your tank, beneficial bacteria grows that eats up ammonia. But it doesn't start growing until it's exposed to ammonia. Some people cycle their tank with no fish in it, but by adding ammonia from a bottle and measuring parameters, and it just seems more difficult that way. I cycled my 5 gallon tank with my betta and live plants in it. The betta is then the source of the ammonia. You have to get a water test kit, and each day measure the levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. I automatically changed 50% of the water every other day, but I also checked the levels each day. If the ammonia levels are above .25 before your next scheduled water change, change the water right then and don't wait until the next day. Also, someone upthread mentioned that beneficial bacteria won't grow on glass beads. I wasn't aware of that so maybe if you do cycle you should get regular gravel or sand instead.
So anyway, after a few weeks, one day when I tested the water, the ammonia and nitrites were 0. I tested again the next day when I was supposed to change the water, and they were both still 0. So I kept testing it every day just in case, but discovered my tank was cycled! Nitrates should be a positive number, by the way, but below a certain number (don't remember what it is).
So anyway, that was my experience with it, but definitely read that thread, too!