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FAQs on Freshwater Aquariums & Ammonia:

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, Sources, Control, Chemical Filtrants, 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

Question about interaction of prime and ammonia levels     4/17/14
I will first admit I have a running post with The Aquarium Club with little in the way of results. I have used WetWebMedia before though and am aware of your vast expertise as well as a huge demand hence my efforts to find an answer without bothering you.
<Appreciate your efforts>
Okay I have a ten gallon freshwater tank with an overly qualified hang on back filter and proper aeration. The temperature is stable at 78 degrees F. The tank has been up and running for eight weeks with gravel and filter media seeded from an established setup. I used fish food to kick start the process and after about four weeks I saw a rise in nitrite and by the twenty four hour mark that nitrite level sunk back to 0ppm and the nitrates rose to 20ppm. Assumption was my downfall. I assumed my cycle was completed and proceeded to add my blue crayfish as this is his species only tank until I upgrade and add him to a more appropriate community. Anyway I retested after I added him but did not feed anything for about twenty-four hours. Here is the issue I was shocked to find .5 ppm of ammonia no nitrite and 20ppm nitrate.
<Interesting: "re-cycle"... happens at times/circumstances>
I panicked and dosed the tank with prime. It has now been several more weeks and I continue to dose with prime because the levels have not shifted since the addition of the crayfish.
<The use of dechloraminator/s will forestall the establishment of cycling.
What really needs to happen is the Cray be removed... the system allowed to settle/cycle again>
Literally the levels are stagnant, .5ppm ammonia, no nitrite at all, and 20ppm nitrate. In my panic I have continually done daily water changes of about 25% with prime used as the water conditioner. I use the API master test kit with the test tubes. I test daily. I have no ammonia readings in my tap water. Is this some kind of false positive because of the prime.
<In part; yes>
Or is there ammonia that the biofilter, the good bacteria are not yet established enough to eliminate the ammonia?
<Not enough of all that is necessary to move nitrification forward>
Yet then I would expect to see another mini-cycle in the form of another rise in the nitrite to indicate I am finally done with this endless cycle.
Should I just discontinue the prime and hope for the best?
<Yes; WITH moving the Crustacean>
I am really wary to do so because my Lobby is my pet and I really enjoy him. If he were suffering from ammonia toxicity what would his symptoms be?
<Lethargy to death>
Please Help.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Question about interaction of prime and ammonia levels     4/18/14

Ok. Thank you for the quick response. Just for my own understanding doesn't the lack of nitrite for over a week now indicate that the tank has sufficiently completed the cycling process to convert harmful ammonia and nitrite into nitrate which reads at nearly 30ppm now?
<Mmm; "not in all cases" is one way to respond here. It happens that, at times, there are "cycles w/in cycles", especially in "new" set-ups... w/ oscillations of readings trending downward in time/cycle and concentrations... but... there is still "some" chance that ammonia, nitrite can be independently generated/measured... Best (as usual) to take your time, stocking, feeding sparingly... for the next few months... Doing frequent, partial water changes... of a few ten percent per week>
Also wouldn't this lack of nitrite also indicate that the readings of ammonia are purely a result of the prime water conditioner?
<Could be; but not absolutely>
I am sorry just really confused.
<No reason to be so; let's discuss, have you read till you're satisfied. To wit: the use of conditioners can result in a false positive w/ Nessler type test/reagent use... BUT even w/o such ingredient, there CAN be such "re-cycling" events (mostly in new/sterile situations)>
I was under the impression that the presence of nitrate indicated a complete cycle,
<Again; not always; no>
apparently I am mistaken. Lobby the crayfish is now in an exceedingly unsuitable environment but I am terrified to expose him to ammonia because per your description I cannot accurately gauge his reaction to the ammonia that is arguably present.
<JUST move this animal as previously stated, OR if not practical either do NOT feed at all or extremely sparingly>
He would just get tired and die and I don't think I could react in time.
Anyway what is it I am waiting and hoping for?
<Only you can answer this. I presume for some sort of resolution re action or non-action on your part... I have mentioned what I would do>
Am I likely to see another nitrite spike even though I have already seen this?
<Not at all likely; no>
Or is this just a wait and see experiment because of the inability to properly analyze the ammonia levels?
<See above>
Please excuse my ignorance. Honestly I have always been more of a less is more opinion in the way of addition of chemicals and clearly this seems to be a better pov because now I am reaping the hazards of sketchy aquarium chemicals. Sorry for the commentary I so appreciate your expertise.
<No worries; take your time... All will be well; and soon enough. BobF>
Fw: Question about interaction of prime and ammonia levels     4/18/14
The prime does claim not to interrupt the proliferation of bacteria necessary for the process of cycling. Perhaps this is a misrepresentation.
<To some extent, this statement re Prime, other dechloraminators is a misrepresentation. ANYTHING that binds up ammonia WILL forestall the establishment of nitrification... Obviously cutting out a necessary element/step in bacterial feeding would do so. B>

Water quality, FW     12/23/12
I have asked for your advice before and the crew has never failed me.  Now I need your help again with something that really baffles me.
I set up a 29 gal. tank 9 weeks ago.  After 4 weeks, I added 2 small angels, and 2 more small angels 1 week later, for a total of 4 angels.  That is the population of the tank.  Ever since I set up the tank, ever since I added the angels, and right now, the ammonia level has never, and I mean never, been below .25.  Most times it is at .50, and has spiked to 2.0 once.  I do many water changes of 30-50%, and the level is still .50.  I then put Ammo-Carb Filter Media in the outside filter.  Virtually, no change.  I have since started using AmQuel Plus Ammonia Detoxifier.  Again, virtually no change.  What I can’t understand is my angels are thriving.  They have grown in size, they eat vigorously on a diet of brine shrimp, beef heart, glassworms, and blood worms.  They live peacefully with each other.  There is no gasping for air at the surface or unusual behavior.  They swim all over the tank.  Their fins are full and erect.  From all that I have read, they should be dead, yet they thrive.
Can someone shed some light?
<First try some tap water, add water conditioner, stir well, then test for ammonia about an hour later. If you get ammonia there, you probably have ammonia in your tap water or else chloramine (water conditioners can neutralise both, but resulting in false positives. The ammonia is technically there, wrapped up in water conditioner molecules, but not freely floating about such that it can harm your fish. Next up, grab a nitrite (not nitrite) test kit. Is nitrite zero? If it is, then filter is probably doing its job adequately, especially if your tap water ammonia test delivered a false positive. To  be honest, ammonia test kits aren't the best way to track water quality -- I'd recommend nitrite every time because it's less likely to be a false positive. Make sense? Cheers, Neale.>

Algae eater/ bottom feeder with Glofish... Uncycled sys. issues  3/4/10
Dear Wet Web Media crew,
I have a 20 gallon tank with live plants and a sand substrate to which I added 6 Cory catfish and 8 zebra Danios 5 days ago.
<I think your problem lies here. You've added too many fish at one time, causing a "mini-cycle." I have made this mistake in the past, and can affirm that you'll probably only make it once -- after that, if you're anything like me, you become overly cautious about adding fish to a newly cycled tank.>
Prior to this I had let the tank cycle for 2 weeks.
<I know you mentioned that you were adding substrate from the pet store, and I'm guessing that you meant this was seeded substrate from an established aquarium. However, this period still seems a little short to me. In the future, if you'd really like to "rush" cycling, I'd suggest obtaining filter media from an established system, rather than gravel, since filter media is in a more direct line with water flow in the filter.>
During the cycling period I kept testing the water and also got a neighbouring pet store to test it and everything seemed to have settled down. As soon as I added the fish the ammonia level has gone to 0.5 ppm ('stress' on the testing strip). <<Deadly toxic. RMF>>
<I really like the test kits that use the liquid reagents a lot better than strips. The strips aren't always very accurate.>
I do 25% water changes daily but the ammonia levels are stuck at the 0.5 ppm. I tested the tap water in my house and that reads 0 ppm.
<Good information to have. You're lucky -- I have ammonia in my tap water!>
The other parameters are of the tank are:
1. nitrate: < 20 ppm ('safe' on the strip)
2. nitrite: 0 ppm
3. total hardness: 300 ppm ('very hard' on the strip)
4. total alkalinity: between 120-180 ppm
5. ph: 7.8
<Okay, so everything else looks okay. The water is a little hard for Corys, so it might be a good idea to look into their needs, as far as that goes, and see if you can adjust this so that they're more comfortable.
Please read here about Corys, as well as the linked files above the title of the article:
I lost one Cory catfish (the smallest one) pretty suddenly 2 days after adding the fish. She was swimming around and eating in the morning, was listless in the evening and gone by the next morning. I could see no reason
for the death (I examined her carefully).
<This may have just been a weak specimen, but the ammonia certainly didn't help. The ammonia should be going down when you do water changes, at the very least, but your strips aren't going to show it unless it returns to zero, I'd imagine. You should see this problem clear up in a few days, when the biological filter has had time to 'catch up' with the bioload. I think that, rather than adding all fishes at once, it would have been better to, at the very least, add the Danios, and then a couple of weeks later, the Corys, or even to split each group up, and only add half of
each group every week. The fact that you stocked all at once, plus the immaturity of the tank, and the speed of this cycle, caused an unstable situation.>
The other fish seem fine now, but, I am concerned and do not know what to do for the ammonia. Please help.
<I think that when you're changing water, you're reducing ammonia, but these strips aren't showing it. In any case, within a couple of days, you should see that ammonia go away, and turn into nitrite. I think this process was just rushed a little too much, which caused some problems, but the biological filter should recover. If you'd like to see evidence of what your water changes are doing for ammonia, I'd suggest getting a liquid test kit. Then you'll be able to see more of a difference.>
Thank you.
<You're welcome. Good luck, and please write back if you have any more questions.>

Re: African clawed frogs...
Cycling Update: Ammonia 1.0, Nitrite .25,   1/18/10
<Ammonia at this level is very toxic, so I wouldn't feed at all for two days out of three, and I'd be aggressive with the water changes. Do make sure your tap water has zero ammonia (some water supplies do contain some
ammonia) and if your tap water has ammonia, be sure to use a water conditioner that removes ammonia as well as chlorine and copper.>
pH 8, Nitrate 0 The frogs are active, eating well, and look healthy. The 3 remaining Tiger Barbs are showing some signs of distress.
<Yes, Barbs are very sensitive to ammonia and nitrite.>
You can see they are gasping a bit. As for the Green Corys, they look fine.
<I bet they're unhappy with the cobblestones though! Have tried decorating with cobblestones, and while pretty, eventually I changed to sand or fine gravel. Why? Firstly most fish hate the cobblestones. They can't burrow
nicely. Secondly, the cobblestones trap detritus and quickly make the tank messy. Best avoided.>
My tank looks extremely clean from the decreased feedings and daily water changes.
<Do remember water clarity and water quality are quite different things.>
Thoughts or comments?
Thanks, Alex
<Cheers, Neale.> 

Re: African clawed frogs...   1/18/10
Thanks again Neale. Well you are correct. I tested the tap water before and after adding my chlorine/chloramine conditioner and received 1.0 ammonia readings.
<Do note that you will get a "false positive" AFTER treating water with chloramine in it, so do check the water *before* adding water conditioner or dechlorinator. That's what matters. Chloramine, as its name suggests,
breaks down into chlorine and ammonia when it reacts with some water conditioners. If a water conditioner says it treats for chlorine, chloramine, and ammonia, then this isn't a problem. But if the water conditioner only treats chlorine, not chloramine, then the ammonia sits around afterwards. More of a problem. So, to recap, test your water without any conditioner added. If it contains ammonia, or if you want to be careful, simply choose a water conditioner that treats chlorine, chloramine, and ammonia, all at the same time.>
So any recommendations on the product to buy?
<Many brands; all should work fine.>
I'm sure the product you advise will take care of ammonia as well as chlorine in my tap, so maybe I should just stop using this generic conditioner altogether. Kind of hard cycling out ammonia when every water change, I'm adding more.
<Again, do make sure you don't have a false positive.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

No change in ammonia level, FW, reading  9/24/08
Hello again,
Is there some reason a 20-25% water change would have absolutely no effect on the ammonia concentration levels in the tank?
<Mmm, the sensitivity of your test gear, assessment of reading, the constant production of this metabolite...>
Here are the details:
55 gallon long tank with an Aquaclear 70 HOB filter (the media are a sponge, carbon, and something they call a "BioMax" bag for promoting beneficial bacteria growth)
4 Apple Snails and what they've left of Ceratopteris Cornuta
(inconsequential amounts)
The tank's only been set up since September 8.
NO2 0
NO3 0
Chlorine 0
GH 75
KH 120
pH 7.6
NH3 readings did not change after the water change???
<Mmm, and the water change may have "set back" the nitrifying bacteria...>
I was under the
impression that changing the water would dilute the ammonia concentration.
<Does initially...>
I've tested my tap water and the ammonia is 0. My concern is the snails.
They're eating and growing but they've also got their siphons out a lot.
They're not specifically going to the surface to use the siphon, but they're putting it out. I read somewhere that only when oxygen supplies in the water were optimal would the snails NOT use their siphons. Plus we all know the ammonia is damaging. It's why I tried to cycle fish(life)less to start with. So, should I be concerned here?
<Mmm, concerned? Yes... and patient. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwammfaqs.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: No change in ammonia level-Follow Up 9/24/08 Mr. Fenner, Thanks for your response this morning. Acting on your advice, I read the FAQs regarding cycling and ammonia. After reading, I decided it might be beneficial for the livestock if I added BioSpira to the tank. <Ah, yes. If you can still find this fine product w/in "freshness date"> A friend of mine noted that I'll need to raise the temperature of my tank in order for the BioSpira to work, but if I do that it'll work perfectly. Well, as you are well aware Apple Snails (of which there are now 4 residing in the tank) don't really like temps warmer than 77F. Currently the temperature is around 75F. <I would not raise it> Will it harm the snails to spend some time at more of a tropical temperature with lower ammonia, or should I forego the BioSpira and risk some real toxicity? <Monitor the ammonia period... and the pH importantly, not to let it get any higher... do not feed at all if the free ammonia is 0.5 ppm. or higher... It will "go down" in time I assure you> (The answer seems obvious now, but I'm learning that not everything in this hobby is as logical as it seems it should be) Thanks for everything. Laura <Welcome. BobF>

Ammonia test strip question - 11/20/07 Hi Crew, <Leah,> I saw one white spot on the tail of one clown loach. Unable to decide if it was ich, I decided to be proactive and treat with Rid-Ich+. The spot was gone within 24 hours, and no other fish developed any other spots, and no one seemed itchy or otherwise uncomfortable. I began to wonder if the original spot had been ich at all, but I intended to treat for a week to be safe. I removed my carbon filter, did a daily 25% water change and used a half dose of Rid-Ich+, although I later read conflicting reports online over whether half doses are effective. <Depends. Sometimes half-doses work acceptably well, without putting sensitive fish at risk. More often though, the salt plus heat method works better and more safely for treating Ick on Clown loaches, Mormyridae, etc.> I treated through day 5. Today was supposed to be day 6 of treatment, but I noticed that my Mardel ammonia test strip had gone from plain yellow (0.0 ammonia) to a kind of off-yellow. It's hard to describe, and it does not match any of the other colors on the test strip, which grow from pale green to dark blue-green. It looks for all the world as if the Rid-Ich+ has slightly stained the test strip. Is this likely? <Certainly possible. If the nitrite level is zero, I'd assume that's the problem here. If the nitrite isn't zero, then perhaps there's something else going on.> How reliable are these strips, compared to other kinds of tests? After 5 days of half doses of Rid-Ich+, do you think I've harmed my good bacteria? <No.> This morning I did a 40% water change with dechlorinated water, and no meds. I also replaced my carbon filter. When I return home this afternoon, I will put in a new ammonia test strip and see if it stays yellow. (I'm waiting until the afternoon because I don't want any remaining meds to stain the new one.) Do you think I should take any other actions? <Not really, no.> I have an ammonia locking agent, and something called stress-zyme that is supposed to help replace good bacteria. <You shouldn't need either of these things in a stable aquarium. Traces of ammonia in your tap water should be removed by any decent dechlorinator, and the ammonia produced by your fish gets used by the filter bacteria. Bacteria supplements are, in my opinion, more about selling stuff to hobbyists that actually doing anything useful.> Unfortunately I will be unable to observe the tank again until the afternoon, but I can check my email and drop by the pet store on the way home if you recommend buying a different test kit. Thank you very much, Leah <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Ammonia in aged water, FW  9/5/07 This one really has me stumped. My mother set up a 30 gal tank 3-4 wks ago and added a 2" fantail goldfish. He's doing fine. I didn't know any of this until recently when she mentioned it. Out of curiosity I tested her water since I had the test kits. Her ammonia (right after a 20% water change was .5, nitrites about 1 and nitrates 10 (yes, still cycling, I know). She lets the water sit for a few days in a tub before doing water changes (25% a week). She has well water (same as I do) but is in another town, there's no added chlorine or anything else as far as I know. The PH straight out of the tap is 7.2 and O ammonia, 0 nitrites, 0 nitrates. The fish tank water has a PH of 7.8. From reading your sight that tells me it's a *good thing to let it sit because of the dissolved oxygen, etc. But-the problem is the aged water has an ammonia level of .5. <Unusual... I would check your test kit here first> That doesn't make any sense to me and I didn't have a good answer for her as to why. We tested the tap and it was zero ammonia, then let a 5 gal bucket of water sit for an hour with a bubbler in it and tested it. The ammonia was already .5 in the bucket water and it had only sat for an hour! I understand there's toxic and non-toxic ammonia? <Mmm, yes... ammonia/ammonium (NH4/NH4OH) at higher pHs is much more toxic than lower pH ammonia, NH3> Do you think that's where the confusion lies? Is my test kit (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Freshwater Master Test Kit) be reading the total ammonia including the non-toxic? <Yes and no... the state of the ammonia at this high pH is the more toxic> This is confusing. Or is her aged water somehow getting ammonia in it by sitting? <From? A kitty litter box nearby? I hope you two have your water checked, certified for human consumption... I would NOT consume water with 10 ppm of NO3...> It was brand new bucket used only for water that we let it sit in. I hope you can help. Is she adding ammonia to her fish tank with every water change? The little goldfish looks great and the water is super clear if that makes a difference. Thank you for your time. I hope you can shed some light on why aged water would all of a sudden have ammonia when the water straight out of the tap doesn't. Mitzi <I suspect the readings are spurious. I'd check the checker. Bob Fenner>

Re: Ammonia in aged water-possibly algae in well water  9/7/07 Hello Crew (Bob), Concerning the ammonia readings in aged water (but not fresh from tap over at my mother's house). I did buy 2 more test kits and those kits showed the identical results as my original liquid test kit. <I see. Thank you> So I made some calls and did some thinking. I'm going to update you in the hopes that it may help someone else with well water. I believe the reason for the ammonia reading in only the aged water (not fresh tap water) was because my mother had algae in her well/well water. <This could do it, yes> Possibly because of major flooding here in Oklahoma the past 6 months. The water straight out of her tap showed '0' ammonia, yet when the water sat for an hour or more the ammonia started rising. I believe it was because the algae particles from the well started dying as soon as it came through the pipes and sat in a container and caused the ammonia. Does that make sense? <It does> It made perfect sense to me. We poured a bottle of Clorox bleach down her well the other day. Evidently that's not an uncommon practice amongst well owners (who'd have known?). <Is a good move> The man at the water dept said the bleach should dissipate within 24 hrs or so. I went over to her house today and tested a bucket of water she'd had sitting out for several hours. There was '0' ammonia! Great news! So I think that solved the problem. I'd have never thought of something like that and I wonder how many other fish keepers using well water have trouble cycling their tanks for the same reason. She was pouring in water with ammonia in it. Keep in mind the ammonia only showed in her aged water, not straight from the tap. It really had me stumped and I'm so glad to have figured it out, so it seems. Does chlorine actually dissipate after about 24 hours? <Most types of sodium hypochlorite, yes... there are other versions, and additives that make some "bleach" last longer in a bottle..> I'd like to make sure from you. I bought her some Kordon's NovAqua+ to use with any water changes until I find out for sure that chlorine dissipates quickly. <Also a good idea> Interesting update and I really hope it helps someone else. Mitzi <Thank you for sharing. You've no doubt saved many people grief... and livestock! Bob Fenner>

Nessler's Rgt. concern   4/21/07 Hello Crew, <Howdy> I work at a LFS and regularly recommend Amquel and Wardley products. The warning labels on these products and many others warns against use with Nessler's reactor test kits. <As they should...> I know many of my customers use the test kits and have received odd readings when testing their tank parameters. It also becomes very annoying when customers have no idea what chemicals or kits they are using. My question is how likely is that additives effect test kits. <Very...> What is the likelihood of a reaction happening when someone is using too many additives. <?... Am not following you here... The Nessler's Reagent will/can give false readings in a test vial... for ammonia... with water that has been treated with certain water conditioners (containing PVP...)... but this/these false readings are not "in the tank"... the test water should be discarded... not poured back in...> ( I have a customer who insists on adding 6 different additives to his freshwater tank every week.) Thank you for your time and patience.            Ann <Mmm, please refer them here... Not a good idea... we are in agreement here. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia...only way to get rid of this is through water changes <?>   1/5/07 I have a 46 gallon tank with 4 cichlids and a catfish in it that are no more than 3 inches.  I've had my water tested at a near by pet store and they told me that my ammonia was a little high and it was caused by over feeding. <Ammonia needs to be at ZERO, as does the nitrite level.  Nitrates should ideally be at zero, but can go as high as 20 ppm.  Best thing to do is invest in your own quality liquid test kit, like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Aquarium-Pharmaceuticals-Freshwater-Master-Test/dp/B000255NCI Water conditions can change from the fish's tank to the pet store, so the readings the store is getting are likely not 100% accurate.  Also, you should always ask the store to give you the exact ammonia, nitrite and nitrate readings, because terms like "a little high" are very subjective. As to overfeeding being the cause, that is indeed possible - if there is excess food lying around the bottom of the tank, it will break down and cause toxins, such as ammonia, to build up.  Fish should only be fed what they can consume in 2-3 minutes, once or twice a day.> I did multiple water changes and fed them smaller amounts once a day and the ammonia is still too high. <You must get all traces of ammonia out...step up the frequency of the water changes.  If need be, do a larger water change to remove this deadly toxin.> I've also noticed fog on the surface of that water which went away but came back after adding romaine lettuce. <Did you rinse the lettuce before putting it in the tank? Also, I'm not sure your fish will actually eat lettuce...you should likely skip adding that altogether.  A quality pellet, such as one made by Spectrum New Life or Hikari, will suffice as the fish's staple, and frozen (then thawed) bloodworms or Mysis shrimp occasionally will provide the variety their diets need.  An algae wafer once in a while for the catfish would also be in order, food-wise.  To get the "fog" out, best thing to do is, again, water changes...> What can I do to prevent these problems? Thanks...Chris> <Chris, read here for info. on ammonia, nitrite and nitrate: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm . For the sake of your fish, you cannot allow any ammonia or nitrite to remain in the tank.  Hopefully this tank is filtered, also? That should also help with the problem.  Invest in a test kit like the one referenced above, and do daily testing and necessary water changes... Good luck, Jorie>

Got my test kit and book, today; first step, need to get ammonia out of tank    1/10/07 Today,  1/9/07,  I received my recommended fish care book and Freshwater Master Test Kit. <Excellent - glad to hear it! For all those reading, this was the "Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums" by David E. Boruchowitz...> Obviously,  I haven't read the book as of yet;  but, the first thing I did was to test Siegfried and The Sucky's water. <Good idea.> These are the results,  after a 50% water change on Friday, and 25% changes on Saturday and Sunday: pH High Range: 7.5 <Fine, so long as it remains stable> Ammonia: .50 <Do a water change ASAP - ammonia must be at zero for the health of the fish.  I suggest 50% in your relatively small system...then test again, to make sure all ammonia is gone...> Nitrite: 0 <Great!> Nitrate: Between 10 and 20 <Acceptable range.  It sounds as though the tank is still cycling, but you do need to get the ammonia out ASAP.> My 2 "buddies" are holding their own.  I'm off tomorrow and will read to see what has to be adjusted, in order of importance and priority. <Sounds like a good plan.  You do need to be concerned about the ammonia levels; as you'll learn, it is the most toxic of the three (ammonia, nitrite and nitrate)> All suggestions welcome! <OK - see above!> Will be in touch! <Feel free...> Your Friend, Debbie in Baltimore <Oh, I'm glad I've earned the title "friend!" One can never have too many of those... Enjoy your book, and your day off! Regards, Jorie>

Free Vs Total Ammonia - 10/2/06 Hi <Hello Glenn> I could not find a good explanation anywhere of what Free vs. Total Ammonia means. I have a SeaChem test that tests both my free ammonia comes in at .0, but my total ammonia usually comes in at .05-.1 is this a  reason for worry? what is the difference between free and total? Which is the biggest concern <Hello Glenn.... Free ammonia is NH3. When this accepts a further hydrogen ion it becomes ammonium, NH4+ which is much less toxic. Therefore, since the ratio of NH3 to NH4 is affected by the number of hydrogen ions in solution, the ratio is affected dynamically by the pH. At lower pHs, NH4 dominates. "Total ammonia" refers to NH3 + NH4+. In normal situations, detection of any ammonia is a sign that the biological filter is not working optimally. However, If your source water contains chloramine (chlorine-ammonia), the water conditioner you are using is likely breaking the chlorine-ammonia bond, and sequestering the ammonia (or even worse - not - if your conditioner is not rated for chloramines). This will still show up on a Nessler's-based ammonia test. Another confusion is whether the test kit measures the amount of "ammonia ion" or amount of "ammonia-nitrogen". suffice to say it should tell you in the instructions and provide a conversion factor to allow you to convert between these different measures.> thank you <You're welcome! Best regards from Shanghai, John> Glenn A. Baker

Ammonia Smell in New Tank Everything in tank is new no plants or anything. MY water supply comes from a well. I've had water tested before I bought the place and it was safe for drinking does have sulfur smell. I guess a fish tank is out of the question here. Why would the water not smell until the outside filter starts? <If this smell is ammonia it will clear out when your tank is cycled. Please read the following link on establishing FW bio filtration. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm  Don> 

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