I'm new to the aquarium community and am trying to get some reliable information regarding cycling.
I currently have a 5 gallon planted tank (fluval spec V) which is generally doing well. It has been running for a few weeks. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to cycle this tank at all. The tank ran for about three days with plants only (and prime treated water) and then a betta was added. I do not see any signs of stress and the fish generally seems happy.
My understanding was that the tank must be cycled before fish are added. I am aware of fish-in cycles as well. Recently, I've been reading that tanks under 10 gallons do not cycle, or do not require cycling. I've read that water changes never allow the bacteria to grow effectively when the tanks are this small, leading to unstable conditions. Is this the case?
With the rise of the nano and desktop tank, I find some of this information hard to believe. Will my tank crash? Should I be doing more water changes? Do smaller tanks require more water changes/cleaning/maintenance than larger ones?
Also, I am awaiting a liquid test kit, but my parameters (using test strips) are reading 0.5ppm nitrite and 40ppm nitrate, with moderately hard water and a neutral pH. I'm trying to figure out what I am supposed to be looking for in these parameters. I realize that the nitrites should be 0 and am doing regular 50% water changes.
P.S if anyone has a similar 5-10g planted setup, what is your maintenance schedule?