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FAQs on Freshwater Aquariums & Ammonia:
Chemical Filtrants, Treatments  

Related Articles: Ammonia, Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality, pH, alkalinity, acidityTreating Tap Water, Freshwater MaintenanceFrequent Partial Water Changes Establishing Cycling, Freshwater Filtration, Know Your Filter Media, A Concise Guide to Your Options by Neale Monks, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for Beginners

Related FAQs: Freshwater Ammonia 1, Freshwater Ammonia 2, Freshwater Ammonia 3, & FAQs on FW Ammonia: Importance, Science, Measure, Sources, Control, Troubleshooting/Fixing, & Freshwater Nutrient Cycling, FW H2O Quality 1, Aquarium MaintenanceEnvironmental Disease, Treating Tap Water for Aquarium Use, pH, Alkalinity, Acidity, Biological Filtration, Nitrogen Cycling, Establishing Cycling 1, Nitrite, Nitrate, Freshwater Algae Control, Algae Control, Foods, Feeding, Aquatic Nutrition, Disease

Water conditioners will NOT continuously remove ammonia from a situation in which new material is being added. Even chemical filtrants need to be monitored (indirectly by water measure) to determine if they're being exhausted.

Ammonia removing may destroy your biological filter, or subtend its establishment.

Fresh 50 Gal Ammonia Problem - 10/07/2007 Hello, First off, I've been using your site for reference and it's awesome, very informative! Okay enough with the flattering. I have a 50 gallon, freshwater setup, two filters, one of them a dual filter, aerating blocks in the bottom, and river rock as a substrate, as well as artificial plants and plenty of hiding for my fish. I set up the tank about a week and a half ago. My first mistake, was buying three cichlids to help with the biological balancing, and a betta. The cichlids are killing my betta, so I have removed him and placed him in quarantine, where he seems to be doing quite well. <Mixing Anabantids (gouramis, Bettas, etc.) and Cichlids is almost always a bad idea unless you know a specific combination will work. They're too similar in some ways (shape, territoriality) yet asymmetrical in others (labyrinth fish are less aggressive and have not such strong fighters). There are some exceptions: angels and lace gouramis for example make a superb combination. But otherwise, best kept separately.> Anyhow, all my levels in my tank are where they should be, with the exception of the ammonia. <Assuming it isn't an inorganic source (i.e., from the tap water) then your filter isn't working adequately for the task you've set it.> I bought a PSI test kit that has tests for everything, it seems fairly reliable. The ammonia is staying consistently at 1.0. I have added three doses of Ammo-Lock as instructed on the bottle, and of course it's still testing positive because it's only converting ammonia rather then removing it. <Hmm... not sure it works like this. Ammo-Lock and similar products are for dealing with inorganic ammonia sources. To confirm this, draw some water from the tap and then do an ammonia test. If the ammonia is in the water, your test kit will register it. If there's no ammonia, try again, but this time add your dechlorinator. If your water has chloramine, but your dechlorinator doesn't neutralize chloramine, then ammonia will suddenly appear seemingly out of nowhere. It's actually come from the breakdown of chloramine by the dechlorinator into chlorine and ammonia. If both these tests are negative, then you don't have an inorganic ammonia source. The only remaining explanation is ammonia from organic, i.e., the fish, decaying food, etc. In this case, Ammo-Lock won't make a blind bit of difference and you need to scale up your biological filtration. As a broad rule, community tropicals need a filter with turnover 4 times the volume of the tank per hour; i.e., a 20 gallon tank needs a filter with turnover of 20 x 4 = 80 gallons per hour. For cichlids and catfish such as Plecos, go for 6x the volume of the tank, since these sorts of fish are bigger and messier. Marine aquarists typically use turnover levels as high as 10x the volume of the tank.> My fish seem to be doing okay, the cichlids are lively, eating well, and don't seem sick, but I know the ammonia levels should be at zero. <Chronic ammonia tends not to kill hardy cichlids outright, but what it does do is make them much more sensitive to Hole-in-the-Head, something that takes months to become obvious to the fishkeeper, by which time it is very difficult to treat. Sensitive cichlids (Apistogramma, discus, Tanganyikans, etc.) can be killed quite quickly by even fairly low ammonia concentrations.> I've done a 50% water change as well, and really don't know what else to do. I'd like to keep stocking my tank (the cichlids will be moving out, too aggressive, going with a peaceful community.) I really haven't a clue about getting this ammonia reading down to zero, and don't want to add fish until I know it's safe. <As I say, first establish if the ammonia is coming with your tap water, or whether it comes from the aquarium. Once you have the answer to this, you can act accordingly. If the ammonia comes with the water, then treating with ammonia-removing dechlorinator should work (try different brands, some are better than others). If the ammonia isn't in the water, but comes from the fish, then either removing some fish or increasing filtration will be the two easiest way forwards. You might also check the filter is working properly as well. If it's terribly bunged-up or the air pump needs a new diaphragm, then remedial action might do the trick.> I'm sorry if these questions were redundant, I did some searching and thought perhaps you'd have something more specific to my situation. Thanks for your time. <Hope this helps.> Desiree <Cheers, Neale>

Bio-Spira & Stunted Clown Loaches  2/1/07 <Cheryl> Thank you. I had heard about Bio-Spira from another fish group and called a store (that's far away) yesterday that had it.  I'll pick it up today.  I did another large water change last night and I will do a water change  before I put the Bio-Spira in. <For some strange reason, this is a difficult product to find.  As well as it works & the fact that it is the ONLY product that successfully instantly cycles a tank & brings back a crashed system (although they claim not to use it for this--I have), I think every store should carry it.  Just be sure to ask if it has ever been out of refrigeration.  I went to a shop that had some sitting on their counter.  They insisted it was fine there & they had been selling it that way for months.  I had them read the package & even though it had been sitting on that counter for a month (totally dead) they put in the fridge for future sale!!!> My 6 loaches I bought when they were tiny babies and they have all lived happily up till 2 years ago in a 40 gallon tank. The under gravel system (actually I had one custom made at the 12 year mark)  finally gave up on it after 23 years and I did up grade to the 75 gallon wet dry trickle system. The last 2 years had been super great, no problems at all. Not till the dreaded power outage. FYI my  loaches are nowhere near a foot long. Loaches grow very slowly. Maybe if they were in a bigger tank to begin with, they may be that large now, but I doubt it. My biggest 2 are half that size, aprox. 6 inches. the rest aprox. 4 inches. Very beautiful fish. I hope to have them around another 25 years (then I might need a bigger tank!) <I'm not too sure of their longevity but I think you're approaching the mark.  Too bad they're stunted though... would have been stunning at that size!  ~PP> Thank you very much for your help.   Cheryl

Ammonia remover  - 09/02/06 Hello Crew, <Douglass> I have a quick question about using an ammonia remover. <OK> I was looking through your website and I saw a question titled "Ammonia in Tap Water". Part of your response to the question read as follows: "Here I would refer you back to the water conditioners I've already suggested. As an aside, some of our readers may be asking themselves why I would suggest AmQuel for you but not for them. The reason, which I've tried to clarify when recommending "against" it, is that many have used the product during the cycling process to eliminate Ammonia from the aquarium. This is counter-productive to the process since it starves the bio-colonies that they're trying hard to establish. In an established/cycled tank, however, the fish will provide enough Ammonia to keep the colonies "fed". Apples and oranges, if you will."  I just want to make sure that I'm clear on that response, specifically regarding the sentence that explained, "In an established/cycled tank, however, the fish will provide enough Ammonia to keep the colonies 'fed'". Does this mean that one could use an Ammonia remover, such as AmQuel or a type of Amm remover that goes in a filter to act as part of the chemical filtration, and the bacterial colonies will NOT die off? <In theory, yes - once the tank is "cycled" (see here if you are unclear as to what that means, exactly - http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm ), you *could* use a product such as Amquel and not destroy the beneficial bacteria colonies.  Personally, I am not a fan of adding something to the tank to remove something else.  With proper water changes (of course, as you point out, some tap water does indeed contain ammonia, which can cause a whole other problem), and tank maintenance, the levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate should all stay at zero (or in the case of nitrates, at the least less than 20 ppm in freshwater systems) without you resorting to the use of chemical additives.  To combat the ammonia in tap water issue, I personally choose to use reverse osmosis/de-ionized (RO/DI); some people do use tap water, but if they have problems with ammonia being present, they treat the tap water itself with a product such as Amquel *prior* to putting it into the tank.  I've never heard of anyone using Amquel in a filtration system, per se.  Carbon, on the other hand, is one example of a filtration media that absorbs ammonia and other toxins.  PolyFilter is another choice.  I personally use both in my freshwater and brackish tanks (and my boyfriend uses a protein skimmer along with a piece of PolyFilter in his saltwater setup).> In other words, will the fish still provide enough Amm to maintain the colonies even when an Amm remover is being used? <Again ,theoretically yes, but again, I've never heard of a liquid ammonia product being used as part of a filtration system.  Instead, it's primary (if not only) purpose is to treat tap water containing ammonia prior to the new water ever entering your main tank.> I'm guessing the answer is "no" to those questions, but I'm certainly not an expert...just a beginner. <We all start as such...> <To me, it is easier to "make" water w/o toxins through some sort of filtration system, than to add liquids and other products to remove the toxins after-the-fact. If you do choose the latter method, take a look at this article by Bob Fenner - http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/taptrtmnt.htm > Thanks Crew, you rock!!! I hope you enjoy the Labor Day weekend!!! <And you as well. Best regards, Jorie.>

New Aquarium Blues... leaping w/o looking/reading... ammonia   2/2/06 Hi Guys! I love Your site, the information is endless.  Anyway, I am a fairly new fish owner.  About 3 months ago I bought a 10 gallon aquarium. the People at PetSmart said that I could fit 8  goldfish in it. <Uh, no> I thought that was a bit much so I  got only 4  goldfish, 1 Plecostomus (which they told me would only get 3" long), <No number two> and one Colombian Ramshorn Snail.  Everything was going fine until I went to a specialty fish Store and the owner told me I needed to get a bigger tank.   <Good for them, you> So we bought  another tank at PetSmart Because the fish shop did not have one in stock. The Aquarium is 75 gallons & rectangular. I came home and  filled my tank up  w/ Machinator <?> and water and put the fish in the next day.  the Aquarium was never Cycled because I didn't know it was supposed of be. How do I cycle an aquarium with fish in it? <... Posted: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm> Also before I knew better I bought 3 more Goldfish, <...?> another Pleco, and 2 Golden apple snails. The fish store guy told me that goldfish needed 7-10 gallons apiece.  Now I know how big the Plecos are going to get and I don't know what to do with them. Can the Snails Stay with the Goldfish? <... posted> Will the I goldfish out grow the 75 gallons.  Also my water is cloudy and ammonia levels are 4.0 PPM <Deadly toxic... read on WWM re pronto> even though  I have been doing 40% water changes every other day. Oh & by the way if you need to know the size and description of the fish. One 4" Oranda, One 3" Oranda, One 3" Celestial-Eyed sport, one 1 1/2" Ryukin, and one 3/2 inch Ryukin , and me 3" telescope-eyed.  the aquarium has been up for a month.  What do you think about products like Prime & Ammo-lock For Ammonia? <Only stop-gap measures... not solutions/cures> Sorry bout the long E-mail and thanks In Advance... Tisha <Less money/purchasing, and more reading my friend. Bob Fenner>

New Tank & Bio-Spira Question Dear PufferPunk, I have a 10 gallon Eclipse tank that sat for 1 week before introducing a 3 inch fish (Chinese Sailfin Shark) 5 days ago.  I know that eventually I will need a bigger tank as he grows.  At the moment, he is small.  When I put him in the new tank, I also added Bio-Spira. I now have ammonia in the tank just over 0.25 ppm.  I did a water change and the ammonia is at the same level. What should I do?   <Try testing the ammonia out of your tap.  Although ammonia should really be at 0ppm, 0.25, isn't too bad--yet.  Are you using any sort of ammonia removers at all?  What kind of conditioner are you using?  If you read the B-S bottle, it says not to use anything with B-S that will remove ammonia.> I do have another packet of Bio-Spira.  Although, I was thinking I should wait to use it for when the nitrites start to spike as I can not get any more Bio-Spira.  Nitrites are at 0 right now.  Also, what do I do when the nitrites start to spike?  I appreciate any advice you can give. <At that point (if it does indeed happen) you should be able to do a water change on the tank to keep them down.  If you can't get any more B-S, then save

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