Hmmm... I've started up 3 thanks in the last 3 years, and that was after 20 years absence from fishkeeping. With the first one, I did not have much of a chance, as I was given a betta in a silly bowl, and I just went out and bought a 5G nano tank. As it was that first betta did not make it past 2 weeks. But the next one did. Then came a 29G, and I cycled it very consciously, including taking the competition between plants and filtration into account. I still have a light population, but things are going well...
The ammonia peak was from day 34- day 54 of the tank, and then it started to trend down, and by day 62 Ammonia was zero. The nitrite peak was short-lived, day 59-61, then it came down to zero, but nitrates were at 40. Since then I've added lots of plants, and by day 100, nitrates were coming down to zero. I would say duck weed and hornwort were the biggest factors.
Fish population still light, 8 cories, one betta, and 5 amano shrimp.
I became quite fanatic about watching the water parameters through the cycling process.
In my 10 gallon I am growing lots of plants, and I have some inverts and some cherry shrimp. No fish, no water quality issues.
Aqueon CUE 5 gallon, Aqueon 10G, Aqueon 29G, all of them pimped out with new equipment.