I just got a 55 gallon tank with accessories for my daughters for Xmas. I have never had anything but gold fish and that was when I was a kid, so I am looking forward to this adventure and feel a lot more comfortable now that I found this site. I set the tank up on December 7th, let it sit for 2 weeks at 80 degrees with Tetra Safestart before adding fish. This is the set up so far, 200w 75g submersible heater, Aqua Clear 70 filter, with normal filter media on bottom, ammonia reducing middle insert, and biomass on top. 2 Large Stump Decor, 3 small, 3 medium and 3 large fake plants. I bought 3 real plant bulbs (Before I started reading anything, no idea what kind and havent broke the gravel yet), and 65lbs of Mixed natural color gravel. Last monday (7 days ago) I added 6 tiger barbs. I have done a 10% or 5.5 gallon water change every other day for this week, each time adding the correct ammount of tetra safestart to the new water. I just bought 5 in 1 test strips 2 days ago and an API ammonia and PH test kit with PH booster and reducer included today. (Doesn't look like many of you are fans of the test strips so I will probably get a master freshwater kit for more accurate water tests). My water tests as follows: Temp 78 degree's F, 10ppm Nitrate, 0ppm Nitrite, .25ppm Ammonia (according to the chart with my ammonia test kit with my PH level and temperature the ammonia levels is 14% toxic so .25 X 14/100 is .035ppm toxic?) HERES THE KICKER my PH level is off the charts, its at the 8.4 level or the highest on my test strips, and my API kit only goes to 7.8 and its the highest color on that chart as well. So I have a few ?'s (and the moderators can move this to another section as well) 1. I am in the start of my nitrogen cycle (or atleast I believe to be in the start, since I didn't start testing immediately) and I have ammonia levels, they should drop to 0 once i start producing Nitrite, so is it safe to use the PH adjuster I got with my PH test kit, or should I let the Nitrogen cycle finish first and just keep doing water change outs? 2. I have heard that Tetra safe start can cycle a tank in as little as a week, since I didn't start testing right away, should I still assume I am on my ammonia stage, since I have no nitrite? or could I be past that and into the Nitrate, but have a little ammonia still? (I did have those 3 plant bulbs in the tank that could have sped up the process from what I have read?) 3.....Anything I may have missed or need to be aware of please do not hesitate to give me some constructive critisism or feedback. Thank you in advance!