Hello! I am new here, but I have been doing my best to read up and make an informed post.
I have one female betta that was given to me about six months ago by a family member. It was pretty spontaneous and unexpected, however, she really started to grow on me and since then I've come to absolutely adore this betta and her personality. She's been through quite a lot; surviving winter time without a heater (at one point she didn't eat for eight days!), and an entire move in a vehicle. She was quite lethargic and her colors dulled during the winter time (before I knew much about betta care) but she has since then bounced back and is extremely happy, healthy, and has great color (she was treated with betta revive). I was feeding her twice a day for some time, but I'm cutting down to once a day. Since she's held on so well I want to create the best habitat to my ability for her. She was given to me in a small 3/4 gallon fish bowl and has been living there ever since, so me and her are both quite anxious to get her into the new 20 gallon tank (I just want to make sure I do it right!). Despite her small tank, she seems happy for now and explores what little room there is to explore all the time (she also tends to make a lot of bubbles which is abnormal for a female o.O).
Anyways, I just picked up my used setup for $80 off of CL today which consists of a 20 gallon tank on a stand (it has no hood but I don't think this is really a problem), a Marineland reef capable 18-24" LED light that is supposidly rated at 10000K, a siphon vacuum hose, and a top fin 30 adjustable tank filter. The tank is relatively clean and I did the flashlight check when I picked it up. All the silicone seems to be intact, un-rotted, and no signs of leaking, cracks or scars. The tank is around eight years old and the previous owner had a Bala shark and Cichlids in the tank (seems kind of cruel for a 20g tank). I have done my best to read up on creating a good habitat for my betta but I still have a lot of unanswered questions;
My first question is in reference to the how to guide on NPT's. At the end of the guide it states 'Once you have 1 thriving soil based tank-you will soon need another tank due to the plant growth.' This 20g tank is already pushing it in space in my room, I will definitely not be able to have another tank. Is this absolutely necessary or is there another way I can possibly trim the plants so I don't have to transfer them to another tank?
Next I am wondering what specific plant species will be best for this type of tank setup and how many I should be adding. I really like the natural look and have honestly not seen a setup I didn't like. I also love the idea of creating an entire ecosystem in this aquarium. I know that betta's like plants that grow to nearly the top of the water so they can rest near the top when they need to breathe. My tank is 15" high (will obviously be less when flled), do I just clip the plants when they start getting too tall? I am a little worried if they are too high it might encourage her to jump out, is this an irrational worry? Also, will my Marine Land LED light be enough to allow the plants to grow? I was reading that 6500k is needed at least so I assume 10000k should be enough.
Since she seems stable (for now) in her small fishbowl, I'd like to start the cycle process in the 20gallon tank asap and get whatever tank mates and plant life she needs into the aquarium before I introduce her. I've read that this is best as betta's tend to be territorial, and she might harass the other tank mates if they are introduced into the system after her. I'm not crazy about the idea of red shrimps or mystery snails, but I really like the idea of an Otocinclus/Dwarf sucker in the tank (I'm also not very interested in creating a female betta sorority). So would a dwarf sucker be a good tank mate for her? If so should I have more than one in the tank?
In reference to the question above, how should I perform the overall process? I'm pretty sure you put the dirt in first, then cap, plants, water and sea life but I'm just not exactly sure how long to wait between processes, etc. In the NPT guide it states; 'If you properly setup the soil based tank-you can safely add all your livestock on the same day you set it up.' It would be really nice if I could do that but I absolutely don't want to endanger my betta. Could somebody expand on that a bit more please? I'm still a bit confused how a betta could be added into a setup so soon without it being cycled properly.
Like I said, the tank has been unused for quite some time. It seems pretty clean, but how should I clean it out before filling it up? I read that sometimes you can use bleach, but that sounds like a really bad idea to me. And for that matter,what is the best way to clean out the filter, vacuum hose, etc.?
The setup came with a top fin 30 filter, but I know betta's don't like current. Will this filter create too strong of a current for my betta? If so, would performing the filter baffle mod make it suitable?
When the time comes to introduce my betta, how should I do it? Is it suitable to just put her in all at once, or should I slowly introduce the water to her somehow?
I've been using drinking water bought at my local Fry's for my betta. The drinking water I've been buying is carbon filtered and ozonated by reverse osmosis and is from a municipal source. Is it a good idea to start using tap water and treat it with Prime? I read this may be a bit better as it will contain minerals she needs. I live in a pretty populated suburban area in Phoenix so I'm sure the water quality isn't the best.
In the NPT guide it suggests using normal sand or pool filter sand. Would something like this be suitable?
Finally, what kind of heater should I buy for this setup? I live in Arizona and she seems pretty content with the temperature for now (basically summer), but I want to make sure its perfect. Any specific brand, rating etc.?
I apologize in advance if I am asking menial questions that I'm sure have been asked before at some point. I did my best to read up on most of them and had a hard enough time decrypting some of the acronyms used on these forums xD I just want to make sure my betta doesn't get sick and has a happy life in her new home.
Any help or advice is very much appreciated!