1. Don't use test strips. They are not accurate, or consitent. Buy a liquid drop test kit. If you've already got them, might as well use them when cycling, but its like trying to explore a cave with a candle instead of a spotlight.
I've heard it said that when fishless cycling it can help to leave the lights on 24 hours, but I really don't know why that would be. The bacteria in question are not photosynthetic, and to me it just seems like it would lead to more early algae, in addition to being bad news for whatever plants you are starting up with.
Something else you can do is to buy a single raw prawn at the grocery store and toss it in. As it decomposes it will release a steady supply of ammonia into the water.
Also, what you an do is seed your tank with biota from an established one. If no access to such, you can use a bottle of tetra smart start. It actually works, unlike most such products.
Raise your temperature up above 80 for the duration of the cycling. Higher temps lead to faster metabolic/reproductive acitivity among your bacteria.
Also, run air stones, and perhaps lower the water level in your tank if using a HOB filter, which will allow the water to splash in. This will oxygenate the water, and will lead to faster metabolism from the nitifying bacteria. This is not as recommended if you are starting with plants, however.
Make sure you are running your filters full blast for the duration.
After the first week or two, you will see a rise in ammonia...a bit later you will see a rise in nitrite. After they have both
tested at ZERO
for a couple weeks in a row, your tank is ready to rock and roll. If you add a bunch of fish prematurely, you can crash the cycle (and poison the fish, of course).
The cycle looks something like this:
Wait for both spikes to be over.