As some of you may have seen on my other post, I'm upgrading from a .96 gallon tank to a 5 gallon tank.
With the .96gal one, I usually take the Betta out (and put him in the cup he was purchased in), and then completely empty the tank. I scrub it (without soap), rinse it, pour new water in, put drops in to take away chlorine, and then I let the Betta sit on top of the water for fifteen minutes to get used to the temperature. As for the gravel, I take it out and rinse it in hot water.
With my tank, I'll have a power filter. I'm completely in the dark about how to clean the new tank, with this filter. How often do I do it? Do I continue doing complete water changes? Please walk me through this! Thank you so much!
I think to start with I'll just have silk plants. I'd like to adjust to the bigger tank before learning how to have live plants.
As for cycling my tank, I don't really know how to do that. I've read things about it, but they all implied using an already cycled tank. Since I don't have an aquarium with a filter already, I just kind of skipped that concept.
Congrats on your upgrade, I'm sure your fish will love it! As long as you have a filter your tank will basically do a fish-in cycle on its own. Until it's cycled (about 1-2 months, but it's a good idea to buy a test kit so you know for sure), do two 50% water changes per week. Use a gravel vacuum (they are inexpensive, found in the fish section at the pet store) just to siphon out half the water for one water change, and actually use it to vacuum the gravel as well as siphoning out 50% of the water for your other water change. That's all you really need to do. :) Once it's cycled you can do one 50% water change + gravel vacuuming per week.
Something that I like to do with filter cartridges that are the kind with carbon: cut them open and pour out the charcoal, then stuff the empty cartridge full of aquarium sponge. This provides a great place for the nitrifying bacteria to grow, and you don't have to change your cartridges every two weeks if you get rid of the charcoal (just swish it around in the bucket of old tank water once it starts to get too full of gunk). You can use the cartridges as is if you want, but if you keep the carbon in-tact you'll need to replace the cartridges often (as often as the directions say).
Is there anything I can do that would enable me to go longer without water changes? Plants, equipment, etc? I'm not just being lazy, I promise. haha I just want to know what wil cause the least amount of stress for my Betta.
Also, is it true that 5 gallons is too small for even TWO fish?
As your tank is cycling nitrites will build and it is imperative that you do a couple changes per week in order to keep them in check. Once the tank is finished cycling, ammonia will build if you do anything less than a weekly water change. If you add a lot of plants you MIGHT be able to get away with changing less water, but you still have to change it weekly; a five gallon is very spacious for a betta, but it's still not a huge tank. Weekly and even twice weekly water changes shouldn't be too stressful on your fish as long as you make sure the new water is conditioned, and the same temperature as the water in the tank. Clean, warm water is the most important thing to ensure a healthy betta.
When you ask if a five gallon is too small for two fish, do you mean dividing it and putting in two bettas? Both would have 2.5 gallons, which is perfectly fine. If you mean another species, the smallest betta-compatible fish are schooling fish, and the number you would need for them to be happy would overstock your tank. The smallest tank for a betta to share with another species of fish is ten gallons. You could add shrimp and/or a snail though.
A cycled tank with live plants requires less changes. The cycle provides bacteria which convert ammonia to nitrites to nitrates. The plants can use ammonia as well.
A 5G could house 2 bettas technically (2.5 gallons per fish), but you would need to divide it so they could not see each other. I love my 5G with one fish because it's a great amount of space for my very active Ninja. :)