I did end up changing the substrate today...and a good thing...the "under gravel filter" was a MESS...there was so much debris under the grate that I had to take Ernesto out and change the water. I tried without taking him out...but it was just not good mojo. I did not scrub anything down...It did not really need it...I swished the silk plants in the spent water to get the debris off of them...and I had to replace the little filter pack.
He seems to like it alright. His fins are all relaxed and he is swimming around the whole bowl. But...that cazy Betta was also trying to burrow into the marbles!
I think that he is exploring new swimming space. The grate took up about an inch of space at the bottom of the tank.
I am just nervous nillly now about arresting his wonderful healing. I am sure I am just being overly protective and nutty about it. Any experience out there?