Setup: (PIC ABOVE) I am upgrading my 5G to a 10G planted tank (moderately planted). I have a dual lighted hood with 2 10W CFL bulbs (6500k & 10,000k). I used a whole bag of eco-complete (20lbs/~2-3" of substrate depending on how it's sloped) with a SMALL amount/sprinkling of Fluval peat granules (for the plants) under the eco-complete. I have my heater (from small tank) on 80 degrees F. Lights on for around 12 hours a day for the plants. Have seen NO algae what so ever. Dosing with ammonia at night and Flourish Excel in the morning. I have a Fluval U2 underwater filter which I love, and modified. I took out the poly/carbon pads and put 2 sponges in 1 container and filled the other with Seachem Matrix in a mesh filter bag. I used my fake driftwood decor from my small tank, along with a filter pad I had to replace (on the right in the pic), and a little stone turtle and mossball from my big tank. I rinsed my sponge filter from my big tank into the tank as well. Everything else was washed/boiled/scrubbed first then added. I wanted to originally get all my plants at once which could have gave me a decent insta-cycle, but came to the conclusion that I want as much beneficial bacteria in there as possible before hand. It has been up since Friday and everything is running fine.
Since start up and as of right now the tank consists of a nice bunch of wisteria, some small crypts, java moss, a windelov java fern (which I really like), and my small anubias nana from my big tank. I eventually want to add my big java fern to cover my filter, anacharis and pennywort from small tank, some more grassy crypt (spiralis) behind the fake wood, some dwarf hairgrass in front on the left, and hopefully some dwarf baby tears in front of the rock formation. For stock I hoped to start with a small group of harlequin rasboras (5), then get some RCS (~10), then put my ADF back in and get him a mate again, my other shrimp (1 ghost, and an amano pair), put my amazing littler horned nerite back in, MAYBE an apple snail, then finally my betta (even though he's peaceful), and hopefully 2-3 otos after it's really established. I know, a little overstocked...hence all the plants and me wanting as much BB as possible.
Procedure: This is only the 5th day and I don't know what to think of what's going on in the tank now. Like I said before, everything looks great, is running fine, nothing out of the norm. From my research and doing a fishless cycle on my 5G before this I roughly knew how many drops of pure ammonia to add. Now I wasn't too sure cause this time I have many more plants in the tank and know that they absorb ammonia. The average consensus was about 4-5 drops per 10 gallons. So I started with 4 drops. Got a reading the next day somewhere between .5-1ppm of amm (using API test kit, which I'm terrible at reading colors). I thought this was low, but knew the plants were taking in some. My big concern was not overdoing it with ammonia and harming my plants. How much can they actually take before they are in danger? I decided to bump it up to 5 drops just to see if that made any significant difference. Next day it was just under 1ppm. I read that most people want it anywhere between 3-5ppm to build your BB base. I thought to get these numbers though I would harm my plants by adding way too much. I just wanted some consistency and not go below 1, but aI'm for around 2. That night (day 3) I added 6 drops. Next day it was still at 1ppm. First thought that came to mind was that I added more and the ammonia is the same, which means it is being reduced, most likely by the plants, but maybe bacteria is actually growing pretty fast...just seemed too fast. I also added a VERY SMALL pinch (enough to Maybe feed a tiny fish) of flakes so the plants can get some phosphates during the cycle. During this time the past 3 days I have dosed the tank with 16 drops (found out that equals 1ml) of excel in the morning.
Now comes the craziness of Day 5! I took the ammonia readings tonight and got .25ppm at most. What happened?! So immediately I tested the rest of the parameters, which I haven't been doing since it was so early. The "not so big right now ones" were: GH~120 (mod hard?), KH~40 (low?), and pH ~6.5 (which seemed low for my water). Now this is really interesting, so ammonia was ~.25, NitrItes were around ~4ppm!, and I even had a NitrAte reading of around 40ppm!! Can someone explain what is going on please? I highly doubt I am breaking any cycling speed records here. I just don't want to hurt the plants and get the water chemistry all screwed up. I just added 4 drops of ammonia tonight by the way. What should I do now??? If it makes a difference, there is NO algae and some small MTS are surviving in the tank as we speak.