08-19-2008, 02:34 PM
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As far as how long a fishless cycle takes, I just cycled a 15 gallon in about 10 days. I am not saying that this is how long yours will take, but it does not necessarily take months. A way to speed up the process would be to add filter media or gravel from an established aquarium. Your local fish store may give you some from their tanks if you ask. You could also just not bump up the ammonia as high as is recommended, and just add fish slower when the cycle (which will probably be faster) is complete.
As far as water conditioners go, I would just use a standard declorinator and leave it at that. A little stress zyme may help to speed up the cycle (I really can't tell you if this works or not, but I used a similar product in my tank), and there are some other things (such as a little salt) that may be benificial to your fish but not always necessary. If you tell us what fish you are planning on adding, we can tell you if anything else (besides the dechlorinator) is necessary.
I know that you have a young child, but if you can accomplish a fishless cycle, a little patience (again, mine cycled in 10 days) will pay off in the long run. At least your child will not have to watch his pet fish dye again and again. Please don't feel that I am pressuring you, this is just my opinion, and along with everybody else's you can take it or leave it. I just feel that this is the kindest method for the fish involved. Good luck.