Just want to say thanks to Tazman and Pogfish for the early warm welcomes to the community. And to everyone else who has helped thus far, thank you as well.
First off about me. Im 31 from Daytona Beach, FL. I work at Home Depot and I'm an avid scuba diver, kayaker, and fisherman (catch and release only =-P).
My aquarium history (this is where it gets ugly...)
Sooo....I had 2 aquariums sitting in storage, one 5.5gal and one 29gal. I started with the 5.5gal mostly for the kids. At this point, I had no clue what ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, cycling, anything was. I figured, you let some water sit for a while and toss some fish in. I was wrong. Very wrong. I had no clue I had to research, bc I simply had no idea there was more to it. It wasn't until I had lost all 4 fish in less than 2 hours that I knew there was indeed more to keeping a freshwater tank.
The second time around, after research and talking to local pet shop associates, I was told to use Tetra Aqua Safe with Tetras Safe Start. I again failed, but not on my own. I did not follow directions specifically like the bottle directed, and did not add fish immediately. I was told by a local fish shop that the ammonia was still a little "too high" and they wouldn't suggest putting fish in. So I let the tank sit about another day thinking i was doing the right thing. Again, all the fish died. Allegedly, the bacteria in the bottle had no ammonia, or too little to reproduce and died. (I'm still not sure if this was true).
Next time I was SURE I was going to do it right. I conditioned the water again and added the bacteria and immediately the fish. A few days later.....all was well! YAY! Right? Wrong. After about a week I noticed super high ammonia levels, even after daily 10% water changes with fresh, conditioned water. The last time only had 2 small tetras, 1 dwarf gourami, 1 small pleco, and one crayfish. Fighting the ammonia daily, the 2 tetras began displaying the beginning stages of what i found out to be Ick. After that, my gourami and pleco displayed infection.
Since then, only my gourami and crayfish have survived, and it has been a constant struggle. I remain stalwart in my new found love of this hobby, and i can only get more experienced with the more research and help from all of you my new found fish loving friends!
My new tank which I am determined to do the right way, is a 29gal which i plan to use real plants a bio seed bacteria in a bottle, and pure ammonia cycle. This is where I need the most help. I have read the threads on cycling for beginners, but I still am unsure of how EXACTLY to add the ammonia and test for it. That's about all i have planned thus far. I am very excited about the cycling process and getting the tank ready for my new fish friends.
I welcome any and all criticism, advice and tips on all aspects of our hobby. Thank you all for your time and input and I look forward to getting to know you all!