09-23-2010, 05:46 PM
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You need a test kit to monitor the ammonia and nitrite levels... Those products do not instantly cycle the tank, no matter what the package says. They might speed it up, but 24 hours is pretty much impossible.
You need to test your water twice a day, and whenever you see any trace of ammonia or nitrite, do a 40% water change. Until you can get a test kit, you need to do the water changes as if the test was positive.
Plants can help the cycle (actually replacing the need for a cycle somewhat, since they use up the ammonia as a fertiliser), but you may need to buy a fertiliser to keep the plants alive. If you decide to go that route, you may need new lights, and grab some Flourish comprehensive.
Check your ph- If your water is basic (over 7.0) then you may need to do water changes slightly more often... Higher ph makes ammonium change to ammonia, which is bad. DO NOT try to fix your ph if it is high, just do the W/Cs.
If you can go get some Zeolite for your filter, it can help as well. (Sold as Ammo-lock, Ammo-carb, Ammo-sorb, and others.. It's a white granulated substance that goes in the filter.
You're lucky you have platies, they are normally pretty hardy. If their fins appear damaged, gills turn red, or appear to be gasping at the surface, do more water changes.
Good luck. I'm sure everything will be fine. Take a deep breath and relax, after you do a water change. :)
Jeanenil beat me to it- I second everything she said. I use the laborette test kit, but when it runs out I'll switch to API. Laborette was a bit cheaper... Don't get strips