I'm doing my first fishless cycle with a 10g future betta tank. (My now well established 30g tank was cycled with danios due to my own ignorance!)
Here's what I've done so far:
1. Added the substrate (black sand) and decorations
2. Filled the tank with tap water.
3. Added the proper amount of dechlorinator
4. The next day, I added Dr. Tim's ammonium chloride until I got 4-6ppm NH4/NH3
on my liquid API test kit. I also added some filter media and decorations from my established tank.
5. 3-4 weeks later, the ammonia had not budged and the nitrite was 0. I thought maybe the ammonia was too high, so I did an 75% water change and brought it down to about 2ppm. I added some gravel from my established tank.
6. About 2 weeks after that, the ammonia finally started to go down to 1ppm. But still no nitrite.
7. Now 1 week later (tonight), I bought a set of tetra test strips - just to compare with my API liquid kit. And surprise - there were nitrates!! So I ran my full test kit and here's what I found:
nitrite 0 (on the test strip it read as 0.5 but the API kit is 0)
What happened here? Did the nitrite never spike? Does the ammonia need to get to zero? Or is it cycled since I have nitrate? I'm perplexed.
Of course, being at the end of my rope after 6 weeks, I just bought a bottle of tetra safestart, but now it looks like i might not need it.
Please help - I'm not sure what the next step is. Can I get fish? Do I need to add more ammonia or wait until it gets to zero. Is it normal to never see nitrites?
Thanks so much!