I've had betas for some time now, however 6 or so weeks ago I made the foray into keeping tropical fish for the first time. My current setup is a 29 gallon tank, a Tetra Whisper ex30 filter, and a submerged heater that the name of currently eludes me.
The current residents are:
2.4.0 Assorted Platys
The tank is also planted with crypts and Java Ferns.
The tank has yet to cycle. I am trying to achieve this by going with the advice given to me by my local Big Al's fish guys.
Over the weekend I purchased an API master test kit, and after doing a few tests to ensure I was able to most accurately follow the instructions I have finally acquired a set of results that I can say are pretty close to correct.
Ammonia: Between 0.0 and 0.25 ppm
Nitrite: 2.0 ppm
Nitrate: 40 ppm
Water Temperature has been constant at 25 deg C
It's my understanding that for the first three tests above, the ideal levels should be 0, however I am unaware of what the real effect of the numbers listed above are having on my fish. Any information or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Read the stickied cycling thread in the beginner section.
Nitrate is the end product of the cycle, that you have some signals you nearing completion of "cycling". When it is done, keeping that number @ or below 40 ppm is a good target. When it gets to 40, change 25% or more of the water. This is a decent long-term plan. This is the number that will always keep going up until you change water.
Ammonia is the first thing you see and should be the first to go to 0. It burns gills and makes fish gasp. It can kill overnight, but you can smell it when you open the tank. Once your tank is established, seeing any is a red flag.
Nitrite is what you should worry about now. It is a sneaky killer, attacking fish weeks or even months after the new fishkeeper thinks all is well. The test kit should indicate a "safe" or "danger" level. Pay attention to it. Get it down with water changes. Concentration math. Change 50% to get 20 ppm down to 10 ppm. At some point it will hopefully drop to 0 and stay there.