Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
I would keep running this test as if you are doing a fishless cycle.
Add ammonia daily to read 3 ppm. This is more than a reasonably stocked tank would produce, so will grow a lot of beneficial organisms.
Do water changes if the nitrite goes over 5 ppm. Nitrospira does not like high nitrite. I know your product does not contain Nitrospira, but I'll bet it is in there, growing.
When the ammonia level can be reduced to zero overnight (24 hours) and zero nitrite shows in that time, then the tank is cycled, and you can add fish. The nitrate may be sky high, so you will want to do a really big water change, or even two, back to back.
This will not hurt the bacteria: The right species live in biofilms on all the surfaces, but especially in the filter media. They do not live free in the water except for that brief time when you just added some out of the bottle. These bacteria latch on to something within 24-48 hours.
There are quite a few bacteria and other organisms that will utilize ammonia, and several groups of them will follow a similar path to the ones that we are trying to get established in the aquarium.
The other big industry that uses a similar system is the waste water plants. There are significant differences, however.
In a waste water plant the ammonia is much higher, and stays higher all the time. Constant influx of much more ammonia than is ever seen in an aquarium. The bacteria species that thrive under those conditions are a different species (or group of species) than the microorganisms that thrive in our aquariums, and live for a long time without having to add them weekly. Research into which species works under each level of ammonia has shown that it does not work to add the wrong species to the wrong setting. They get started growing as long as conditions are close to what they want, but when the tank is cycled and the ammonia is staying quite low then the 'high ammonia level' organisms die out. That is why they say you need to keep adding them.