You can play with different pen caps. Bowser hates blue and blacks but not red.
I don't agree with anything other than a betta and shrimp in a 5g (unless you divide it and put in 2 bettas) a pleco would be way too much for space and bioload. Amano shrimp will eat algae and are big enough to fend off a hungry betta but I don't think it will clean waste perse..
For a couple of dollars you can get a small gravel vacuum. It is the best. It use to be a real pain to clean the gravel and I would put it off too long but now i just stick the tube into the gravel and it sucks out debris and the gravel falls back down! And I no longer have to dip the water out for watch changes as it is siphoned out as it sucks!
I shake my food canister in front of my betta and open the tank lid and he gets excited and knows to meet me up top and wait for his couple of pellets. They catch on quick! They like to be watched and admired and start to show off for you. Moss balls can be entertainment for them.
what does half cycled mean? never heard that term before....and just out of curiosity what happens if u DONT clean the gravel u just do larger more frequent water changes. I use a turkey baster to get the poo I can see but thats it....