okay, folks, my mind = absolutely confused, haha. i set up my 23 gallon tank on june 6. it ran with filter and heater running and i added fish food flakes each day in attempt to cycle. the levels never budged, despite adding what i felt was a pretty decent amount of food. the ammonia reading started around 0.25, and stayed there. then i opted to switch to fish in cycling using 3 zebra danios. i added them on june 18. i added nutrafin cycle the same day i added the danios. this was a 3 day treatment. collectively, my tank has had some source of ammonia for roughly 4 weeks now (will be 4 weeks on friday). again, my levels barely budged. the highest my ammonia went was 0.5 for about a day or two. i have never had nitrites above zero. my nitrates hovered between 5-20. my current levels as of last night are: ammonia 0.25 nitrites 0 nitrates 5-10. i have read several times that fish in cycling takes a long time...but after four weeks of set up, shouldn't i see at least some increase in ammonia, even a small amount? now, regarding my danios behavior. while the nutrafin cycle ran its course for 3 days, my danios appeared frightened constantly...hiding behind things, not eating a bite, etc. i chaulked it up to either a) ammonia build up...but there hasn't been a significant increase), fear of new environment, disliking the food, or the filter being too strong/strange/scary/something that made them afraid. so, i went to the store and bought a new filter, hoping to rule that one out. sure enough, the fish did a complete 360. they have been extremely active all day and all night. they are feeding wonderfully. they are gentle with one another. they swim along in a group. they react to me when i feed them, and when i put the test tubes in for water testing, they bump up against my hand checking it out like crazy, lol. it's pretty cute. i am feeding them pellet food and a few bloodworms for treats here and there. anyway, my point is, my levels are not changing. the fish are eating well, they are pooping well, they are very lively, etc. so i have absolutely no idea what is going on. regarding water appearance...it's clear. it has never clouded up any significant amount...only after water changes temporarily, which i figured was a result of me overfeeding and stirring up debris. it would settle within an hour or two. it appears to be looking a tad murky today but just BARELY...if you squint you can maybe see a bit of cloud...nah..not even really...i'm just due for a water change today and there is a bit of food lurking at the bottom. the wall behind my tank is the most god awful shade of beige..lol...so that makes it hard to tell what the water REALLY looks like. i've put bright coloured papers behind the tank for comparison and it makes the water look very clear. does anyone have any idea as to what on earth could be going on? has the cycle just simply not even started yet? would there be any small, remote possibility that the tank IS cycled...and something else is causing ammonia...i have no idea...i'm taking shots in the dark now...my tap water is ammonia free. i test the water when it comes straight from the tap. i let my water sit for an hour or so before i add it to the tank. would that have anything to do with it? would ammonia...i don't know...build up while sitting in the bucket for an hour at room temperature? is there a chance that an aquarium cycles so darn fast that you don't realize when testing every second day? that isn't likely, given that my ammonia is not at 0. any advice would be appreciated. these fish are an absolute joy to watch. i look forward to getting a couple more to complete their school. would i be safe to toss two more fish in there? what do you think?