Originally Posted by slug61
Yes, i've heard it is difficult, but i really want to try since once summer is here...we go away a few times for 8 days at a time and i'm worried about no water changes for that long.
Would "tetra safestart" or seachem "stability" help at all?
Its just odd that suddenly after only 2 days the ammonia went up to .5 when i had been able to go 7 days.
is this just due to instability in a small tank?
Yes, what you saw was a mini-cycle. Bacteria colonies will grow on everything including walls, decore, fake plants, and even the gravel/sand. However, the heart of any bacterial colony will be in the filter media. The small filters in 1-3 gallon tanks usually don't have the surface area to hold a bacteria colony large enough to have a stable cycle in 2.5 gallons. That's why it's hard. You can grow the bacteria, but you can't grow enough of the bacteria for a stable cycle.
However, even if you had a 5 gallon + tank, cycling takes time. With my 5 gallon tanks, one tank cycled in 4 1/2 weeks and the other tank need 6 weeks. While it is possible to see a cycle in 5 1/2 weeks, that would still be "fast" for cycling. Also, avoid the stabilizers. Unless the bacteria was stored under proper conditions at all times, you're just pouring dead bacteria into a tank. If the bottle wasn't pulled out of a fridge and used before it warmed to room temp, assume too much of the culture died to be of any use. I don't know why bacteria that thrives in a 78-82 temp tank dies if it isn't stored in the fridge, but it does.
Obviously you aren't going to stop going on vacations because of a pet whether it be cat, dog, or fish. Since you have only had your betta for 5 1/2 weeks, I can't think of any suggestions that will work better than a fish sitter. You can set up a way for someone else to care for them while you are gone. When I studied abroad for 6 months my fish were watched by my Grandma and Mom and when I went on vacation for a week last year my fish were watched by my dad. I will admit that fish sitters are easy for me to find because I come from a family of animal lovers, but it is the best option when leaving fish alone for longer than a weekend.