It took me forever to cycle my first big tank. Almost a month but I only lost one fish through the whole painful ordeal. Stick with it and you'll get through it.
I love an overcrowded tank. One thing to keep in mind with tall tanks is that their surface area is smaller than a long tank of the same volume. That's going to limit how many fish your tank will support more directly than the extremely vague "one inch of fish per gallon" rule of thumb. If your fish start gulping oxygen at the surface, you've got too little oxygen (or too much ammonia or both). To a point you can compensate with a big filter and lots of plants.
It may slow it down a bit because you're removing some of the ammonia and nitrates, but if you have fauna in that tank then I think it's much more humane to do the water changes to keep ammonia and nitrites lower. What ever you do, don't resort to chemical water clarifiers, they can be deadly for some fauna.
After reading a LOT more and setting up a couple tiny tanks, I think I need to do something to this to make it interesting (after it clears up).
I need to use that vertical space somehow. I was thinking of using stacked flower pots up the sides to get a cool use of vertical space. I could also plant some plants that require more light, closer to the surface.
I really just don't feel like buying a massive piece of driftwood for this one, but still want something interesting going on vertically.
Yeah, with our tanks it looks so bare without going vertical. I used taller pieces of wood but what you want would work fine too. Depending on the surface of the pots you might even be able to get some kind of moss to grow on some/all of them, which would give it a pretty interesting look imo.