I am completely new to fish keeping, and my mom says that I can get a betta fish at the end of the school year. I don't have any stuff yet, so all of it is open to change. Because I am going to boarding school next year, I am putting my betta in a 5-gallon tank, because it will be easier to transport. I really want to have live plants, and my family is laughing at me because of how excited I am about it all. I need help and advice though, and I don't know where else to get it. I have done loads of research, and my brain feels stuffed! I just stumbled on the Walstad method, and it sounds pretty cool. I do not under any circumstances want to ever add CO2 to my water, and I would rather avoid fertilizers. I want it to be very low maintenance, because I will be at boarding school and have not have much time. Here is a list of the stuff I am getting:
-5 gallon or 5.5 gallon tank (long)
-Hydor 25W Submersible Aquarium Heater - Original Theo http://www.amazon.com/Hydor-25W-Sub...r/dp/B0006JLPG8/ref=pd_bxgy_petsupplies_img_y
and a thermometer
-10 watt (???) fluorescent daylight light that will probably be in a desk lamp over my tank, not a hood (is this correct for a 5 or 5.5 gallon?)
- Toms Aquarium Products Mini-Filter http://www.amazon.com/Aquarium-Inte...1&keywords=Toms+Aquarium+Products+Mini-Filter
-A cheap potting soil (got any inexpensive brand suggestions that are safe? I heard Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix works well, so I might use it)
-Either sand or small gravel to cap the soil (where can I buy this? Could I use something like eco-complete?)
-Betta fish (male)
-Maybe a zebra "nerite" snail named Ziggy Waldorf (if my mom lets me), what other snails are good? I don't want them to breed. I am ok with only one snail.
I have seen a lot of people with more than this in a 5 gallon. Should I add more, or are they overstocking their tank?
-Baby dwarf tears carpet (will this grow in this setup? Will there be enough light?)
-Dwarf hair-grass (can you trim this like normal grass? How short and tall can it be?)
-Willow or Java moss (what do you recommend?)
- Pygmy or some other Chain Sword
- Dwarf Anubias (planted at the base of a log with driftwood on it)
- Willisii (Nevillii) Crypt
-Coffee Leaf Anubias (How big will this really get? Should I use a smaller plant?)
- Brazilian Pennywort
- Java fern
- Dwarf Hygrophila
-Mossy log/driftwood that Mr. Betta can swim through (can I use driftwood from nature? How can I tell if it's good? Where can I buy driftwood that is safe?)
-Mossy rock (same thing with the driftwood)
-Plastic Betta Leaf Hammock (apparently they love them)
Water and parameters
Tap water will be used. I will also find a plant-safe water conditioner. Any suggestions? I also want to minimize water changes because I will be traveling from home to school. I can always bring water from home in a jug while I am away. However, how can I minimize my water changes so I don't have to lug 20 gallons of tap water to school? (I only live 30 minutes away from the school, so even though I will be boarding, I can go home for water) Also, what do you know about tank salt?
-Neutral PH, 6.8-7.4 (do PH changers harm plants?)
-78-79 degrees, 75-82 degrees
-Algae slabs for snail if it does not have enough to eat (will it need this, or will I have too much algae and need more snails/algae eaters?)
-Freeze-dried brine shrimp
General Questions that I Desperately Need Answered
-How often do I need to do water changes in my tank? How much water should I change? For cleaning/water changes, do I need to siphon, or could I carefully scoop water off the top of the tank with a cup?
-What is DH?
-Bettas need minimal water movement because of their large fins. The filter I got allows for this. Will this filter make enough movement for the plants?
-Should I cycle my tank like any other cycle with plants, or is it different? If I still cycle, I plan to do a fishless cycle like this website says: http://www.startafishtank.com/aquar...ng-cycle-your-tank-with-fish-food-or-ammonia/
-What is a reliable place to buy live plants?
-Where can I get rocks and wood?
-Would it be possible to only add a few plants at a time? Could I start the tank with one or two, and then add to it as time goes on?
Here is a modge-podge picture I made that is what I want. Please tell me what you think and if it is proportional/possible for a five gallon? I want my betta to have enough space to swim, so could I maintain a good amount of open space with regular trimming?
Thanks for all your help!