This is a discussion on The uncyclable tank - a novel... within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; -->
I killed 5 guppies and 10 neons trying to set up a new tank. I think we all havee killed a fish at least ...
Well it is a learning process. It does sound like you did things right because the spots are gone.
Also don't feel bad about the test strips. I used them as I stated and did a lot of work because of them. Always thinking my numbers were worse than they were and doing 2-3 50% water changes a week because of it. Come to find out it was stressing them out worse than the levels might have.
I wish it was as easy as reading a book but unless you get the best book out there they don't cover enough of the options to really help you be prepeared for the hobby as a whole.