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Some people say tanks under 5 gallons can cycle but you would need a filter for that. I don't bother with filters under 10 gallons - not enough plugs in here for it. For cycled tanks, you should only be doing at most a 50% water change a week - I'm guessing that's why you were keeping some of the old tank water?


Ammonia levels should be 0 but I have gotten bettas with water in their cups with readings of 8.0 or higher. The last guy's water turned BLUE and that isn't even ON their API ammonia chart. If you are using prime, it will eliminate the ammonia in the water but it will still show up on most ammonia tests as still being in the water.
Symptoms:


  • Fish gasp for breath at the water surface
  • Purple or red gills
  • Fish is lethargic
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fish lays at the bottom of the tank
  • Red streaking on the fins or body
Ammonia poisoning can happen suddenly, or over a period of days. Initially the fish may be seen gasping at the surface for air. The gills will begin to turn red or lilac in color, and may appear to be bleeding. The fish will being to lose its appetite and become increasingly lethargic. In some cases fish may be observed laying at the bottom of the tank with clamped fins.If the ammonia level rises above 1 ppm as measured by a standard test kit, begin treatment immediately. Lowering the pH of the water will provide immediate relief, as will a 50% water change (be sure to use water that is the same temperature as the aquarium). Several water changes within a short period of time may be required to drop the ammonia to below 1 ppm.


Have you been cleaning out the poop/debris in the gravel? For smaller tanks, I swish around a little bit of water and then dump it. Then I add in a little more, swish around the gravel and dump it again. That should get most of the poop and other stuff out of the gravel.

2 is a pretty good age for a store bought betta. Maybe he is just showing his age?
 
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