In my opinion the reading of 0 doesn't mean anything as of now. While it is often thought plants solely feed off of nitrates, actually the earlier nitrogen elements are preferred. This leads to these scenarios:
A: the plants have been absorbing whatever amount of ammonia has been produced and thus prevented a cycle from happening;
B: whatever amount of ammonia slightly built up was also partly converted to nitrites and possibly nitrates which would indicate at least some cycling happening. However this is impossible to verify.
Considering there is no life stock currently present, it would be worthwhile to dose ammonia up to the point where the plants can't use it overnight. Don't bombard it though, due to algae. A test the following day should consequently read traceable amounts of nitrates.
Also note that it is never good to have 0 nitrates in any planted tank.
Thank you! I appreciate the theories -- I've entertained some of the same ones, but as I am pretty much a newbie, don't have a lot of confidence without some back-up, lol. I am going to try another local store tomorrow (I hope...mom life is busy!), then just order on amazon if I can't find any pure ammonia in town.
I'm a little worried about the lack of nitrates too -- for the most part the plants look exactly like they did when I got them -- the elodea is dropping "leaves" all over the place, though, which adds to the mess of the fish flakes. I guess I'll just keep an eye on them -- maybe I'll have to look into adding some sort of fertilizer if nitrates don't show up eventually. I just keep getting more and more sucked in, lol.
With regards to waiting before adding life stock: even if you were to wait for a whole year, the cycling wouldn't infinitely continue. The bacteria will only amount up to the number that can be fed with the food present in the aquarium. Lesser stocked aquariums naturally will house fewer bacteria due to the simple fact that there is less food (nitrogen) for them to process.
Adding ammonia as opposed to throwing in some food is VASTLY preferred since the food will only cause a mess.
Part of my recent impatience is that I know I'm actually only planning a super light load in there -- a handful of cherry/RCS/misc. shrimp, and a mystery snail or two (who are babies right now). I had played with the idea of adding a snail or two in now, going on the theory that the tank is already cycled, just for a very light bioload... Anyway, I can't quite bring myself to do it. It was bad enough when I took over care of the tanks at work when I started my new job last February. I mean, the person before me was worse at it...but still, I've done enough damage to the guppy/ghost shrimp/mystery snail kingdoms.
And yes...so much mess -- my beautiful marimo ball has nasty getting-mushy flake food, along with slowly disintegrating elodea. I should take a picture and post it as a warning for the next person who doesn't want to search for ammonia at the store, lol. That said, I am continuing to add food every other day to keep up anything that might be happening, whether or not it is showing up in tests....
Without a doubt some BB came along with those plants if they're from a cycled tank, if you keep getting 0 readings for the next week I'd say you're good to go. Seeding BB greatly speeds up the process
I've read where some people say you have to transfer BB within an hour...that seems like SUCH a small amount of time! Most people don't say anything except "don't let it dry out." Is there any prevailing theory on how long it stays alive? I actually brought some home from my work tanks, but then life intervened and I didn't get to set the tank up for a couple days, so I just threw it out.