Personally, I don't drain and break down the tank for every water change. I do small water changes every other day (about 20% on my 2.5g) I do a larger water change at the end of the week where I change about 80% where I bring the water level down to about 1" above the gravel surface.
The fuzzy part of all this is it doesn't work for every tank. I have basically all the necessary test kits (just ordered the GH&KH kit) and keep a close eye on ammonia levels. But I usually get 0ppm on the test kit. I've only once seen anything higher and even that was only .25ppm. Which occurred 2 days after setting the tank up.
Out of curiosity, which "guy" told you to do that?
A 2.5 gallon CAN be cycled and it CAN be a stable cycle. I had a 2.5 gallon that was set up and cycled for two years with nary a peep of ammonia in that entire time besides one mini-cycle after I had to move the tank home from school one summer. The trick is providing tons of surface area in the filter and not over stocking.
I also have a 3 gallon that has been stably cycled on and off for the past 3 years.
It was the "fish/plant guy" at Double M Feed, which I'm pretty sure is only in New Orleans. It's not a big chain like Petsmart or Petco. I would do only water changes like that but i'm concerned about the gravel. Beau will only eat flakes, small bloodworms, or pellets that have been cut because he has a small mouth, I guess. Either that or he's a male diva, haha! But it kind of makes it a little messier. I know my tank is pretty small, but would a test kit help me decide how often to change the water? I've never used a test kit.
I think test kits are a requirement to keeping any fish. Not an option. Can you keep a healthy setup? Absolutely, there are many people at my mom's work and her tank as well that prove it. Would I feel comfortable? Not one bit. But I'm also extremely careful as to how I keep my fish. In the past I've gone blindyl into it and lost many fish. Now I know better.
Besides, test kits are only 8-10 bucks each, or you can save yourself money in the long run, especially if you plan on going any larger than 5g, by getting the Freshwater master kit from API. Thats about $24 on amazon at the moment. At the very least, get the ammonia test kit. It's 10 bucks max for peace of mind.
Also, a gravel vac might not be a bad idea. The smallest one at petco goes for about $9, only thing I would change is get an adapter to go from the 3/8" line, down to 1/4" line and grab some clear 1/4" tubing from your local hardware store. I find on the small tnaks that the 3/8" line flows too much water. In a small tank it makes it difficult to properly vacuum all the gravel before the tank water level gets too low.
Ok, well I'm about to run some errands anyway so I'll go ahead and get a test kit. I would get the master kit but I really have no room to upgrade until the fall. I'll look into a gravel vac, too. Thank you!!
Please keep in mind not everyone is American and prices are quite different. For one type of tester here, it's $12+ (like Ammonia) and some are $20+ each (like Nitrates). API Masters are also much more expensive. Only complete kit I can get here is $99. I personally check for ammonia only when there is an issue but my tropical and female Betta tanks are mature. Only reason something would be off is if I'm being lazy and not doing my water changes. But as for my Betta tanks, I never check anything on them as they are changed properly. Doesn't mean I shouldn't have fish lol
I think the argument of anything over 5g can be cycled is not because you cannot cycle anything under 5g, but because anything over 5g would be a pain and a hassle to do weekly 100% water changes on. My 29g needed to be cycled, as I could not keep up with an uncycled tank that large. I have 1.5g tanks here that cycled on their own, doesn't mean I kept the cycle. I just wanted to try lol
I really hate these kind of threads! Anyways, to the original question... 2.5g is the recommended minimum, 5g is better, 1g is acceptable. I use 1.5g tanks and my guys enjoy them, but they enjoy upgrades even more :)
I think I would do a minimum of 2 gal. My latest male is in a 2 gal glass bowl and it's planted with a heater. He loves it! He's vibrant and lively and builds bubble nests. He even dances when I come by expecting food. So I recommend at least 2 gallons. Live plants also help tremendously. I have found that my boys LOVE live plants. Also I use alot of Anacharis which helps with ammonia, sucks it all up like crazy. But I've found some who wouldn't put a betta in less than 5 gallons so it's up to you.
I'm experimenting with a small setup, adding pants with Betta day one, use conditioners at the start, now a pro Betta water commercial 1Liter size. Had zero water clouding and now 2 Ghost Shrimp. I would elect to use conditioned water but this is experimenting with available options. Will report monthly, 2 weeks it's great, all active, eating well. Clue water changes not the norm.