Yeah we're missing something here- just one flake of fish food can not give you 2ppm of ammonia.
The increasing nitrate levels suggest that there IS some nitrogen-fixing occurring, but I also agree the 0ppm nitrite level is odd, given the nitrates increasing at that rate...? So I also am a bit confused, unless your tap water contains ammonia and nitrate?
I wouldn't worry about your pH at this point. Stablility over time is much more important that hitting any ideal target pH.
It might not be the flake of fish food.
I've never used fluval stratum or whatever it is that came with the tank, but its not out of the question that it leeches ammonia much like aquasoil, or is at least fertilized in some manner.
If he tested ammo right after adding water it wouldn't have had a reading yet.
While testing everything every day will give you a better idea of how everything works, you're making things really complicated.
Really, just add a few flakes per day, every day, and test ammonia every couple days. When ammonia hits zero, start testing nitrites every couple days, still adding a few flakes per day. When nitrites hit zero, the cycle is done.
As for your funny nitrate readings, my guess is that you're not following the instructions, or that the test is out of date (check the lot number on the bottle). Read the instructions for the nitrate test *carefully*. And then read them again. That is probably the most entertainingly complicated parameter test out there.
It doesnt make sense that using the test kit wrong would give him increasing numbers over the course of three days, it is possible though.
Most likely he would get numbers all over the place, or zero for every test.
I've always cycled with pure ammonia, targeting 4 ppm.
Also most times that I have cycled my tank I never got a nitrite reading, so I stopped testing it. I would just test ammonia every couple of days.
If it wasn't at 4 I would add more ammonia to get it back to 4 ppm.
No point testing nitrite all the time because it is obviously being produced if my ammonia is going down.
I start to test more frequently when I see ammonia is dropping quickly.
Once it can go from 4ppm to 0 ppm in 24 hours I check nitrite and if there is none then the tank is Cycled.
This ensures your bacteria population is large enough to handle full tank stocking immediately.
, you entered n/a on day 1 for nitrite and nitrate, is this because you did not test or you got a 0?
I agree you should test tap water for nitrates.
If you get a reading you should also test some distilled water with shouldn't have any at all, if you get a reading then you know your test kit is bad.
You also mentioned "and bacteria instructions that came with my fluval," did the tank come with some sort of beneficial bacteria liquid or powder?
That could explain everything.
Also I've always heard nitrite was much more toxic to fish than ammonia, but fish genetics probably plays a role in that.
Ammonia is not very harmful at low pH ranges, which could explain blazingwolf's 15ppm ammonia survival story.