09-08-2011, 10:05 PM
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Glad to see you are asking a lot of questions. I am new to all of this myself and I can tell you from experience, research is the best thing in this hobby. If you are unsure about something, take a moment to think about it and look it up. Patience is also very important because rushing to put fish in your tank almost always leads to bad things.
You said that you have the API mastet test kit? If you do then it should have come with a pH test and a high pH test. The ph test does only go up to 7.6 but the high pH test goes all the way up to 8.8. As for the water conditioner, like others have said, different kinds require different amounts. I am using Aqueon water conditioner for my tank. It says to use 5ml for 10 gallons of water.
Like the others have told you, it is a lot easier and less stressful to get fish that require the water parameters from you tap. Trying to adjust these with chemicals is a very bad idea. In most cases it leads to pH swings which are deadly to fish. As KendraMc said, there are natural ways of lowering it, but its a lot of work. I suggest just leaving it alone as it will be easier in the long run.
There are a couple ways to cycle an aquarium, one of which being the fish in method that you said you were going to do. Most members on here would not advise using this method because it places a lot of stress on the fish and usually kills them. If they do not die then you are stuck with fish that I'm sure you did not want in your tank. I suggest using the fishless cycle or the silent cycle (for planted tanks). You can search these on this forum or google.
You are off to a great start by asking questions. I am glad that you returned the tank because it would most likely cause you problems down the road. Remember to take your time and enjoy the hobby. Afterall, thats what its all about right?