Hi. We are new to having aquariums and have two up and running. I wish the pet store had told me to go home and read about the Nitrogen Cycle before allowing me to purchase everything (but then again I could have read in advance as well...so my fault really). ANYWAY, now that I realize you should cycle your tank ideally with no fish I want to do what is best for my two tanks.
Here is what I have:
1. 5 gallon tank with male betta, heater, filter that came with this 5 gallon Hex. A rock cave and some plastic plants. Those marble like things and 'jewels' on the bottom. I've had this up and running for 2 weeks.
2. A 14 gallon with 2 male platies and 3 black skirted tetras, heater, filter that came with the kit, two rock caves, gravel for substrate (am I using that term correctly?) and some plastic plants. I've had this up and running for 1 week.
Luckily, I was told to feed them lightly. Luckily I finally read about the Nitrogen cycle at all and am now testing the water daily. I have added no chemicals other than de-chlorinator, and started with brand new everything (so no previously used filter or gravel, etc). I am using Jungle Lab test strips. All fish seem to be doing great....happy, swimming, eating, etc.
I do have a couple of questions and if anyone who is very knowledgeable wouldn't mind taking the time to answer them I'd be very appreciative. Here they are:
1. The betta's tank had a 0.2 reading for ammonia about 1 week after set up. I did a 20% water change and then the reading was 0. Ever since a week ago the ph has been 7.2, total alk 80, chlorine 0, total hardiness 75, nitrite 0 and nitrate 0. Should something be happening? Are the jewellike things bad at the bottom since maybe the good bacteria can't attach (my own thinking)?
2. Nothing has happened in my 14 gallon tank at all, with 0 readings for ammonia, ph 7.2, total alk 80, chlorine 0, total hardiness 75, nitrite and nitrate 0. Is this normal?
3. For both tanks, do I need to do any water changes or clean anything if these parameters stay like this or do I just let it cycle? Also, should I be trying to vacuum anything?
4. For both tanks the 'directions' that came with the filters say to change them about every 2 weeks. Wouldn't that make the cycling process almost start all over again? How often should you change filters, if ever, or should you just rinse them with water from changes? That one really confuses me.
Thanks so much. I really appreciate any advice.