06-06-2013, 08:05 PM
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A little anecdotal bit. I'm playing with a jar to do a cycle with no filter, substrate or anything, just water and a glass jar and some fish food. What was interesting is that once I saw nitrites and then zero nitrites I filtered out all the food particles through a coffee filter. I thought that would be fine enough to remove enough ammonia producing food particles leaving the jar some residual bits that it could easily keep up with, and overcome the buildup, but it turns out I was wrong. The water is clear but ammonia still rides around 1ppm even though the cycle seems intact.
I think that, if anything in the tank can be blamed, it will be the sand. No matter your test results if you try that little experiment, don't disturb the sand, it's not deep enough to need to be disturbed. If there is anything in there to decay, letting it be under the surface will, or may, serve to at least slow down the process a bit. It just might take a while for whatever is there to process, but it will.
As far as sudden Betta passing or current stressed fish... I doubt this has much bearing... except maybe the new fish is stressing over a new home with you mucking about and fussing over him so much