Thanks everyone for the input. I should be starting on this journey in about a week or two.
I currently have my tank set up at my office and I'm changing jobs and won't be able to have the tank at the new place. Once I'm finished here and get it home, I'll set up my betta in a temporary home while I get the 2.5 cleaned and cycled.
Here's what I'm thinking:
Either a DIY Sponge filter or a Whisper 3i (undecided at this point).
I'm going to go ahead with the natural substrate and use the potting mix/sand as suggested by babystarz. I know this may be the more difficult way to do it, but hey no guts no glory right???
And it also seem like a more natural approach vs. using something like the Black Diamond media or SMS or something like that.
I should be seeing this slim little guy in the mail today or tomorrow! http://www.aquatraders.com/LED-Fresh...12-p/56201.htm
I'm thinking that I may need to modify the leg stands a bit to raise it slightly, but I'm sure the tank will let me know if/when I see too much brown algae growth (does that seem logical?) In addition, and this is long down the line, I will plan to modify the fixture to put the 460nm and 10K LED's on separate switches and split the power supply so I can have them on individual timers. Probably looking at a few months down the road for this one as I'm more concerned with creating a nice little habitat for Seaman (my round tail betta) that can flourish.
2.5 Gallon (not sure manufacturer. Standard dimensions.
Here's the difficult one. There are so many beautiful plants out there. So I'll need some input please.
HYGROPHILA CORYMBOSA 'STRICTA'
LUDWIGIA INCLINATA VAR. VERTICILLATA 'CUBA'
Ground Cover (I think these do that??)
RICCIA SP. 'DWARF'
Now I know I can't have all of these plants in such a tiny tank.
That's why I need help. What do you think will thrive best for me and what can go together? Any input is hugely appreciated on this part!
I plan to use Dr. Tim's one and only to help the cycle process along a bit and I'll dose to 2ppm ammonia until ammonia and nitrites read 0 inside of 24 hours (usually in about 3-4 days in my experience). I've had good success with it in the past. I have well water that runs through a sediment filter then a UV filter that I'll use for filling, water changes, and top-off. I'll go one more step and run it through my Britta pitcher just for good measure before filling the tank. Not sure if it's necessary, but I've been doing that already so it's already a habit and makes it easy for top-off to just have the pitcher pre-filled and conditioned waiting to be used.
For now I don't have plans to run CO2. I'm hoping that I can get away without it as the wife isn't interested in seeing a canister and air hoses where the tank will be going. We'll see if it works out.
I'll plan for 20-25% water changes every 2-3 weeks or as needed in between. At some point i'll set up an automatic top-off system to keep the water level consistent as well. In the mean time, i'll top off daily as necessary. I plan to keep the temp at around 77-78. My house is fairly temperate at 70 year round, so I'll utilize a small heater in hopes to regulate the temperature.
Two final questions (for now):
1. Do I plant the tank before the tank is fully cycled? It seem logical that the plants will provide much more surface area for the bacteria to multiply and help the process, but I'm worried that ammonia spikes will kill the plants.
2. What is the best way or where is the best place to buy my plants?
And once again Thanks everyone for helping me along this journey!