Originally Posted by 92smokeaccord
this is true but i also want to add that taking water,gravel and decor from a full established tank will allow to skip the cycle process as you are adding the bacteria already.as for your test ditch the strips and take a bottle of water to your local fish store.9/10 they test it for free with the liquid testers.you can also buy the test and save you time to go there....post your new found parameters up when you get them.
I would just like to add, you don't skip the cycle process by adding bacteria in the form of gravel, or decor from another aquarium, this just introduces the the bacteria you need, the bacteria then needs to take hold and colonise in the tank, and the filter media. This will still take time, and fish should be added very slowly.
The quickest way to do it, in my experience (this is how i did it) I added bacteria in a bottle (API Quickstart) but bacteria from an established aquarium would be MUCH better. I then added lots of live quick growing plants, 10 in a 29g. I then started adding fish in week 2, only 7 to begin with, small tetra. then added fish every week or so, until fully stocked. By doing it that way, you need to be sure of what you want as the fish you use to cycle, you are stuck with after the cycle.
The addition of a healthy number of plants allows the cycle to happen in "the background" as the plants assimilate the ammonia, and eventually the other nitrogen by products. You don't skip the cycle, the bacteria still colonises in the tank, its just not so noticeable, as in spikes when testing the water.
Definitely get the API freshwater master test kit, this is what most of us use and seems to be the standard really.
Let us know how you get on.