Most people advocate fishless cycling for many good reasons. Fishless cycling does not put any fish through the high levels of ammonia and nitrItes, which can cause irreparable damage to their gills, and of course, there's the chance they will not survive the spikes in those levels. Have you ever smelled ammonia? Imagine having to breathe it for a week.
I tried instant cycling using a product called Bio-Spira (you'll find the diary further down this list)... Unfortunately, I lost all eleven fish I started with, and several of them had developed ich that I couldn't combat. There's been a lot of speculation as to why I lost them, but right now my theory is that the fish came from an unreputable source and were ill before I brought them home.
I tried to cycle the tank the fishless way, (one way is to use a small amount of 100% pure ammonia to simulate fish waste and get the cycle going) but I went to almost a dozen stores and all stocks of ammonia contained sulfactants (soap), which is deadly to fish. Unless I wanted to wait 6-8 weeks (possibly longer) or try to find someone locally that has a mature tank to borrow some gravel, I was going to have to cycle with fish.
Since then I went to another LFS
and seemed to find a gem of a place. I brought home 7 new inhabitants, and 5 days later the ammonia level is barely registering and nitrAtes (the good stuff) are up. I even have 3 little babies swimming around
One of the fish had a small case of ich, but I immediately treated it and by the next say the spot were gone - these fish appear to be much hardier than the first group, which is why I think they were from bad stock.
, and read up all you can on the different ways to cycle a tank so you can choose the best way for you.
Oh, and WELCOME to AA!