I started my cycle about 2 weeks ago using pure ammonia from ACE and I never saw a drop in the ammonia. I was thinking my ammonia was too high since I think it was about 8ppm+ according to my API test kit (I have a hard time reading the high end of the scale since all the greens look so similar, but my wife insisted it was 8 ). I never saw a single nitrite the entire time, my tank PH is about 7.4 - 7.6 . It is on the cusp of the high and low PH test kits so I don't think PH is an issue. My tap water has a fairly high PH about 8.4 with 0.5 ammonia 0 nitrites and 10 nitrates . I think getting my nitrates down using water changes is going to be fun. I am using Prime as my water conditioner. Will that help remove the nitrates from my tap water? With these readings so high should I test the chlorine in my tap water to make sure I am using enough Prime? Anyway I did a 75% water change on Thursday night to drop the ammonia back down around 2ppm. I got some strips as well just to make sure my test kit wasn't screwing with me and it read at the 3ppm so all seems right. I haven't added anymore ammonia, but I still have not seen the slightest change in the ammonia reading. On to the more pressing matter. I am planning on going on vacation in mid-December and won't be back until the 30th. I had planned on having my neighbors feed the fish since they are taking care of the dogs, but it appears I will not be cycled in time to get fish. So my question is what to do? I was thinking about adding a frozen shrimp tonight and hoping that would keep the cycle fed until the end of December while I am away. Or would it better to toss in a shrimp now, wait a few days before I leave toss in a new shrimp, then pull out the old one right before I leave?