I am new to fishkeeping and I need some advice. My sons wanted to rescue a Betta, so I got them a fish and a 1/2 gallon tank on Saturday. In order to do him justice, I did a little research. (Apparently not enough!!) So I find out that the tiny tank is not going to work for him, so we purchased a 5 gallon tank with a filter and a heater. We set it up, let it run for 24 hours, acclimated the fish to his new surroundings and then turned him loose like the LFS employee said. Well then I find out about how I should have cycled the tank, so I'm panicking a little. I don't want him to die because I stupidly didn't know to cycle the tank first.
He has seemed pretty happy since his move, he's eating ok but tonight he's been acting oddly. He can swim just fine, but he prefers one particular part of the bottom of the tank. He'll hang out there awhile, then dart off, hide in his cave, swim around a bit, deposit a tiny bubble for his nest, and then go back to his "spot." He looks ok and seems pretty energetic when he's swimming, so perhaps he's resting or just likes this spot? I am growing real plants for him, should I put a silk one in for him to rest on while the real ones grow?
Of course since I didn't cycle my tank I'm freaking out thinking the ammonia has spiked already and he's slowly being poisoned, but would a dying fish start a bubble nest? I'm sorry I'm such a newb. I am getting the ammonia/nitrate/nitrite test kits tomorrow...is there anything I can do to salvage the situation? I feel so awful for putting him through the cycling.
Thanks in advance for your help and for reading.