ok, first there is no 'adequate time' to cycle a tank. A tank will be cycled when its cycled, you cannot possibly put a time on it.
If you can possibly rehouse the fish at a friends etc please do, having fish in a tank thats not cycled really isnt fair on them.
Best advice is throw the test strips in the bin, they are rubbish at indicating the correct levels, pick up an API master kit and you will be set.
You need to get a product like sechem prime to help control the ammonia and get the water changes happening, id be looking at 75-80% DAILY until your readings get better.
By removing all the cartridges you effected destroyed your cycle and started a new one.
Can i asked why you changed your cartridges and didnt clean them in old tank water?