Hi! I'm new to the forum and to Betta Fish care. I've been creeping on this forum since I got my guy at the beginning of April, and I've learned so much (primarily that the people at the fish store should be ashamed of themselves). I've finally gotten myself into an issue that I haven't been able to resolve on my own with research, so I know it's time to reach out to you fine folks for help. Sorry in advance, my story might be a long one, but I'm hoping the more information you have the better able you'll be to help.
I purchased our 5.5 gallon tank, decorations, filter/heater/light/etc. plus our Betta Ming Ming, a Serpae Tetra (Twitch), and a mystery snail (Tuck) all on the same day - no mention of cycling the tank, so I set everything up and within 2 hours everyone was in their new home.
Twitch got sick overnight about 1 week after he came home with us. I'm not sure what it was, he became lethargic and stopped swimming very quickly. I took him out and put him in a bowl to watch him the second I noticed something was wrong, in order to try to prevent Ming Ming from getting sick. Twitch died the same day.
About 2 weeks later, the tank got very cloudy/yellowish, although I had just changed and tested the water two days before. I wasn't sure what was going on, so I left it for the day. Then I noticed Ming Ming was developing pop eye, and within 24 hours it was full blown in both eyes. I panicked, and I'm pretty sure this is where I made my mistake. I did a 90% water change and changed the filter (stupid), then started treating with Mardel Maracyn and Maracyn 2. Did that for a week, and his eyes got better.
All the while I was doing weekly water tests and everything was good. Nothing out of the ordinary, ammonia was 0, feeling like I was getting the hang of it....then the ammonia indicator was suddenly at caution.
I immediately began doing 50% water changes, first once a day and then twice a day. There is no change - it doesn't go down, but it doesn't go up either. I've been doing twice a day changes for 3 days, testing once a day at least. Today I also tested my tap water and conditioned water for ammonia just in case, both came back at 0. My tank is consistently at .25. I don't think this is toxic, but is is approaching stressful since it's been days at the same level?
My tank now just contains Ming Ming, Tuck, a live anubias plant, two small decorations and a large piece of diftwood for him to hide and rest in (I'm attempting to post a picture). I keep the water at 80 degrees.
The latest readings are:
I have been using 5 in 1 test strips (shame
), because I haven't been able to find anything else - except Ammonia, I'm using the API Test Kit for that.
I was feeding Ming Ming 3 pellets twice a day with no issues for the first 4 weeks (also gave him an occasional freeze dried bloodworm and golden pearls for a treat). Since this happened, I cut him back to one pellet twice a day. He seems in great health - no issues with his fins, looks good, his eyes are good (a little cloudiness in one eye remaining, but I read that can happen after pop eye), his energy is still very high. He's always been very active - comes out to say hi, follows me around the tank, he even comes over to my hand when I reach in the tank for something.
So my question - am I doing the right thing, or is there some other solution I should explore? I'm concerned because I'm going on a family vacation in 5 days, and I'm not sure I can find someone to keep up the water changes while I'm gone. I bought some AmmoniaSafe but haven't put it in, as I've read mixed reviews. Any help/advice you can offer would be appreciated.
Thank you for making it all the way to the end!