Cycling with fish is a natural method of getting Mother Nature to work for you. Although you may lose a couple of your little friends, this method will minimize the amount of chemical additives you use in your aquarium setup.
It might seem harsh, but sometimes in fishkeeping you will take casualties. This truth is much less painful when you know that it serves a purpose. If things go perfectly when cycling with fish, then nobody gets hurt. But rarely is fishkeeping going to be perfect when you first start out.
Cycling with fish is an extremely simple process to start the Nitrogen Cycle. After you have set your aquarium up, wait 24 hours, then add a couple small fish. Danios, tetra, barbs, and guppies are cheap and hardy fish that are great for this process.
After adding no more than two fish, use Stress Zyme as directed on the label. Daily water testing will be crucial during this process. Your target water quality, that you will reach in 4-6 weeks, is zero ammonia, zero, nitrite, and low quantities of nitrate.
Using daily water testing, see Fishless Cycling, you will see ammonia levels drop to zero in about one to two weeks. When this happens, you do your first 20% water change. After adding water, be sure to use a water conditioner that does not remove ammonia from the water. This can starve your growing bacteria and cause a fish die off. If a die off happens, you have to start over with new fish.
A couple of weeks after your first water change, you will have to do another one the same way. You should still be doing daily water testing and don't be surprised if you get spikes in ammonia and nitrite after this second change. Just keep using Stress Zyme and that will help you keep things under control. You may lose a fish at some point, just replace it with the same kind and keep on trucking.
After week 4, you could possibly be at your target water quality. My suggestion is to do another water change and keep testing water quality to make sure things have stabilized as they should. Week 6 should allow you to add a couple more fish.
Your aquarium may not be completely established until 6 months after you set it up, so don't add any little friends that you are not prepared to lose before then. Never add more than one or two fish at at time as this can cause spikes and overload your biological filtration. If this happens, you will have a near total fish die off. The process of cycling with fish takes a long time to make your aquarium a stable enviorment for larger fish, like cichlids.
Hang in there soldier, fishkeeping can be a rough and tumble hobby in the early going. Persistence and patience are your friends. Keep that in mind and you will be growing living room monsters in no time.