1. Master Test kit - great! Now we know we're getting the right readings. Very
good to know!
Temperature. . . this *could* very well be a huge part of your problem. I'm not sure if you mentioned what type of Tetra you have in your 10g tank, but 82 is VERY warm for most creatures. Guppies may be able to tolerate temps that high, but it is DEFINITELY at the high end of their comfort level. I suggest that you drop the temperature back a few degrees, and double check the temperature tolerance of all of the fish you keep, and adjust the temperature to be somewhere in the middle of their combined comfort zones. My tanks tend to stay around 78, but this is based on the specific needs of the fish that I
keep. There are Tropical Fish Profiles at the top of the page, and you should be able to get the information you're looking for up there.
Regarding the heater being on a timer. . . some heaters come pre-set from the factory, while others are able to be adjusted. They usually turn on automatically when the temps fall below the level they are set to keep the water. If yours is not the adjustable type, it may very well be broken, and I've read stories of fish being . . . well, cooked. . . by broken heaters. See if you can adjust it based on what you find out about your fish's temperature needs, and if you can't adjust it, get a new one ASAP. Be VERY CAREFUL NOT TO CHANGE THE TEMPERATURE TO QUICKLY, though. This will be a shock to the fish, and can kill them. Let the temperature gradually fall to the proper setting.
3. First off. . . SHEESH! You can get a 5 gallon bucket AND a siphon hose at Home Deopt or Lowes for under $10 for both! A 1 gallon bucket at a time sounds like TORTURE!
You might want to look into the amount of water that you're changing a week. Some people like to change more, some less - and it really depends on the specific tanks that you have and what the water tests are telling you. It is often better to do 2 25% changes a week than to do 50% all in one go. This is because it can be stressful on a fish to go from very dirty water to very clean water suddenly. If you do choose to continue doing 50% water changes all at once, it is probably a better idea for you to remove a smaller amount of water, then replace it with fresh, a few times over than taking the tank level down to 50% and filling it back up - which is stressful on the fish, too.
4. Sorry, no - the above gave a good idea of your step-by-step process, and that's just what I was looking for!
5. Gravel Vacuuming. I am NOT an expert on this, I didn't keep gravel in my tanks for very long before I switched over to sand, so do some additional research here. But from what I have read and been told, you can actually OVER vacuum the gravel. Because the beneficial bacteria lives on the surface area of your tank - the gravel is FULL of the stuff. We want to keep it there! Of course, you want to get the wastes out, too. Many people recommend that you alternate the area that you vaccume with each water change. For example, this week's water change, you would vacuum the left side. Next week, the right side. If you break it up like this, you can be sure that there will always be enough undisturbed bacteria to keep the cycle going. If you remove too much of the bacteria at one time, there can be flux in your cycle, and ammonia can become a problem in a cycled tank.
6, 7 - Cleaning the filters (and changing the filter pads) - This is something that you want to be very
careful with also. Our filters ALSO
have a lot of beneficial bacteria colonizing in them that we don't want to disturb for the health of our fish.
First, the filter pads. . .I suspect that you're changing them more than you need to, because you feel that it is the right thing to do. While the BOX will tell you to change it every month or every 3 months, this is not really the best thing to do. When you do your water changes, if the filter pad looks like it's full and yucky, gently remove it from the filter and swish it around in the DIRTY TANK WATER that you just took out. If you hit it with tap water, the bacteria will die, so you don't want to do that! Any filter pad should be fine to continue using until it is quite literally falling apart. You may be able to get away with swishing this media out once every 2 weeks or so.
Regarding the actual plastic pieces of the filter - the same rule applies. The intake tube, the casing, the output - you don't want to scrub them, but rinse them out in the old tank water to free them of any debris. I have a problem with algae showing up on the output of my HOB filter in my 10g tank, too. That one spot I do clean fairly regularly - but only with tank water. In my tanks, it is VERY important that I clean the filter intake with every water change, or it gets clogged with debris and the filter will not be able to do it's job, so make sure you double check the intake - if I read correctly, a clogged intake IS what was wrong with your biowheel? So rinse that out in dirty tank water with every water change.
8. Adding a dechlorinator. I was asking what you are adding to the water that comes out of your tap to make it safe for the fish before putting it into the tank. This is also called a water conditioner. . .
I use Prime, drop for drop, it's the best and least expensive (considering how little you need per gallon) product that I've found, and I think most people on here do recommend this one, too. The water comes out of our faucets with either chlorine or chloramine in it. It's okay for you and I, but not safe for the fish. Our city's water folks add this stuff in to make sure the water is clean enough for us to use, but it's deadly for the fish. There is also the chance that your water can have traces of heavy metals in it, as it has run through all of the pipes before coming into your home. The dechlorinator drops that you add to the water before putting it into the tank remove all of these things that will harm the fish, and make the water safe to be used. Be sure to double check - not all of these products are created equal. Some don't remove Chloramine, for example. Not all areas have that added to their water, so it may not matter to you - but it is something to look into and be sure of. Prime takes care of all of the above, plus some - so you can skip the research and get that, if it's easier.
9. Great! Glad to hear you're aware of this, because it can be very deadly to a fish to be tossed from one temperature to another suddenly, so we always have to be sure the temp of the water going in matches what we took out - and don't worry - we've all been off every now and again. As long as it wasn't TOO far off, or TOO much water at once, it's probably fine - though you do want to do your best, of course
10. I also clean the tank walls with every water change, so I see no harm in it - someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but we have to see our fish, right!
11. Medications: Okay. . . first I want to make something very clear to you - and PLEASE
understand that I'm saying this only to help, and am in no way being critical or judgmental in any way. You're trying to help your fish, and I respect that. . .
THE BEST THING FOR YOUR FISH WILL ALWAYS BE CLEAN WATER. Most illnesses, torn or frayed fins, fungal issues - almost all of them are a direct result of water conditions not being ideal, and if caught early enough, in many cases THEY CAN BE HEALED BY MAINTAINING CONSISTENTLY CLEAN WATER.
This is VERY important, because there are SO many 'magic potions' that you can find on the shelves for fish. A few drops of this will cure algae! A capfull of that will get rid of ammonia! Some of these products are very necessary - but usually only in very specific cases - and the rest of them are just trying to get your money.
I'm a new Betta keeper, but Bettafix I believe is a watered-down version of Melafix. It's something that I'm familiar with, and fairly comfortable with using from time to time. It is good to help a fish heal after having a fin nipped - even though the fish should heal up quickly enough with clean water in most cases
When your Betta lost his fins. . . the problem probably had something to do with the water not being as it should be - you're learning, things DO happen - and I hope that you'll be able to give him the best now that you're taking the time and getting a better understanding of what all of your fish need. You may want to do a bit more research, perhaps on the betta forum - where people will be better able to advise you on how best to deal with helping his situation along. Glad that you're giving him a rest from the meds, over-medicating is dangerous, too - so I'm happy you've picked up on that.
I'm ALSO not very familiar with Goldfish, so. . .perhaps Snappy or someone else can help you here. I don't think that Betafix or Melafix would do them any harm, but I've never looked into it personally, so double check.
AS for API General Cure . . . this is NOT a medication to toss into a tank without a LOT of forethought, and a very good understanding of which specific illness your fish is being treated for. This med has two VERY strong ingredients in it, and though they are good for treating certain things, they should not be used without a strong need. Meds are hard on the fish, and there are ingredients in this one that can potentially wipe out your bacterial filter and send your tank into a cycle - if this happened in your tank(s) it could certainly be a part of the problems you've been having.