Originally Posted by Reun
Cycling the tank:
When you get everything in the tank how you want it, follow the directions on the cartons of PH buffer and de chlorinator. Fill the tank and start the filter. Now comes the waiting game. Let the tank "Cycle" for a week or two. If you bought a amonia testing kit, test the water every few days, in a few days you will see the ammonia level spike, then it slowly goes down. after the spike, it is ussually safe to start adding fish.
Lots of great advice but I will input this:
In regard to cycling- Read read read! Make sure you understand how to cycle a tank properly. I think that is where most new to the hobby get into trouble. if you do a "fishless" cycle as explained above you will have to add something (fish food, ammonia etc) to get the bacteria to start, otherwise it will start when you add the fish, which is not a "fishless cycle". I am a huge fan of BioSpira. I cycled my tanks, with fish and no deaths, in 1 week.
Get hardy fish. Especially if you are in school and may need to move the tank. You will want fish that can handle the stress. Zebra Danios and Golden white clouds are great examples of hardy fish. Anything in the "minnow family" really. Moving a tank can be a real hassle, so make sure you know what you are getting into regarding size, etc.
Check compatibility-bettas and tetras for the most part do NOT get along. Most tetras are known fin nippers. Golden white clouds (which are very pretty) get along great with bettas and would have a beautiful contrast to a dark betta.
Stay as far away from pH chemicals (and other additives other than dechlorinator and melafix). Get your fish used to the new water slowly, by adding a little bit of tank water at a time to their transportation container (drip acclimation method). Playing with the pH is asking for trouble, I speak from experience on that one.
real plants, but unless you the have time to devote to maintaining them, I would go with artificial plants (the material ones look very real as opposed to plastic) and add a few real ones, which absolutely fools the eye. You can't tell when you have both. If you are in school the last thing you want to do is have to trim plants when you should be studying (or partying
So that is my input. I hope it was helpful along with everyone else's suggestions. When you get your tank set-up, post a photo so we can see what it looks like!