Helping lower ammonia in my tank

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dougall

...
Mar 29, 2005
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So much writing :)

I think you can likely stop using the Cycle.

Honestly all I would maybe do would be to add more plants, the plants will use ammonia, ammonium, nitrite, nitrate etc and remove that from the water.

But just get a second opinion on your water test results, and enjoy the new aquarium!
 
Apr 2, 2002
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New York
I doubt you have .25 ppm of ammonia in your tank on a constant basis. This would be almost impossible for one to do intentionally. So what is going on?

For one thing, plants use ammonium and the bacteria use the ammonia. Combined these atre Total Ammonia which is what most kits read. The plants can uptake ammonium faster than the bacteria can use ammonia. So in a tank with plants, anything the plants use will never become nitrite or nitrate in the water, Moreover, many plants will use nitrate. This is a less efficient process since the plant must expend energy to turn the nitrate back into something it can use. Finally, nirate test kits are not all that accurate and they are the least accurate between 0 and 20 ppm.

Next is the bacteria themselves. The nitrifying bacteria do not form spores, they multiply by dividing. They only divide when there is more ammonia or nitrite than they can use. So if you actually had that excess .25 ppm of ammonia, the bacteria would increase to handle it and then there would be a 0 ammonia reading. If you have .25 ppm of ammonia in your tap, your tank would soon be handling it as soon as it went into the tank. The ammonia bacteria under good conditions will double in about 8 hours or so. Assuming your tank handles all the ammonia the fish and degrading organics create, it would pretty rapidly be able to handle an extra .25 ppm. So just having .25 ppm of ammonia in ones tap should not be a problem for more than a few hours and then it should be gone. To keep getting a .25 reading in the tank requires that the amount of ammonia in your tap had to keep increasing so it remains .25 ppm higher than the bacteria can handle without diving.

I can calculate how much of a level of .25 ppm of Total Ammonia is in each form in your tank since you have provided the pH and temp. which one needs to make this calculation. At a pH of 7.6 and a temp. of 78F and .25 ppm TA. Your ammonia (NH3) is at 0.0059 ppm and your ammonium (NH4) is 0.2441 ppm. The level below which we want to keep ammonia (NH3) is 0.05 ppm. So, even if your ammonia reading were real, there is not anough NH3 to care about and that amount of NH4 is not much of a concern.

Finally, most dechlors today will breakdown chloramine and also detoxify ammonia and often neutralize some of the metals. Chloramine is not an issue. As for getting an accurate reading of ammonia levels, here is what SeaChem suggests re Prime:
I am using Prime® to control ammonia but my test kit says it is not doing anything, in fact it looks like it added ammonia! What is going on?

A: A Nessler based kit will not read ammonia properly if you are using Prime®... it will look "off scale", sort of a muddy brown (incidentally a Nessler kit will not work with any other products similar to Prime®). A salicylate based kit can be used, but with caution. Under the conditions of a salicylate kit the ammonia-Prime® complex will be broken down eventually giving a false reading of ammonia (same as with other products like Prime®), so the key with a salicylate kit is to take the reading right away. However, the best solution ;-) is to use our MultiTest™ Ammonia kit; it uses a gas exchange sensor system which is not affected by the presence of Prime® or other similar products. It also has the added advantage that it can detect the more dangerous free ammonia and distinguish it from total ammonia (total ammonia is both free ammonia and non-toxic ionized forms of ammonia).

I tested my tap water after using Prime® and came up with an ammonia reading. Is this because of chloramine? Could you explain how this works in removing chloramine?
A: Prime® works by removing chlorine from the water and then binds with ammonia until it can be consumed by your biological filtration (chloramine minus chlorine = ammonia). The bond is not reversible and ammonia is still available for your bacteria to consume. Prime® will not halt your cycling process.

I am going to assume that you were using a liquid based reagent test kit (Nessler based, silica). Any type of reducing agent or ammonia binder (dechlorinators, etc) will give you a false positive. You can avoid this by using our MultiTest™ Ammonia kit (not affected by reducing agents) or you can wait to test, Prime® dissipates from your system within 24 hours.
(Red color added by me) From https://www.seachem.com/prime.php Click on FAQ.

I would not use Cycle. You do not need it and it will not help.

Otos are pretty sensitive fish. If you did have .25 ppm TA it should bother them even as ammonium. And finally, to my old eyes your test kit pic looks like it show 0 ammonia. This is the problem with the colormetric tests we use our eyes to read. How any color appears to one person is subjective. So if you show you result to a dozen people, you will not get 12 idenbtical answers when you ask them to determine the test result.
 

FreshyFresh

Global Moderator
Staff member
Jan 11, 2013
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Joel
Jenn very nice looking setup and congrats on doing your homework and following through on this the right way!

I wouldn't call what you've read on the web contradicting. I'd call it incorrect, as much of it is.

You're not overstocked, but I would probably do a little larger volume of a weekly water change until you are sure the tank produces nothing but nitrates, then gear your water changes such that nitrates don't ever exceed much more than 20ppm. Getting the tank to indicate nothing but a nitrate creep can take weeks. Like 6-8 of'em.

I use the API master test kit of more of a go/no-go gauge and wouldn't be concerned with the 0.25ppm ammonia right after doing water changes.
 

dudley

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Feb 9, 2005
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Jenn, how is the tank doing?
 

Jenndes23

AC Members
Dec 29, 2019
24
1
3
I doubt you have .25 ppm of ammonia in your tank on a constant basis. This would be almost impossible for one to do intentionally. So what is going on?

For one thing, plants use ammonium and the bacteria use the ammonia. Combined these atre Total Ammonia which is what most kits read. The plants can uptake ammonium faster than the bacteria can use ammonia. So in a tank with plants, anything the plants use will never become nitrite or nitrate in the water, Moreover, many plants will use nitrate. This is a less efficient process since the plant must expend energy to turn the nitrate back into something it can use. Finally, nirate test kits are not all that accurate and they are the least accurate between 0 and 20 ppm.

Next is the bacteria themselves. The nitrifying bacteria do not form spores, they multiply by dividing. They only divide when there is more ammonia or nitrite than they can use. So if you actually had that excess .25 ppm of ammonia, the bacteria would increase to handle it and then there would be a 0 ammonia reading. If you have .25 ppm of ammonia in your tap, your tank would soon be handling it as soon as it went into the tank. The ammonia bacteria under good conditions will double in about 8 hours or so. Assuming your tank handles all the ammonia the fish and degrading organics create, it would pretty rapidly be able to handle an extra .25 ppm. So just having .25 ppm of ammonia in ones tap should not be a problem for more than a few hours and then it should be gone. To keep getting a .25 reading in the tank requires that the amount of ammonia in your tap had to keep increasing so it remains .25 ppm higher than the bacteria can handle without diving.

I can calculate how much of a level of .25 ppm of Total Ammonia is in each form in your tank since you have provided the pH and temp. which one needs to make this calculation. At a pH of 7.6 and a temp. of 78F and .25 ppm TA. Your ammonia (NH3) is at 0.0059 ppm and your ammonium (NH4) is 0.2441 ppm. The level below which we want to keep ammonia (NH3) is 0.05 ppm. So, even if your ammonia reading were real, there is not anough NH3 to care about and that amount of NH4 is not much of a concern.

Finally, most dechlors today will breakdown chloramine and also detoxify ammonia and often neutralize some of the metals. Chloramine is not an issue. As for getting an accurate reading of ammonia levels, here is what SeaChem suggests re Prime:

(Red color added by me) From https://www.seachem.com/prime.php Click on FAQ.

I would not use Cycle. You do not need it and it will not help.

Otos are pretty sensitive fish. If you did have .25 ppm TA it should bother them even as ammonium. And finally, to my old eyes your test kit pic looks like it show 0 ammonia. This is the problem with the colormetric tests we use our eyes to read. How any color appears to one person is subjective. So if you show you result to a dozen people, you will not get 12 idenbtical answers when you ask them to determine the test result.
Thank you so much for all the information. I’m not using prime, but I appreciate that info as well. Totally understand the colour readings being different for all people. Are there any other good tests kits that are easier to read?
my readings have not changed, but all my fish seem to be doing really well, so my guess is my ammonia is probably fine.
can I ask why you wouldn’t use cycle? Again I am very new to fishkeeping, appreciate all advice and knowledge
 

Jenndes23

AC Members
Dec 29, 2019
24
1
3
Jenn, how is the tank doing?
Seems to be doing well! To my eyes I haven’t seen a change in the ammonia levels, but as pointed out above it could be viewed differently on the colour chart to everyone. My fish have all been doing well (as far as I can tell). I had some stocking questions on another post. Assumed that creating a new post would be the best way to ask a new question
 
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Apr 2, 2002
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New York
1. Cycle does not contain the right nitrite bacteria. Identifying specific bacteria requires probes designed to detect that specific bacteria. The probe for Nitrospira were developed by Dr. Hovanec when he ran the Marineland labs. They share the patent on these probes. When Marineland was acquired by a conglomerate, Dr. H. started his own business in the old Marineland facilities. Tetra now produces Safe Start and Dr. H. makes Dr. Tim's One and Only Nitrifying bacteria which both contain nitrospira. I use Dr. Tim's to cycle a new tank rapidly or to seed my bio-farm for filters when I need to get it going.

2. There should very rarely be a need to add bacteria to a fully cycled tank.
 

Arthur11

AC Members
Jul 13, 2021
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Apart from cleaning the gravel, you can also remove other organic matters that can contribute to ammonia formulation. Fish waste and uneaten foods need to be clean and removed immediately from the tank. Dead fish and dead plants, if not removed immediately, can also contribute to raising the ammonia levels.
You can use a fish net to scoop out any organic matter you feel should not be in the fish tank to help keep the ammonia levels at a lower level. Another thing that you can do is cleaning the filter in your tank because doing this action will help in reintroducing the building up of organic matter to the fish tank.
 
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