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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Ammonia 2

Related Articles: Ammonia, Nitrates, Nitrites, Establishing Cycling, BioFiltrationPhosphate, Silicates, Phosphate

Related FAQs: Marine Systems, Ammonia 1Marine Systems Ammonia 3, Ammonia 4, Importance, Science, Measure, Control, Chemical Filtrants, Troubleshooting, Nitrates, NitritesPhosphate, Silicates, Test Kits for Marine Systems, Chemical Filtrants

Some life forms are so sensitive to ammonia exposure, they literally melt. Bornella sp.

Lingering Low Level Ammonia Reading Hi There! Thanks so much for your quick response, Scott! <Glad to be of service!> This is a follow up email for the one below (sorry to keep bothering you!). We did another water change today and when we checked the levels afterwards, Nitrates were at 3.0 and ammonia was still somewhere between .25 and .5!! <I'm not concerned about the nitrate (you didn't mean nitrite, right?), but the ammonia level is a problem> We have a 30 gallon marine tank, with about 25 lbs of live rock, and a Penguin 330 BioWheel  and the only changes that have happened are that our snails had babies (there's probably about 20 little guys in the tank ). The only other thing in the tank is a yellow tang. We did have a strange incident back in December,  when we went away on vacation,  our Lawnmower Blenny disappeared when we got back. It was pretty weird. We never found him...he wasn't on the floor (we had the top open for the automatic feeder) and we never found any bones or pieces or anything! (can a fish spontaneously combust?) :-) <You'd think, huh?> But that was so long ago we couldn't imagine that having an effect right now...could it? <I doubt it. On the other hand, if there has been a lingering ammonia level for some time, it is a slight possibility> Any insight you could give would be great. Thanks so much for your help! Joanne and John <Well, guys- I'm thinking along the lines of a lapse in biological filtration. I guess the best course of action here would be to continue routine maintenance, utilize activated carbon or other chemical filtration media, and monitor water carefully. Also, it can't hurt to have your water checked by another aquarist with a different ammonia test kit. Perhaps your reagents are outdated? Worth a shot...Good luck- and do keep me posted!> p.s. do you guys accept donations or anything? We really appreciate the help! <Well, we just hope you keep visiting the site and share your experiences with others! Sharing knowledge and experience with a fellow hobbyist is the best "donation" that you could make! Regards, Scott F>

Ammonia 2/16/04 Dear Anthony: <cheers, Connie :)> Cheri and her husband were here yesterday, and pronounced our tank in good condition, so our sandbed is safe and all is well, with perhaps adding one inch of sand gradually. <ahhh... great to hear!> Cheri brought her water tester with her and then we ran an ammonia test, and lo and behold we have .025 ammonia reading.  The conclusion was reached that our 30 gallon plastic water containers from Home Depot are the culprits, as the plastic is not for human consumption plastic (food storage).  We had no idea that it was the containers and Joe is going about finding the correct containers today.   <there are many possibilities... although you are correct that its best to use food safe containers. Still... do test your new seawater in another vessel too... its actually possible that the ammonia is in the sea salt! Impurities do get through. There is also the possibility, rather likelihood, that the ammonia is simply from recent activities in the tank. Don't throw away those plastic cans just yet ;)> Our problem is this:  I am getting a male boulardi wrasse on Friday to replace a male who died during acclimation. 1.  If we can get containers and r/o water in time to mix it, how much water in our 60 gallon tank would it be safe to replace before Friday?, <hmmm... I'm not sure I follow how the new fish relates to the tank. Will the new fish be quarantined in a separate QT tank? Hoping so. Else, it is a scary thing to do - value of the fish, risk to the other sin the tank with these notoriously bad shippers (disease), etc. To answer your question, though... one or two 50% water changes would be no trouble at all. As always, adjust temp, pH and salinity very closely> 2.  If we can't get this all assembled and mixed in time, could we use Amquel to neutralize the water?    <I really don't care for such products... and they will corrupt the readings on many ammonia test kits afterwards (Nessler's reagents). Do avoid it and rely on water changes and careful feeding instead> 3.  Is there anything else we can do that you can suggest?  This particular wrasse is fragile and I don't want him to die because of this ammonia problem.   <Ughh... yes, very fragile. And I realize now that this fish is going into the display. Please please please my friend get a QT tank set up ASAP. It is absolutely necessary. If not to avoid the risk of disease... then to handle this precious living treasure (a very limited resource) in a responsible manner. Putting any fish into the display without QT is like playing a game of Russian roulette. I do beg this of you for your own good my dear friend> Cheri's husband says it probably wouldn't bother the fish but Cheri thinks otherwise.   <I agree with Cheri... and place the odds of the fish living at a not too favorable number> We really value your opinion and will appreciate anything you can add to this dialogue to help.  I can't put off getting the fish, I have waited three months, and the seller keeps forgetting I exist. <at the risk of beating a dead horse <G>... the QT tank must be set up and conditioned before any fish is purchased. Its better to pass on it and give it a chance to live elsewhere than watch it die in your possession. Patience :)> Thanks in advance (again).  Your fan, Connie <in shared admiration, Anthony>

Nessler's Reagent Strikes Again! Greetings!  Want to say thanks again for your web site and all the great information you have there.  <If you loved the planet, the hobby as we do... you would/will do the same>  Here is my problem. I have a 55gal marine setup and up to this past week, I was using bottled water from the store because my tap had unacceptable levels of copper in it (planning to build a mini-reef eventually). Since I was worried about chlorine & chloramines, I was adding Amquel+ by Kordon. Now when I tested my water at home, I was using a test kit by Tetra and I was coming up with 0 nitrites, 0 nitrites and 0 ammonia. When I bring a water sample into my LFS (local fish store.....I'm still learning the abbrev of your site) they always got readings of ammonia between 0.25 and 0.5 ppm even though I tested the water not even an hour earlier and got 0 ammonia. Everything else they tested always came up optimal (0 nitrate, 0 nitrite, SG 1.023, pH 8.3).  Water change after water change, still was getting the same results (my recycle guy must hate me because of all the empty water jugs in the bin). The whole time I was using the Amquel+ on the new water. I took a closer reading of the Amquel+ label and it says that you should not use an ammonia kit based on Nessler reagents. I found out that they are using the test kit Dry-Tab by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals.  Having a minor in Chemistry (it was a while ago though) I have an idea of what a Nessler reagent is. I am wondering if that is what Dry-Tab is using and Tetra is not (neither says anything about what they use on the box). Could this explain why they always get high ammonia readings while I am getting none?  <Yes... the conditioner is rendering the false negative result>  If that is the problem, it will be solved soon because I am now using RO/DI water so I no longer have to lug gallon after gallon home from the store.  <Good move>  My RO/DI water is also testing at less than 5 TDS so I do not see a need to continue the Amquel+ any more....unless you think I should continue to use it.  Thanks again!  - Ray  <I would discontinue its use. Bob Fenner>

System Under Siege?  Hello  <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!>  I've been flippin' through TCMA like crazy and I thought I would just ask the question to you guys.  <Sure>  Well, I started up my 55g again bout a year after moving.  Had 50 pounds of what used to be LR then I ordered a 45lb. box from the Drs. It was pretty decent rock. I had the major die off then the tank cycled super fast. I skimmed a little while cycling. After checking water specs everyday finally all systems go. It took maybe 2 1/2 weeks to cycle. Couple days after I added a coral beauty (lots of green algae survived the rock and tank glass or wouldn't have gotten him). He was great- loving the 4-5 inch sandbed and all the rock work. Oh, I also run the Prizm skimmer and it works pretty good in IMO, but it's the only one I've had, so I'm no expert. But I took out the clogged filters (activated carbon) to replace when I realized I was out, so I left one in and replaced with filter floss. Problems began. The water is cloudy- looks like smoke rolling around.  <yuck!>  I do a water change 1 week. My CB has the beginning signs of stress and maybe I'm paranoid, but I thought I spotted a little ich on his fins, and I can't seem to keep the ammonia away around 10ppm.  <Yikes! HAS this tank fully cycled? Detectable ammonia in any system at any stage is indicative of either an immature biofilter, or serious problems in the husbandry department! You must get a handle on what's causing the ammonia immediately!>  SIGH. He eats all day long from the rocks and the glass and he eats all that I feed him.  <Well, at least he's eating at 10ppm ammonia!>  So you see the bottom of my tank looks like it is being taken over by black worms. I siphon his waste out as much as I can get, but that is a lot of rock and I can't get behind it. Anyway, I thought that amount of rock and skimmer would be enough filtration. So what is the problem, and how can I fix it? Hope you can sort through my panicked scribblings and help me.  thx Mike  <Well, Mike, it sounds like there is something seriously wrong with the biological filtration in this tank! Ammonia will be undetectable in a system in which the tank has fully cycled, and will generally not manifest itself unless some major disruption has occurred. My advice is to utilize aggressive chemical filtration (activated carbon/Poly Filter), work the skimmer hard, and possibly utilize one of the commercially-available "bacteria in a bottle" products to help "kick start" things again. This is a very serious situation, and you need to get a handle on things right away. Keep testing the water as you go. You may also need to modify your system a bit, providing more circulation (fish waste should never accumulate like you're describing), and serious review of your husbandry habits (like feeding, etc.). React quickly, don't panic- but mind the basics, and all should work out! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Ammonia!  Could It Have Been Any More Tersely Worded? >55 gallon, 55 lbs of living rock.  Live sand canister filter and protein skimmer, tank's been set-up for 6 months started with 6 damsels, only 1 death, not bad, nitrate and nitrite are both zero.  Why is my ammonia always 1-1.5ppm, do 10 percent water changes 1x a week.  Any idea?  Thank you crew >>Uuuhh.. heh.. sorry, your brevity of speech has gassed me here.  My first inclination is to question the test kit and your water change practices.  Some dechlorinators are known to cause false positive readings with ammonia tests that use Nessler's reagent.  My second inclination is to tell you that if your fish and all are healthy, that it's another indication that there is less wrong with the tank than the test.  Marina

QT Crowd and Ammonia (1/13/2004) Hi Crew, I currently have my new fish in a 10 gallon QT have been there for 3 days. <I take it these are new fish you are quarantining, not ill fish you are trying to treat.> Coral Beauty 2-3" Blennies Salarias fasciatus x2 Yellow-Tailed Blue Tang 2-3" I used water from my display and a small rock from the display for my biofilter and a place for them to hide. <not enough biofilter> Because of the crowd I have been executing 3 gallon daily water changes with new salt mix. However I am battling ammonia (keeps jumping to .5). <Argh> Should I do larger water changes? <Not more than 50%.> I was planning a 3 week stint in the tank, I know this is a must for the Coral and the Tang, but could I remove the Blennies earlier to the display to reduce the bio load? <Better not to.> Any other Ideas, how about a chemical ammonia reducer <If your fish seem mal-affected, it would not be bad to use one dose of Amquel Plus as a last resort.> or adding some bacteria like "Cycle"? <You do need to increase your biofilter in there right away. A sponge filter would be good. Seed with Bio-Spira Marine if you can get it--provides almost instant cycling. Costs $20 per little pouch and is kept refrigerated at the store. You could put the extra in your main tank. "Cycle" takes weeks. In my QT I use a combination heater/sponge filter I bought at PetSmart. Quite a handy gadget actually.> Also, is there any way I can put the rock back in the display after the cycle, or should I just let it die and use it for a little house for future QT use? <We generally recommend PVC fittings rather than LR for shelter in QT. There is always some small risk that these fish might leave some parasites behind on that piece of LR. If you can leave it in the QT with no fish for 6 weeks, then you can be rather confident that there are no cysts on it.> Thank you for your time and this forum. KR  <A pleasure.>

QT Crowd and Ammonia - Sorting it Out >Marina, I'm sorry, you misunderstand me the fish for the new QT are the fish already in my display. >>Ah, alright! >i.e.: Maculosus Angel tank bred (3-4") 1 Yellow Tang (3") 4 Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris tank bred (1-1.5 ") 1 Starcki damsel (3") 2 Neon Gobies I've purchased this second QT (30 gallon long, with skimmer, filter and heater) to remove them from the display, treat and run the display fallow for 6 weeks. I am not buying more fish, that's all I need right now. I purchased the 4 fish "currently" in regular QT before I knew of the outbreak. I also have purchase a larger tank for these fish as well, since this is gonna take awhile. >>Ok.. WHEW!  I was trying to sort everything out there, and it sounded for all the world as though you had all these fish in the q/t.  Gotcha. >By the way my display is a 210 gallon, should be enough room for these guys once they are squared away right? >>Absolutely.  If I understand you then, the Hippo tang will be being established before the yellow?  They should mix alright (the angels should be good, too), do watch the Starckii damsel  for aggression, too (glad it's only one!).  You can add a few more neon gobies, I love these little fish for their low bioload demands AND propensity to act as cleaners. >Thank you for your time and advise. I will follow the quarantine plan to the letter.  Kurt >>I think you have also been answered by Adam, I haven't read the full outline, but I believe we may pretty much jive.  Good luck!  Marina

Mysterious Ammonia Spikes (12/25/2003) I keep getting ammonia spikes every third week.  After I change 10-20% water, it goes from 0 to 20+.  Nitrites are 0 Nitrates are 10~15.... this is expected due to my set-up - 85 Gal FOWLR tank. 9 Damsels (8 yellow/blue, 1 domino), approx: 60lbs LR (getting more) with approx: 10 mushrooms (which are increasing in size and new ones growing like no-ones business). Filtration: Hagen AquaClear 500 (BioStars and Sponge) Modified UGF SeaClone Skimmer (what a mistake buying that was) <there are certainly many better ones.> Any thoughts on the spikes....?  Jess <It sounds like this is associated with your water changes. I suggest you test the ammonia level in your source water. If that tests negative, mix in the salt, let it stabilize and test again. I had problems with the brand I used to use adding ammonia to my water. Hope this helps, Steve Allen.>

- Ammonia Spike, Help! - Good Morning - thanks in advance for your help.  History of tank: been up for 5 months 45 gals 75lbs live rock 20 lbs live sand 2 powerheads 201 & 301 Amiracle SL-5 Hippo Tang Six Line Wrasse 15 - 20 % water changes every 2 weeks using a water tap purifier. Test water- no ammonia.  While I was away last week , some of the snails in the tank starting dying - When I got home all snails dead - 2 hammer corals dead - star polyp, spaghetti coral looking real bad. Ammonia levels super high as high as 70. <Egads!> Did a 15 gallon water change immediately. Later in the day cleaner shrimp died, still ammonia level high. Did another 5 gallon water change that night. Next morning all corals dead - ammonia level still high. Removed all dead coral, moved live rock around found some more dead snails and removed them. Did another 15 gallon water change, and last night a 5 gallon change All that is left in the tank is the Hippo Tang, six line Wrasse, Sally light foot crab, and about 5 red & blue crabs. Ammonia - 60 Nitrates- 40 Nitrites - 0 Salinity - 1.025 Temp - 77 pH - 8.0 What can I do to save what is left in the tank? <Larger water changes - if your ammonia level is 70 and you change half of the water, that's only going to reduce the ammonia by half... need to do several of these in a row.> And also what should I do to prevent this in the future - my daughter and I want to make sure we do not endanger the livestock again. <Don't load up on the snails... only two or three in a tank of this size - no doubt that problem triggered the next into a domino-type reaction. Likely the ammonia is the result of the die-off. Large [more than 50%] water changes are your friend.> RT <Cheers, J -- >

Can't Get Ammonia to Zero in Salt System. >Hi Crew, >>Hi Rick.  Marina here. >Have searched the site for some help and haven't found the answer, yet, but hopeful.   >>While working on your answer, I got cut off, here's a good place to start -- http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/index.htm >I have a 45 gal setup with a CPR protein skimmer, an Emperor 280 filter (BioWheel removed), 4 inch sand bed, 37 lbs of live rock and a PC 50/50 light.  The system has been running since January.  Currently I have 1- peppermint shrimp, 1- hermit crab, and 1- Royal Gramma occupying the tank.  The LR is covered with Coralline algae, Grape Caulerpa (growing very actively, remove handfuls bi-monthly), have several anemones, a mushroom coral and some Xenia.  Have a good amount of Coralline algae on glass and pumps as well.   >>While coralline algal growth is a good thing, it's not as important as the health of the invertebrates you're housing right now. >SG = 1.025, Temp = 79 degrees, pH = 8.2, Alk = normal, Nitrite = 0, Nitrate = 0 and Ammonia < .25.  The ammonia has been less than or equal to .25 for ever.  My trusted Reef store will not sell me any more fish until I get it down to zero.   >>Then try another test.  This is actually MORE suspect than anything else, especially if your fish and inverts are healthy.  I prefer Seachem, Salifert, and LaMotte. >I have been doing 15% water changes at least twice a month to help the ammonia and rid my tank of some Red Slime.   >>Aha!  You definitely have a nutrient export problem.  Do tweak your skimmer to ensure you're getting the nastiest, stinkiest skimmate possible from it.  Also, 15% isn't much at all.  Make it 25%/week while you've got the Cyanobacteria bloom.  Also, test for phosphates as this could be a source of nutrients for the Cyanobacteria.  See this link: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm >Was at the local pet store yesterday and was talking with a couple of hobbyists.  One suggested that I treat the tank with PRIME to reduce the ammonia content.   >>??  No, best not to. >Another suggested that because I have only a single fish in the tank that the bacteria is dying off for lack of sufficient levels of ammonia to feed off of.   >>This is a non sequitur.  There are exactly enough bacteria being cultured to convert the ammonia to nitrite and nitrate.  If nitrification *weren't* occurring, you would have many dead invertebrates, and one unhealthy fish. >In the past, I've introduced CYCLE into the tank, thinking that there weren't enough bacteria available to handle the load (said thought with only one fish in a 45 gal tank!!). >>Eek, no.  Please don't, this only ADDS nutrients to the system (as evidenced by the Cyanobacteria). >Please help!  Do you have any ideas?  Is the tank safe with a level hovering around .25 for the introduction of more fish??  Will more fish help the balance?  Should I reintroduce the BioWheel (suggested to be removed by my reef store guy - Nitrate Engine)?   >>AHA!!  Another non sequitur!  If you think about it, there will ONLY be end result nitrate because of initial ammonia production (nitrifying bacteria--the two species--oxidize ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate.  This SHOULD occur no matter WHAT).  The ways to control nitrate are nutrient export via foam fractionation, DSB (deep sand bed), which is natural nitrate reduction, utilization of refugia (growth of macroalgae which are then harvested thus nutrients are removed). >Will PRIME save the day? >>No. >Thanks for your time and advice, Rick >>Try getting a different test kit, and check the reagents used for ammonia readings.  Nessler's reagent is known to give false readings when other chemicals (dechlorinator) are used.  Also, it could simply be a cheap or old test kit.  Your best indicator of system health are its residents, and if THEY'RE healthy, chances are that you don't really have this ammonia problem.  Search the site for "ammonia marine", "Cyanobacteria", and "marine test kits/marine water quality".  Best of luck, and how do I get my own personal submarine?  Marina

Ammonia Crew, Is Purigen a more effective means of removing ammonia than Zeolite. <Yes, per weight and application> My application is for keeping shad and herring in a 35 gallon bait tank. What are some things I can do to have cleaner water and better bait. Should I use Purigen? <It's worth trying... but I want to remind you that I would continue to monitor ammonia and pH to keep them in check, and still be doing regular water changes. Bob Fenner> Sincerely, Jason

High Ammonia, No Change Hi Crew, <Tom> On July 12th I began setting up my first marine tank the humane way. I used household ammonia marked 10%. From the outset I put too much ammonia in the tank., .6. I then added "Cycle" and "Stress Zyme" according to instructions. I also put some fish food in the tank. <That's a lot of ammonia total...> I know that I am supposed to be patient, but there has been absolutely no change since July 12th. I am using "Master Saltwater Test " by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. <Try using a different test kit to see if it agrees with your current results. Also, consider adding a very small piece of live rock or sand from a fellow hobbyist's established system to seed more aerobic bacteria. Other than that, patience...> Can you shed some light on this problem. Thanks, Tom <Best, Chris><<RMF would also do a massive water change to dilute the current toxic level of household ammonia present>>

Ammonia in Change Water 07/27/03 <Hi there, PF with you today> Hey there Crew, I'm having a problem with Ammonia in my Change water.  I looked for about two hours searching for "ammonia in make up water", "ammonia in change water", and "ammonia in stored water".  I know I've read FAQs re: this same thing, but couldn't find it.  Here's the problem: I have a 2" yellow tang and a 2.5" Sebae clown in a 20 gallon QT, this after a rather nasty outbreak of Ich in the main system. They've been in there for the past two and a half months, while I redo the main tank.  They've been clean of any Ich since then, BTW.  I decided to add a Neon Goby (Gobiosoma oceanops ), for some help just in case.  Well, when he entered the tank he automatically hid.  No big surprise there!  A couple of hours later, he came out and was swimming in a jerking manner, and periodically acting like he had a hard time swimming upright.  He would sort of swim upside down or on his side, although he would right himself and perch on the side of the glass.  I didn't QT him, partly because I read from one of Bob's responses that they are generally clean and should be OK to go right in.  Also, the LFS I bought him from does QT all new arrivals for several weeks, and I didn't see any signs of Ich/velvet on any of their fish.  Maybe I made a mistake, I don't know.  Anyway, his swimming prompted me to test the water in the QT.  I've been doing 25 -50 percent water changes twice a week since the fishes have been there.  My ammonia showed at about .5 mg/L.  BTW, I used three different test kits, and all showed the same. I decided to test the change water and it showed .25 mg/L.  I use RO water from a nearby water store.  I usually make up about 20 gallons at a time in a Rubbermaid 31 gallon storage container.  I have a Rio 90 power head with air pump attached and a 150 Watt heater in the container.  I add the water, turn the powerhead and heater on.  After 24 hours, I add the buffer.  Wait another 24 hours, then add salt.  It then usually mixes for at least 36 hours, the whole time being aerated.  The water sometimes lasts me 2 weeks, but usually only one.  Am I doing something wrong?  I don't add any dechlorAMinator, as I've read on your site that it should be superfluous with the storing/aerating.  I've never tested the water from the store, but I will be asking them for their test results.  Any suggestions would be great. <Well, the store would be the first place I check. They could be using old membranes on their equipment. Your makeup routine sounds good. Personally, I use dechlorinator (use one that smells like vinyl), and then buffer the water back up to the appropriate pH. You might want to invest in your own RO/DI unit. Hope that helps, PF>

New Tank Won't Start Cycling 07/23/03  Dear Crew <Hi Dave, PF with you tonight> I am still relatively new to this hobby (6 months) and have been very successful with my first FO tank (20 gallons) because of your site and this is the first time I have had to write in (which is a good thing). I have now upgraded to a 90 gallon system with sump and overflow system.  The tank has been set up with salt water for 5 weeks and I added 60 something pounds (32kg) of cured live rock 4 weeks ago. I also added with the live rock some bacterial starter along with a 10 litres of water and a cup of substrate from my 20 gallon. After the first 2 weeks that my rock was in I tested every 2 days and the ammonia stayed at .25, nitrite 0 and nitrate 5 never seeing a rise in Nitrite. Temp 26 degrees Celsius, ph 8.1 and sg 1.024, skimmer running. So I added my two clowns from my 20 gallon tank to see if that would spike the ammonia (planned to remove once ammonia started rising) and still two weeks later the ammonia is flatlining at .5, Nitrite 0 and Nitrate rose to 10. I have removed the clowns and am stumped as to what to do to get the cycling process started. pH is still 8.1, temp 26, and sg 1.024.  Thanks, Dave <Well Dave, start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm there's a lot there to learn about. Instead of using your fish, you can use pieces of raw shrimp to pump up the ammonia levels. A lot of it also is a matter of time. Also try adding a little more substrate from your other tank, you could use the water from your 20 when you do water changes on the new tank. Good luck, PF>

Ammonia (7-11-03) Hi again I was wondering if I could get around the ammonia rapid rise before it happens so my fish are ok and my tank stays healthy I have a 35 gallon saltwater tank with 4 small fish in It and I was wondering if you could instruct me on how to stop the ammonia rise before it happens? <Change your water and add cured live rock. Cody> THANK YOU SO MUCH YOU ALL ARE A GREAT HELP TO ME  RICH. H.

-Detoxifying ammonia = pH drop?- Hello Crew: <Hellooo, Kevin here> I am eagerly anticipating getting my copy of the new book soon. (Am also looking forward to Michael Paletta's new on advertised in AFM this month.) <Me too!> There was a post today about uncured LR & ammonia. The person also asked about the effect of this on pH. I noticed that he has been using Amquel. Unless he is using the new buffered Amquel Plus--which I haven't seen in any store yet--the Amquel may be driving the pH down too. <A common way to detoxify ammonia> From the bitter experience of using it without reading the fine print, I learned that even the dose recommended will instantly drop the pH several tenths. AmmoLock 2 does not lower pH. Anyone using old Amquel in a marine tank needs to counteract this effect with buffer. <Anyone using ANY type of ammonia detoxifier should sit back and think about what they're doing. Water changes and protein skimming are all that are needed to cure live rock. In an ammonia spike emergency there should be newly mixed seawater on hand for a massive change.> The instructions state that the dose can be freely repeated. During a severe ammonia crisis, I did two consecutive doses. In 10 minutes the pH went from 8.2 to 7.5! <Yeah, there's nothing fun about that! This is the same thing that happens naturally when fish are shipped, which ends up keeping them alive. Unfortunately, this isn't so great in an established aquarium. This will hit the FAQ's for everyone to take note of. -Kevin> -- Steve Allen

Ammonia Nightmare! WWM Crew. <Scott F. here today> Before I get into my question I wanted to say your web site was been a tremendous help for me and my salt water tank.  Thanks to this site I eel I'm becoming much smarter about how I do things (outside of the mistakes I've already made) for my fish and tank. <Awesome! Good to hear that!> So, on to my rookie mistake (I'm new to saltwater but did have quite a few freshwater tanks).  I've setup a 60gal salt FO tank with no live rock but I do have live sand (as my local FS suggested although it seems I should have done LR).  I have good filtration with a wet/dry rated up to 200 gallons (with a mag 7 that turns the tank 6-7 time an hour), protein skimmer and a UV (not running as the moment).  I cycled the tank 2 months ago with 4 damsels for 5 weeks and then traded them in (after the cycle was complete) for a Blond Naso tang (another mistake, from reading the FAQ's it seems they like bigger tanks but my LFS said it would work great) <Grr...> and 2 green Chromis.  All was well, the water tested good with ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate .2ppm, and pH 8.2.  I have had these fish in the tank for 4 weeks (tank up time 3 months) and decided to add another.  I went down to the LFS and got a Blue Faced Angel around 3-4" in size (LFS said the size was ok but now I think he might be a little big for my tank and also they told me no need for a quarantine tank as the fish are in the stores tanks for 2-3 weeks, another mistake). <Yikes, and yikes! A Blue Face Angel does not have one of the strongest survival records in captivity...and to not quarantine ANY fish is just gambling! Like, during those 2-3 weeks at the fish store, NO other fishes came into contact with this guy- and no water from other tanks entered the "quarantine"...Nope- doesn't cut it for me. <Glad you're skeptical, too!> Now I've got big problems, the biological filter is not keeping up with the added fish waste (ammonia) load.  My ammonia is a .4ppm and my nitrite is .2ppm with everything else looking ok (nitrates .2ppm).  I've done 3 water changes (2 33% changes, and Tuesday did a 50%) and still can't get the ammonia level down below .2ppm before it starts to climb back up to around .4ppm.  I can tell my fish are starting to get stressed, the blue face is not happy, and I don't quite know what to do now.  It seems like the water changes are slowing down the biological but at the same time it helps reduce the ammonia and nitrites.  I could setup a quarantine tank but would have the same problem with ammonia because I don't have any filters running with any good bacteria I could move over (I will setup one so I do have an option for the future). <Good idea...plan for the future with a good quarantine setup.> What would you do in my shoes...Thanks, Brent <#1) Don't take advice from that LFS...2) I'd purchase some commercial bacterial product, like "Cycle" or "Fritz Zyme", and add or adjust a protein skimmer to get to work on this tank. I'd avoid huge water changes until things settle down a bit. If it's absolutely necessary, I'd find someone with an established quarantine tank to help house these guys. Be patient, monitor water chemistry carefully, and stay on top of things...> Also, another question... My LFS said I should run Copper in my main tank (again this seems to be a mistake after reading the FAQ's). <It is...Chronic copper levels can do more harm than good, IMO> I've decided I don't want to do this so I added some activated carbon to help remove it.  It's testing 0 now but does it stay in the live sand even after I've removed it from the water? <Potentially. I'd use PolyFilter to help remove more of it...I'd also give it time to dissipate> Does this mean no live rock possibilities for the future or can I remove the live sand and get new sand and have live rock also. <Well, at least for the present time, I'd put those plans on hold. Even after a couple of moths, I'd recommend continuous testing for detectible copper, and you may need to experiment with some snails or hermits (I hate to recommend this, but it may be the only way)> Thanks again for your help with all of my mistakes!!! <Hey- we all make them...It's a part of the learning curve. Don't be discouraged- keep a good attitude and hang in there! Regards, Scott F>

High Ammonia >>Hello Brent, Marina here. >I apologize for asking a question that I'm sure has been asked a 1000 times.  I have a FO 60 gal saltwater (wet/dry, protein skimmer, canister for carbon and a UV) that is about 3 months old.  Last week I added a new fish (Blue Face Angel) and the ammonia started to climb.  Current levels are (Ammonia .4ppm, Nitrite .2ppm, pH 8.2, nitrates below .10ppm).  It's been a week and the levels are not dropping.  Do I do a water change (which I do every week 10%) to help lower the ammonia?  Do I wait and see if it will cycle through?  I'm starting to see some frayed fins (front fins) that I believe is possible ammonia burn? >>If you're seeing this (also, problematic for an animal very possibly collected with cyanide) then yes, I would do a large water change, on the order of 50% or better (do leave them a bit of water in which to swim).  Both the ammonia and the nitrites are troublesome and stressful for the animal, so, while some would say that you need to let the bacterial cultures build up, I think you may lose the fish to disease if you don't do something now.  Do this large change today, do not vacuum the substrate or anything like that, and take readings.  Do be sure that the test kit is a quality kit, and be sure that there are no interaction issues with your dechlorinator and the test reagent, too.  If you still get ammonia/nitrite readings, do another large change tomorrow, and test again.  Best of luck!  Marina

Ammonia Problems Hi, I have a new tank (36ltr) and after a week I added 2 clown fish,<you should let your tank cycle for 3-4 weeks before any livestock are added.>  3 live rocks and a mushroom that I put in the tank last night. Ph is good, ammonia is 0.3,<ammonia should not even be detectable, has your tank cycled yet?> temperature is 78,and salt level is good. The fish were fine this morning but this evening they are behind a rock, breathing quickly, moving very little and are staying just above the bottom of the tank.<The ammonia is the problem, you need to do water changes to reduce the ammonia levels. You should not have bought these two clownfish until you tested your water first.> The mushroom has fully closed up and is inactive.<Again because of the ammonia> I added bacteria this morning, changed 1/8th of the water just now, and reduced the temperature 1 degree Celsius but the ammonia is still 0.3.<That small 1/8th water change will not "change" anything. You need to do 40-50% water changes before your clownfish die. Ammonia is VERY VERY VERY toxic to fish.> Is the problem likely to be the ammonia?<YES> Is there anything else I can do?<water changes and hope that your fish and other life LIVES.> Please Help<Do look over the WWM site for info on how to set-up marine systems, etc> Pete<good luck, IanB>

Ammonia question Good morning! <Good evening> Sorry to bother you w/ such a beginner question. <That's why we're here, and it's not bother> I was reading through some info on your web site on ammonia spikes/rises and just wanted some clarification on my current problem. I have a 75 gallon reef tank (up for about 5 months): coral beauty, clown fish (both small), cleaner (1), pep shrimp (3), about 15 hermits and some snails. A few basic low-light corals and shrooms. 45lbs live rock, 2" crushed coral substrate <crushed coral (aka CC) tends to become a nitrate factory as small particles get trapped and decay in it. A better alternative is aragonite sand. Either a DSB or just 1" would be better than the 2" of CC you have right now. It's a problem in the works.>, and an emperor carbon filter w/ 2 power heads on sides of tank. I know I need a skimmer. <Thanks for sparing me the lecture. ; )  > I do two 5-gallon water changes weekly <Nice regimen>, pre-mixed for 4 days. I did a 5 gallon change last night, cleaned some algae and goop on the part of my filter that hangs in the water and removed one of the BioWheels (will remove the other one soon). <The BioWheels do produce nitrates, but they also remove ammonia. I would get the skimmer first and then remove them, 1 at a time over 2 weeks. See above about substrate too.> I checked my parameters about an hour later. Nitrites 0, nitrates 5-10, salinity 1.023, temp 78, pH 8.2, ammonia was 0.2. this was the first time I've gotten an ammonia reading since cycling. I feed my fish 2x's a day at 5 and 9pm. no excess food hits the floor. could the spike be from cleaning the extra areas?  <I wouldn't think so. My suspicion is that removing the BioWheel cut down on your biological filtration, but I don't think it would affect it that much. I'm leaning towards a hidden loss in your system, something that maybe lived in your LR has gone to that great tank in the sky.? I'll check again tonight. thanks, and like I said, sorry about the elementary question. <No problem, we all have to start somewhere. No one here was born an expert.> Mike <Have a good evening Mike, PF (a fellow Mike) >

Cleaner shrimp, Ammonia Hello, I have a 29 gallon tank with about 30-35 pounds of LR.  I have had the setup for nearly 2 months and according to my nitrite tests, it is finished cycling.  I have gotten rid of the damsels I had to help with the cycle and added a percula clown and a Firefish along with 2 large and 2 small turbo smalls and a few blue legged hermit crabs, (not including some stowaway snails and at least 1 crab in the LR). That's not overcrowded, right? <right>  I recently noticed that my clown was developing ick and since I don't have a QT ( soon to get one) I lowered SG raised the temp and even gave him a freshwater dip.  He looked better for a while then the spots returned (I realize I'm treating the symptoms, not the cause).  I then bought a Indo-Pacific cleaner shrimp the other day but the clown hasn't gone near it.  Is there anything that I can do to entice the clown into recognizing the shrimp as a cleaner? Granted I have only had the shrimp for a few days. The clownfish is tank raised, so does that play a part? <  Just give them time>Also, the ammonia is at about 0.25-0.15 ppm and a little concerned.  I saw some contrasting points in your FAQ about this, so is it better to let my LR and bio filtration get used to the lessened bio load or should I do a water change, ( I do 10 percent changes weekly regardless since the tank cycled). One last thing, I was considering a royal Gramma and/or a coral beauty angel.  What are your thought on that as far as compatibility with the live stock I have, bio load, etc. Love the site and the info is life saving.  Thanks for any advice, Joshua Wells < If you have livestock in there you will want to lower the ammonia to zero ASAP.  I would choose the Gramma over the angel as the angel will need more room than this and will probably terrorize the rest of the fish.  Wait at least 3 weeks before adding anymore fish to let the system stabilize and to be sure and make sure the tank is ick free.  Cody>

Mass Quarantine and Ammonia Levels After cycling a 90 gallon tank, I noticed one of my starter damsels had developed ich.  I immediately removed him but he soon died.  This is where my big problem lies:  my roommate purchased three fish (two dogface puffers, one about 2" and the other about 4", and a 1.5" Niger trigger) and put them in the main tank (no quarantine or any pretreatment).  I know I know...disaster struck. <Quarantine roommate from tank. Do not him/her get near it again or you may have another outbreak of shortsightedness/lack of information!> The trigger has developed ich, and I'm suspect about the little puffer.  I want to set up one quarantine tank for all three fish and run my main tank fallow for a month (specific gravity 1.017 and temp at 82, correct?). <Not necessary, run normal SG and 83 temp to push process/life cycle of ick along. You may find 2 months is better, a month is pushing it.> How big of a quarantine tank should I employ to house these three fish (cash and space is an issue) for joint treatment? <Get a Rubbermaid container the same size as the main, low cost, low light, plenty of room.> Also, how will I be able to keep the ammonia levels in check?  Will 10-20% water changes everyday be enough? <Perhaps, test daily to determine need.  Same for copper.> Will I really need to buy a filtration device, and if so, what do you recommend (specific products would be very helpful in guiding me along)? <Any filter to provide mechanical filtration (removal of actual waste/particulate matter). Aqua-clear, Marineland, etc. are fine.> My main concern is the ammonia since I'm dealing with the three fish.  I don't have a spare sponge for the bio media unless I use the only one in the main tank which is the prefilter over the wet/dry.  I don't want to use this b/c I don't want to introduce any amt of copper into the main tank when I return the sponge (I'm not an expert so I took my LFS' advice about copper being harmful to eels, inverts, and corals if I ever want to convert to a reef).  Hence, my concern about swapping sponges b/w the main tank and quarantine. <I would use the sponge and replace it when ready to run main. LFS is right about copper, do be careful to not cross-contaminate.  Sponges are inexpensive.> I've been reading through the vast info about quarantine procedure on the website, but I was hoping for an alternative to having a spare filter constantly running in the main tank just so I can run the quarantine tank when need be.  Any advice would be helpful.  Thanks. Sandy <Running a separate filter isn't necessary, the media can be in the wet/dry or hung tank-side at surface to provide bio-activity. Hope this helps.  Craig>

Ammonia rising Hello. <Hi, Don here this afternoon> I have a 90g with 90 lbs Kaelini rock. 1.5 inch fine sand. This was setup on 1/10/03. I have 2 actinics and 2 MH 175 10000k that were turned on 2/8 and are now on 8hrs/day. I have an AMiracle sump, g-2 skimmer, UV sterilizer, heater/chiller, and a 350 mag filter with carbon changing every 3wks. With my powerhead I figure 1100-1200 gph flow rate. I have 1 coral beauty in on 2/8 and 1 percula clown in on 2/15. Today's values-temp- 75, sg-1.023, nitrates- <10 but not 0, nitrites <.3(this is lowest value for TetraTest kit), ph- 8.5, dh- 12, phos- 1.0 ppm. I have a SeaChem constant read ammonia alert reading safe and a SeaChem free/total ammonia reading zero. My TetraTest ammonia is reading .25. Not since the first few weeks have I registered any ammonia. There are no dead fish or inverts (have not bought any yet). I do have a brown diatom algae problem that has existed about 2 wks but seems to be slowly clearing and for 1 week I am getting a green algae mostly on the glass. It is getting longer but does not seem to be hair algae. I have been scrapping this off the glass but not all of it. Can this ammonia rise have anything to do with either the brown/green algae? <Nope. Nitrates and Phosphate do though> I do 2 10 gal h20 changes weekly although this am I did a 15 gal change to try and bring down ammonia. will this level harm anything and what should I do to fix it? thanks <Yes, any ammonia or nitrite will stress eventfully kill the fish. I would say this is an anomaly or a test kit problem. I guess if you are feeding heavily that could be causing the ammonia (Decaying food). Adding scavengers would help. Do you have an LFS around that can check these values for you? I would test the test here. Don>

Dealing With An Ammonia Spike... Dear Crew: <Scott F. with you today> Sorry to bug you, but I have a perplexing and potentially dangerous problem for my fish. My 80G FOWLR with 2-stage refugium (10+18G) has suddenly had an ammonia spike to 0.5. Nitrates & Nitrites both 0. pH=8.2 I've been monitoring parameters weekly and have had no detectable ammonia, nitrite or nitrate for more than 2 months. Filtration is AquaC Remora Pro, Emperor 400, Fluval 404. I have DSB in display & refugia plus total 100#LR. Additional circulation Hagen 802 powerhead. I also have an Aquazone 100 ozonizer. Stock: Yellow-headed Jawfish,  royal Gramma, false percula, Cuban hogfish, copperband butterfly, yellow tang, neon goby, 3 cleaner shrimp and 7 brittle/serpent stars.  All are acting normally and feeding well (once per day), but I haven't seen a couple of the brittle stars for several days. Additional info: I pulled a blue Linckia out Friday night after a week in the tank when it became clear that it was dying. I also had a Pentacta cucumber in the bigger refugium that seemed to be weakened/dying (after 2 months), so I pulled it after I detected the ammonia last night. <Possibly the source, as we thought?> Actions so far:  Added Amquel on discovery of ammonia night before last. Tested zero an hour later (Hagen test). The Redox promptly dropped from 330 to 210 after this. Yesterday AM ammonia still testing zero. Back up to 0.5 last night. Added Amquel again. Back down. Started aerating water for a modest (10G) change tonight. Back up to 0.5 tonight. Will add Amquel first and then execute water change. Because the ammonia is still going back up, I cannot believe that it was being given off by the Linckia & Pentacta that I have already removed--should not re-accumulate. I am concerned that the largest (black) brittle star (span about 8") may be dead somewhere and rotting. <That could seriously be the culprit...I'm not certain why the ammonia seems to go up in the evening...strange...> There's one smaller (5") one I haven't seen for a while either. I have searched everywhere that I can (including in dark with a flashlight). Is there a reliable way to bait them out at night that would enable me to feel reasonably certain that they're dead if they don't respond? <It's really a matter of getting some meaty food in there (perhaps clam or squid, tied to a small rock...should do the trick> Any further searching will require "brief" removal of almost all LR to a Rubbermaid tub. I really would not like to have to rebuild--I like the stability & functionality of the current structure. Should go ahead and do this? Or can I wait this out with Amquel and aggressive water changes in the hope that it is a rot problem that will solve itself in a week or two? Also, should I cut way back on the feeding? I already try to be conservative by feeding only one frozen cube per day. <Well, I'd try the "bait method" first, then I'd keep up those water changes...monitor the ammonia and nitrite often...hopefully, it will trend down quite soon...Be prepared to move your fishes if the ammonia level puts them in distress. I'd hold off on ripping up the rock structure unless all other approaches outlined above fail...> Your advice will be greatly appreciated. Steve Allen. <Hang in there, Steve...Regards, Scott F>

Dealing With An Ammonia Spike.... Dear Crew: <Scott F. with you today> Sorry to bug you, but I have a perplexing and potentially dangerous problem for my fish. My 80G FOWLR with 2-stage refugium (10+18G) has suddenly had an ammonia spike to 0.5. Nitrates & Nitrites both 0. pH=8.2 I've been monitoring parameters weekly and have had no detectable ammonia, nitrite or nitrate for more than 2 months. Filtration is AquaC Remora Pro, Emperor 400, Fluval 404. I have DSB in display & refugia plus total 100#LR. Additional circulation Hagen 802 powerhead. I also have an Aquazone 100 ozonizer. <Any idea what could have caused this? Finding the root cause is paramount to preventing this from happening again...> Stock: Yellow-headed Jawfish,  royal Gramma, false percula, Cuban hogfish, copperband butterfly, yellow tang, neon goby, 3 cleaner shrimp and 7 brittle/serpent stars.  All are acting normally and feeding well (once per day), but I haven't seen a couple of the brittle stars for several days. <Hmm...a clue> Additional info: I pulled a blue Linckia out Friday night after a week in the tank when it became clear that it was dying. I also had a Pentacta cucumber in the bigger refugium that seemed to be weakened/dying (after 2 months), so I pulled it after I detected the ammonia last night. <Good move...A large enough specimen, dying and decomposing undetected, could cause a measurable increase in ammonia...Seems like it would be unlikely, but it is really possible> Actions so far:  Added Amquel on discovery of ammonia last night. Tested zero an hour later (Hagen test). The Redox promptly dropped from 330 to 210 after this. This AM ammonia still testing zero. Back up to 0.5 tonight. Added Amquel again. Am aerating water for a modest change tomorrow after work. May add Amquel in AM if testing positive again to buy time. <Water changes will help here> Because the ammonia has gone up again after the Amquel last night, I cannot believe that it was being given off by the Linckia & Pentacta that I have already removed--should not re-accumulate. I am concerned that the largest (black) brittle star (span about 8") may be dead somewhere and rotting. There's one smaller (5") one I haven't seen for a while either. I have searched everywhere that I can (including in dark with a flashlight). Is there a reliable way to bait them out at night that would enable me to feel reasonably certain that they're dead if they don't respond? <Well- it's really hit-or-miss, but you could try some meaty marine foods to bait him out....However, a lack of response by the starfish is not absolutely a certain indication that the animal is dead...> Any further searching will require "brief" removal of almost all LR to a Rubbermaid tub. I really would not like to have to rebuild--I like the stability & functionality of the current structure. Should go ahead and do this? Or can I wait this out with Amquel and aggressive water changes in the hope that it is a rot problem that will solve itself in a week or two? Also, should I cut way back on the feeding? I already try to be conservative by feeding only one frozen cube per day. Your advice will be greatly appreciated. Steve Allen. <Steve, I'd try a schedule of increased water changes, aggressive protein skimming, use of Poly Filter and activated carbon, and spare your having to disassemble the entire reef structure! Hope this does the trick...I think it will. Regards, Scott F>

Ammonia Source for Experiment Dear Crew: As part of a school science fair project about aquariums, my 9 y/o daughter is going to be testing the sensitivity and reliability of Seachem's Ammonia Alert. What would be the best inexpensive, easily obtainable source of quantifiable ammonia to add to the water she'll be testing this product in? Of course, no fish are involved in the test--she'll be using glass containers of just saltwater (1.025) and just fresh water. Thanks, Steve Allen. <I would use simple "cleaning ammonia". that can be serially diluted (it still is a breathing irritant, so please do the dilutions for your daughter), making "stock" solution of a known concentration (look into a Hach or LaMotte... or even a Salifert test kit for ammonia to "check the checker" (the Ammonia Alert tm). Bob Fenner>

Ammonia spike! - 02/23/03 Any advice would be greatly appreciated. <Ananda here to give it a shot...> I upgraded my aquarium from a 55 gal. to a 105 gal. I used all the water, sand and rock from the 55 and added some ocean water to make up the difference. I also took all my old filters and media and swapped it over to the new filter as well as some new carbon and more bio cork things. <Sounds okay so far, but I'd be a bit concerned about using ocean water if you live near a city.> The LFS said that this should work and at first it was ok but last week the ammonia spiked and I have had a lot of trouble keeping the pH up although the alkalinity is a tiny bit high. I have since been able to correct that though. The SG is 1.024, the nitrite is 0 but the ammonia is 8!!!!  I added Amquel and a bottle of cycle, air stone, another power head and have a skimmer running. I have a panther grouper, an snowflake eel and a dog faced puffer in there that are all doing really well believe it or not but the lion which was fine and eating earlier today is laying upside-down on the bottom now. Should I do a large water change or will this just complicate matters by removing too much bacteria hence causing another spike? need help quick <I would move these fish into the quarantine tank IMMEDIATELY. Do not use water from your main tank. If you have water mixing for a water change, use that; if not, I would use freshly-mixed water -- I don't normally recommend that, but this is an extreme case! Your tank is cycling -- you need to get those fish out of that ammonia first and then worry about how to deal with the tank's cycle. --Ananda>

Sky High Ammonia  2/19/03 Hi there.<Hey!  Phil answering some questions bright and early!> 3 weeks ago I filled water in my new aquarium. It's 175GL or 650LTRs. After a week or so I checked the levels. Ammonia is sky high (about 1.0 instead of 0.0 !) now its been more than 3 weeks and still the same levels. As I won't go for a reef system I used tap water (which worked great in my old marine aquarium) I have a big sump (100ltrs) a huge compartment for Bioballs and about 150 KG of live rocks. A week ago I put an air emitting powerhead (for more oxygen) There is a sea bad (finely chopped coral stone) 4 - 5 CM high.   Water temperature is low as no heating is present for now. No aquarium light yet - only light from outside (not direct sun) What's going on ???<One thing sticks out to me.  You do not list if you have a protein skimmer.  A skimmer will in part help bring down the ammonia.  It sound like the live rock you bought may not have been cured and is "curing" in your tank!  A skimmer will help remove dissolved organics in the water.  Remember to keep doing weekly 10-15% water changes!  Hope this helps!  Phil>

Fish Story! Hey WetWebMedia Consortium!! <Scott F your consort(?) tonight!> It is I again. you know..."Oh crap, not this guy again" (that guy) <Whew! And I thought that you were thinking that about ME!> Long and the short of it is this: 55 gallon all glass aquarium FOWLR setup with power heads, two sumps, 1" thickness fine aragonite sand bed (I didn't want to have a DSB, as I felt the refugium would be good enuf as a nutrient export-denitrator on it's own), about 30 lbs live rock, protein skimmer, Mag Drive return pumps, Durso standpipe & overflow. and a 10 gallon hand made refugium with 1 1/2" miracle mud substrate and Caulerpa algae/live rock set on a 24/7 daylight schedule. Fish had major outbreak of Brooklynella and marine velvet a few weeks ago, so all were quarantined in two sick tanks and were given 8 min fresh water baths 2x/day as well as quick cure.  Long story short, out of the 10 juvenile percula's I had, 6 survived the treatment.  My angel and tang both succumbed to the sickness.  That's the nutshell version. <Sorry to hear that. Sometimes, no matter what we do, it just can't help...Good effort, though> I reduced salinity in .000 increments down to 1.017 and raised water temp to 85 degrees or so. and did daily 30% water changes to keep ammonia levels out of the picture (QT tanks weren't cycled, nor do I think it would matter if I had a cycled QT tank when using formalin based meds...your thoughts?. Wouldn't formalin-malachite green kill beneficial bacteria and cause ammonia spike?) <It can> Ok. trying to make this short, but so many things occurred over this two week period of time.  I broke the main tank down, saving 50% of the cycled water and some of the old live rock in a bucket with air stone and power head.  Left live rock in there for a few days while I built a new setup. ditched the acrylic tank for an all glass, and had to construct Durso standpipe and all the plumbing, etc etc..yadda yadda yadda...fired the new system up two days later while fish were in QT.  I put new aragonite sand in (finest sand. like baby powder) and bought about 20 lbs of cured live rock from LFS.  I adjusted water parameters to as close as the water where the LR came from and added it to the tank, sans fish.  I left the rock in the tank for 2 weeks while fish were in QT.  About 12 days into this, I re-arranged the live rock a billion different ways to get the effect I wanted, and in the process the rocks were chipped and beaten up quite a bit. <Happens to the best of 'em> Unbeknownst to me, this caused a MONSTER ammonia spike. <The die off from the live rock, maybe...> Unfortunately, I added the fish about 3 days later to this system without testing for ammonia. Nitrites were zero and pH - KH were 8.3 and 11 respectively.  I honestly thought that with this much LR, the tank would have been cycled by now, as I had tested for ammonia days prior to moving the LR and readings were indeed ZERO.  My mistake for not realizing that LR is indeed "live" and bruising it would cause die off and ammonia spike. <Well, "smashing" life forms on the rock can cause it to die....> Nonetheless....MONSTER ammonia spike. I couldn't re-catch the fish and my QT tanks were already broken down, so I dosed the tank with Ammo-Lock  (feel free to bash) <Bonk!> because after doing two 30% water changes, the ammonia levels refused to drop below 8ppm (that's correct... 8 <Holy...!> ...I'm not joking, as 3 different test kits verified this number of death).  Nitrites were zero at this point.  I didn't understand how these clownfish could survive in this "pee water", for in essence that's what it had become.  So now the NH3 was converted to NH4 I suppose and was to be considered "less toxic" , but still DEATH LEVELS. <Um, yeah!> This all occurred about 5 days ago.  6 water changes later, the ammonia levels are still at 8ppm (possibly due to Ammo lock, locking up the ammonia and the bacteria cannot break it down to nitrite at this point. I dunno. < A thought...I know things are bad...but hold off on the massive water changes for now...let the cycle complete...> I added max doses of Fritzyme every two days so far, in hopes of rebuilding the bacteria colony. <Not a bad idea...but the bacteria will colonize and multiply on their own soon enough> Also, 15 out of the 30 snails I had died, adding to ammonia spike, so I removed them promptly and did another water change. and added more Fritzyme. <How about running that protein skimmer full-on, and utilizing some chemical filtration media, such as Poly Filter and activated carbon...> The fish are doing just fine and have been swimming all around like nothing is wrong.  This I fail to understand completely.  They should be gasping for air and near death after nearly a week of exposure to ammonia. <Tough, these saltwater fishes, huh?> The ammonia still reads 8ppm and the nitrites are at 5 now.  What I think is happening is that the Ammo-Lock treatment, froze the ammonia, and I bet my ammonia reading will continue to read 8ppm for another month of Sundays until most of the water has been changed out completely.  My nitrites (which have read zero for several days, are now reading 5 which is maximum on my test kit).  So I'm guessing that the "inaccurate ammonia reading" (due to ammo-lock treatment) is incorrect, and has already peaked and now my nitrite levels are at maximum and should also be dropping daily from here on out, as I continue to add Fritzyme every few days.  Your thoughts? <Well, I'm a simple guy, so I'll give you a simple answer...I'd slow things down a bit. Horrible as the ammonia reading is (and the nitrite), the nitrogen cycle can only establish itself without interference. Water changes are a good idea to reduce ammonia in emergencies in an established tank, but in a new tank; one that is cycling- you need to keep a "hands-off" approach...Let nature "do her thing". Keep measuring and monitoring all parameters, and you will see these readings begin to subside...It's not good for your animals to go through this- but the process must occur...without interference! you're making some good observations, and your intentions are great...but just slow down, relax, and things will be okay!> Also...get this: In my refugium (which is also about 3 weeks old), the Caulerpa is growing well and just today I noticed about 1,000 or so white bugs crawling all over the front glass (am assuming copepods). <Yep!> I went and google a pic of a copepod and it matched these critters to a T.  Also there are about 200 or so micro plants stuck to the front and rear glass of the refugium.  I magnified them and they appear to be Caulerpa like in nature.  Is this possible?   <Sure...certainly can, and does-happen. They might also be Bryopsis, which is regarded as a nuisance algae...keep an eye on them> They are everywhere, as if something spored out and the plants stuck the mselves like glue to the glass.  The copepods are a good thing no? <It's always beneficial to have a thriving population of amphipods and copepods in a system...provide natural food sources and scavenging...> I mean, I'm thinking that the high organics in the system water created a field day environment for these critters, and the fertilizer needed to grow Caulerpa and now these new tiny plants. <Yep- another good observation on your part...nutrients and other appropriate conditions lead to algae growth> For the very first time, I am seeing brown diatoms on the sand bed and glass of both the main tank and refugium.......somehow life is developing in this water, and prospering.  The fish are swimming all over the place in normal fashion, and have ravenous appetites, trying to eat anything that floats by. Every day or so I give each fish one piece of flake food, as I don't want to raise ammonia levels. <Well- even in these circumstances, you should feed the fishes more...they need the nutrition and energy to cope with this stressful situation> I feed them independently and there isn't any waste, other then what they excrete themselves. <A good habit to have> Please try to explain to me what is happening here? How are my fish alive?  I feel as if DIVINE INTERVENTION from God himself has occurred. <Get down on your knees and offer thanks! Ain't nature amazing?> Also, after the water change last night, I put in a Poly filter and a fresh bag of Black Diamond Activated carbon, as well as changing out all filter floss with new. <Good move, as suggested above> My bio balls I have been removing a little at a time, as they came from my old system which was up and running for years.  And no, this isn't what caused the ammonia spike.  All water parameters were within normal limits up until the night I bashed the Live rock around and added snails (which were NOT properly acclimated into the tank, btw...another lesson learned the hard way). <Live and learn...the learning part is good! You're doing fine...> Well, I do hope that others learn "what not to do" when re-setting up your aquarium, and that is partially the reason this email is so long.  I hope others benefit from my experience. <That's what WetWebMedia is all about, my friend!> Please try to explain the "why's and how's" of my occurrence. <Steve- it's not easily explained...I think this is one that we just have to accept...Be patient, observe those fishes carefully, and watch as those ammonia and nitrite levels continue to fall> Thanks again crew...yer a blessing. Steve <Thanks for sharing, Steve! Regards, Scott F>

Ammonia Spike! Hope you're around Bob, <Scott F. in today> My 90-gallon tank has developed a huge ammonia spike.  The tank has been set-up a year.  There was no problem with the water yesterday, tonight the fish are gasping for air.  I am getting a 2.0 ppm reading for the ammonia. <Yikes!> This tank is well established with live rock.  I have a gold puffer, golden eel, and a 3 1/2" titan triggerfish in that tank.  The only thing I did different is move the titan from the larger tank to the 90 gallon about a week ago.   <okay...> I just did a large water change.  Unfortunately, the water is still showing an ammonia level of 2.0 ppm.  This is very troublesome.  Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks,  Kelly <Well, Kelly- first, we need to see what may have precipitated the ammonia spike. Review recent history in the tank...Were any medications used recently that could have damaged the biofiltration? Any power failures? Were regular water changes conducted, etc.? As far as reducing the ammonia now- I'd keep up some regular small water changes (like 10% to or three times a week until things get under control). Utilize chemical filtration media, such as activated carbon and PolyFilter, and change them regularly and frequently. Add more circulation to the tank if it's sluggish. Review your husbandry procedures (i.e.; feeding, water changes, etc) and crank the protein skimmer! with quick, decisive action and detailed review of your methods, you can reduce the ammonia and keep this from happening again! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Ammonia Spike (cont'd.) Well, I managed to get the ammonia down to .50.  I did this by doing another large water change last night, and suspending feeding. I also increased the water flow which has reduced the fish from breathing heavy considerably. <Good to hear!> I am going to hold off on doing any water changes until I notice a Nitrite spike.  I anticipate a Nitrite spike soon, maybe tomorrow.  The water test shows the Nitrites are slightly going up which explains why the ammonia is going down.  I am also going to hold off on feeding for another couple of days.  This won't hurt them.   <Okay> I have been faithfully having my tank cleaned every two weeks. Something disturbed the biofiltration.  This really bothers me.  I am going to purchase more live rock.  I could use another 30 lbs in my tank. <A good idea...make sure that you purchase fully cured live rock-no sense contributing further to the ammonia...Steady as she goes...Hang in there! Regards, Scott F> Kelly

A bad night - ammonia, bubbles, noise Hi again Anthony Thanks for the reply about the mushrooms.  I will proceed with feeding them once the current crises have abated, <understood and agreed> if any are left.  And thank you for telling me I can save my star polyps.  I now seem to be having several minor crises at once pertaining to setting up this new (used) 115 gal tank and need some advice about how to proceed.  Please forgive this very long painful email, I am nearly drowned in saltwater, my house has a huge noise and the smell of rotting marine life permeating it, and it's two in the morning.  This is on par with a night on call in neonatal intensive care.  (Only I had better luck with babies on ventilators.) <my goodness... the yeoman's chore!> The setup: 1.  The tank itself has been in my living room for 48 hours with water (~60gal), substrate (original, used, live), heater, large powerhead.  I was waiting for it to settle out enough, and for me to generate enough RO water, that I could fill it up, move the live rock back in, and start running the skimmer. <Hmmm... get that skimmer running ASAP anywhere the curing matter is. It should have been improvised from GO and will save a lot of lives and work for you> 2.  The live rock, several snails, crabs, and 1 sand-sifting starfish have been in a big tub with heater and powerhead in the bathroom, waiting for the tank to become habitable. 3.  I have those little ammo-alert ammonia indicators with suction cups in both places, but I discovered tonight that my actual test kit is empty, because I never need to use it. <indicator discs and test strips are unreliable in the worst ways. They can predict the next president as easily as they can read water chemistry with accuracy> 4.  I didn't bring any of the original water, but have either generated or purchased all of it since Saturday, heated, aerated, salted to 1.024. Tonight I decided to proceed - substrate was settled and I finally had enough water.  So I added the water, the overflow overflowed, and I started the pump and skimmer (that was all running just lovely and fine at this other guy's house for 4 years).   <he says? <G>> I was getting worried about the tub in the bathroom - starting to smell bad though the ammonia alert read zero, <understood... I do believe there was ammonia indeed> so I moved in the live rock as well. Problems: This took a while. So now it's 2am and I have suddenly an "alert" level of ammonia in the tank - this is level 2 of 4 levels of badness on the little indicator (sorry-test kit empty), and I have about ten zillion little air bubbles in the tank, and a huge noise in one overflow box. <the pump has been cleaned or was oversized from go... it is out pumping the overflow (hence the noise). Also, something is introducing bubbles into the sump and/or not blocking the inevitable ones from the overflow crash... these bubbles are getting aspirated through the pump. The other possibility is a pin-hole leak on the outflow side of the return pump plumbing causing a venturi> 1. What is the most likely thing I did wrong that allowed this ammonia spike?  I really didn't expect this tank to cycle given the large amount of healthy substrate and LR. <his/your handling of the rock in transport... poor live rock and coral (mushroom) health to begin with... lack of aggressive water flow in the holding tank at home> 2. I know this will go away in time, but in the meantime what in the world should I do with the snails and crabs and starfish? <for peace of mind... they can be put in a bucket that sits in the sump (lip out of water) to stay heated but the running tank water bathing around it but not contaminating it with ammonia. Then you can just do a quick and painless daily water change on this little bucket until the tank calms down. You may not even need an airstone if you change enough water> (I'll tell you what I did- I put 3 of them in my clean, occupied quarantine tank with SG 1.019, and put the rest in the sump of the big toxic tank, and I'm hoping some will survive until morning. I just couldn't violate my rule and put them in my nice healthy little reef, even though I know I might be killing them with either NH3 or hyposalinity.) >3. I realized that what I thought was stirred-up substrate in the tank is actually my entire system filled with air bubbles.  I have been messing with things for about an hour but haven't managed to stem the flow of tiny air bubbles from the sump with skimmer into the tank.   <a course foam block on the intake of the pump will work as a quick fix. The air bubbles are likely coming from the skimmer having too much water flow through it. Or a poor skimmer design.  Do tell what kind of skimmer you have and perhaps we can help improve the situation> I can't seem to alter it by playing with skimmer, position of pumps, or valves on the flow tubes.  There is no vortex/whirlpool around the pump intake, that's the only thing I really know to look for.  Please name some common causes I can look for, I'm new to this overflow thing, but I swear I set it up just like the other guy had it. <no worries... likely a response to a good cleaning and better flows all around> 4. Also, my entire house is filled with this tremendous gurgling sound from one of the two overflow boxes.   <another common problem with commercial reefs... undersized overflows> I can't figure out what is different between that one and the one that is quiet.   <simple resistance... level, run of pipe, a bend, extra elbow, etc downstream. Perhaps the gurgling one has its outlet to the drain releasing under water while the other one is slightly above (release air and is quieter)> Please name some common causes of this. <easily corrected as per above> I don't know what you need to know to advise me on this or I would give you more detail.  The pipes are rigid 2" PVC, not hoses. I really appreciate the time you guys spend slogging through lists of stupid problems!  (This is when I wish I wasn't the only reef person I know - I need a reef support group for stuff like this.) Tracy :) <no worries at all, dear. We will get this worked out and you can relax in front of this tank as a release from your tough job very soon :) Kind regards, Anthony>

Ammonia/Ammonium and pondus hydrog-a-something you say Hi guys! I have this nagging question in the back of my mind.   <is it all alone in there?> I heard somewhere that the same amount of ammonia is less toxic when in water of a lower pH, than that of a higher pH.  Is this a false statement that I have passed on as truth?  Or is there any fact to it?   <truth- ammonia picks up hydrogen as the pH (pondus or "weight/percent" of hydrogen) falls and becomes Ammonium which is somewhat less toxic. By the same turn... raising the pH in a tank of poor water quality (heavy organics) can kill fishes from the conversion (Ammonia spike)> Uhhh, not that I have an ammonia problem, or anything, it's just bugging me.  Thanks all!  Jen <an intelligent question, dear... thanks for asking. Anthony>

New tank not cycling? I will stop feeding immediately.  It will be hard, that porcupine puffer loves his shrimp in the morning. <It might well kill it... and the rest of your livestock, to keep feeding> Would live sand work instead of the live rock?  And if so how much?  Would 20 lbs be enough? <Yes, LS would be fine. Five pounds will likely do as much good as twenty here> If the cloudiness isn't a bacteria bloom, what is it.  It didn't get cloudy until I put the Bacter-Vital in the tank. <... this material is likely the cause of the cloudiness... could be microbial or simply chemical.> Also, I have two freshwater aquariums set up.  I tested the water in both of them.  The ammonia was about 0.25 with very very low nitrate almost zero.  Is there something that can be done about the ammonia. These tanks have been set up for about four months now and the ammonia has never gone below 0.25.  Once, again thank you for you suggestions. <You have measurable ammonia in your other systems? I'd have your test gear checked... Ammonia should be zero. Bob Fenner>

Lingering Ammonia Readings Dear Bob: <Scott F with you this morning, Keith> My name is Keith McBride, I've had this problem with my tank for 2 years, my ammonia stays at .25 or .50 I've tried different test kits but have the same outcome. <Does your source water have ammonia in it? Do test...just a thought> My system now (for the last five months) is a 125 gal  tank with a 150 gal. refugium, in basement. I have 2 clowns,1 tang,12 peppermint shrimp,1 1 sponge brittlestar,sarcophyton,1 trachyphyllia,1 maxima clam, 1 L.T. anemone, 1 Lobophyllia, 50lbs. live rock, SeaClone skimmer . Lights: over main tank champion 4 tubes,640 watt, refugium 1-175-10,000k+blueline, and 2-55watt pc's. Sand: about 3 inches in 125, and about 2 inches in refugium (premium grade Seaflor aragonite) Circulation: about 6 times in 125, and about 1-1.5 in refugium Temperature: 74-75 steady Refugium: Impressive amount of grape Caulerpa, Lights on reverse cycle, Caulerpa has not been trimmed in 2 months, still all underwater. I found that when it reached the top of the water in refugium, the ph was always dropping  that I had to add baking soda daily, since it was clipped and placed in the sand no more buffers and ph at 8.2 and steady day or night. <Hmm-just a small theory- You may or may not have read a lot recently about the down side of using Caulerpa in aquariums and refugiums. In short, Caulerpa has a tendency to grow "Wild", possibly releasing compounds that inhibit the growth of other algae and plants, and possibly releasing other noxious compounds into the water, which can degrade water quality. These algae also tend to "go sexual" on a regular basis, releasing a huge load of nutrients and contaminants into the water. All this points up to the possibility that these tendencies to release products can cause huge degradations in water quality, often overwhelming biofiltration systems. Do consider this...> Water: just started using RO/di last week trying to eradicate hair algae in main tank, started using Amquel to eliminate ammonia? <No need if you're using R/O DI, IMO.> , Ph 8.2 no additives, phosphate .2, no nitrates, nitrites, calcium 400+, iodine .04. Water changes vary, mostly top off. <Try to go on a regular, small (twice weekly 5% would be great) water change schedule. Variable top-offs and changes can account for lots of nutrient swings and inconsistencies in chemical parameters, all of which can stress and possibly kill the animals in your system, degrading water quality on the way> Filtration: protein skimmer, refugium, Caulerpa, no media of any kind. <If it were me, I'd get rid of the Caulerpa and use a less "noxious" macroalgae, such as Chaetomorpha. At least, you should regularly harvest the Caulerpa from the system.> Additives: 30ml calcium, 30ml iodine, 30ml strontium, each week. <Have you tried backing off of the strontium and iodine dosing? You might want to try and see what, if any effect the reduced dosages have on your animal growth and microalgae growth> Maintenance: dump cup on skimmer every 3 days, only 1/3 full, clean glass every 6-7 days. <Good that you're getting regular production of skimmate. Keep cleaning the skimmer during water changes> I don't know of any more information that may be needed but this same amount of rock, and about the same depth of sand, was also used in my previous system 29gal main, 20gal refugium, with filtration, and even then my ammonia stayed at .25 for 1-1/2 years. Thank you for looking for an answer to my problem. Sincerely, Keith McBride <Hmm...tough call here. Unusual that this rock seems to have a "history" of ammonia accumulations.. Really sounds like there is some kind of die off or accumulation of dying materials, which are leading to the lingering ammonia readings. What I would do is to go on a more "regular" water change schedule, as pointed out above, get rid of the Caulerpa, stop using additives (unless testing indicates a specific need for the additives that you're dosing), and keep working the skimmer.  Don't add any new animals until this ammonia is eliminated. Monitor water quality relentlessly. Employ some chemical media, such as PolyFilter and/or activated carbon and replace them on a regular basis. Act on some of the "ideas" I am presenting here. With diligent care and patience, you should be able to get that ammonia down. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>                 

Lingering Ammonia Readings (PT2) One item I forgot to mention was feeding the tank, New Life Spectrum about 15 pellets that are about 1/16 of an inch in diameter once a day. Also, have slowed feeding to once every 3 days with no change. Thanks, Keith McBride <Seems fine to me. In fact- make sure that the fish are getting enough food!>

Lingering Ammonia (Follow-up) Scott, thanks for the information about my ammonia problem, I removed the Caulerpa that had been in the tank since day one, and two days later it's down to almost 0ppm. <Really glad to hear that!> I put the stuff in a 5gal bucket  and it has set for two days and it smells like dog food. <Hmm- finally a good use for Caulerpa! Talk about "nutrient export"! Woof!  Keep up the good work! Regards, Scott F>

Salifert ammonia tests Hi Guys,     All of my test kits are Salifert, but my question concerns the Ammonia kit.  I've posted this question on the board, but got no response so I'll try here. My ammonia kit at this time comes up with cloudy water without the yellow tinge which would seem to me to indicate NH4.  While I was cycling my tank, the test was cloudy, but with a definite yellow hue.  Is it normal for this test water to be cloudy with a zero reading, or am I not doing it right.  This is my second kit in six months so I think it is fresh.  My NO2 and NO3 values are each 0.00.  Just hard for me to believe that there is always ammonia in the tank, but I never see any nitrite or nitrate no matter when I test.  I test pretty often, several times a week, as I have a small tank. Thanks a lot, Mike <Hi Mike, I don't use the Salifert test, but this is similar to the other ammonia tests on the market using this method. Your nitrite test would also be a good guide, no nitrite, unlikely there is ammonia.  I would prefer a clear result that is easier to compare but the Nessler and salicylate tests are all we have! Hope this helps!  Craig>

Trigger and ammonia Hi there, <Howdy> A couple of weeks ago you were able to help me with some problems I was having plumbing the overflow for a new tank (thank you).  Now I have an entirely different problem that I can use some help with. The new tank (a 180 gal salt water fish only) was going to replace a 45 gal SWFO tank that I have had for the past several years.  That tank has two angel fish (aprox 2-3" each) a blue tang about 4" long and a clown trigger about 7". <! All this in a 45 gallon system?>   The tang (who is 6 years old) and one of the angels have what appears to be HLLE, and they have looked this way for a couple of years.  I have tried everything, especially adding a lot of seaweed, formula 2 and other vegetable based products to their diet, but nothing seemed to help. <Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/hllefaqs.htm> About a week and a half ago, my brother suggested "Paragon", which I added as directed on the box, including removing the carbon filter.  After the second treatment (the third day) the fish started looking really lethargic. <This product is toxic... contains an anti-protozoal... but almost all instances of HLLE are nutritionally, environmentally determined... not parasitic in origin> I did a partial water change (~10%) and put the carbon filter back in the tank.  I had to go out of town for a day, which turned into 3 days (b/c I got snowed in in Washington).  When I got back the water had cleared up (the Paragon turned it yellow), but the fish still looked lethargic, especially the trigger who was breathing very heavily.  I did a 20% water change.  As it turns out the ammonia level was very high, off the scale for both my test kit ant he test kit at the LFS.  After discussing the problem in detail with the person at the LFS we decided to add Amquel to the water in the old tank, and leave the two angles and the tang (who seemed to be less affected) there, while moving the trigger into the new tank. <Okay... and increase aeration, circulation whatever ways you can, and cut back on feeding... if ammonia is more than 1.0 ppm, cut it out entirely>     The new tank had been set up and running to stabilize the temperature and ph, for about 1 week.  It also had nothing living in it (I was going to get a few damsels this weekend).  Since the trigger seemed the most effected by the ammonia, we were afraid it would not make it in the old tank, and removing it to an ammonia free environment seemed like the way to go.  I slowly acclimated him and moved him late last night. <Good move>   By this morning he was looking much better. His breathing and colors are normal and he is swimming around and eating (I am feeding him very sparingly).  But all this creates the obvious problem of putting the trigger in an environment which will again have ammonia, and then nitrites, present as the tank cycles. <Mmm, maybe not... there are means to speed the process of establishing nitrification along. Please see: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm>   I am wondering if the fact that the 7" trigger is the only fish in a 180 gal tank will reduce the quantity of ammonia and nitrogen that will be present as the tank cycles? <Yes> Do you have an advice on steps I can take to lessen the stress and risk to the trigger during the break in phase? <Please see the article and the associated/related FAQs files linked on WWM> It may be possible to move him back to the old tank in a week or so, assuming the ammonia level is down to near 0, but I don't want to put him through the stress of moving again if it can be avoided.   <I would not move this animal back to the smaller system. I would look into moving some of the current substrate, filter media to the new system, possibly avail yourself of some live rock, culture product (like Marineland's BioSpira), continue to monitor ammonia, nitrite, watch feeding... Bob Fenner> Thanks for all your help. rob stein.

Trigger and ammonia Bob, Thanks for all the help. <Happy to offer it> Given that the ammonia in the old tank is still higher then 1ppm <Don't feed the fishes anything till it is below this... perhaps a massive water change?> (and the fact that the tank had Paragon in it recently), I don't think it would be a good idea to take the substrate or filter media from that tank and put it in to the new one, unless you think otherwise. <Not an ideal situation... oh, I see you have a better plan below> I will go to the LFS and purchase a few pieces of live rock to add to the new tank. <Good idea> One other question.  In a few months, when the new tank is able to accommodate more livestock, I would like to add some cleaning critters (the bottom has about 3" of crushed coral).  I not done so in the past b/c I know most of them are basically an hors d'oeuvre for the trigger. Is there any critter that you can recommend that will help clean the gravel without being trigger food? <Unfortunately, not many. I would try a small species, individual of the Goatfishes (family Mullidae) see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/Goatfshart.htm but most all hermits, snails, seastars, urchins... will be meals.> Thanks again & happy holidays. <You're welcome and thank you. Bob Fenner> rob stein.

Re: ammonia in lobster when lobster have high levels of ammonia in blood what is the long term effect or how long will it take to purge from blood <... there are known physiological effects... on the blood chemistry, capacity to utilize foods... behavior. Can be purged within minutes to hours...> what is high levels we use sea water and discharge about 10000 gal pr hr looking for help thank you  Percy <Need to start further back here... Tell me/us about your culture facility... are you recirculating water? Manipulating pH? Using a standard feed? What species, life stages are you dealing in? Bob Fenner> Ammonia in lobster we are in the offshore lobster we have a tank that hold 45000 lbs or 13000 gal   water we pump in discharge over the side we use dry air pump to agitate the water  sea temp 50 we fish about  four days  the size about one to six lbs we have had  crab in tank      Percy <Have you experienced losses from metabolites? (like ammonia). If you can, do monitor the ammonia, and do your best to increase water flow over the animals if it approaches 1.0 ppm. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia Spike Hi guys, I've recently added a small coral beauty to my 30gal tank that has been up and running for about 2-1/2 months with no problems. Its a 30gal with 15lbs of live rock and 20lbs of live sand. I have had a feather duster a percula clown, a Dottyback and a cleaner shrimp in there for the duration with no problems. I removed the cleaner shrimp and the Dottyback and added the angel and then whammo. Ammo up to 0.25ppm. <Yikes! Ammonia spikes call for immediate, drastic action, like massive water changes.> My qt is not cycled fully so I cant move them to the qt. I wanted to add more live sand in hopes to add more nitro-bac to the system as soon as possible and will do water changes. <Good steps, IMO!> Right now I just have the clown and angel in there and the clown seems stressed. Swimming back and forth all day and all night and not eating like he use to. <Ammonia will do that!> Angel surprisingly seems ok and feeding off the rocks. Thanks for your input, Rob <Well, Rob- the actions you have taken will probably save those fishes' lives! Most important, let's try to figure out what could have caused the ammonia spike to begin with. Was there any kind of disruption to the biological filter (i.e.; disturbance of, or replacement of filter media, medication or other chemicals added that could have wiped out beneficial bacteria? Perhaps the interval between the removal of the shrimp and the Dottyback and the addition of the angel did not give the bacteria population time to adjust to the bioload (just another theory- probably not valid)? Maybe some massive die off from the live rock that was previously unnoticed? Look beyond the obvious, be diligent in husbandry (i.e.; water changes, feeding, and water parameters) techniques, and don't make any animal additions until the ammonia disappears. Hang in there! Regards, Scott F.>

Microbubbles, ammonia, etc. Hello All: <Greetings!> I have a two part issue: <Okay> 1. I am having a problem with micro bubbles in my tank. I have a 55 gal with a sump, an external (Little Giant) pump, and a Rainbow UV. The sump's bulkhead is fitted with an elbow looking down to avoid  siphoning any air from the surface. The whole setup is plumbed in PVC.  I have a cyclone skimmer in the sump. My feeling is that the skimmer is dumping the bubbles in the sump. <Before proceeding any further, I would shut the skimmer off for a few hours and see if it helps. Then you will know conclusively that the skimmer IS or is not the problem.> I have searched for DIY bubble traps, but no luck. This information is detailed on WetWebMedia. Do a word search with micro bubbles. Can you explain the dynamics/concept behind a bubble trap? <There are several ways to "trap" the bubbles. Some people like to make the water travel down a smooth surface before entering the sump. Personally, I built a tower out of eggcrate and plastic cable ties, made a bed of filter floss (about 3") in the bottom of the tower, and let the skimmer empty into the tower. The bubbles all but totally disappeared and this gave an additional layer of mechanical filtration. There are many other suggestions in the WWM facts.> Can the bubbles harm anything? <Possible...bubble embolism...does happen...> Chemistry? <No> Biology? <?> 2. I tested ammonia at .25 ppm <Mayday! Mayday! This is a major problem! You need to have zero ammonia. Nearly all marine critters, fish and inverts, have zero tolerance for ammonia. I would find the source and fix it. My best guess? You're overfeeding the tank, your tank is overstocked, or something has died. Could be all of these, none of these, or one of these. I would do a large water change immediately and not feed the tank until the ammonia is completely gone.> nitrite at 0, <Ammonia turns to nitrite. This level won't stay zero for very long.> and nitrate at 20 ppm. <Ammonia and nitrite are much bigger problems.> I have bioballs in my sump. The cycle <I'm not sure what you mean but your tank cycling should have been over months ago. Please consider not adding anything new to this tank until you have found the source of the ammonia.> has been ongoing with different critters for over 6 months. <You mean critters are dieing and being replaced? Something smells fishy around here...> What can cause this high nitrate? <It's really not very high. Not a concern> Is this high? <No> I have one coral, the name? Orange-tubis-coral-thingy? It looks like little orange tubes, shorts and hollow (sometimes)...What is that? <Sounds like it may be a Tubastrea> I would like to have a 0,0,0 tank. What are my options? <You need a water change now and possibly more in the near future to get rid of the ammonia.> Dilution? <Yes> I just made a 10 gal change 2 weeks ago. Do I remove the bioballs? My LFS said that it would *weaken* the tank... I doubt it. <It's hard to say. If you have lots of live rock and not many fish I don't think it would hurt...You do need some source of filtration. However, in your case, I don't think you need to remove them. But you desperately need to stop the ammonia and find out where it's coming from. Is your tank overstocked? Lots of big fish in a small tank is a recipe for disaster.>   Any and all help is appreciated within the small constraints of your vast knowledge... <HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Thanks for the compliment!> In other words, thanks! <You're welcome! David Dowless> Hugo S. San Juan, PR

Play Sand & Ammonia Hello WWM crew, Last Sunday I installed a sump for my 180 gallon tank and added 70 lbs of play sand into the sump, everything looked fine therefore last night I added 2 cleaner shrimps into the tank. Well this morning I saw one of the cleaner shrimps looking like he was about to die, therefore I checked ammonia and discovered that I had .50 PPM of ammonia and .10 of nitrate, I quickly did a 30 gallon water change and the ammonia had dropped to below .20 PPM but now 8 hours later my ammonia is back up to .50 PPM and one of the cleaner shrimps has died. Is the Play Sand creating this ammonia or is this because I disconnected the wet/dry for about an hour while I installed the sump. <I would strongly suspect it is your wet/dry producing ammonia. The sand itself is inert and can't produce ammonia on it's own. Also, I am not familiar with Sea Lab replenisher but if it contains copper it not only could kill your shrimp but do a number on your bio-filtration.....killing your wet/dry and any other bio-filter capacity...producing ammonia to start the cycle over again.> I can't figure out why the cleaner shrimp died I thought they could take more then .50 PPM of ammonia, I'm starting to wonder if he died because of the Sea Lab #28 replenisher I added that contains .003 of copper but I only put 2 blocks and you are supposed to put 4 for a tank that size. Thanks and hope to hear from you soon. <I would suspect you are cycling your tank over again now after killing off your bio-capacity. Test often and make water changes to keep wastes under control until your re-cycling is complete. I would test for nitrites now too.  Best wishes, Craig>

Ammonia Hi I have a 90 gallon tank. <<Hello, JasonC here...>> I'm pretty new to saltwater aquariums so bare with me. I have 90#s of live rock and about a 1.5" deep sand bed. The inhabitants include: 2 damsels, a tank raised clown, a yellow tang, and an assortment of snails. Ammonia, nitrites were all 0, nitrates were about 5. About 2 weeks ago I added a white sand sifting star fish. Also 4 days ago I added a regal tang. This was going to finish up my stocking, so of course this little problem came up. I would usually see the starfish at least once a day on top of the sand. I haven't seen him in 3 days. I wouldn't be worried but yesterday I had a rise in ammonia somewhere between 0 and .25 (ppm I think it is). On your site it said the starfish was quite hardy. My question is do you think the starfish died in the sand and is causing the rise in ammonia? <<It could, but if your tank were well-cycled, and certainly with this amount of live rock, really shouldn't have shown up on the radar. On the other hand, your biological filter could still be settling in and this is just a small shift - look to see how long it takes to go away, this ammonia.>> How long can the starfish stay under the sand? <<Depends on where the food is, personally I wouldn't keep this animal as your sand bed is unlikely to be productive enough in the long term.>> He was moving around fine and seemed very healthy… Or maybe just because of the new addition of the regal tang caused a rise in ammonia? <<Also possible - new biological filters need to adjust - and it does take a little time, I never add more than one thing in a 30 day period just to be safe.>> IS there a way to bring the starfish out easily to see if he is still alive? <<You mean easy way to lure it out? Not sure... if you are really concerned, break down the live rock and find it.>> I did a 15% water change that brought the ammonia down but not back to 0. All the fish and other critters all seem to be doing fine so far, but I am worried……. <<If the ammonia persists, you will need to do a couple of larger changes.>> Thanks, Matt <<Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Ammonia Bob, <<Not Bob, JasonC here...>> I believe I may have found the source of my ammonia problem. <<ok>> I vacuum the substrate surface ever time I do a water change every week (approx.. 13% removal) and my ammonia was still traceable. The tank has been running for 2 years, I have never had this problem before. I clean all of my filters every week. What the problem was is that I was not vacuuming deep enough, the tank has a 1-1/2" s deep sand bed and I realize that the fish waste and other junk was not just on the surface, but deeper in the sand bed. How often should you move around LR? <<Whenever the mood strikes. If I were you, I'd look into perhaps some more or larger powerheads in the tank so that some of this detritus makes its way into your filters and not into the sandbed. Constant vacuuming of the sand bed will disrupt the ability to produce/harbor beneficial organisms like copepods and the like that would normally deal with the detritus for you.>> Thanks <<Cheers, J -- >>

Ammonia test question Hello Bob, et al I have been reading the info on your site for the past few months and have just set up a marine tank a couple days ago.  <congratulations!!! Please continue to learn and do enjoy the journey> It is a 29 gallon with 25 lbs live rock and 3 inch deep live sand bed.  <very fine> I have a test kit that test for both free ammonia (NH3) and total ammonia (NH4+). Which should I be testing for at this point? So far, after 48 hours, all my readings, free ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are still all 0.  <ammonia spikes often do not occur for a week or more. All should be settled within 4 weeks. Quite frankly, with cured live rock, you might not notice much or any ammonia or nitrite... still, please wait one month before stocking more> I turned off my protein skimmer at this point to see if I will start getting some ammonia readings. Is this okay? or should I keep the skimmer running? <PLEASE keep the skimmer running... it will improve the cycle and protect the live rock... it might even prevent serious spikes if anything goes sour (like a hard live rock cure)> Thanks for sharing your vast knowledge with all of us that are learning! Kevin

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