Sorry its so long I'll add the actual question right at the beginning as well as the end:
Should I rely on my strip's results, or should I just see how he does that the results could be off and he is just gaining his true color now that he is in a better (i hope) environment?
I've been waiting and cycling my tank for several months now waiting for summer when I would have more time to help him get settled. I tested my water just a few days before getting him and they were virtually nonexistent and just in 24 hours the ammonia level is between stress and harmful. I did a full water change minus the amount that stayed in the gravel and kept the water that was in the filter just so some of the original bacteria would be there. I just tested the new water and its saying the same thing. I use the strips which I have read can be unreliable but I just cant afford the real tests right now because of recent car problems.
What made me concerned is that once I brought him home and into the 5 gal heated and filtered tank his head started turning black where it was once grayish and I was worried that it was ammonia burns.
What I originally had in his tank the first time around was 25 mL of Aqueon betta bowl plus, 3-4 drops of tetra algae control, and about one tablespoon of salt (now knowing it doesnt need that much salt.
This new batch of water has only 15 mL of the conditioner since I let my water set for 24 hours plus, 3-4 drops of algae, and 10 mL of Atison's betta spa.
I know its more stressful on the fish with such a recent water change but I didnt know what to do. Should I rely on my strip's results, or should I just see how he does that the results could be off and he is just gaining his true color now that he is in a better (i hope) environment?