Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
The real species of nitrifying bacteria do not tolerate drying out. They cannot be shipped dry, on filter media. If you want to get a starter culture look for Nitrospira species of bacteria. This will be in a refrigerated bottle.
Strips are just fine for testing.
Keep on adding ammonia to 3 ppm, then test for nitrite and nitrate.
If you are doing a fishless cycle with no starter colony of bacteria it should take 3 weeks when the conditions are right.