"katmandew-why don't you start a new thread on your fishless cycle if you haven't already and add-Tank size, substrate, additives used, type of filter, live plants-if any and if you do plan on live plants-include light info and number/species of plants and finial stocking plan.
Date started, ammonia source, type of testing products and a base line water prams on your source water-with and without the normal additives you use."
Per Old Fish Lady I'm going to try to answer all the above questions. First let me give some history. Last week I set up my first 5.5 gallon tank (starter from Petsmart) and bought my first Betta. The rep from Petsmart told me to condition the water and let the Betta go, that simple...so she said. Three days later my Betta was dead and through this forum I have learned to cycle a tank first.
My tank is 5.5 gallons, gravel substrate, only additive was conditioner, filter is a Top Fin 10 (carbon), light is built in to the hood, have a 25 watt heater set on 80, 4 silk plants (not planning on doing live plants), and two caves, planning on only 1 Betta and maybe a ghost shrimp. I knew nothing about cycling or testing the water. I ordered the API Master Test Kit and Prime conditioner. Yesterday morning I cleaned the tank and decorations, refilled it with the conditioner and added a couple drops of pure ammonia. After 8 hours I did my first test. The PH was 7.6, ammonia .25, nitrate and nitrite both 0. I have no idea what the levels are in my tap water since I really didn't think I had to test it.
After more reading I saw that I should get the ammonia level up to between 3-5 so this morning I added more ammonia and tested. Again it was only .25. I added a full teaspoon and it went up to 2.0. Here is my understanding of what I should be doing. Keep testing daily and adding ammonia until all the ammonia disappears in a 24 hour period and the nitrate and nitrite levels are 0. When that happens do a 75% water change. I believe the PH level of 7.6 is ok for a Betta as long as it stays consistent. I just turned the light on the hood thinking maybe that will help grow some good bacteria. According to Petsmart the filter cartridges should be changed monthly and by the time this cycles it will be time for a change. Should I change the cartridge after cycling or do I really need to since there are no fish or food in the tank.
It's obvious I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm trying to learn and do the right thing so I don't lose another fish. Could someone please let me know if I am doing this right and then once I add a fish how often do I check the water levels, and how to fix any problems like high ammonia after the fish is in.