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FAQs on Freshwater Aquariums & Ammonia 3

Related Articles: Ammonia, Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality, pH, alkalinity, acidity, Treating Tap Water, Freshwater Maintenance, Frequent 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, & FAQs on FW Ammonia: Importance, Science, Measure, Sources, Control, Chemical Filtrants, Troubleshooting/Fixing, & Freshwater Nutrient Cycling, FW H2O Quality 1, Aquarium Maintenance, Environmental 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,

All fishes, invertebrates are mal-affected by any detectable level of ammonia. Some much more than others.

Extremely high ammonia during cycling      12/12/18
Hello Crew! Hope you all are doing very well.
<All good.>
Got a brackish nitrogen cycle question for you. I have recently set up a 5 gallon biotope aquarium for some Opae ula shrimp. There is a tall tower of lava rock (held together with aquarium silicone glue) to provide a hypogeal environment. There is also additional lava rock mixed with some reef "dry live rock" pieces in the rest of the tank. Specific gravity is at about 1.010.
First evening after filling the tank, I added a few (very few!) flakes of fish food to begin cycling. After 24 hours I tested for ammonia using an API Ammonia test kit, and the result came back at 8 ppm! Since 8 ppm is as high as the test goes, the ammonia level is anywhere from 8 ppm to who knows what. No way this came from those teeny flakes!
<Possibly not. Hard to say without knowing how much protein was in the flake and how much water (actual, not nominal) is in your 5 gallon tank.>
So, the ammonia could only come from one of three places: my tap water, the salt mix, or the rocks. I tested my tap water after treating with Prime water treatment, and it came back at between 0.25 and 0.50 ppm ammonia, likely from the chloramine. Then I mixed in some of the marine salt mix and retested - came back the same as the tap water.
<Indeed, as should be the case.>
I still had some lava rocks left over so I put a few in some fresh water and let them soak a few hours and then tested. Yep, it was the lava rocks.
<Yikes! I'm not a huge fan of lava rock, which not only affects water quality in this case, but more regularly, affects pH and water colouration too. It's vaguely acidic in many cases, causing pH to drop, and the minerals contained can stain the water reddish brown.>
After 48 hours the ammonia level was still high and beginning to look a little cloudy, so I did a 2 gallon water change.
<Correct action here.>
At this point I'm assuming it will be continue to cycle the tank as usual, am I correct? Or are these levels too high even for cycling? I'm also guessing I will need to do a fairly large water change after the cycle
completes as there will likely be pretty high nitrate levels.
<Yeah, but if there's no livestock in this system, the ammonia spike shouldn't do any lasting harm. If the shrimps are there, and have survived, wow!!!>
At any rate this was a good lesson to learn - don't just throw new rocks into an established aquarium! Even if you have tested for carbonates, you never know what might be lurking in there.
<Sage advice.>
Thanks for your input on this!
<And thank you for sharing. Neale.>
Re: Extremely high ammonia during cycling      12/12/18

No, definitely no livestock in here yet. Just doing the cycling.
The reason for using the lava rocks is because I am trying to recreate a biotope. In the case of Halocaridina rubra (Opae ula) this is definitely lava, with a sprinkling of carbonate rocks. I did a lot of research on scholar.google.com on the Hawaiian anchialine pools - fascinating stuff!
The lava rocks I purchased are not *exactly *the same as the lava where they occur, but it is as close as I can get.
<I am fairly sure the "lava rock" traded is a byproduct of glass making or some other industrial process, rather than actual pumice stone.>
Based on your comments about these rocks changing the pH, I will give this tank an extended cycle period. Once the nitrogen cycle has completed I will continue to monitor the pH and other parameters, while keeping the cycle "fed" with the use of flake foods. If there is a trend toward acidification, I will remove some of the lava rocks and replace them with some limestone and/or dry live rock to help keep things buffered.
<I do think Tufa rock, or Texas hole-y rock, might be better.>
I'll see how things trend before adding any live creatures. Hopefully things will tend to stabilize as whatever soluble materials are in the rock get leached out.
Thanks again!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Ammonia, Nitrite & Nitrate Units of Measure     4/10/18
Hello Crew,
<Hey Ray>
I have a 210g, probably considered overstocked, mixed Malawi tank. The tank is filtered by a submerged media sump with a six times turnover. I use Hanna meters for my chemistry checks. The ammonia, nitrite and nitrate
meters all measure using the -N unit of measure (NH3-N, NO2-N & NO3-N).
The unit of measure for ammonia and nitrite are not relevant since the goal of both is to maintain 0ppm. Nitrate is the one causing me some thought. The tank consistently runs 10 - 30ppm NO3-N and I use this value to determine water changes, as it approaches 30ppm I do a 50% WC usually every other week. But if I apply the conversion factor (4.4) to these numbers my ranges are 45 - 130ppm in which case my WCs should be happening probably twice per week. I recently read the article, Nitrates in Freshwater Aquarium Systems
by Bob Fenner, which stated "Do check your test kit though almost all are nitrate ion types on the market nowadays..." I'm guessing doing the conversion on NO3-N > NO3 is what I should be looking at.
<Yes; agreed>
The tank has been running in its current configuration (mixed Malawi) for 2 years, before that it was a planted discus tank for maybe 8 years. Being retired gives me time to think, maybe too much. Should I take the attitude, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it?" Looking for confirmation/disagreement.
Raymond M Sugel Sr
<Were it me, mine, I would increase the number/frequency of water changes as you state (twice a week; with pre-mixed (for pH, salts if you use them) stored water. I encourage you to look into the possibility of tying this
tank in with a good size/volume sump as well, perhaps growing live plants there, incorporating a deep sand bed for denitrification; utilizing and out-gassing the excess NO3. Bob Fenner>

Just a few aquarium questions... <20 some Megs...>; residual NH3, U1 zots, Crypt melt, moving pH    8/7/16
Please re-size and re-send all... Your files are more than an order of magnitude too large.
Re: Just a few aquarium questions...   8/7/16

Yikes...I was wondering why they were taking so long to upload, didn't even notice they were that big.
Resized in PS, hope this is a little better!
<Yes; now just need you to delete the carats (<<<<) in the text below and re-send. BobF>
re: Just a few aquarium questions...   8/7/16

<Oh, found the original text here>
Hello crew! I just started up my old aquarium and I have a fair amount of questions about water quality, some of my old plants, etc.
My tank is a 10 gallon. Started it up a little over 2 months ago, let it cycle through, and added a single Betta after the cycle was finished.
The parameters are
pH: 7.5

nitrates: 0
nitrites: 0
ammonia: .12? (it's not exactly at 0 and not at .25 on the test kit, so I'm
assuming it's right in the middle)
<Toxic; and am wondering wherefore/why the residual ammonia here?
temp: between 74-78 degrees
My first question is about the ammonia. Both in the past and currently, I cannot keep the ammonia at 0 for the life of me because my tap water has a small amount of it.
<This should cycle through though... And you should eliminate w/ water conditioner use ahead of placing it in the tank>
It's not at a terribly dangerous level but it's enough to be worrying,
I've tried using ammonia-removing products, including prime, on the water I store away for water changes, but the ammonia tests as 0 and then has a huge spike occurs a few days later. Is there any way to get it down and stay down?
<Yes... a few ways. Let's have you review here (as I/we have no way of knowing what you already know
and the linked files above>
My second question is about this strange white and brown stuff growing on my driftwood. I'll attach some pictures, some of them I couldn't get to focus but I hope they're good enough. There are brown chunks of what looks like fish feces or a kind of fungus, mostly on the bottom half of the driftwood. It's kind of tough to remove so I had to scrub it off with a
toothbrush, but it just comes back anyway. Along with that are white specs, mostly on the top of the driftwood.
<This appears to be bits of decomposition... the wood, likely food, feces>

I can't tell you how many pages I've checked trying to find out what these are. The only answers I come back
with are black beard algae/brown string algae and white fungus/Nerite snail eggs, but whatever's on my driftwood doesn't look like any of those. The white specs even look like they're starting to spread to one of my crypts.
My Betta seems to be unaffected by either of them, but I've had a baby Bristlenose in a hospital tank and I wanted to move him in soon. I'm worried that this stuff could make him sick if he eats it. Any ideas what either of them are?
<As stated... you might benefit from more circulation, filtration here>
Third question is about the crypts (also in the pictures) I was growing them in a large bowl for a while and they were doing very well with API leafzone and some natural sunlight. They shot out very nice, healthy green leaves, but when I transferred them to the tank, they started turning a reddish brown and getting ruffles. I read that this happened to a few
other people that changed the way they were fertilizing their tank, though they stated that they were still very healthy. Mine are kind of getting this weird translucent reddish-brown look and a couple of the leaves have completely melted, but the leaves had been bright green and strong before.
<Crypts are susceptible to this sort of decomp. under stressful and varying conditions>

I have an LED light strip but others have been able to keep crypts just fine with them. Is there another reason they're not doing as well?
<Can't tell w/ the data provided. There may well be a nutrient deficiency going on here... N, P, K, Fe....>
My final question (phew) is about the pH. It's always been at 7.5 (or higher, not sure if it even shows up on the test kit..) I want to lower it to around 6.8 or 7,
<I would NOT do this. Leave it as it is... will drop a bit in time. See WWM re pH and Alkalinity for a bit of background>
but just like the ammonia, I've tried two or three pH altering products and they drop the pH rapidly and spike it a few days later.
<... yes... alkaline reserve is buffering it back up. Common >
I was thinking I could try Indian almond leaves or wood, but they would release a lot of tannins and I'm not sure if it would add to the ammonia or not. Have tried adding distilled water as well and there is no affect (but I do have 20 empty gallon jugs laying around) Do you have other suggestions of how to lower it safely?
<Time going by is the very best. Don't fuss w/ pH here, period. 7.5 is fine for what you have livestock wise>
I'm very sorry this is so long, I was debating on whether I should divvy the questions up into different emails but I thought it might be more troublesome to get them each separately. But I thank you very much for your services. I always go to this site first if I'm having any problems and it has been extremely helpful and informative! I greatly appreciate any answers and advice you can offer.
<Glad to be (hopefully) of assistance. Please DO write back if all is not clear here after reading. Bob Fenner>

Re: Is our tank possessed by an ammonia demon???       9/4/16
Thanks for your response, Neale.
We use well water, no chlorine, but we still add conditioner to it to help keep the skin coating on the fish.
<Well water can, does absorb ammonia and other pollutants from the surrounding ground, especially in rural areas (nitrogenous compounds are often very high near farms that use fertilisers or rear livestock). So you should absolutely be using water conditioner, and a good one at that, even on well water.>
Our tap water is zero for ammonia, nitrates and nitrites. We've tested it many times. And the water itself was tested by the water softener guy and was clean.
<Do you use water from the bypass tap, or water that's been through the water softener? You should be doing the first, not the second. NEVER use water from a domestic water softener. Introduces all sorts of variables, including high sodium and zero carbonate hardness that can cause problems.>
We (well, Maria - I'm in the sidelines with a herniated disk in my lower back) are doing multiple 50% water changes until the ammonia is gone. We've done two today and will do a third tonight and again in the morning until the numbers are down. All the gravel is being washed in both tanks.
We are using that bottled bacteria, we don't have any other option.
<Is this refrigerated before purchase? If not, it's useless. Franky, even the refrigerated stuff is pretty ropey. I'm not a fan. I'm going to ask Bob's opinion on this, but I've come across FAR too many problems with tanks cycled without fish but with store-bought bacteria potions. My preferred method is to clone an existing filter, which is pretty much foolproof done right. Do you live near anyone with an aquarium? If they can donate half their mature media, which any mature filter can without problems, your tank would be instantly cycled. Hence, "cloning" a filter.
The donor filter can have 50% of its live media replaced with brand new sponges (or whatever) and experience NO noticeable drop in water quality.
Bacteria double in numbers every 20 minutes, the scientists tell us, and when you have a gazillion per cubic cm on a mature block of sponge, that means the donor filter will make up any losses very quickly. The problem, as you may realise now, is when you have none or just a few bacteria per cubic cm.>
Thanks again for your help and time.
<I do think things should settle down. What fish do you have now? If you change all the water, clean the filter as indicated (taking care not to over clean and kill the bacteria) and then feed sparingly, if at all, for a couple weeks, hardy fish (Danios, peppered Corydoras, 'feeder' guppies, etc.) can, do sail through the cycling process without much trouble if you change some water every day or two. Old school approach, and not widely recommended, but does work. The addition of floating aquarium plants, especially floating Indian Fern, is another 'magic bullet' from days gone
by. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Is our tank possessed by an ammonia demon??? (RMF?)       9/4/16

1. We have been using softened water. We'll switch, but we're going to replace another fifty percent. Should we use the bypass tap for that? Or half half, if they're used to the softened water?
<I'd go the latter route, maybe 25% bypass/75% softened for the first water change, and so on across a week of water changes. Domestic softener water isn't good for fishkeeping for all sorts of reasons, and it's a shame that
the idea of "softening" water means different things to different people.
Please do check with the installer of your system, but most work by leaving general hardness as it is, but replacing carbonate hardness (limescale) with sodium ions. That's why people with blood pressure problems, for example, are told not to drink softened water. On top of that, with zero carbonate hardness your pH might not be stable between water changes, and a low pH (anything far below 7) will absolutely hammer biological filtration.
Indeed, some reports suggest it stops working completely below pH 6!>

2. We use Aqueon filters - a mesh bag with carbon in it. I guess you are talking about the mesh part of the filter?
<Nope. Take the carbon and throw it in the bin. Useless for freshwater fishkeeping. Actually, there are VERY SPECIFIC situations where carbon is handy, like removing leftover medication from a tank, but other than that... useless. Similarly anything labeled "ammonia remover" (Zeolite) is also useless for a normal tank, and again, chuck in the bin. Or at least lay down for use some other time! What your filter needs is plenty of biological media -- usually sponges and/or ceramic noodles. That's where the bacteria live.>
If we can find someone with a filter, would we just put that in the tank?
<Well, pretty much, yes. Easier to have that filter donate some sponges or ceramic noodles, and put those inside your new filter. Should jump-start it a treat.>
We have one white skirt tetra, one platy, and one Pleco in the tank. We DO have a second 20 gallon tank. Could we use the filter from that?
<Any filter more than a couple months old should be mature enough to donate some live media. That assumes temperature and water chemistry aren't very different. Obviously taking filter media from a hard water tank and sticking it in a soft water system would be nasty to the bacteria and likely to stress them (though not kill them).>
No, we just changed the filter in that, but I have that filter - it didn't dry out, so maybe use that? Should we not change the filters?
<I'm a bit concerned here. What do you mean by "change the filter"? You never "change" a biological filter. All you do -- every six weeks to six months depending on how well flow rate is holding up -- is rinse the live biological media under a lukewarm tap to get rid of the muck. Periodically (every five years or so) you might want to replace a really irredeemably grubby sponge, and every ten or twenty years you might change some of the ceramic noodles. But even then, you'd only change, say, a quarter to a half of the media at any one time. Really, a biological filter should be left
alone as much as possible, and the golden rule is "if in doubt, and water is still flowing through it, leave it alone". You should absolutely NOT be changing media every time you change water! For sure the manufacturers will want you to change carbon and ammonia remover every week or two, and they're right to recommend that -- such media needs frequent replacing. But those media are totally unnecessary in the average freshwater aquarium.
Some filters are designed around carbon and Zeolite modules, but they're a con, and I spurn them! Focus on sponges, noodles, and perhaps a small layer of filter floss to trap silt (and the filter floss will need replacing or cleaning quite frequently, if it bungs up).>
If we put the fish in another tank, how would you suggest that we restart the 38 gallon tank as new tank? From scratch?
<See above; I'm a bit worried you're doing something to the filter that's preventing it from maturing. Perhaps I've misunderstood? Neale.>
Re: Is our tank possessed by an ammonia demon??? (RMF?)       9/4/16
sigh. You have not misunderstood.
<Oh dear.>
We have been doing what they told us to do: using the carbon filter for the Aqueon pump and changing it out when dirty.
<Got you now. I don't know these filters, so can't be sure about their design. But usually these small internal canister filters have two or three 'chambers' inside them. Ideally, the water passes through a mechanical medium first to trap dirt, a second stage of biological media to clean the water of ammonia and nitrite, and finally (and optionally) a chemical medium (such as carbon, peat or Zeolite) to chemically change the water somehow. This last stage is a total waste of filter space in most freshwater tanks. Furthermore, the mechanical and biological stages can be combined if you're limited with space. Sponges and ceramic noodles will trap silt as well as house bacteria, and so long as you only rinse them gently in aquarium-temperature water (even a bucket of old aquarium water during water changes) then you'll keep the bacteria on that medium in tip-top condition as well as rinsing off the dirt. Make sense? Now, I don't
know which filter you have from their range. But I'd suggest looking at the instruction leaflet or packaging, or heck, just email me the make and model number. Once we know which filter we're talking about, we can plan accordingly. One option though is that if your filter has simple empty chambers that you're meant to put proprietary cartridges into, those chambers can still be stuffed with filter floss or ceramic noodles. Filter floss is cheap and crams nicely into awkward shapes. Don't over pack it though or you'll stop the flow of water. Also, the other problem is that it clogs up quickly and isn't really washable more than once or twice, so you have to be careful about replacing no more than 50% per month. Ceramic noodles are more expensive, especially the really good brands (such as Siporax and Eheim Substrat Pro) which hold the most bacteria per cubic centimetre. Being a loose but solid medium you can stuff it into a
compartment without worrying about clogging up the flow of water. So it's a better medium in all but the smallest and most awkwardly shaped filters. Of course your particular canister filter may have proper biological cartridges on sale, and these are the ones to use if that's an option.>
We are using the Aqueon pumps and I don't know if they have a filter like the one you are talking about. If you don't like their products what do you suggest? These things get pretty dirty. Maria can go get the new media now, but we don't know what to get. We THOUGHT we did, but obviously we were listening to the wrong people.
<Possibly. Since you already have an existing aquarium, cloning that tank's filter should be easy. Can some media be removed from that filter? Or even, worst come to the worst, scrape off the top 1 cm gravel from the old tank
and add it to the gravel in the new filter. The top layer is where some filter bacteria live, so while it's not as good as cloning a filter, it'll provide a heck of a jump start to any new aquarium, speeding up the cycling process a lot. As mentioned before, adding a handful of floating plants is another good way to get things moving. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Can't get ammonia under control       8/10/15
Hi Crew! Your site is fantastic and very helpful. Thank you! I am hoping you wouldn't mind helping me with an ammonia spike that has lasted for the last 3 days. I'm getting a 4.0 ppm
reading in my 29 gallon freshwater tank
using the API master test kit. The NH3 is at 0.2 (so I assume this means the spiked reading is caused by NH4).
<? What is the pH of the water here?>
Nitrites are 0, nitrates are just under 40 ppm.
<Too high by twice. WATER CHANGES for now>

Up until this point I was just about to complete the cycling process(ammonia and nitrites were consistently down to 0.25, nitrates at 20). I should note that I was using SeaChem stability to help speed the process, but recently cut down on the frequency.
<Good; stop period now>

I may have jumped ahead of myself thinking the tank was "as good as cycled", and added 3 Kuhli loaches just 3 days before the sudden ammonia spike. Along with the loaches I have 7 Corydoras, 6 tetras and 3 Danios.
<Do NOT feed these fishes.... change half the water... with conditioned new, and be patient: WAIT till there is NO, ZERO, ZIP Ammonia>

The tank has mostly live plants and sand substrate. There's an internal filter that (supposedly) filters 144 gallons per hour. I added an additional sponge filter yesterday. I do small water changes every other day of about 10-25%. I siphon visible detritus almost daily. Even after changing about 60% of the water, the ammonia was still at 2.0 ppm. The loaches are pretty good at hiding and I've only been able to spot 2 at one time for a while now. I searched the tank but couldn't find the 3rd (dead or alive, however there isn't a fish in the tank with a mouth big enough to have eaten him). In the last 2 days I've
raked the sand, cleaned the filter, treated the water with prime and stability. Still got an ammonia reading of 4.0 ppm today. Forgot to mention
that pH stays at a steady 7.8.

What am I missing??
<I fully suspect your API test kit is "off"... inaccurate here. Else at this high pH ALL your fishes would be dead. DO "check the checker"... i.e., have the water tested with another kit... likely a friendly LFS will do this for you. In the meanwhile.... water change and no food>
Thanks in advance!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Can't get ammonia under control         8/11/15

Hi Bob,
Thank you for the prompt response and advice. I will stop feeding and continue water changes.

The test kit is in fact working
correctly(unfortunately)! I also have a 20 gallon tank for my apple snails.
When testing their water with the same kit I am getting ammonia - 0,
nitrites - 0, nitrates - 20, and a pH of 7.6. These are the same steady parameters this tank has had since I started it.
Back to my 29 gallon community tank with the outrageous ammonia reading, the pH has always been at 7.8 in this tank. It started to descend at one point, reaching 7.2, but with water changes it gradually climbed back up to 7.8. I added a medium sized piece of driftwood a week ago. Could this have anything to do with the ammonia?
<Yes! I would remove it (but keep it underwater somewhere else and check the water chemistry there over time). It could be decomposing, causing issues>

Thanks again.
<Welcome. BobF>
Re: Can't get ammonia under control         8/11/15

Just to clear up any possible confusion - the reason my snail tank has been stable since I started it is because it was branched off of the 29 gallon community tank. I borrowed some filter media, a bit of sand, water, etc.
Both tanks remained stable and then suddenly the 29 gallon took a turn for the worst. Thanks
<Good technique (moving media, sand, water...). Bob>

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.>

Ammonia Spike - Over/Mis-Stocking A 29g Tank - 12/01/12
I set up my 29 gal. tank 5 weeks ago, dechlorinated it, and added 2 platys for cycling. 
<Not too terribly kind to the platies....  Cycling can be done without fish; much more humanely.>
After 3 weeks, slowly added small angels,
<Though a pair with few or no other fish would be nice for a tank this size, be aware that more than that will ultimately result in a pair forming and kicking the snot out of other tank denizens some time in the future. 
Once this happens, you'll have to make come choices, either to nix the pair or the rest of the fish.>
small clown loaches,
<Unsuitable for a 29....  Small clown loaches do not stay small.  These will outgrow the tank (slowly) and eventually require a 5 or 6 foot tank.  At least they'll be happily compatible with the angels!>
and a small red tailed shark,
<Also will stay neither small nor friendly.>
ending up with 4 angels, 3 clown loaches, and 1 Redtail shark.  I gave the platys to my grandson.  My ammonia level was at about .25 or less from the chart with my test kit. 
<Expected....  Do water changes to combat this.>
The fish seemed to be happy, no bullying, no frantic swimming all over the tank, no gasping for breath at the surface, etc.  I feed them brine shrimp and bloodworms without overfeeding and they eat eagerly.  I change about 20% of the water weekly.  I have an outside power filter which seems to be working fine.  Temp. 80 degrees.
A few days ago, my ammonia level went to 2.0.
 I immediately changed about 30% of the water, and changed the charcoal bag of the filter.  The fish seem to be acting as always, no stress or unusual behavior.  They eat vigorously. 
<This is temporary, to be sure.  Although many hardy fish will tolerate a slow rise in ammonia, it does cause them damage and even if they're not showing trouble yet, they are being damaged.>
My question:  What do I do about the ammonia rise? 
<Water changes.  The most annoying rhyme you'll ever hear/read (and good luck getting it out of your head once it's stuck):  "The Solution To Pollution Is Dilution".  Water changes, my friend.  That is all.  Bear in mind that many Chloramine removers bind Ammonia after breaking the Chlorine/Ammonia bond and will cause a false Ammonia reading after a water change, as well.  >
Thanks for any help you can give me.
<Note also that if you are unable to maintain Ammonia at zero parts per million, the tank may be overstocked.  I wouldn't expect that now, while the angels and loaches are small, however.  You should have some months before troubles develop from the angels pairing, and longer than that for the loaches to get uncomfortably large.  And keep an eye on that Redtail, they can get a bit nasty when they get big, but I don't think he'll cause too much trouble.>
Joe Messina
<Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Ammonia    4/12/12
Hello Guys!
First I want to thank you so much for an awesome website and your dedication to helping fish keepers!
<Thanks for the kind words.>
I have a question on ammonia. I've never had a problem with ammonia before in either of my 20 gal or 5.5 gal tanks. Now I have a 55 gal. Been set up for weeks, actually close to 2 months. There are 4 fish in it, a male & female swordtail both young and 2 mollies also fairly young. I cannot get the ammonia and nitrites to zero.
<To be honest, I'd suspect the test kits. With that few fish in it, assuming you know how to set-up and maintain a biological filter, ammonia and nitrite should be zero within 6 weeks, and certainly within 8. If the fish seem fine, and they're happily feeding and growing, I'd not be too bothered. Do the usual 20-25% water change at the weekend, but otherwise don't fuss.>
I've done water changes, 10-15% every 4-5 days. The water is clear. There are nitrates as well btw 5.0-10 ppm. The ammonia reads btw .50-1.0 ppm and the nitrites btw .25-.50 ppm. The pH has been stable at 7.8 and my water is hard to very hard. I use cycle by Nutrafin and stress coat by API as a water conditioner.
<All sounds fine.>
Also added wonder shells at set up. 2  are almost completely dissolved the other 2 are a little more than half dissolved.
<Pointless products, but not doing any harm. If you have soft water and want to keep hard water, there are better, more efficient ways to ensure proper water chemistry. Do read:
Rift Valley salt mix at about 50% should be fine for Central American livebearers. You can tweak the proportions of each ingredient up or down as needs be, too.>
I let the tank cycle through for 3 weeks with no fish before adding them.
<How did you cycle the tank? What ammonia source? If you didn't add ammonia (or some organic source, like fish food flake) then cycling didn't start until the fish were added.>
When I did add the fish the water tested fine. Zero ammonia & nitrites and minor nitrates. pH the same. Any advise on what else I can do besides water changes would be great. Thanks so much!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ammonia    4/12/12

On your question about cycling the tank I used flake food daily.
<Indeed. Cheers, Neale.>

Ammonia Levels??? 1/4/12
Hi there!? I have a 40 gallon aquarium with a Whisper 30-60 filter and a long air stone buried in the gravel.? Now I'll admit that I was ignorant about tank cycling, as the last time I've had an aquarium was when i was around 12.. I set the tank up and was told a product called Stability would allow me to add fish immediately. I let the tank run for about a week ( did not have a water test kit ).? I started to add the Stability and then bought three mollies.? After a couple more weeks, adding the Stability as instructed, I bought more fish.? 2 guppies, 3 panda cories, 3 platies, and 3 Chinese algae eaters.? These were not bought at the same time but over the course of a couple weeks.
Throughout this, the fish have had fry and there are about 60 tiny fry in boxes suspended in the tank.
I had also been doing more research and started learning A LOT about cycling these last few weeks. I bought a test kit ( strips ) and tested the water and found high nitrites.? Did some water changes but the levels were the same.? After doing more reading I bought a freshwater master test kit to be more accurate and tested again.? Had traces of ammonia ( 0-.25 ), high nitrites and high nitrates too!? Couple water changes ( I always use conditioner ) and the ammonia went away but the nitrites were at 5.0.? I panicked and posted in a forum and was told to do 50-75% water changes each day and it took two days but everything evened out.? No ammonia, no nitrite and 20 nitrates.? The water from my tap comes out with about that much nitrates...I thought.."Yes!? My tank has finally cycled!"?
Evidently not..
Had a fish become listless and die.? Lost a guppy and two Oto's.? No outward blemishes or anything.? Two mollies right now seem listless and are suspended in corners but will come out to eat.? Feeding very little to nothing the past week to cut down.
I tested the water yesterday and ammonia was .25.? 0 nitrite and 20-40 Nitrates.? Did not do a water change thinking they might be consumed by Nitrite.? Today ammonia has jumped to .50 with 0 nitrites and 20-40 nitrates.? I added some Stability hoping it will help till I'm off work today and can do a water change.
Should I keep up the heavy water changes?? I'm worried about the ammonia but I don't want to keep the tank from cycling.? I also don't want all of my fish to die...
I also want to thank you for your patience with idiots like me who make so many mistakes...I've read many, many of your questions and answers.
<In a word, yes, you need to keep up with the large, regular water changes.
Something like 20-25% every 1-2 days should be fine. Minimise feeding to just 2-3 times per week, and don't feed at all if ammonia is above 0.5 mg/l. Believe me, fish can go a long time without food, weeks even, and ammonia kills them much quicker than starvation! After 3-4 weeks of this your tank should be sufficiently well cycled to allow you to switch to a regular 20-25% water change every week or two. But if ammonia and nitrite aren't zero, then carry on with the more frequent water changes for another week, then try again. Next up, review stocking. Otocinclus are delicate, difficult fish and best ignored for the first 6 months. They need cool conditions, 22-25 C/72-77 F, so aren't easily kept in all community tanks.
But there's hope. Corydoras and Platies are both reliable fish, and also prefer cool water, so if you get them settled in, you can eventually add Otocinclus should you want to (and do read up on their quite demanding needs in terms of food -- most specimens die from starvation if poor water quality doesn't kill them first). Mollies are hopeless fish for immature freshwater fish. They're arguably poor choices for freshwater tanks regardless because they're easier to keep in slightly brackish water. Oddly enough, in brackish and marine aquaria Mollies are bullet-proof and even used to cycle such tanks, but in freshwater, no, they're delicate and prone to all sorts of diseases when stressed. I'd skip them entirely. Do read:
Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Ammonia Woes... 8/1/11
Hello! I am so glad to have found your website!
<Glad to help.>
I am a new fancy goldfish owner, nearing a month now with 3 in a 29 high tank.
<Just about adequate here, so you really do need to [a] minimise feeding and [b] ensure you have a very generous (preferably external) filter.>
I have terrible ammonia levels and the guys at the fish store say it is pretty normal because the tank is establishing itself-growing bacteria- and also these chubby fishies are big waste producers ...etc. '¦
Anyway, they had been doing quite well, despite it all but today one of them was quite suddenly acting dropsy!
Now I have read all the great info you have on these guys, I think he might have had signs of constipation perhaps or the swim bladder issue!
<The "swim bladder disease" thing is reported by aquarists far more often than it actually occurs. Constipation and systemic bacterial infections are far more probable.>
Not having read about these issues until an hour ago, I did a 50% water change and the fish has regained it's upright position & seems much better.
Also I think the water temp went up over the last few days, because I decided to open the windows and give the AC a break-I just read on your site, the summer heat can give them problems
<Wouldn't worry too much about this, provided the water is well-circulated around the tank.>
I was only feeding them the pellets, twice a day so I bet they really could use some peas and various veggies so I am not sure what the big & sudden problem was!
<Cut back the use of pellets and/or flake to once per day. If they need more food, offer either cooked peas, cooked spinach, or dump some cheap aquarium plants in there for them to graze. Indeed, while ammonia isn't zero, don't feed them at all.>
All the fish now and especially the one who was dropsy earlier seem to be chillin under the "waterfall" of the filter...and closer to the surface than normal. The tank has an air stone& a much larger filter than needed!
<Yes, they're swimming towards the oxygenated part of the tank, which will be closest to the bubbles and waterfall. This could mean that your filter isn't big enough.>
I have an ammonia sponge in my filter ,add "nite-out" to the water every few days, change the water 1/4 every week....
Since I am not sure what made my fish swim so poorly earlier today, I am trying to consider all the various things that may have gone awry! But should I be doing more water changes? Perhaps everyday? at least until my ammonia levels improve? Thanking You for your time & wisdom!
<Do read:
Hope this helps, Neale.>

ammonia problem 7/24/11
OK ... I have read almost all of your questions and answers but I think I'm a little dense. I have a new 30 gal tank with a filter system on the outside of the tank ( I am new to this so I hope this doesn't sound dumb). It's freshwater with gravel, 3 plastic plants and some kind of floating live plant and several large to small rocks.
<All sounds fine. So long as you mature the water before adding fish, you shouldn't have problems.>
I purchased all of this from a local pet store and with their advice. (I didn't know you were available at the time)
<Fair enough!>
I filled, treated with a chlorine removing product, started up the heater, pump and air stone and let it run for 2 weeks as suggested.
<Now here's your problem. Running the tank with water is a good idea in the sense of making sure the tank doesn't leak. But unless you add some source of ammonia, the tank isn't maturing. In other words, the filter bacteria aren't getting established. There are various approaches to cycling tanks, including adding a small number of hardy fish (generally not recommended these days), adding small pinches of flake food every day or two, or adding sufficient household ammonia daily to raise the concentration in the aquarium to 2-4 mg/l. Whichever method used, it takes at least 3 weeks to cycle the filter, and potentially as much as 6 weeks. In general terms, if you cycle without fish for three weeks, you can then add a few hardy fish to finish off the process, secure in the knowledge that the worst part of the process is over. You stop adding ammonia of course, but do feed the fish, and providing ammonia stays well below 0.5 mg/l, and nitrite well below 1.0 mg/l, then hardy fish like Zebra Danios should get through the final part of the process without harm.>
The Ph was 7.0 but I didn't know to check ammonia, nitrate and nitrite.
<Test kits, either liquid (accurate but slightly fiddly) or dip strips (less accurate but easier to use). All aquarists should, at minimum, own a nitrite (with an "i") test kit and a pH test kit.>
I stocked with 7 Neons, 3 guppies, 1 albino catfish, 3 hatchets, and 2 gouramis. Within 2 days all the hatchets and 2 guppies were dead. I felt horrible. I went to a different store and they recommended I check the levels of the trates, trites, and ammonia.
<Nitrates and nitrites I assume they mean. Nitrates are largely unimportant in freshwater community tanks, provided you do weekly water changes. Even levels as high as 50 mg/l won't harm the common stuff beginners keep. As stated, nitrite test kit is essential. Ammonia test kit nice to have but not essential.>
Unfortunately they failed to tell me not to add anymore fish, insinuating it was the other stores poor fish quality that caused the holocaust in my tank.
<It's all about making the sale, sometimes.>
I added 1 Gourami, 1 African frog,
<Not a wise choice in some tanks, and will be nipped by Puffers and some Barbs.>
a small puffer
<Puffers cannot be kept in community tanks -- even the so-called Dwarf Puffer, Carinotetraodon travancoricus. Plus, some species need brackish water, for example the widely sold Figure-8 Puffer, Tetraodon biocellatus.>
and 3 barbs and 2 other small fish I can't remember the names of.
<Not good. Many common fish sold at small sizes become very big, very aggressive, or both.>
I tested the water after I added the new fish and found: 0 trites, 0 trates and .25 ammonia (using a test tube kit?)
<This ammonia level is high, and if nitrite is 0, then you're either massively overfeeding or else the filter hasn't started to mature.>
Have I sentenced my fish to painful death?
<Quite possibly, but not inevitably. Take back the Puffer, and scold them for selling you this fish because EVERY knowledgeable fishkeeper and fishkeeping book says not to keep them in community tanks. I'd take back everything save the Corydoras catfish, and these are schooling fish that must be kept in groups of at least 5. Buy 4 more, keep them together in the tank alone, and do 25% water changes every day for the next two weeks. Feed with one small portion of food every second day. An adequate portion would be one sinking catfish pellet about 5-6 mm in diameter. After two weeks, you can then add some midwater fish. Good choices would be Zebra Danios as these get along with Corydoras, are very hardy, and need the same environmental conditions -- 2-20 degrees dH hardness, pH 6-8, and temperature 22-25 C/72-77 F. Adding lots of fish, like you've done, without forethought and in an immature tank will very likely end in deaths.>
I've fed them once a day with food eaten in 1 minute.
Thank you Debbie S
<Do read here, buy an aquarium book, and take things slowly.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: ammonia problem 7/25/11

Thank you, I'm on my way to the pet store.
<Glad to help! Cheers, Neale.>

Ammonia question 7/5/11
Hello! You helped me out not too long ago when I had an Ick problem, so thank you again!
Now I seem to have a new problem. My ammonia levels have been really high lately (fluctuating between .5 and 2.0).
I know you recommend ACE but I couldn't find this at either of our pet stores so I tried a product called AmmoLock which did absolutely nothing.
This is a newer tank (up and running only about 5 weeks) - I had 3 Mollies from my previous tank that I now have in my new tank along with a new Swordtail. Based on many of your articles, I figured that the high ammonia levels could be due to the tank being new and not yet going through an entire cycle.
Despite several water changes and adding AmmoLock, I could never get the ammonia levels below .5.
<There should be no livestock present here>
Now I'm wondering if the high ammonia could possibly have been caused by a dead snail in our tank. We went on vacation and had a pet-sitter. Upon returning, our snail was dead. So I estimate that the snail had been dead on the bottom of the tank for about a week. Would that be enough to cause such high ammonia levels?
<Could be. Do read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/NH3ContrF.htm
and the linked files above. I would cease all feeding...>
Now for my tricky question... perhaps due to the high ammonia levels, my tank also started producing a lot of algae starting about yesterday (as a side note, I'm a total clean freak, so my tank is normally pristine!).
<Mmm, cleanliness is not sterility in biological settings>
Today I took my fish out of the tank, put them in a bowl of new water and completely cleaned out my tank, filter, gravel and plant decoration (I tested the water right before doing this and it was at a 4.0 for ammonia!
I'm not sure how my fish are even still alive?!) I added water conditioner, some aquarium salt and a product called SafeStart by Tetra that my fish lady highly recommends. I just tested my new tank water and the readings are perfect for every category. Just out of curiosity, I also tested the water in the bowl where my fish have been resting the past couple of hours.
The ammonia reading of that water is 1.0!
<Not surprising... not much effective means to convert...>
This was brand new water (not from their tank) that I added right before moving my fish. I used a net with the fish so there could not have been that much, if any, tank water mixed in. Can fish "store" ammonia on their bodies?
<Mmm, no... to some degree w/in their bodies, but are constantly producing, ex- and se-creting it>
Could it just be a slime layer perhaps that then washed off into the bowl? I just have no idea how this brand new water could have such a high ammonia reading?
<Normal metabolism>
Unless the fish are stressed about being in the bowl and that's causing a spike in ammonia levels?
I would love to hear your thoughts. I haven't yet added them back into the tank as I'm confused on this whole ammonia problem. Thank you!!
<Welcome Tiff, BobF>
Re: Ammonia question, rest... 7/7/11

Thank you! So far all is good with my new water, and my ammonia reading is finally at 0. I read online that the product I added to my new water, SafeStart, is a replacement for Bio-Spira by Marineland. I'll stick with this from now on as it seems to work much better than my previous products.
Thanks for your great website!!
<Thank you for this follow-up. BobF>

ammonia query (Goldie Children Care) 6/21/10
Hello Crew!
<Hello again,>
I've written previously and spoke to Neale about my Calico Ryukin, Pepper (aka- Peppie No Pew). He has what seems to be a swim bladder issue.
<Do read here:
Since then Pep have not improved or gotten worse. He's always been a strong swimmer despite his "balance"- or lack there of. He eats like he's never seen food and occasionally nibble on my finger when I'm cleaning his tank.
That was the update...
I've since found another question to ask.... (I read your site during the slow hours at work and now have read everything that pertains to goldfish and can't figure out a good solution for my specific situation) Here's my next question- You'll have to pardon me if the answer is straight forward and I have not figured it out. I'm new to the hobby. :)
Details First-
I have 3 fancy goldfish in a 20gal. tall planted tank. They are still small (roughly 2"-3 1/2") so I figure I have a little time to plan for my 40gal. long tank.
I am buying parts at a time due to budgeting.
<This is the most expensive way to do things, but I understand things aren't always as easy as we'd like.>
I have an Red Cap Oranda (Candy Cane- mainly just "Cane"), an bright orange Oranda and/or fantail (she's still young I can't tell if she's a cross as of yet) Mandarin (Mandy), and of course Pepper. The twenty gallon system
currently has large smooth gravel, moth balls, driftwood and rocks (from a local lake here in Florida) and a fake cavernous ceramic tree trunk I added to give them something to swim and explore (less boring).
I have two older Aqueon 20 gal. filters for the tank. I also have a BioWheel Penguin 200 ready for the 40gal. and in addition bought a Fluval U2 just in case. (the smaller filters are on the 20gal instead of the BioWheel and Fluval because I recently upgraded from 10gal. to 20gal. and am keeping them running in the 20gal. for safe measure.)
<Often these manufacturers say a filter is for a 20 gallon tank, but don't tell you that assumes the tank is understocked with small fish. I would always recommend buying the filter "one size up" in the range you're looking at.>
I feed them anything from peas, rice, dried bloodworms, Bok Choy, Omega One goldfish formula, Aqueon goldfish pellets, Hikari algae wafers, dried brine shrimp, blanched -whatever green in fridge-,seaweed, frozen omnivore's fish food concoction- every time I find something I think is healthy and give the trio a variety for their diet I buy it.
<All sounds great.>
I feed them once a day around 8 or 9 in the morning. The lighting system is said to be a light for plants (it came with the 20gal. Aqueon aquarium kit) I've held off on buying a better bulb since I will be upgrading soon anyways.
The water in the aquarium is very clear and the fish look perky and clean, shiny scales, swims and eats strongly, fins raised, very inquisitive, and the water has no smell. Their poop is short and kelp green at times, but what concerns me is- sometimes they are also kind of thin and stringy although there are no sign of parasites. I change 25-30% of the water twice a week and vacuum each time. I use treated tap water with a high PH (8.0 if I recall correctly). I would change their water with tap water (which I store in 1 gallon drinking water containers) then refill the containers add Aqua+ treatment (1 ml/gal) and leave it out in the sun until the next water change (every 2-3days).
<Why out in the sunshine?>
I rinse out the filters and let it sun dry and put an already dried filter in from the previous water change (I switch them for about 6 weeks then throw them out and get new ones) I also add liquid plant food for the plants (Kent freshwater brand 1ml/gal).
<Likely unnecessary if the plants are growing slowly/not at all. Some of those plants don't look like aquatic plants anyway. Google "Dracaena" for example -- a commonly sold non-aquatic that dies in, and thus pollutes, many beginner's aquaria.>
I have in the other filter a couple of bags of ammonia absorbers that I switch off and throw out every month ....am I forgetting any details that might help.....hm.....OH! the temperature is a constant 76 degrees F and they are away from a window (I know it should be cooler however here in Florida......yeah....)
<Not a problem for Goldfish.>
Sorry for being "long winded" I'm trying not to miss any details. Anyway, I am doing all that I can/know in the 20gal. tank at the moment to keep the ammonia level down but it is always at least .25mm no matter what I do.
<Does tap water measure ammonia 0.25 mg/l before it's added to the tank? If it does, then you likely have either ammonia or chloramine in your tap water. No big deal. Use water conditioner that removes both of these, and
ignore the any ammonia readings 0.25 mg/l or less. Only if the ammonia goes above that of dechlorinated tap water do you need to worry. So if the tap water has zero ammonia, but the water in the aquarium is 0.25 mg/l, then
yes, you have a problem. Overfeeding, under-filtering, bad filter maintenance, or too many fish. Perhaps some combination.>
I test with the liquid API Master Freshwater test kit. The color chart is difficult to read since the color always indicates the water is between .25mm and 0 (light green and yellow) I have to really strain my eyes to read, but assume it's a .25mm reading just to be safe. Nitrate reads .2mm and Nitrite is 0.
<That nitrite is zero is a good sign.>
the ammonia is the only thing I'm constantly battling with. Like I said the fish "look" healthy and are active, however I want to be safe. I don't want any long term damage to their gills. The tank is cycled. I am wondering if this is a classic clutter case. I don't over feed (they are fasted once a week and feeding(s) are once a day)...or at least I try not to. I will try to attach a picture of the tank so you can see the aquarium. I'm looking for anything less than obvious that I'm missing here. should I do more water changes?
<25-50% weekly should be ample.>
Would it mess up their bio-filter?
<In itself, no, you can do more water changes if you want. But I don't think justified in this instance.>
Should I wait and see if the bio-filter and can break down the ammonia more considering it is a newer tank?
<Possibly, but see above.>
(the fish wasn't in when it was cycling and I added a good amount of old media from the 10gal. tank) I want to keep away from using too much chemicals....so can I add something different from the ammonia absorbers I'm using? (gravel looking chips of a sand color is a mesh bag) May be take out one Aqueon filter and put in either the Fluval or the BioWheel? (the turnover rate is a bit high for the 20gal. though...) Is the PH a bit high?
<It is fine.>
Oh and I was wondering if there's anyway I can add a cooler that doesn't involve huge industrial sized machines that's bigger than the tank? :)))
<Make sure the tank isn't in direct sunlight. Also, you can open the hood and place a fan to blow air across the top. That will increase evaporation, cooling the water. Or, you can freeze some water in a Tupperware, and when
solid, float the Tupperware in the tank. That'll cool the water down. Don't go crazy with this though or you'll chill the fish! A one-litre Tupperware should be ample for a 20 gallon tank.>
Thank You so very much for looking over my e-mail. As always best regards to everyone and thank you for a good solid info. source.
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: ammonia query (Goldie Children Care) 6/21/10
Thank you Neale! The ammonia reading at .25 is from the aquarium not tap.
<If the ammonia reading of your tap water after adding water conditioner is zero, but the ammonia reading of your aquarium is not zero, then you have a problem.>
Are the moth balls ok for the aquarium?
<Moss balls you mean? Yes, they're fine.>
I had a suspicious feeling about one of the plants after reading your "out of my tank" article however I wasn't sure. Is the stringy poop something of concern if the are healthy?
<If the fish are fine, I wouldn't worry unduly.>
Thank you do much Ashton
for the reply!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: ammonia query (Goldie Children Care), bier payments 6/23/10
Hello again Neale.
Thank you again for you prompt response.
<No problem.>
I tested my water yesterday after switching out their filters and came across some peculiar findings...The water in the aquarium is in adequate conditions (Nitrate 0.2, Nitrite 0, and ammonia 0).
However you called my attention to testing my tap water and thus I did.
The ammonia level in my tap read to be 2.0 ppm. Is this common?
<Far from it, but do remember, aquarium ammonia test kits can, and often do, give misleading results. You may indeed have ammonia in your tap water.
But you might not. Chloramine will register as "ammonia" on an ammonia test kit. So too will chloramine that's been safely neutralised by water conditioner. So, the thing to do is to use a water conditioner that neutralises ammonia AND chloramine. You can then ignore the tap water reading! So long as the aquarium level is zero and the nitrite level is zero, you're fine! This is one reason I recommend aquarists use nitrite test kits rather than ammonia test kits -- much less scope for misunderstanding, and except for the first week or two in an aquarium's life, in the filter isn't working properly, you should get both ammonia and nitrite levels that aren't zero, so they're both fair indicators of
It grossed me out quite a bit. To answer you previous questions about the water being left outside in the sun, I heard somewhere that by leaving the water outside it will help remove chlorine and the like.
<Not as such. Letting water stand will allow chlorine to "evaporate" but not ammonia or chloramine or copper, so generally doing this pointless.
Much better to use a good general-purpose water conditioner.>
Also sorry for the "ashton" thing it was a spell check with me and my phone.
Thank You again!
(sorry if I'm abusing my privileges here with the Q&A)
<There's a tip jar on the front page. Feel free to buy me a beer! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: ammonia query (Goldie Children Care) 6/23/10
Well what part of the green planet are you on and what type of currency?
<I'm in the English countryside at the moment, but on the internet, it's all good! So feel free to use whatever's local to you.>
What is the cost of a twelve pack of your favorite refreshment? I'll get right on it asap. The least I can do.
<We're happy to help. The beer's just a bonus!>
cheers, dawn
<Likewise, cheers and thanks, Neale.>

Detectable ammonia in an established tank 6/21/10
Hi Crew,
I have an issue with ammonia / test kits / pH that I'd like to run past you. I have a 65G planted tank that I use to grow out angels. I hadn't actually tested the water in some time as it has been running for 4 years and keeps growing out big, healthy fish. I do monitor pH though because I keep the pH below 7 and I soften the water a little with peat. It has been stable at 6.4 which is a little lower than I'd like it but I've never had a crash.
<Indeed. I'm not a big fan of low pH systems except for very specific applications. For general community tank work, pH 7 is adequate, even for the majority of South American tetras. Hardness is rather more critical than pH.>
When I ran out of reagent I treated myself to an API Master Test Kit just out of curiosity. Nitrate and Nitrite were both 0ppm but I had a moment of panic when ammonia read at 0.25ppm. I assumed that with a pH of 6.4 almost
all of that was ammonium but I was still worried. Some frantic Googling explained that salicylate test kits give false positive readings for ammonia in the presence of Seachem's Prime (which I use). I calmed down but decided to purchase Seachem's MultiTest Ammonia which is supposed to give a true reading in the presence of Prime.
<Supposedly so.>
The free ammonia reading was 0ppm but the total ammonia reading was 0.04ppm. This doesn't seem to be a critical issue for the tank but I don't understand why I have any detectable ammonia.
<Oh, could be any number of reasons. At that very low level, margin of error is going to be a factor. Remember, scientific-grade colorimetry kits that are truly accurate down to hundredths of a part per million will costs hundreds of dollars. Anything sold to hobbyists will be a much more rough and ready alternative. It's the same problem with things like pH meters and marine aquarium refractometers. In any case, there will always be tiny amounts of ammonia/ammonium present in aquarium water. Provided nitrite was zero as well, and as you say free ammonia is zero, I wouldn't worry unduly.>
My tap water has chloramines but I obtained that reading 72 hours after the last 10% water change. Is it possible that the low pH is limiting the effectiveness of my filter (Fluval 305)?
<To a degree, yes, is possible; filter bacteria are "happiest" between pH 7.5 and 8, depending on the bacteria concerned.>
I understand that biological filters don't really work below a pH of 6
<Apparently the case, or at least, the filter bacteria we normally culture in biological filters aren't multiplying rapidly at such low pH levels. Below 6, they all but stop.>
and (I have read) Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter prefer a pH above 7.
<Certainly true.>
I also wondered if I could need more filtration but at the same time my
nitrite reading has remained at 0ppm. I assumed that if there was a problem with the filter I would see a nitrite spike.
<Indeed, though the ammonia bacteria and the nitrite bacteria have slightly different optimal pH levels, so may respond differently.>
I add and remove fish on a monthly basis on average but the bioload stays approximately the same. I haven't changed my maintenance or feeding routines. My plan at the moment is to continue monitoring closely and begin
to slowly raise the pH.
<Well worth doing, with the focus placed on hardness rather than pH.>
I'd be really grateful to hear any thoughts or recommendations.
<No simple answer here, but I suspect nothing to worry about.>
Thank you,
<You're welcome.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

15 gallon FW; non-zero ammonia; death, destruction; the need for reading... - 4/19/10
I have a 15 gallon aquarium that has a problem with its ammonia!
<This tank is far too small for Mollies and Black-Skirt Tetras; and marginal for Platies.>
Ever since it cycled it has been at 1.
<Then it isn't cycled.>
Now the past couple of days it has been getting in the 3-5 range! I don't know what happened. I feed them once a day(I have 7 small fish) (2 black skirted tetra,
<These are schooling fish and kept badly, as you're doing here, they get frustrated and commonly becoming nippy. Furthermore, their water chemistry requirements are completely different to those of Mollies. Like most tetras, Black Skirt Tetras prefer soft, slightly acidic to neutral water chemistry. Mollies generally do best in hard, basic water with at least a little marine salt mix added, and if kept in unsalted, freshwater conditions are very sensitive to low temperature and non-zero levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.>
2 Sunburst platy in which one looks kind of pregnant, 2 Dalmatian Lyretail Molly and 1 black molly)
<Mollies and Platies need hard, basic water. Mollies need quite warm water though, around 28-30 C, whereas Platies need cool water, 22-25 C. They aren't compatible. Long term this won't work.>
and I don't know what to do about the ammonia.
<Sure you do. You just haven't done it yet. Ammonia is essentially controlled in three ways: reducing the number of fish, reducing the amount of unnecessary feeding, and increasing the quality/size of the biological filter. Your tank is overstocked for what it is, and I'll bet the filter is badly maintained and you overfeed the fish. There may even be ammonia in your tap water you don't remove before using it in your aquarium. So there are four things to review. I can't offer any better advice without more detail on your system, e.g., filter size, how you clean the filter media each month, how much food you add, etc.>
I do regular 1/4 water changes once a week and 5 gallon water change once a month. 1 of my Dalmatian Lyretail Molly died yesterday...but only one died and the rest of my fish have lived longer than 2 weeks.
<Two weeks isn't much of an achievement to be honest. How did you cycle this aquarium? Cycling is the 4-6 week period BEFORE you add any fish. Did you do this cycling by adding household ammonia or by adding fish flakes
every day or two. I'm guessing you did neither, and just let the tank run maybe overnight. A lot of folks think an empty tank can cycle. It cannot. There needs to be an ammonia source. If you didn't cycle the tank properly,
then it's cycling now, and that's why you're killing these fish.>
I got a new one today and she is eating just fine.
<Stop. Do not buy any more fish until you have read about the needs of each species. Clearly you haven't or you wouldn't be adding these fish together in one too-small aquarium. Read:
I also have one more question. Can my Dalmatian Lyretail Molly mate with my Black Molly if one is male and one is female?
<In theory, yes. Whether they live that long in this tank is a whole other question.>
Thanks, Ally
<Glad to help. Good luck, Neale.>

Re: 15 gallon FW; non-zero ammonia; death, destruction; the need for reading... 4/20/10
I cycled my tank for a week, not overnight and added food in it twice a day for a week before getting any fish. I dont know what to do about the molly's and platy's but they seem fine together. Thank you for your help!
<It takes more than a week to mature a tank, so while a step in the right direction, you're very likely still going through the cycling process. As for the Mollies and Platies, for the time being they're happy, but that may not last. We get a gazillion messages about sick Mollies, precisely because they're difficult to keep in community tanks. Maintained together at 25 C in slightly brackish conditions, 2-3 grammes marine mix/litre, you might be okay. But I wouldn't bank on it, and you obviously can't keep tetras and other salt-intolerant fish in such a system.
Cheers, Neale.>

My test results :)... FW something 3/20/10
Hello Melinda!
<Hi Jordan!>
I have done my weekly water test and I have bad or good news. Okay
pH 7.0
Ammonia 8.0ppm!!!!!!!!
<Your fish are still alive?>
Rite 0ppm
Rate 0ppm
I see the ammonia is really high!!! Is it normal I think the tank is still cycling I'm guessing I am going to do my weekly water change tomorrow morning I haven't added any new fish.
<Water changes should be done more frequently during the cycling process.
This Ammonia reading is either an error (have you re-tested to be sure?) or means that your fish are suffering badly the effects of toxic ammonia. You want to keep ammonia as low as possible during this process.>
And the water is crystal clear, and I added 1 live plant thank you!
<You're welcome. I would have these results double-checked just to be sure.

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.>

Fishless cycling, Freshwater 7/8/09
Hi crew, the following is an Email I attempted to send Chris Cow Ph D.
author of http://www.tropicalfishcentre.co.uk/Fishlesscycle.htm .
Apparently his email is not working.
Does anyone at WWM have experience with fishless cycling?
<Yes, it quite popular with the crew.>
Greetings , I read with great interest the Fishless Cycling article and wanted to share my diary with you and possibly get some feedback. My wife is the fish person while my involvement is setup and cycling.
I have a broad mechanical/fabrication background and am enjoying learning about aquarium plumbing and function.
We already have a 10 gallon setup that we will use as a hospital tank that currently contains 2 Cichlids.
It turns out our well water is a natural for them ( Non chlorinated, high hardness/high pH).
We recently acquired a 2' x 2' x 8' 200+ gallon aquarium free (should have been my first clue) from our neighbor.
<Wow, nice.>
It was up and running until I moved it to our home on 6/1. After 2 weeks of work refinishing the base, building a new canopy, beefing up foundation, polishing scratches in acrylic tank, re plumbing pump and filters and overhauling the under gravel filter it was time to fill and cycle.
<Lots of work.>
Added 2 1/2" fine gravel over filter(filter covers the entire bottom with 3 evenly spaced 3/4"suctions in bottom of tank).
<While under-gravel filters work just fine they are sort of out of favor currently, they do have some pitfalls to be aware of. See here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfiltration.htm and here
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfiltrmedart.htm for details.>
Added 15- 6" x 8" x 4" rocks along with 2 dozen fake plants and a 48" air wand.
<The rocks may cause filtration issues with the UGF as detailed in the above articles.>
Twin cartridge filters (plumbed in Parallel) with a tested pass thru rate in excess of 600 GPH
This aquarium will be an all Cichlid No live plant setup.
<Can't offer much on the Cichlids as I have never kept them, but we have many dedicated cichlid keepers on the crew.>
Lighting is 3- 24" Dual compact fluorescent (3- 10,000K 65 Watt white and 3-Actinic Blue 65 watt for a total of 390 watts)
<Overkill here if you do not plan on keeping plants, but should work fine,
although it might encourage algae growth.>
All test kits are by API and ammonia is 10%. Tank temp set AT 80 degrees.
Due to time constraints all tests performed once daily at 7 AM
Tap water : 0 Amm(ammonia) , 0 Ni(nitrite) , 0 Na(nitrate) , 200 ppm KH(carbonate hardness) , 200 ppm GH(general Hardness) , pH 8.2
KH , GH , pH did not vary from beginning to end so I have omitted them from the daily readings.
6/12 filled tank added 4 tsp(Teaspoons) Amm to achieve 5 ppm
6/13 Amm 4.0 , Ni 0 , Na 0 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/14 Amm 5.0 , Ni 0 , Na 0 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/15 Amm 5.0 , Ni 0 , Na 0 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/16 Amm 10+ , Ni .25 , Na 8 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/17 Amm 10 , Ni 1 , Na 10 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/18 Amm 8 , Ni 5 , Na 10 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/19 Amm 2 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/20 Amm 0 , Ni 5 , Na 7 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/21 Amm 0 , Ni 5 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/22 Amm 0 , Ni 5 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/23 Amm 0 , Ni 5 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/24 Amm 0 , Ni 5 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/25 Amm 0 , Ni 2 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/26 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/27 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 7 , added 2 tsp Amm Cartridges changed
6/28 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/29 Amm 0 , Ni .5 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/30 Amm 0 , Ni .5 , Na 8 , 50 % water change & added 2 tsp Amm
(thought we were done, my mistake) Green algae and brown algae (Diatoms ?)appear
<Common in new tanks, water changes to keep it in check.>
7/1 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/2 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/3 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/4 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 20 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/5 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 10 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/6 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 15 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/7 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 10 , added 2 tsp Amm
Green algae and brown algae(?) multiplying to cover all large rocks.
<More water changes will help, 10-15% weekly ideally in my opinion, biweekly at least.>
Sooo I'm a little confused.
Hardness and pH haven't changed, Ammonia has crashed, Nitrite seems to beholding at 1 ppm, and Nitrate seems to be wallowing around 10 to 20 ppm.
<Nitrates are the end product, and need to be removed by water changes, more filter material may be necessary to get the nitrite down to 0.>
Am I missing something or is this on track and just not done cycling ?
<Is not done, although hopefully will be soon, usually takes less than a month but with this sized tank and it may take a little longer.>
Will the brown algae(Diatom?)die off or do I need to take action?
<Nutrient control should keep it in check, pretty hard to eliminate completely especially without live plants to compete for resources.>
Still having fun just want to make sure I'm not spinning my wheels.
<You seem to be on track here. Enjoy, you have a nice start here and a tank that gives you lots of options.>
Thanks, Chris
<Chris> <<Stop pouring in the ammonia. You're forestalling establishment of nitrification... RMF>>

Re: Fishless cycling 7/9/09
Hi Chris
Thanks for the input. Your site and forum are far and away the best resource on the web.
It has been in the back of my mind for a while that the amount of Ammonia I add every day could be overwhelming the biological filer, so unless you have reason to object, I think it is time to shift gears. The article says to do a 80% water change before adding fish so I'm thinking I could do this and at the same time reduce the ammonia added daily to 1 tsp.
I will continue to test daily and also take your recommendation of 15% water changes weekly.
If the Nitrite drops to Zero that should support the idea that the biological filter is either to small or not completely developed ( I lean toward the latter).
My wife ordered (on hold) 60 juvenile - 1" Mbuna Cichlid : 12 Demasoni, 12 Electric Yellow, 12 Red faced Mac, 12 Rusty and 12 Obliquidens Zebra's from www.livefishdirect.com. According to the article the amount of ammonia we have been adding is well in excess of what a fully stocked tank will produce.
<Probably, but I would still not try to introduce all these fish at once, small groups least to most aggressive.>
If this is true 60 juveniles should be a small percentage of what the biological filter will eventually need to support.
<Most likely.>
Assuming I do all the above how long should I wait to stock the tank ?
<Once nitrite hits 0 and stays there you should be ok.>
I knew when I built the canopy that the lighting was overkill but I didn't want to build it twice and I wanted to allow for future possibilities.
<Good idea.>
I will continue to research the under-gravel filter (thanks for the links).
Assuming that the UGF stays what would your recommendations be for possible live plants to combat the Diatoms/Nitrate ?
<Live plants are often problematic with UGF, could try some floating plants, or set up a sump/refugium to grow plants in.>
We have a standing order on hold for
<Stock slowly, patience is key here.>

Re: Fishless cycling 7/12/09
Hi Chris Saw my previous post(with your inputs) on WWM website.
At the end of the post "RMF" added a comment to the effect that I should stop adding ammonia altogether.
<Yes... adding ammonia at this juncture is very likely poisoning your beneficial microbes>
If I interpreted this correctly then I either have to add fish immediately or the biological filter will die for lack of ammonia/waste.(?)
<Neither my friend. I would simply add a "pinch" of some dried food at this point... the protein therein is sufficient to supply nitrifying microbes>
A brief update : After an 80% water change and reducing daily added ammonia to 1/2 Tsp ammonia,
Tests on 7/10 thru 7/12 show 0 ppm Nitrite and 5 ppm Nitrate. If this continues it is my intention to stock the tank on 7/17.
My question for you or any crew member with Cichlid experience is about the manner in which I stock.
My wife and I have researched this extensively and the consensus seems to be that if we are going to have an all Cichlid tank, then the proper method is to Purchase "All juveniles" of varieties known to coexist successfully and to introduce them all at once.
<This is the best approach>
From what we read this leads to less aggression and attrition. What are we missing in this equation?
<Perhaps to start with all individuals of about the same size>
Once again I thank you for your patience and help.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner/RMF>

Re: Fishless cycling 7/13/09
Thanks so much! Will go with adding flakes starting tomorrow. And yes, the plan is to stock all 1"/1.5" juvenile fish.
Once again, we think that you have one of the greatest sites around for information.
We spent many hours reading WWM prior to doing anything to setup this tank and I am certain that the information we have gleaned will keep us out of trouble.
Thank you again and have a great day!
Dawn & Chris
<Thank you D & C. BobF>

Ammonia problems in pond, trop. 9/22/09
Hello Crew--
My husband and I are having some problems with ammonia in our pond, and we don't know why. I really hope that you can help, because it's so frustrating to have built this indoor pond for these fish, only to have them be subjected to ammonia! That really wasn't the point! This is in our 1,000 gallon pond with the two Pacu and one Red-Tailed Catfish. About a month ago, I noticed a slight ammonia spike (.5, at the most).
I immediately assumed that it was time to increase water flow through our filter, as we were only running about 4,000 gallons per hour, and I know that 10x is recommended. So, we ordered three new pumps, and they're 5,000 gallons per hour each, so, after the plumbing (elbows and such) we should be getting around 12,000 gallons per hour. The filter is approximately a 7 ft by 1.5 ft by 3 ft area, and it is
filled with Matala filter media pads, just stacked one on top of the other. Tucked onto the very top of the pads is a layer of filter floss. We're still experiencing ammonia problems.
<Unusual... By what measure?>
The only chemicals used in the pond are Prime, and now, Organica Pond Clarifier, because it absorbs ammonia. However, we were not using this product prior to the ammonia presence, and I have never heard anything about Prime causing a false positive on ammonia tests, so I think we have ruled out a false positive, especially considering we use Prime in all of our tanks. Our ammonia tests come in at zero when I test the other tanks, so I know it's not a bad test. We have no nitrite, which is strange, because there's always a little ammonia, except in the couple of days after we add the Organica. It's like the cycle is "stuck." Though I didn't like it, at first, I did not add Organica. I didn't want to arrest the cycle, so I waited. Ammonia climbed to 1 over a week and a half, and I started doing water changes and adding the Organica. However, I would think that within this time, we would have seen nitrite. Nitrate is between 10 and 20. We do 30% water changes (just changing water) once per month, and also rent a pond vacuum and vacuum the gravel
<I would skip a month or two and see if this ammonia disappears>
once per month, which removes roughly the same amount of water. Prior to the initial ammonia spike, we didn't do any of the things that usually kill off beneficial bacteria -- no non-treated tap water was used to clean anything, no over-cleaning, and no medications have ever been used in the pond.
The only thing I can think of that's left is pH, which is 6.0. Could this be crippling the biological filter?
<Yes... it could>
I have read in various replies on the site that bacteria don't function as well at this low level, but since we have a 180, 125, and 75 gallon tank with no problems, I'm not sure this is the cause. What do you think?
Should I work on raising the hardness? Our water comes out of the tap at 6.6.
<I would be buffering this up to about neutral, 7 or so>
We are in the process of setting up a 50 gallon stock tank with water lettuce and a fluorescent fixture with grow lights to slowly pump water out of the pond, through the stock tank, and pour back into the pond. We're hoping this will help (it should be up and running tonight). The water lettuce has about twelve to fourteen inches of roots on it, so we have our fingers crossed that we'll see some sort of change.
<Might well help>
I'm sorry for the novel, but I wanted to give you as much information as possible. I appreciate any help that you can give me, because I'm stumped, and the situation is frustrating! Thanks again for all you do.
<Thank you for writing so completely... I would do what you have planned and look into bolstering both the pH and alkaline reserve. Please read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Ammonia problems in pond -- 9/22/09
Hello Bob--
Thank you for your reply. We will stop gravel vac'ing the pond for a couple of months, and will begin to add Neale's Rift Valley Salt Mix at the dosing he suggests for community aquariums. We'll probably do this very slowly, monitoring hardness and pH constantly, and only add enough to get to a pH of 7. Hopefully, we'll see some improvement. Again, thanks.
<Thank you Melinda. Please do report back with your findings, results. Bob Fenner>

Re Ammonia Problems in Pond... Resolved! 10/4/09
Hi Bob--
I'm writing back to update you on an earlier e-mail, in which I explained that ammonia levels were present in our pond. We began to add Neale's salt mix slowly. In order to avoid doing 250 gallon water changes over and over, we mixed up a batch which would "treat" 500 gallons in a 55 gallon barrel.
Then, we added half of the barrel every few days, testing each time. We have now treated 75% of the water at Neale's community fish suggestion.
Our pH is up to 7.2, and KH is at 3. Best of all, ammonia has been 0 for six days! Our nitrates are up, so we'll do a large water change tomorrow, and, obviously, replace what we take out, but this worked so fast, and it was so easy, and so cheap.
<Ah yes... like moi>
I really appreciate your help in this -- it would have taken me a lot longer to come to the conclusion that you suggested. We're going to begin using this mix in our other freshwater aquariums, as well. I have one more question -- do you suggest we go ahead and add the rest of our solution in the barrel to the pond, thereby treating 100% of the volume?
<I do>
Or, should we add the rest, and raise KH levels higher? Will this raise pH more (we are a little above what you suggested to me in your e-mails)?
Thank you again!
<Should raise pH only slightly. BobF, who will share with Neale>

Thanks for your help with the indoor pond! 10/4/09
Hi again Bob--
We'll definitely add the rest of our solution of the salt mix to the pond. Thanks for your speedy reply, and please pass along thanks to Neale for coming up with the mixture!
<Will do so>
I just wanted to provide a photo of the fish that WWM has helped so much.
And, no, your eyes are not playing tricks on you... there are 3 Pacu now.
The last, and final, Pacu was 20 inches long, and living in a 55 gallon tank before he came to us.
<Imagine its relief! To go from a world 13 inches wide to your home>
I have promised myself, the fish, and my husband that no more fish will be added! Thanks again for all of your help throughout this process.
<Thank you for sharing. BobF>

Re: Ammonia Problems in Pond... Resolved! 10/5/09
<Should raise pH only slightly. BobF, who will share with Neale>
<<Thanks for the update. Yes, Bob is correct, raising the KH generally doesn't raise the pH wildly. the minerals responsible are buffers, steadying the pH in both directions. For pond fish, something around pH 7.5 is ideal. The pH will go up and down through the daytime cycle, depending on photosynthesis, even as high as pH 9, but this doesn't seem to cause pond fish problems. But a pH drop, much below 7.0, is much less tolerable, especially for carps (e.g., Goldfish) which don't like soft/acid water.
Cheers, Neale.>

re: Thanks for your help with the indoor pond! 10/5/09

Hi again Bob--
We'll definitely add the rest of our solution of the salt mix to the pond. Thanks for your speedy reply, and please pass along thanks to Neale for coming up with the mixture!
<<Glad to have helped. The mixture certainly *isn't* mine. I'm trying to think where I got it from. If I recall, from the excellent The Krib site?
That sticks in my mind for some reason. Anyway, credit where credit's due.
Enjoy your fish! Cheers, Neale.>>

... fish sitting down... SW, FW?... Ammonia present... 6/23/09
Dear Crew,
Two of my fish have been sitting down at the bottom of my tank and one of them has already died. And the ammonia level is low. Their doesn't seem to be anything wrong.
What should I do?
<? Keep reading>

Ammonia Issue 05/23/09
High Ammonia Issues In Goldfish Tank
Hello, A month ago I upgraded from a 10gal to a 40gal tank. I've had the 40gal tank set up for a few weeks now and I have 2 lionheads, 2 calico Ryukins, 1 black moor, and 1 common goldfish in there. For a while the ammonia in the water was ok, until I checked it again a week ago and the ammonia spiked to 8.0ppm!! I put in ammo lock, and I've done several water changes but I am unable to get the ammonia down at all. There are signs of nitrites and nitrates.
The API liquid tests read
Ammonia: 8.0ppm
Nitrate: 5.0ppm
Nitrite: 0.25ppm
I do not know why for the past week there was the ammonia spike, and why I am unsuccessful in getting the ammonia lowered. It's stressing me out, and I'm sure it's stressing my goldfish out! I'm assuming the tank is cycling but again the ammonia is extremely high. I have yet to lose a fish but I'm worried that soon I will if I can't figure this out. I've tested the tap water for ammonia and it tested 0 ppm. I do treat the water with AquaSafe and make sure it is at room temperature before I put it back in, I've siphoned the rocks to clear the debris. During the day the fish are swimming and active, however during the evening they seem to hangout at the top of the tank. Again I've used ammo lock to neutralize the ammonia in the tank. Perhaps get an air stone to help put more oxygen in the tank? I don't know what else I can do to alleviate this ammonia problem. Any help would be great. I'm running out of ideas, and I am bound and determined to not lose any fish. Thank you, Annie
< You should have transferred the gravel and the original filter media with the additional nitrifying bacteria to the new tank to help it get cycled. You are starting from scratch so you are experiencing new tank symptoms. Add Dr. Tim's One and Only as per the recommendations on the bottle. In a couple of days the ammonia and nitrite levels should come down to normal levels. Then you can start to do water changes to keep the nitrates under
20 ppm.-Chuck>

Re: Ammonia Issue 05/23/09
High Ammonia Problems When Upgrading Tank
I did transfer the old gravel over, and I did transfer the old filter media and we did add cycle. I don't know if cycle works but I did make sure those steps were followed. I will use Dr. Tim's and follow the directions! Thank you for the advice, it's been the most resourceful information on this problem. Thank you, Annie
<I have found that Dr. Tim's products to be very effective in getting tanks started again. Many tank maintenance pro's use it when setting up new tanks. The filter media and gravel may not have been enough for the bigger tank or something may have happened to these materials during the upgrade to slow down their progress.-Chuck>

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 vs. temperature 9/17/08
Is ammonia less toxic at 69 degrees F. than it is at 74 degrees F. ?
<Makes no difference. Ammonia is dangerously toxic at any temperature. Cheers, Neale.>
<<Mmm, more so with elevated temperature, but do agree otherwise. RMF>>

The tank won't cycle! Never ending ammonia. 8/1/08 Hello, <Hello,> I have a frustrating problem that I brought upon myself. I went a little crazy when cleaning an established 15 gal. freshwater quarantine tank. At the time, it was hosting seven young fancy platys. They had been there just over a week. When I did the regularly scheduled water change (I change 20% every other week in all my aquariums), I noticed there was quite a bit of Pleco dirt on the bottom left over from a previously quarantined fish a month before. You guessed it. I over-vacuumed the gravel which siphoned off two-thirds of the aquarium water and, like a fool, I had changed the filter pad that week too. A couple days later I had three dead fish, tested the water and found the ammonia spiked at 2.0 <Removing water has ZERO impact on how well a biological filter operates. There are virtually no bacteria in the water. If you want to change 100% of the water, then go ahead. Just did this myself yesterday with my 180-litre system because I emptied it to redecorate. All I did was make sure the temperature and water chemistry weren't too different from the water I'd taken out. Likewise rinsing or vacuuming filter media (including gravel) does no harm provided the media doesn't dry out and isn't exposed to water with much different temperature or water chemistry.> Still kicking myself, I pulled the surviving fish and stuck them in temporary hospital tanks and waited for the 15 gal to start cycling and balancing out. That was five weeks ago. The ammonia is still at .5 and nitrite and nitrate are still not showing up at all. What's going on? Should I be doing something besides waiting? Where's that nitrite? <To be honest, I suspect the tank is under-filtered, overstocked, and/or overfed. Platies are too big for a 15 gallon tank once they're mature, and while you might have been fine when they were younger, as they grow they will of course put more strain of the filter. Undergravel filters can work very well, but their capacity depends on how deep the gravel is, how fast the water is moving, and how small the gravel particles are. In any event, if you are finding your ammonia isn't going down, then one of these issues is to blame: review the filtration, stocking, and feeding.> I thought about trying bio-Spira but I did not have any luck with it when I bought it once before. Any advice is appreciated. I really miss having that big quarantine tank always standing ready. I'm almost considering tearing the whole thing down and trying to start the cycle up again. The java moss and crypts are growing beautifully, BTW. ~Mars <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: The tank won't cycle! Never ending ammonia. 8/2/08 Thanks, Neale. I doubt overstocking is an issue here. <The filter is inadequate/immature, or the tank is overfed. The ammonia comes from decaying organic matter, and that comes from fish and their food. There's really no argument over this linkage, so if you have ammonia in your aquarium that never goes away, then your problem is one of these issues. My gut feeling is under-filtration, or at least improper maintenance of the filter or perhaps bad choices re: media. Review these topics, and address any problems.> The seven platys were quite small and, as it is a quarantine tank, only destined to stay in the tank for 2-3 weeks. The Pleco that resided there the month before had been long removed to his new home. There were no other fish in the tank. However, judging from the amount of debris, it's clear I hadn't vacuumed properly after the Pleco was moved. <OK.> The filter isn't an undergravel but a Penguin Bio-Wheel 100 which is supposed to filter up to 20 g. <Not a fan of going by the recommended capacity of a filter. I much prefer the turnover rating.> I was looking at it yesterday and wondering if this filter might be the cause. The tank is a 15 tall and the intake does not reach all the way to the bottom so there is likely a lack of circulation on the bottom. <Sounds a good analysis. I'm just not wild about these hang-on-the-back filters. I know they're popular in the US, but you hardly see them in the UK, and I don't miss them! If you're on a budget, then a properly set up Undergravel filter or a sponge filter will work much better, with less to go wrong and much easier maintenance. For breeding tanks, sponge filters are particularly good because the gentle water current helps the baby fish, and the baby fish love nibbling on the algae and micro-organisms that grow on the sponges. Bubble-up box filters can also be very good for the same reasons.> I mocked up an extension and will give it another week to see if that helps. It's odd as I have not had water quality issues with this tank before. It's been set up for a year and a half. <The filter may well be mature but just inadequate for some reason. Do consider that filter cartridges containing carbon are basically wasting space that could be used for biological filtration. When push comes to shove, biological filtration must always be the priority. Again, that's why I like sponge filters for small tanks.> ~Mars <Cheers, Neale.>

Mbuna and Ammonia Problems 7/7/08 Hi there. Wondering if you may make a couple of suggestions regarding filtration, etc. <Sure thing!> A number of months ago, I read Ad Koning's book on African Cichlids. Since I was experiencing ammonia levels in my 55 Mbuna tank, I followed his advice and fed the fish once every other day (vs. 2-3 times per day). This brought on a great deal of aggression and I lost a lot of fish. So I went back to feeding them twice per day - an amount they can consume within 30 seconds. <I have to say I agree with your experience. Whilst in theory feeding fish less than once per day may have distinct advantages, on balance I'm in favour of the "multiple small meals" approach. All my day-active fish get two meals per day, but small ones. One in the morning, another in the evening. The catfish get their pellets or wafers at night, after lights are out. This way you spread out the ammonia and problems with uneaten food.> I then commenced doing 10% water changes every other day which did nothing to abate the ammonia levels. <Ah; well, if you're getting ammonia present "in real time", then there's three things to consider -- overfeeding, under-filtering, or overstocking.> I am back to conducting 30-40% water changes on Saturdays. Despite taking ammonia tests, which show no trace of ammonia, a few of the fish still flash. I've been treating the water with Amquel which neutralizes ammonia and I have found this effective. I also have a canister and a large hang on filter equipped with ammo chips. I change the filter media once per month (not at the same time intervals). <Chemical ammonia removers only work up to a point, and once a dose has been used up, any new ammonia produced by the fish is left untreated. Amquel is of no value at all in this context; it is exclusively for removing ammonia from tap water prior to adding fish.> I understand bio media aid in the nitrification process. Both filters are loaded with the stuff. What to do? I must be doing something wrong? <As outlined above. Given the tendency for Mbuna tanks to be overstocked, filtration has to be profound. I'd reckon on a big canister filter at least 6 times and ideally somewhere between 8-10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So adding a second big canister might be just the ticket.> Look forward to hearing from you. Lisa Mae <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Mbuna and Ammonia Problems 7/9/08 Hi Neale, thanks so much. With both filters (canister and hang on) I'm turning over an equivalent of 685 gph which meets the needs of the 55 gallon tank. The canister is only filtering 185 gph which is rather weak. Looks like I need to seriously upgrade the canister. What about media Neale? Is Zeolite effective if changed/recharged once per month? What do you use to combat ammonia levels and spikes? Thank you very much! Lisa. <Hi Lisa. The problem with combining multiple "weak" filters on a single big aquarium is that unless you position their inlets and outlets carefully, it is very easy to end up with corners of the tank with minimal water movement. Adding powerheads can help, as will an undergravel filter. But in all honesty, with fish are big and messy as Mbuna, filtration needs to be robust. If you are detecting ammonia, then you clearly don't have enough biological filtration. I wouldn't bother with Zeolite -- realistically this will be very expensive, and removing some biological filtration media from one filter to replace it with Zeolite makes no practical sense at all. So, what I'd look at is something like a couple of Eheim 2217 'classic' filters. These aren't expensive, have lots of capacity for biological media, and are extremely reliable. At about 260 gallons per hour turnover, two of them would give you well over 10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. You could of course simply add one and use that alongside what you already have, or combine one filter with a reverse-flow undergravel filter that would take care of carbonate hardness as well as ammonia. While old school, reverse-flow undergravel filters are inexpensive to set up and extremely effective at dealing with ammonia and solid waste. Either way, fill with good quality ceramic media or sponge for biological filtration. That should take care of your ammonia. In properly maintained, mature aquaria with suitably sized filters, you shouldn't get ammonia spikes or problems. It's as simple as this: if you detect ammonia, you either have too many fish for your filtration system; put too much food in the system for the filter to deal with; or just don't have enough filtration for the overall bioload. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mbuna and Ammonia Problems 7/9/08 This is great info - thank you so much! My problem has to be poor filtration - I only have about a dozen Mbuna in the 55 gallon so I'm not overstocked. I'll swap my current canister for the Eheim 2217. Thank you! <Hi Lisa. The concept of "being overstocked" is a practical rather than theoretical one, which is why I am leery of these inches-per-gallon rules. If you have a system where ammonia never gets to zero, you're overstocked. As you say, on paper at least a dozen 10-15 cm Mbuna should comfortably fit into a 55 gallon system. But in practise these fish are so active and have such high growth rates that it is very easy to find the otherwise reasonably sized filter being overwhelmed. I have a 40 gallon system in which I keep a few smallish tetras and glassfish along with a 15 cm Panaque nigrolineatus. Although water quality is perfect, the tank itself gets dirty very quickly simply because the catfish eats wood and produces masses of brown faeces. So it has two canister filters offering water turnover of almost 10 times per hour. Seems ridiculously over-filtered on paper, but actually the least I can get away with! In other words, one should go by empirical data -- ammonia tests for example -- rather than what is stated on the box the filter came in. Cheers, Neale.>

Water problems... ammonia, cycling, treating tap... -- 6/11/08 Hi! <Hello,> I bought a 20 gallon aquarium about a month ago. I put some fancy goldfish in it to try and help cycle it. <It's a lot easier (and nicer on the fish) to use a "fishless method". The best of these is merely to grab some filter media from one aquarium and stick in in the new aquarium's filter.> About 3 weeks into owning it I ran into an ammonia problem (obviously part of the cycling process I take it). I started frequent water changes (every day) because the ammonia level was in the stress-harmful zone (lost a fish). <Yes, ammonia is likely the problem here. There are commercial products that can jump-start the filter by adding live bacteria. The most popular seems to be Bio Spira, though I admit to never having used any of them. I prefer to "seed" filters using media from other tanks. 100% effective, zero cost!> My question is this ...my tap water even after conditioning it with dechlorinator is still in the safe range but not ideal. <Meaning what? It has ammonia? First thing -- there is no "safe" level of ammonia; it's like being pregnant, it's a binary state sort of thing. So, you either have zero ammonia in the water (which is good) or not zero ammonia (which is bad). Some water supplies do contain traces of ammonia, which can be fixed using products like Ammo Lock or even many dechlorinators. Secondly, do remember that if you use some (older formulation) dechlorinators on tap water that contains chloramine rather than chlorine, you actually *make* ammonia.> Obviously, when doing a partial water change the ammonia level goes up after a couple days because the tap water isn't ideal to begin with. <Hmm... the quantity of ammonia in new tap water should be zero or very low; if the ammonia concentration goes up or at least fails to go down, then the problem is more about lack of filtration, overfeeding, or both.> Any ideas of what to do to remedy this problem (without buying expensive bottled water)? <Tap water, particularly hard, alkaline tap water, is ideal for Goldfish. Use an ammonia-neutralizing conditioner on all new water, and that should take care of the small (typically less than 0.5 mg/l) ammonia in the tap water. Your job now becomes ensuring the filter system handles the ammonia produced by the fish.> I was thinking to try a double dose of the dechlorinator? Currently I am using "AquaSafe" (1 teaspoon to every ten gallons) <Not familiar with the brand. In any case, use the dose as indicated on the package. If it says it neutralises ammonia, then fine. If not, you'll need to switch to (or supplement with) another conditioner that neutralises the ammonia in tap water. Understand this: no "ammonia removing" conditioner will do ANYTHING about the ammonia produced by your fish. As far as you're concerned, these are utterly different issues.> Any advice you could give me will be greatly appreciated as I would like to get away from changing water every other day <I understand. First, make sure you're treating new water correctly to remove tap water ammonia. Secondly, review filtration/feeding to see if the ammonia produced by the fish is excessive. Do have a read of the 'setting up' articles we've got here at WWM, perhaps starting with these: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfiltration.htm Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Water problems
6/13/08 Thanks for the informative advice! <You're welcome.> I went today and bought a larger filter instead of the 10-20 I bought a 20-40 Ammonia levels dropped almost immediately after I put on new filter and changed water. <Very good.> One fish has ammonia scars on his little tail (not bad I've seen way worse) He keeps flashing around tank. Anything I can give him that will ease him? <Treat for Finrot. He'll recover. Provided the damage is superficial and limited to the fin membrane rather than the body, fish tend to recover quite well.> Thanks Oh, also the tank I have I bought at a garage sale for a buck and it seems to be a homemade one as it is much taller than wide (not like in stores). The tube from filter doesn't really go down to the middle of the tank. Any Ideas on how to extend it? <What sort of filter is this? One of those hang-on-the-back ones? Not sure they can be adjusted as you suggest. This does cause a problem that the bottom layer of water could be relatively stagnant. Adding an airstone would help, or even another little submersible electric filter or air-powered sponge filter placed closer to the bottom of the tank.> I checked with PetCo and they sell nothing. I was thinking maybe a piece of plastic tubing from Menards to attach? Could that have been one of the problems? (The tube goes down around a foot and a half) about 3-4 inches from middle of tank) <Well, it could help. But the pump mechanism might not work so well if the inlet is located that much further away from the impeller. I'm not an engineer though so can't comment with any authority here! Cheers, Neale.>

Chronic Ammonia? 5/10/08 Hey y'all, Love the site, it has helped me more times than I can count. This is my first time writing in as I cannot find the answer anywhere else. I have had my fresh water aquarium up and running now for about three months. At this time It contains a silver Arowana- 8in, a clown knife- 8in, a jewel cichlid- 3in, a common Pleco- 4in, and two crayfish. My dilemma is that the ammonia has registered around 4 ppm for about a month now. I figured the test may have gotten old so I replaced it with a new one and the readings are still around 4ppm. Now for the puzzling part: My Nitrites have consistently been at zero since the cycle finished, my Nitrates are around 10ppm consistently, I do bi-monthly water changes of 25%, I do not overfeed my fish, my aquarium is bare bottom, and no one in the tank exhibits labored breathing, scratching, or any other stressful behavior. As I monitored the cycle the ammonia spiked (as it should), and never dropped below 1 ppm. Then I noticed in the months that followed the ammonia would not drop. Now it has apparently skyrocketed to 4 ppm just in the last month as I said. Could there be an inhibitor for the ammonia eating bacteria, or could there be something in my aquarium giving me false positives? I would have to assume that if my ammonia was really this high for any length of time my fish would at the very least be acting funny, and my crayfish would definitely be dead. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Regards James <Hi James. As you seem to understand anyway, ammonia comes primarily from the fish, either as an excretory product or else because of the decay of uneaten food. So you could review your filtration and consider whether an upgrade (or perhaps a service) is in order. For fish of the type you're keeping, I'd be recommending turnover rates of 8-10 times the volume of the tank. Things like carbon are (in my opinion) a waste of filtration space, so removing carbon the make space for more biological media may be in order. Water changes of 50% weekly would also be recommended for this type of system, but that's not really relevant to this particular problem. More important might be the size of the tank: unless the tank is fundamentally big enough (in terms of volume) to dilute the ammonia the fish produce, the combination of a too-small tank with too-weak filtration system can result in persistent levels of ammonia. Or put more simply, the filter never gets enough time to remove the ammonia in the system, and the tank isn't big enough to dilute what remains. For these types of fish, the aquarium will need to be 750 l/200 gal in size once the fish are adult, though juveniles might get away with a somewhat smaller system. Now, the other issue is servicing the filter. Filters need a certain amount of care, in particular cleaning. Removing the filter media for a rinse is fine, but some folks overdo this and end up killing the filter bacteria. Conversely, if the filter gets clogged, the lack of oxygen lets the bacteria die as well. One last consideration is your water. Some water supplies come with a certain amount of ammonia; others are treated with chloramine, and this can split into chlorine and ammonia when treated with traditional dechlorinator. So test your tap water. Cheers, Neale.>

Problems with ammonia, Goldfish in too small a world, reading 4/28/08 I have two fancy goldfish who are currently living in a 10 gallon aquarium. <Stop! This is the real problem... Need more room than this...> I am now aware that ten gallons is not sufficient and I am looking into upgrading to 30 gallons, hopefully in the near future. In the meantime, I am trying to cycle my tank <!? Fish should not be present during> and I am very concerned about the ammonia levels. Unfortunately, I did not know about cycling ahead of time. <Take the fish back> The pet store did a quick water test of my two day old aquarium water and said I was "good to go." I knew that a biological filter would have to develop, but I thought it was OK to do that with the fish in there. <No> I didn't know how hard it would be on them and that I would have such trouble addressing the issues with ammonia. Regardless, I now have two adorable fish looking to me to provide a safe environment for them. I added the two small goldfish (one Oranda, one Ryukin) 17 days ago and I have been trying to keep the ammonia levels down by doing daily partial water changes of 25 to 40%. <Mmm... the changing of water will forestall the establishment of cycling> This does not seem to be providing adequate relief from the ammonia, however, and the tank does not seem to be cycling yet (Nitrates and Nitrites are both at zero and the ammonia does not decrease significantly). I am extremely concerned for my fish. I just can't get the ammonia down to an acceptable level. Today, I placed them temporarily in a fishbowl with water that is similar to what they have in the tank (regarding temperature, pH, etc.) just to give them some relief from the ammonia while the aquarium cycles. <Won't work either> I plan to change the water daily (at least partially) and closely monitor ammonia. At least I can change the water in the fish bowl and let their aquarium cycle without them. I just could never get the ammonia down to zero in the aquarium. Is this OK? How long can they stay in the fish bowl? I just want them to be somewhere safe while their home undergoes all the ammonia and Nitrite, etc. spikes. I want them to go back in as soon as the aquarium water is safe for them. Please help. I love these little guys <Then return them temporarily... use a real cycling product or other means... see below> and I know a fish bowl is not where they should be but I don't know what else to do. Thank you so much. Sincerely, Laurie <Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

HIGH AMMONIA >>> EMERGENCY PLS HELP! Hello, I will start off by saying that I have a 60gal freshwater tank which has been up n running for about 2 1/2mo now ... I have 14 1" baby piranhas, 1 3" Pleco, and 1 3" black lobster ... I have about 10 live plants and 2 whisper 60 filters (660gph total filtration) ... <Not sure about mixing Piranhas with the other stuff, and obviously once these fish get even more than 3" long, they will need a massively larger aquarium.> My nitrites & nitrates are always at 0 (I would assume due to the live plants) and my ammonia is always in an acceptable range. <There is NO ACCEPTABLE AMMONIA RANGE. Let me be crystal clear about this! If you can DETECT ammonia, you've got problems. Period. End of discussion. Piranhas are notoriously sensitive to ammonia, and any exposure to the stuff is life threatening.> Well I tested my ammonia lvl one day and it was at 8.0, so I decided to clean all my filters and get the gunk out of them, rinse/change my filter media, and I also added 2 3"x8" bags of carbon/ammonia reducer pellets. I vacuumed my gravel thoroughly twice and did a 50% water change. I did not find any type of dead fish or decaying matter other than what was in the gravel. I also tested my tap water and its ammonia reading was 0 ... <If you have this much ammonia in the system, you have MAJOR problems. Let's take this one step at a time. Carbon is neither here nor there, and in most freshwater tanks is a waste of space. Anything carbon can do, 50% weekly water changes can do better -- and without the need for the carbon to be replaced every month. Or the risk of removing medications. Next up, ammonia remover is irrelevant here. Ammonia remover is for fixing very specific situations, e.g., hospital tanks or breeding tanks. You'd need huge amounts of the stuff for fish on a high-protein diet, and you'd also need to replacing it all every few days. So don't waste your time with it. Finally, if you have no ammonia in the tap water, but lots in the fish tank, it means only this: overstocking, overfeeding, under-filtration. Pick and choose from these. Likely more than one.> so after doing my water change, I tested it and my ammonia WAS STILL AT 8.0!!! I don't get it at all ... and not to mention my water looks dirty and my water smells??? <Almost certainly overfeeding and/or under-filtering.> I took out all the deco fake trees and everything too ... I don't understand what is causing such a large ammonia reading ESPECIALLY after doing a water change and cleaning all the gunk out of my filters ... like I said I did not find any decaying matter at all so I do not understand y after such a large water change my ammonia is still high ... PLS HELP ME bc I'm going nuts trying to figure out what's going on! Thx for your help, I look forward to your knowledge ... thx again! <You need to [a] stop feeding; and [b] remove everything but mechanical/biological media from the filters; and [c] insure those filters are mature/adequate to the task at hand. Simple as that! Hope this helps, Neale.>

How to clear 0.5 Ammonia Level? -- 03/07/08 Hello, My 20cm Flowerhorn who is in a 55-gallon tank has stopped eating and changed swimming behaviour for a week. The pet store tested the water, everything is OK except ammonia level (0.5) and I was recommended to clean and use Ammo Chips for the filter . I did as recommended but today when the pet store tested again. the ammonia level is the same without improvement. I usually change water every day, about 1 gallon every 1 or 2 days to remove fish feces. I don't know how the tank got that ammonia level. Please show me how to remove the ammonia or any solutions to use for ammonia removal. Thank you. Sophie <Greetings. Ammonia-removing chemicals won't work in a situation like this. Ammonia-removers are designed either to remove ammonia from tap water or from small, lightly stocked aquaria where biological filtration can't work. In your case, the problems are one or more of these: overstocking, under-filtration, or overfeeding. Pick and choose. I'd recommend a program of major water changes per week, at least 50%. The filter needs to be providing at least 6 times the volume of the aquarium in turnover per hour (i.e., the filter used in your tank needs a turnover of not less than 6 x 55 = 330 gallons per hour). Reduce the amount of food you are providing; fish need no more than they can eat in a couple of minutes. Big fish only a need a single meal per day, and skipping a meal once a week will do no harm at all. Lean towards green rather than meaty foods to provide energy with less protein, as this will also help. If you fail to manage the aquarium as I've described, this fish will soon be dead: cichlids have very little tolerance for ammonia. Cheers, Neale.>

Guppies... hlth., use, dis-use of ammonia removing tap/source water treatment products 02/29/2008 I'm sorry for being a nuisance but I wonder if you could give me a bit of advice, I purchased 2 male guppies and 2 female guppies yesterday to go with the other guppies in my tank but two of the males have since died, I checked the water and found that the PH, Nitrate and Nitrite were smack on the correct level, but the ammonia gave a reading of 8.0. <Means one of two things. Firstly, the filter could be completely immature (i.e., the fish produce ammonia, but not ammonia gets converted to nitrite, let alone nitrate, so you detect zero nitrite and whatever nitrate level you have in your tap water. Alternatively, you have a source of ammonia above and beyond what the filter can cope with, e.g., ammonia in the tap water, or a lot of decaying organic material. Either way, extremely bad news.> I added some "Ammo Lock" to the water but when I checked it this morning it was still high so I changed a third of the water and added some "Tap Safe" I have just checked the water again and whereas all the other readings are correct, the ammonia is still between 4.0 and 8.0 so I added some "Interpet Ammonia Remover" <OK, you're misunderstanding what these Ammo Lock-type products do. They do not remove ammonia produced by the fish or from decay. All they do is neutralise small (typically less than 0.5 mg/l) amounts of ammonia that sometimes are found in tap water. If your tap water has ammonia, then obviously adding it to an aquarium would be bad, so these product render than ammonia harmless. What they CANNOT do is remove masses of ammonia constantly being produced by livestock or decay in the aquarium. If it was that easy we wouldn't bother with filters! So put them away; they are as much help here as a bottle of mineral water would be for putting out a forest fire. You need to establish why your aquarium is generating ammonia (because it is). Review: stocking, feeding, filtration. Do also check you are using the correct dechlorinator: if your local water supplier uses chloramine, but you use a dechlorinator that doesn't treat chloramine, you end up with a measure of ammonia in each bucket of treated water. Stop feeding the fish, for a start. Check the filter is running and mature. Do 50% water changes DAILY until things get down to normal. Ammonia is incredibly toxic to fish, and anything above zero will kill them quickly.> Do you have any suggestions on why all the readings are fine apart from the ammonia. <Outlined above.> The other thing which puzzles me is that although the guppies have died, all the other fish are thriving, including two very small molly fry which are between a third and half the size of my neon tetras. Many thanks for your help. <Hmm... fish that have been in deteriorating conditions will adapt (to a point) whereas new stuff added from a clean tank to a dirty tank will just keel over and die. But the short answer is if you have ammonia in the water, then chances are all the fish will die.> Regards, Gaynor <Hope this helps, Neale.>

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