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FAQs on Freshwater Aquariums & Ammonia 1

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

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

"The ammonia in here is burning my eyes!"

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Betta Success
Doing what it takes to keep Bettas healthy long-term

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Re Bulging Gills on Goldfish   Now/Neale      3/19/14
Obvious to me obviously.
Looking at attached picture (which may I add is not that great), any idea what this could be? Parasite?
It almost looks like a tumor.
<Unlikely.>

Thanks CS
PS: Oh, you can go further.
<Indeed? Anyway, looks a lot like a common reaction to dissolved ammonia in the water or not enough oxygen. Sometimes referred to as "gill curl". Often seen on large fish (such as Red-tail Catfish and Arowanas) kept in too-small quarters, but Goldfish are large fish too, and may react in the same way. There's a (fairly rare) infection called Gill Rot or Branchiomycosis caused by a fungal infection. Again, while medicated as per Fungus, it's likely latent in most tanks but triggered by poor environmental conditions. So, in short, review the aquarium. Check size, filtration, stocking density and water chemistry in particular. Goldfish need space (20 gallons at least for the first one, and another 10 at minimum for each additional Goldfish). They need robust filtration (use a filter rated for a 50-100% larger aquarium than the one you own, so for a 30 gallon tank, choose a filter rated for 50 gallons or so -- this is because manufacturers estimate aquarium size on the basis of keeping small things like Guppies, not big messy Goldfish). Stocking density should be proportionate to filtration and aquarium size as described above, and the result should be zero ammonia and nitrite levels, and nitrate levels as low as practical, certainly below 40-50 mg/l, with water changes every week or two. Robust filtration helps with oxygenation too. So far as water chemistry go, Goldfish prefer hard, alkaline conditions similar to Guppies and Mollies, and the use of "livebearer salts" or "Rift Valley cichlid salt mix" can be useful if you have soft, acidic water. You're aiming for 10-25 degrees dH, pH 7-8. Do read:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/goldfish101art.htm
Cheers, Neale.>
RE: Bulging Gills on Goldfish     3/19/14

Excellent. Thanks very much! CS
<Welcome, NM!>

Goldfish... not using WWM     3/18/14
Good evening. Thanks for the opportunity to ask a question. .My goldfish has a Red Bulge coming out of its gills and its bright red and it looks little white too. It almost looks like a tumor growing out of it gills.
Any idea what could be?. I can send a picture if that will help diagnose.....thanks....Charles
<Why have you sent the same msg. eight times. Just search the site. B>
RE: Goldfish    3/19/14

Obviously, my phone did that for some reason. I apologize.
<... why would this be obvious?>
Rude response by the way. You should work on your interpersonal skills.
It will help you go further in life.
Regards
Charles
<Can't go much further. B>

Bulging Gills on Goldfish    Back to RMF      3/19/14
Obvious to me obviously.
<Ok>
Looking at attached picture (which may I add is not that great), any idea what this could be? Parasite?
<Don't think so...>
It almost looks like a tumor.
<I do concur.
Please read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/GFGrowthF6.htm
and as much of the linked files above in the series as you deem prudent>
Thanks CS
PS: Oh, you can go further.
<Heeee! Charles; I hope you're right. BobF>

Unchanging Ammonia, GF sys.    9/4/10
Hi Crew,
<Hello Kaiti,>
I am having an Ammonia Problem. I have a 20 gallon tank with four Goldfish.
<Too many Goldfish in too small a tank. For four Goldfish, anything less than 50 gallons is wrong.>
I have had the Rubkin for a while and just upgraded him from a 2 gallon tank 2 weeks ago.
<Whilst a single Goldfish *might* be kept for a few years in 20 gallons, you really need 30 gallons for two fancy Goldfish, and because they are "pack animals" I wouldn't keep fewer than two. After that, allow another 10 gallons for each additional fancy Goldfish. Regular Goldfish, i.e., those with single rather than fan tails, need more room because they get much bigger. Many would argue they're really pond fish, pure and simple.>
About 7 days ago I got him 3 new friends.
<Far too many.>
Another fancy type goldfish and two very small basic goldfish.
<Yep, the "basic" ones are the ones that need more space.>
One of the small ones only lasted 2 days.
<No surprise at all.>
I went to the pet store to replace him and have the water tested. They said that my Ammonia was slightly elevated, but said it was fine to get another fish and told me to change 10% of the water.
<Your pet store has at least one idiot on their payroll. You NEVER, EVER add more fish while ammonia is above zero, since by definition the aquarium filter isn't working properly. And when a fish dies, it is MUCH BETTER to wait a month to see that the tank is disease-free and the filter working properly before adding more fish.>
I bought a test kit and went changed about 20% of the water. When I tested again that evening the ammonia was in the 3. ppm "harmful" range. the next day I changed 50% of the water, and have changed 50% ever day since. My ammonia level is still at 1. ppm?
<Too many fish, too small a tank, and likely a filter inadequate to all these fish. Plus, it takes 4-6 weeks for an aquarium to cycle even under the best of circumstances.>
What am I doing wrong?
<Probably not reading. Start here, with key articles on goldfish, new tanks, stocking 20 gallon aquaria, and the factors that cause disease:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/goldfish101art.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/stocking.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwdis3setsfactors.htm
When you've read them, I think you'll see yourself where you're going wrong. And then, I hope, you'll go yell at the pet store for employing idiots and offering poor advice.>
I do not think that the tank is over crowded considering how small they are.
<You might think that, but trust me, you're wrong.>
I am feeding twice a day- and scooping out what little food isn't being eaten within 2 min.s.
<Good.>
I have a regular hang on the back carbon filter and added a bubble stone from the small tank.
<Carbon will of course remove medication which is why I recommend against it in freshwater systems. You really need biological filtration here, and for Goldfish, quite a big-ass system at that, 4-6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. In other words, for a 30 gallon tank with two fancy Goldfish, the filter should be rated at 120 - 180 gallons/hour. Do bear in mind fancy Goldfish get to about 20 cm/8 inches in length, and they're deep-bodied as well. Get a side plate out from the kitchen and look at it. That's about the size and shape of an adult Fantail Goldfish after about 2-3 years. Big, isn't it? Now look at your 20 gallon tank. Still think it's going to work. No, clearly not...>
I had the one death and now my Rubkin is acting sluggish, but the other fish seem to be fine.
<"Seem to be fine"'¦ famous last words.>
Any help would be appreciated. Thank you for your time and thank you for the site, I'm not sure what would happen to my fish with out it!!
<Well, I think I can guess! Without wanting to be harsh, you've made some serious errors here. While it's easy to blame the pet store, it is incumbent on your to read about an animal before buying one as a pet. No book would recommend 20 gallons for a Goldfish, let alone 5 of them. There's still time to fix things, either by upgrading the tank or else swapping the Goldfish for suitable tropical fish like a school of Danios and a couple of Banded Gouramis. But that's your choice.>
Thanks,
Kaiti and fish
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.> 

Strange blotches on Goldfish fins 2/11/10
Good afternoon:
<Hello,>
I have two goldfish and have recently noticed some patches of what might possibly be a fungus on their caudal fins. The patches do not appear to be cottony (at least not yet) and they range in size from 1 mm square to 3 mm
square. Each fish has a couple of these spots.
<Ammonia burns.>
The spots have an almost bluish cast- they almost look iridescent in certain light. I noticed the first spot on my smaller fish two days ago and had been monitoring it. Today when I came home I noticed that the spot is, strangely, not in the same spot as it was yesterday (it has moved from the interior of the fin and is now on the edge) and now both fish have such blotches.
<Ammonia burns.>
Some background- my tank is still cycling but I do a minimum 25% water change/vacuum daily (I had problems with supersaturated water but I think I have the problem licked now). The tank is a 36 gallon and the only two
occupants are two small, dragon-eyed goldfish.
<Ammonia burns, from the cycling problem.>
I have a brand new Eheim Professional 3 filter with a UV light hooked up to the return, the tank is lidless and I have added a small powerhead to increase surface agitation to help combat the oversaturation in the water.
I installed the Eheim about a week ago- prior to that I had an Aqueon hanging-type filter.
<Not sure what you mean by "oversaturation".>
The bigger fish has had ongoing problems with some sort of internal parasite so I have had him on a cycle of Jungle anti-parasitic medicated food. Both fish have been getting this treatment as I understand if one fish has a parasite they both probably do. The med cycle was 3 days out of every week for 4 weeks- the last cycle was completed yesterday but the fish is still presenting with thin, clear, stringy feces- it isn't trailing as it was before but the problem is still not resolved. He has been occasionally (and temporarily) swimming sideways so I don't want to continue with a medication that may harm his kidneys.
<No, more important you complete a course of (relevant) medication. His kidneys will be fine. Why do you think their kidneys would be damaged?>
This leads to my first question: I'm not sure what to do to identify and eradicate this intestinal problem.. short of buying a microscope to try to positively identify the parasite, what should try next? Could it possibly bacterial in origin? I do have a 20 gallon tank at the ready that I can use for a treatment tank if needed.
<Fish get sick 99 times out of 100 because of their environment. If your tank is still cycling, your fish are very likely sick because of environmental stress. There really isn't any way to identify internal parasites without a microscope, but dangerous internal parasitic infections are rather rare. Most wild fish carry at least some, and they don't cause
the least problems. It's only in poor conditions that the fish's immune system is overwhelmed and the parasites become life threatening. So, optimise water conditions and diet, and then work through the likely parasitic infections: Protozoans, worms and bacteria, in that order. In other words, I'd be going with an anti-protozoan medication like Metronidazole first, and an anti-worm medication such as Flubendazole second. Dangerous bacterial infections of the gut are pretty rare, and usually only occur when something else has gone terribly wrong.>
The fish normally eat a varied diet of peas, zucchini, spinach, squash, Mysis shrimp and an 8-veggie flake with Spirulina. This may sound slightly odd, but I don't usually feed the fish in the tank as the huge mess from feeding mushed veggies destroys my water quality very fast.<Actually, there's a difference between water quality and water clarity, and I think you're confusing them. Soft vegetable matter can reduce water clarity, but because it contains little protein, it's impact on water quality (i.e., ammonia, nitrite and nitrate) is minimal. By contrast, a new tank with an immature filter can have wonderfully clear water, but terribly water quality because the filter bacteria aren't in sufficient numbers yet to use up the ammonia and nitrite.>
I generally lower a small glass bowl into the water, they swim in and the "fish elevator" takes them away to be fed.. (they don't seem to mind this at all but if anyone has any suggestions as to how I can feed them a healthy diet in situ without having to do three consecutive water changes to get rid of the floating matter I'd really like to hear your story... I think part of the trouble may be that these fish can't see very well at close range).
<In part, removal of solid waste in the aquarium is the job of the filter; if the water gets cloudy, it means you're either massively overfeeding, or else the filter simply isn't up to the job. Do in particular check you have adequate mechanical filter media, i.e., fine sponges or filter wool.>
So there is a bit of background- as you can see I am a real stickler for water quality so am mystified at this sudden bloom of whatever it is.. I just tested my water 10 minutes ago and these are my readings: ammonia- zero; nitrites- zero; nitrate- three; pH 7.2 temperature is 72 degrees.
<Fine.>
To help my tank cycle, I turned off my UV filter and added some live bacteria to the water: this was yesterday- after the patches began to appear- so this is not the cause of the "fungus". I have not added any new items of decor. I can't find anything relating bluish-white patches (unless these begin to look cottony in the next few days). Do you have any idea what this might be?
<Ammonia burns.>
My fish are both a bit lethargic today and my larger fish is periodically bottom-sitting and fin clamping. As I mentioned, he was sporadically swimming sideways the other day which I am attributing to his persistent intestinal problem. He is a bit of a lop-sided fish: one of his eyes is quite a bit larger than the other and one side of his body (opposite of the eye) is a bit larger than the other side. He is going to have half a skinned pea for dinner and I am considering the addition of some Epsom salts- would a bit of Epsom salt perhaps help with the mysterious fungus?
<No.>
Will it kill off any of the live bacteria I added to the tank?
<Would have zero impact.>
I'm not noticing a lot of feces when I clean the tank so he may be a bit constipated from the Jungle medicated food so you think it would be okay to try Epsom salts then I will do so...
<Indeed, this is safe to do.>
I have had a few run-ins with white cottony-looking spots in the past few weeks, which did clear but left some fin damage in their wake. This doesn't quite look like the same stuff as it is quite bluish and looks "flat" but I guess it could be: so far no actual fin damage has been noted.
<Finrot looks like patches of dead white skin, compared with the cotton wool of fungus. Fish Pox occurs quite often among Goldfish, and is viral, and looks like molten wax. Because it's viral, there's no cure, and it goes away by itself given time. But Fish Pox is related to poor water quality, and tends to happen in fish that are stressed.>
Thank you so much for your help. I find it somewhat amusing that I am writing to a complete stranger about the bowel habits of my goldfish, but I am very grateful that you are there to answer!!
Gina
<Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: Strange blotches on Goldfishes fins -- 2/12/10

Hi Neale- thank you for the response!
<Gina,>
That is the funny thing- I don't think the bluish-white patches are ammonia burns as until yesterday I was using a product by Seachem called Prime which is a water conditioner with an ammonia lock.
<Do understand Prime and other ammonia removers ONLY remove ammonia from tap water; they have a near-zero effect on the CONSTANTLY produced ammonia coming from your fish. If we could just add water conditioner to our fish tanks, we wouldn't need filters!!!>
I treated the entire tank with every water change (as it only locks up the ammonia for 24 hours).
<No, you misunderstand. Water conditioners neutralise the small amounts of ammonia in tap water. They are NOTHING to do with the ammonia produced by your fish. Overdosing water conditioners could, in theory, do harm. So only dose new water when added to the aquarium. DO NOT KEEP ADDING it every day.>
I test the water daily, just before performing a water change and have never had a positive reading for ammonia: if it is a chemical burn I'm wondering if I was adding to much Prime.
<Possibly. Prime is ONLY for adding to each bucket of NEW water.>
I will find out soon as Bob suggested I stop using it to give my tank a chance to cycle. He felt it may have been interfering with the cycling- I set the tank up and ran it without fish for two weeks then transferred the fish (they have been in it for almost a month now).
<Possibly.>
I was getting nitrate readings of about 10 when I added the fish- but these have slowly gone back to zero so I added another bottle of live bacteria the other day.
<Again, adding bottles of stuff is pointless. The bacteria are in the system already. There's a million times more live bacteria in the sponges after a few weeks than in ANY bottle of stuff you buy from the shop. Sure, they'll sell you bottles of this stuff, but it doesn't do anything.>
Not sure what happened but if the ammonia is being locked by a chemical process then perhaps the ammonia cannot be converted by the bacteria?
<I don't think this is likely.>
The product says that it doesn't interfere with biological filtration but a lot of products promise the moon.
<Indeed.>
if the spots clear then I was indeed adding too much!
<In short, you need to use as instructed on new buckets of water, but otherwise leave the aquarium alone. If it hasn't cycled yet, it will eventually, and left alone, an aquarium should cycle in 4-8 weeks. In between that time, just minimise food and maximise water changes for best results.>
I added another bottle of live bacteria two days ago and am now using a product that only removes chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals.
<Hmm...>
Here is another very odd observation- when I have the fish out for feeding I absolutely cannot see the spots under regular incandescent light or what passes for sunlight in my rainy part of the world... It is only when the fish are swimming about in the tank and I have the fluorescent ood lamp on that the spots are visible- as I mentioned they are pale and whitish-blue.<And you're sure this isn't just iridescence? Do observe Shubunkin goldfish
for example; these have iridescent white and blue spots. Cross-breed Goldfish might have them, too.>
Both fish have dark tails so it really stands out. The bulb is an Aqueon rapid-start (came with the hood- not a special bulb) but the light it casts has a violet hue (not to imply that it is an ultra-violet bulb, though.
Just to be sure I held a piece of fluorite under it just to see if it would fluoresce (I'm a geologist by trade)
<As was I, once.>
but it did not). Have you ever heard of this before?
<No. Actinic tubes will sometimes cause fluorescence, but normally in chlorophyll-containing invertebrates, e.g., corals.>
I'm going to go ahead with the Epsom salts to help poor fish with his constipation problem... how long should I keep Epsom in the tank?
<In moderation it's harmless stuff, so as long as you want.>
You also mentioned using Metronidazole- I have tried this (the Jungle food contains Metronidazole, Praziquantel and Levamisole though I'm not sure in what concentration). I've just completed the recommended cycle but it
hasn't helped. I do have a bottle of 100% Metronidazole but Bob mentioned that I should be careful with it as prolonged use can cause problems.. and perhaps I'm not targeting the right bug.
<Would agree with him. I'd strongly recommend doing as little as possible while the tank is cycling; any one of these medications could harm the filter bacteria, or at least slow cycling down. Since most sickness is triggered by environmental (water quality, water chemistry) and dietary issues, it's fairly safe to step back, control those two things, and see what happens.>
The fish is already a bit of a clumsy swimmer I don't want to give him anything that might damage an already wonky swim bladder. I may just have a finicky fish, but from what I have read the long, clear trailing feces almost always indicates an intestinal parasite of some sort so I will look for the Flubendazole.
<In cichlids, yes, pale stringy faeces often imply Hexamita infections. But I am not sure this is true for Goldfish. Goldfish are bulk herbivores, and tend to produce a lot of faeces regardless.>
I'm glad that you said internal bacterial infections are rare because I have antibacterial food pellets but they take two weeks to work- I don't think the fish would be in good shape without some vegetables in his diet!
<Indeed.>
Thank you!
<Happy to help.>
Gina
<Cheers, Neale.> 
re: Strange blotches on Goldfishes fins -- 2/12/10

Neale!!
<Gina,>
Thanks for clarifying the issue with the water conditioner. I all of the blogs and articles I have read that the ammonia lock only works on tap water.. that explains quite a lot.
<Indeed.>
In fact I had been treating the entire tank every day on the advice from another site.
<Oh!>
The more I learn (and wow, is it difficult to sort out truth from opinion in many cases) the more I want to apologize to my poor fish..
<They'll get over it. Goldfish can live 30 years, so a couple of mistakes in the first weeks, if it doesn't kill them, will soon be a distant memory.>
Regarding the spots- I don't think they are iridescence as they appeared so suddenly- ammonia burns now make sense (I'm so sad- I've been trying so hard to make this tank into a happy place for my fish... I am amazed by these inquisitive little creatures. In fact, you and Mr. Fenner both wrote very nice responses a while back to a question I had regarding goldfish intelligence).
<Yes, they are far smarter than popular legend suggests. If there is a fish better suited to living alongside humans and providing both colour and fun, I've yet to see it.>
Another geologist- what a coincidence! (though I'm currently back to school on a career change).
<And somehow I left the world of ammonites for tropical fish!>
Thanks again, Neale.
Gina
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Ammonia Spikes Stress Goldfish Hi, I will try to keep this short. I bought a 10 gallon tank and overloaded it with 5 goldfish. < Not a good idea.> The evident happened with ammonia, so I went and purchased a 46 gallon. I lost 2 of them. Now the 10 gallon finished cycling (this is in a 2 month perimeter) the 46 kept having huge ammonia spikes like 8ppm for a week  and I noticed one of my favorite black moor's was doing poorly in the 46 gallon (clamped fins, laying at the bottom of the tank just moving her lips to breathe). So I put her in the 10 gallon. She quickly picked up and was swimming all around the tank. Now this is the second day and she is back to clamped fins and lying at the bottom of the tank. She lays there until I come over and then she acts like she just woke up from a dream and is trying to shake it off, and then goes back to the bottom. Did I poison her possibly and is there anyway to help her? Or is she doomed to die? She has been my little trooper through all the ammonia spikes and problems I have had. I would hate to lose her. Thank you < These ammonia spikes weaken fish and promote disease. I would recommend that you do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. After that add Bio-Spira from Marineland. Your tank should be stable in a couple of days.-Chuck>

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

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

Bio Spira, Prime, Ammonia, tap water question  - 09/23/06 Hello, crew, <<Hello, Marissa. Tom>> I've read your FAQs on Ammonia (particularly those on ammonia present in tap water), but I feel that I need more clarification.  Apologies for this long email. <<And my apologies if this winds up creating more questions than it answers. :)>> Here's the scenario: I basically let the ammonia levels in my 25 gallon tank (which has been set up for 5 years) get out of control recently.  :-(     Not enough or thorough enough water changes and overfeeding my begging gouramis did the job.  I only noticed a problem when one of my Raphael catfish died (looked like a nasty skin disease, I'm assuming bacterial).    <<Sorry to hear about your pet.>> Then I tested my tank (on 9/13) and my levels were frightening: Ammonia 4.0 Nitrites .25 Nitrates 10 pH 6.6 <<Thank you for these. Would that everyone was in the habit of including their parameters with their posts!>> Livestock at the time:  2 three-inch Raphael "talking" catfish (the third had died), 2 four-inch blue gouramis (Yet, would you believe my male Gourami had actually built a bubble nest and spawned with the female in that filthy tank?   How did they not get sick?) <<Perhaps because your parameters weren't as bad as the readings would indicate.>> Anyway, I did some aggressive water changes immediately (50-60% the first day) and over the next 4 or 5 days I continued with 50% changes.   After I got the ammonia level down to 1 and Nitrites were at 0 (in addition: Nitrates 5, pH 6.4) the LFS suggested that I needed to establish a new cycle in this tank.  Therefore, I was told to hold on the water changes for now and to just wait this cycle out.  They told me watch my ammonia levels and to watch my fish's behavior for any changes and do water changes if necessary.     <<Stick with these folks. I'm not sure that this is, or ever was, the problem but the advice is very sound, nonetheless.>> My fish have seemed fine, including the catfish.  The ammonia had been holding at 1 since Sunday the 17th.   I still didn't like this.    (OH...I've hardly fed my fish at all during this period.  The gouramis got a whopping 1 fish flake each over 4 days--I'm weak.) <<Tsk, tsk. :)>> After reading your website, I decided to help out my fish friends by buying Bio Spira.  I thought this would take care of that last 1 ppm.    I bought Bio Spira refrigerated, wrapped it in newspaper to insulate it for the trip back, refrigerated it for about 20 minutes when I got home, and then followed the directions, using about 1ml/gal for the 25gal. tank.   It was a "fresh" packet with no bad smell. <<Good.>> That was 2 days ago, but my ammonia levels have not budged and are still at 1.   I thought this was odd and called the company.  They were surprised too, and said that the ammonia should have come down almost immediately.    They suggested a 25% change and adding more of the Bio Spira, which I have done. <<Again, sound advice but I've come to think that something else is at play here.>> Any thoughts? <<A couple but let's continue so they will make as much sense as is possible.>> Could the fact that my tap water contains ammonia contribute to this problem?  Before I added the Bio Spira I tested my tap water (using an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test) and it read 1!    I got scared, called the city, and they tested my tap water.  Their test of my water read .48 (I was told that the city tries to keep their levels between .35 and .45).    <<This isn't uncommon, Marissa. Municipalities have taken to adding ammonia with chlorine to form chloramine, which is less "volatile" (meaning it doesn't dissipate as quickly) than chlorine alone. While we very prudently use water conditioners during water changes, a pail of water would be "dechlorinated" just as effectively by leaving it stand overnight. That's how quickly chlorine dissipates. (Not so with chloramine, however, so stick with the conditioner!)>> Regardless, I treat my tap water with Prime.  However,  I did read on the Seachem website that their Prime product can cause a "false positive" reading for ammonia.   I bought their (Seachem) ammonia test, which tests for Free and Total ammonia out of curiosity.    My tank water tested this morning at 1 (with the Aq. Pharm. test) but the Seachem test on my tank produced a "Free" ammonia reading of about .02, and a "Total" of about 1.    Is this "1" coming from my Prime-conditioned tap water?   Either way, isn't this a bad thing? <<"Free" ammonia, chemically, is NH3. "Total" ammonia is a combination of ammonia (NH3) and ammonium (NH4+). (Ammonium is non-toxic to fish.) The two naturally exist in a type of equilibrium depending on pH and temperature - with temperature playing the smaller role here. The lower the pH and temperature, the greater the concentration of ammonium. As pH and temperature rise, ammonia has the greater presence. Your Aquarium Pharmaceutical test kit - which is the kit I, personally, use - tests for "total" ammonia. However, due to the low pH of your tank water, at the time of your first test, I would calculate that the "free" ammonia (the bad stuff) in your tank was <0.01 ppm, assuming a tank temperature of around 79 degrees F. In short, you didn't have an emergency or, at the very least, your Raphael catfish didn't expire due to ammonia/nitrite poisoning. Now, could this have quickly, and fatally, reversed itself? Oh, you betcha! A sudden increase in pH would have converted the ammonium to ammonia and you probably could have used your aquarium water as a household cleaner. Well, not that bad but you get the picture. Okay, so why didn't the BIO-Spira do the trick? First, you had reduced the total ammonia/nitrites through massive water changes. Second, Prime converts ammonia to ammonium (typical of products that "de-toxify" ammonia) and it also de-toxifies nitrites and nitrates. Third, I don't believe you "lost" your biological filtration capability or, at least to the extent that it appeared like it was lost. My thinking here is that the BIO-Spira likely supplemented what little may have been lost of your bio-colonies and there was nothing more it could do in this regard.>> Ultimately, I'm confused. Can you offer any advice on getting rid of this 1ppm? I'm going to wait and see if the second dose of Bio Spira does anything. The Seachem company does state that Prime won't interrupt the establishment of a cycle, for what it's worth. <<Marissa, I'm going to offer a hypothesis "outside of the box", so to speak. Since your bio-filter has, almost certainly, been successfully re-established, there would seem to be no "logical" explanation for your ammonia levels to be "stuck" at 1.0 ppm unless there were a continuing supply of ammonia/ammonium "balancing" the scale between what's being nitrified by the beneficial bacteria and what's being "produced" by your fish, either directly or indirectly, i.e. uneaten food/detritus. I don't think the latter is really the case since tanks more heavily stocked than yours can maintain ammonia levels at zero. A possibility? De-nitrifying bacteria. I don't suggest that this isn't stretching the thought process to the breaking point but, we don't, as hobbyists, think about the reversal of the nitrifying process. In fact, our "good" bacteria make up only a very small portion of the bacteria present in our aquariums. De-nitrifying bacteria are far more plentiful. The process goes something like this: (NO3-) (nitrate) -> (NO2-) (nitrite) -> (NO) -> (N2O) -> (N2) (di-nitrogen gas). Water with low pH (yours, for instance) has a relatively high concentration of H+ ions. While I'm not qualified to definitively state that N2 in the presence of H+ ions will form bonds resulting in the formation of NH3 and/or NH4+, this might offer a plausible explanation as to why you continue to detect ammonia in your aquarium. What you might try is to increase the aeration of your tank. If there's any merit whatsoever to my "hypothesis", the de-nitrification process will be curtailed by the increase in oxygen. That is, the de-nitrifying bacteria I've referred to will utilize oxygen introduced into the tank rather than the oxygen bonded to the nitrogen in the nitrates.>> Thank you for your time in answering my question. Marissa    <<As I've suggested, Marissa, the latter part of my response is a "stretch" but one that I believe offers a possible explanation where no other reason "jumps out" at us. Best of luck to you. Tom>>
Re: Bio Spira, Prime, Ammonia, tap water question
<<Hi, again, Marissa.>> Thanks for the advice! I've increased the aeration and will let you know if this solves the "problem." <<I'd appreciate this if you would be so kind. I'm less interested in being "right" than I am in knowing, with some certainty, if there's a "dynamic" going on in our aquariums that might be of help to other folks, as well.>> Marissa <<Tom>>
Re: Bio Spira, Prime, Ammonia, tap water question  9/28/06
Hi, Crew (or Tom, if you're available) <BobF now> (I've included my email exchanges with Tom at the end of this email for reference) <Good> To help with my mysterious lingering ammonia level of "1", per your advice, I've increased my aeration in my tank since Saturday the 23rd.   I've been checking my parameters daily and I thought I'd mention a change I noticed yesterday--an increase in nitrites.    <A good sign/indication that the ammonia is being "cycled" along> Until yesterday, my numbers with the additional aeration were: Ammonia = 1 Nitrite = 0 Nitrate = 5 pH = 6.6 Then, Tuesday morning my numbers were: Ammonia = .50  (Yay!  The aeration is working?) Nitrite = .25  (bleah...but is this probably form the ammonia breaking down?) <Mmm, yes... being converted... a good thing> Nitrate = 10   (from the increase in nitrites?) <Likely so, yes> pH = 6.6 (I did resume giving them a little more food the day before, but I still kept it very sparse, just enough for them to eat in a minute.   Maybe that was a bad idea.  After I saw the nitrites yesterday, I did not feed them at all). <Good> I did a 25% water change and checked the water Tuesday evening: Amm = .50 Nitrite = 0 to  .25 (the color was not quite a light blue, yet not quite a light purple either) Nitrate = 10 pH = 6.8 <I would take care to not allow the pH to rise much... at all. Nitrogenous metabolites are MUCH more toxic at higher pHs> This morning, the numbers were about the same as Tuesday morning:  (Am. .50, Nitrite .25, Nitrate 10, pH 6.8) <... takes a while> The fish are acting quite normally and are not straining at the surface to breathe.   No rapid breathing either.     I don't want to give them any more food and I'll do another 25% change now. Any thoughts?   Should I stick with the daily water changes until this cycle works itself out? <I would try to not do water changes... unless ammonia or nitrite exceeded 1.0 ppm... such changes forestall the establishment of full cycling>    Could this mean that the extra aeration is working? <Possibly, but it is a good idea in all cases> Thanks! Marissa <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Fish Concern During Cycling  9/12/06 Hello Crew, I have made the ignorant mistake that other beginners have made.   I did not let the aquarium do its cycle before introducing fish.  I have 10 fish and 3 mystery snails in my 28gal bowfront tank. I have read the fish will start to die near the end of the 'Cycle'.  It has been about a week and no fish have died yet and ammonia levels are about 1.5mg/l.  My question is, as the ammonia increases throughout the cycle should I remove the fish from the tank and place them in smaller containers of freshwater until the chemical levels are normal.  I have performed 2 - 25% water changes and added the product "ACE" (ammonia chlorine eliminator). Thanks for your time < Add Bio-Spira by Marineland. Tank will be cycled within a day.  Or keep fish in tank and continue to dilute ammonia with water changes.-Chuck>

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

Tank Cycling - 25/8/06 Hi there!   I need your astute advice on this. <'astute' is my middle name... (ahem.. yeah, right...)>   I had an aquarium go "bad" with, I guess, ammonia and nitrates, etc. <You need to be testing for these with test kits. Beats guessing.> Several fish died before I removed them and the survivors went on living in a noncontaminated aquarium. <It's not a matter of an aquarium being 'contaminated' or not... it's all to do with the ability of the biological filter to be able to respond to the fish load and convert their wastes fast enough. Indeed, if the filter in he new tank is not used to such a heavy fish load, you'll soon be facing the same issues there.>   I then tried EVERYTHING to bring the ammonia, nitrates, etc. down, but I'm having a helluva time! I've vacuumed at least three times and withdrawn much of the old water and replaced it.  I've put in practically a whole bottle of Novaqua in but the bad stuff doesn't seem to subside. <How are you measuring this? What 'bad stuff'? I wouldn't dump a whole bottle of anything in...> Why does it seem so difficult to do this?  Is there something I'm missing? <If I were you, I would research "cycling" (the process of establishing a biological filter) - on WWM and on many pages on the net. If you are in the US and can purchase the "bio-Spira" product locally, it may be your best chance not to kill more fish at this stage.> I want to get the fish back in there ASAP, but it just doesn't seem to be responding! <More reading! Thanks for writing in, hope you get the tank under control. Best regards, John>   Thanks,     Leslie

I need help with ammonia spikes, Or Avoiding Them... Contaminated Conditioner?    8/7/06 Hi! I have read through many of the questions regarding cycling, and I am familiar with the entire process. <Good> I can't find anything that even gives me a clue as to what's happening with my tanks, so let me explain. And I apologize in advance, as this is a bit long.    <No worries>   I moved into a new apartment in May (it is now August). I brought with me 3 Bettas who each live in their own uncycled, unfiltered, 2.5 gallon tanks. They are healthy and vibrant, eat well and what not, and for a long time have had 100% water changes about every 2 weeks. Since this has been our schedule, <You'll learn, are learning... the tap is not consistent...> I rarely test their water anymore, though I realize now I should have as soon as we moved to the new place.    <Ah, yes>   I then bought a fourth Betta almost two weeks ago, and moved him into an uncycled, unfiltered 5 gallon tank. The plan was to keep him on the same schedule as the others, and if the water changes were a pain, then to cycle his tank when I could get my hands on some BioSpira.      One week after he moved in, I noticed a cloudy area near the bottom of his tank, pulled him out and started vacuuming the gravel, until anaerobic/methane smelling gas bubbles started coming up. (yuck!) <Indeed> I was not trying to cycle his tank, but after I cleaned out the whole thing and replaced it, I added a filter and BioSpira to cycle it, and put him back in. I then decided to test the three smaller tanks: .50ppm ammonia on them - but their water changes were almost due, so I thought maybe that had something to do with it.    <Maybe...>   After asking around, I also: 1) threw out all their old Betta food and bought new stuff, 2) tested my tap water for ammonia (0ppm), 3) set out a cup of treated water (appropriate proportions of Novaqua, Amquel, and aquarium salt, which I've always used) for a week <Very good> with nothing else in it, and then tested ammonia (1.0ppm) <Bingo... one of the Novalek products has "gone bad"... is actually a source of ammonia here. Happens> , 4) tested some untreated tap water that had been in a capped bottle for a week (0ppm), 5) tested the three smaller tanks one week after water changes (.25ppm), 6) tested (after one week of sitting) tap water left out (1ppm), water with Novaqua only/Amquel only/salt only, left out (each at 1.0ppm), and water run through a Brita water filter sitting in a fridge (0ppm). Actually the last round was more like 4 or 5 days as I was getting impatient.      And, after just under two weeks, the 5 gallon cycled with BioSpira is testing at .50ppm with no sign of nitrite or nitrate. Grr!    <Mmm, could be residual from the Amquel/Novaqua or produced by the Betta, food... bacterial metabolism>   Sorry this is so long, but I need help. What I basically have narrowed it all down to is that there is something in my AIR, or something in my water that reacts to my air to create ammonia but doesn't allow the cycle, or my test kit is whacked (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Freshwater Master test kit.)    <All good speculations... tis the water conditioner... The way this scenarios (can) go, is that the product "gets old"... and the PVP component (organic... carbon), gets to becoming a substrate/food for bacteria... producing ammonia...>   I am taking a water sample to my fish store today to see if he gets the same results, and I am also going to leave out one more cup of spring water to test in a week, since I figure that will tell me definitively whether it's the air or the water.    <Do take the water conditioning products as well... Often one can actually smell the difference twixt contaminated and non/new...>   The reason I suspect my air is this: ever since I moved in here there is a strong smell of something weird - not all the time, but occasionally when I walk in the house I notice it. It smells vaguely like natural gas, though when I go near the gas stove I smell a slight smell of that and this is different. <Interesting... I too have a varying sensitivity, sensation such as this... particularly when about the "Hawaii house" in Holualoa... have thought it must be a gas leak, but am more and more convinced it is something in the way of a plant/decomposition musty smell... Nonetheless, such sources, possible sources of ammonia rarely result in aquarium-kit measurable titers of free ammonia> I even had the building manager turn off the gas going to my heater. At first I thought maybe it was the smell of the varnish on the hardwood floors, but I still smell it after 3 months. Then I thought it was some strange thing the downstairs neighbors were cooking, since I can sometimes smell more recognizable dishes from them... But now, I don't know, it's just a thought. Is there something airborne that would cause ammonia to spike like this?    <There is/are... most notably are very dirty cat-litter boxes nearby... But as stated, these situations are quite rare>   Can you suggest anything? <Yes... tis almost assuredly the Kordon/Novalek product/s... this is a fine company, and good formulations by and large... but do "get old" and bacterially bad with exposure, time...> I have a 40 gallon I've been wanting to set up as a tropical, but I'm afraid to start until I have this figured out, especially since the 5 gallon didn't cycle. I may try to fishless cycle the 40 to see if it will be more stable... I don't know. Thanks so much in advance!  -Shannon <Thank you for writing so well, thoroughly. I do hope you solve this mystery, and do please write us back re. Bob Fenner>

My nitrates aren't rising, FW cycling, ammonia   7/3/06 Hello there,     <G'morning Sara>   I've been cycling my tank for seven weeks but I think I'm doing something wrong.  In all this time, my nitrites and nitrates never rose above zero, and test results have been consistently around 79 deg/8.0pH/1.0AM/ 0 NO2and3/300 KH&GH.  My Ammonia level rose to 2.0 in the past couple of days <Oh... the nitrites, nitrates are coming> so now am wondering if it's a good idea to change the water to bring it back down and risk losing the good bacteria that's built up.  I'm really trying to be patient but I really want to add more fish. <... there should not be any fish present currently> I'm new to the hobby so I'm also trying to do things the "right way."  Any help you can provide would be much appreciated.  Here's the background...    Week One:  Setup 20g freshwater tank with bio-wheel filtration for 50g, gravel, sandstone rock, heater, plastic plants, and decor and let it run for a week to ensure that things were working properly.  During this time test results hovered around 82-77deg/ 8.2pH/0.5-0.25 AM/ 0 NO2/3.  I also tested my tap water and got inconsistent results, one day 7.6pH and other days 8.8pH. <... too much vacillation here. Something is awry chemically or your test kit is bunk> I add AmQuel plus to the water in the bucket and stabilize the temp before adding to the tank. I tried to lower the pH by taking out the sandstone rock (no change) and changing 10% of the water which brought about a slight change but pH is consistently around 8.0, so I'm not going to fight it.    <Good>   Week Two:  Added two fancy guppies (Tequila Sunrise) to start the cycling process. <Not necessary. See WWM re> They seemed a bit timid and kept swimming to the top to get air, though not in a desperate way and not really gasping.  Nevertheless I added an air stone, so between and it and the bio-wheel, the fish did much better with the increased aeration, meaning they hardly swam up to the surface to get air. I fed them sparingly once a day. Test results were 75-77deg/ 8.0pH/0.5AM/ 0 NO2and3/300 KH&GH consistently.        Week Three: I added three more Tequila Sunrise guppies to help speed up the process ... I know not much patience shown here but I figured 5 inches of fish for 20g should be OK.  Thankfully the addition really seemed to help as all five males enjoyed each other's company and seemed to happily play in the moving water and find spots to sleep in.  Two of the new fish showed some frenetic activity by swimming up and down the sides of the tank and I did notice a red dot on the tail of one of the original guppies so I thought, uh-oh, ammonia poisoning! <Likely so> I changed 20% of the water and monitored several times a day.  Test results were consistently 77-79deg/ 8.0pH/0.5AM/ 0 NO2and3/300 KH&GH.  I added a small piece of driftwood to lower the pH and hardness, and while the fish like the wood, no real change seen.  The fish seemed very active so I turned off the heater but still temp stays between 77-80 which is a little warmer then the temp in my house.  Tank is not near a window or a drafty area but I took out the heater anyway.      Week Seven:  I feed the fish twice a day, trying not to overfeed (but sometimes I do).  Water clarity is pretty good, and it never got too cloudy with the five fish.  There was a week where a lot of dust seemed to be floating in the water so I rinsed out the filter (a mistake right?) to see if that would remove the dust and it helped a little.  Maybe the dust was actually little bubbles from all the aeration? <Actually just high concentrations of microbes free in the water> As for the tank temp, my air conditioner stopped working so my home got pretty hot which brought the tank water to 82 deg one day.  Other than the one day heat wave, testing during these weeks produced consistent results of 77-79 deg/8.0pH/1.0AM/ 0 NO2and3/300 KH&GH.  And despite my newbie efforts, the fish seem to be doing well - no frenetic activity, no gasping for air, no signs of aggression or illness (red dot previously spotted now gone), enjoying the small feedings, and continue exploring the tank.   Yesterday my ammonia level rose to 2.0 and after I topped off the tank (5%) the ammonia level still remained at 2.0.  Maybe I'm overfeeding? <I would not feed at all if ammonia approaches 1.0 ppm> I want to keep the good bacteria but should I do a water change to bring it down?  Also, why aren't my nitrites/nitrates changing? Seven weeks should be long enough right? <Mmm, not with your changing things... adding the driftwood, trying to modify pH...>      What kind of fish do I want to add you ask?  Well I started off wanting a community tank of colorful fish but given temp, pH, and water hardness, it seems that my tank is more suited to African Cichlids but since I have guppies that isn't going to work.  So now I figure I'll just have an all male guppy tank.  3 different colorful varieties or a total of 15. <Should make for a nice display>   I did get some Bio-Spira but I haven't used it to give this traditional method of patience and starter fish a chance to work. <I would use the BioSpira product... immediately. The "traditional method" you speak of is outdated... no longer in favor. Too hard on livestock, too likely to introduce, entrench problems...> It seems that whatever I'm doing isn't working.  Please help!      Thanks in advance!! <Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above, especially http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwammfaqs.htm Patience my friend. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia in Tap water   7/2/06 Hi Bob, <<Hello, Anthony. Tom with you.>> I seem to have ammonia in my tap water! I live in  New Jersey and my water company seems to add ammonia to my tap water to combat bacteria and other pathogens (I contacted them!) <<Anthony, at first reading, many would find this shocking (in the extreme). However, it's not quite as bad as all that - though we "fishkeepers" might disagree - since many municipalities treat their potable water with Chloramine vs. Chlorine since Chlorine tends to break down rather quickly. The difference? Chloramine is a combination of Chlorine and Ammonia. If the dechlorinator you use  for water changes is intended for Chlorine only, bingo! You're left with the Ammonia.>> My liquid test kit shows a  steady reading of .3 ppm. This may not seem like much, but for my cardinal  tetras, and the discus I plan to purchase, this is very harmful, as  you know! I recently lost nearly 20 cardinals from this amount of ammonia in my  tap water! How can I remove this ammonia? <<Many water conditioning products now treat for both Chlorine and Chloramine. AmQuel Plus (Kordon's) also removes Ammonia from water (likely via the same chemical process as those products that treat the Chloramine).>> I really can not afford/have the time for an RO setup, and buying water by the jug is also too expensive/time  consuming. <<An RO system is, admittedly, a sweet luxury to have but, let's get real, it isn't cheap. On the other side of the coin, we don't advocate using distilled bottle water due to it's lack of beneficial elements.>> I planned on doing 25% water changes every two weeks for the discus and cardinals. Is this sufficient for them? <<Since Discus are so fussy about water conditions, I might consider smaller (10%-15%) every week. This might be up for some experimentation, though.>> But then again, if I change this  amount of water, won't that add too much ammonia? <<It will if you can't get rid of it.>> Will aeration  remove ammonia? Or Zeolite? Or Carbon? <<Aeration? No. Zeolite? Yes. Carbon? Possibly. The latter two methods have been debated in some circles particularly in the area of Zeolite since there are many varieties of this, including man-made types, and not all break down nitrogen compounds (such as Ammonia) equally, if at all.>> I would rather not set up another container with water for water changes. Is there a product/method that will help me overcome this problem? <<Here I would refer you back to the water conditioners I've already suggested. As an aside, some of our readers may be asking themselves why I would suggest AmQuel for you but not for them. The reason, which I've tried to clarify when recommending "against" it, is that many have used the product during the cycling process to eliminate Ammonia from the aquarium. This is counter-productive to the process since it starves the bio-colonies that they're trying hard to establish. In an established/cycled tank, however, the fish will provide enough Ammonia to keep the colonies "fed". Apples and oranges, if you will.>> Thanks, Anthony <<Glad to help, Anthony. My best. Tom>> Re: Attn: Tom - Ammonia in Tap water  - 07/03/04 Tom, <<Hey, Anthony.>> Thank you for your reply. I currently use Tetra's Aqua-safe. It states on the bottle that it treats Chlorine and Chloramines, as well as ammonia. It does   have a side note stating it will not remove ammonia from cycling or fish waste.  Will this do the job? <<Don't see why not, Anthony. Sounds like just the right type of product for you.>> Should I contact tetra and ask them this? <<I like your thinking here but, if you consider it, a simple do-it-yourself check would probably satisfy you more than getting the potential "company line", if you will, over the telephone or through the mail. The product should speak for itself.>> If not, when  using AmQuel Plus, do I need to treat the water in a separate container, or can I put it right in the tank during water changes? <<AmQuel Plus is made to go directly into the tank however, this would entail putting the new water - containing the ammonia - directly in, as well. Not the way I'd like to see you go and here's why. I've run across several, if not more, articles that cite problems, if you can call them that, with treatment plants maintaining stable chlorine/chloramine levels in tap water, particularly during the summer months. Perfectly safe for us human people but you could find that the 0.3 ppm of Ammonia you've been detecting at higher levels than that. Remember that if you can detect it, it's toxic. Why risk it?>> Thanks again, Anthony <<Any time, Anthony. Hope it all works well for you. Tom>>

Ammonia poisoning ... goldfish, sys., dis.  6/12/06 Hello <Hi there - you've got Jorie here> Please can you help me? <Will try...> I bought a tank and 4 goldfish 16 days and I stupidly thought that adding the fish straight away without leaving a tank to sit for a week would be ok<...> <I'm not exactly sure what you are trying to say here.  I think you mean that you bought 4 goldfish in 16 days?  In any case, from your following statement indicating that you didn't let the water sit for a week, I think you are confusing two issues: (1) if you are using pure tap water, you need to either let the water sit to allow the chlorine/chloramine levels to lower (a few days if there's no aeration in the water, less if you are aerating the H20), or you need to use a liquid dechlorinator, which works almost immediately to remove harmful chlorine/chloramine from the water and (2) establishing the nitrogen cycle in the tank prior to introducing livestock.  Sounds to me like we need to start from the beginning - here are some very helpful articles/links:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm and   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/gldfshsystems.htm  Additionally, there's a good beginner book out there by David E. Boruchowitz, which has a title something like "The Simple Guide for Freshwater Aquariums" (sorry I don't have the exact title - I've lent the book to my boyfriend's dad...do an author search on www.barnesandnoble.com or www.amazon.com)  Everything contained within that book is very helpful and I've found accurate, with the exception of his stocking suggestions - he tends to overcrowd his tanks a bit, in my opinion.   In any case, after reading the material I've linked you to, plus other material which you can readily find via www.google.com or the likes, you'll need to invest in a good test kit.  Personally, I like Tetra's Master Freshwater test kit.  Definitely stay away from dipstick type tests, as they are notoriously inaccurate.  When you are cycling your tank, you will need to take daily readings of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate and you will see a spike, and subsequent reduction, in all three.  As long as there aren't fish in the tank, you can allow these three readings to spike, but, obviously, if you are cycling the tank with fish in it (which I don't recommend, as it is cruel...a small bit of fish food or a cocktail shrimp in the tank will achieve the same result), you need to do frequent water changes to get the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate out of the water, as all are toxic to livestock.> <...>
as I had a goldfish when I was younger that lived in a bowl of tap water for 3 years but I have found out (in a very stressing way)  that this was the worst thing to do as the following occurred: Day 1 - put 4 fish (roughly 2.5cm each) into a 14 Litre tank with an air pump and filter <1 goldfish, let alone 4, DO NOT BELONG IN A 14 Litre tank (rough equivalent is less than 4 U.S. gallons).  This is cruel and unusual - there is not enough room for the fish to swim and thrive.  You need a min. of a 50-70 gal. tank for the four fish you have.  To be bluntly honest, for the purpose of sparing the poor fish, you should return whatever surviving fish you have and read and research prior to doing anything else with livestock.> Days 2 to 8 performed 20% water changes every other day... <In such a ridiculously small tank with 4 messy goldfish, this is totally inadequate.  Even if the 3-4 U.S. gal. tank were sufficient, you'd need to do at least 100% daily water changes to rid the water of the pollution left behind from 4 goldies.   <...adding Nutrafin Biological aquarium supplement and Nutrafin water conditioner each time, I have since found out should only have done this when there were no fish in the tank. <I am not a fan of using artificial supplements to "quicken" the cycling process.  It is totally not necessary if you've gone through the entire nitrogen cycle (without fish, preferably)> Days 9 and 10 Noticed the fish were not as active and seemed to lying at the bottom of the tank or hiding <Yes, they were likely dying a slow, painful death due to toxic poisoning.> Day 11 Noticed one of the fish had severe problems swimming and its tail was badly torn, then I seen one of the other fish take a bite out of it, so I  quickly put it in the jug I used for water changes but it died about 10 minutes later. Day 12 Another fish died I went to my local garden centre with a sample  of water from the tank and explained what I had done, the test showed the there was a very high level of ammonia in the water, I was advised to do an 80% water change that day and to add some King British Safe Water to get rid of the ammonia and to give a salt bath to the fish in the morning.   Day 13 Found another fish dead which just left one I removed her from the tank and gave her a salt bath and she immediately picked up when she was added back to the tank. I took another sample to get tested and the ammonia level had  gone down but I was told to perform partial water changes until the ammonia was  gone and to keep giving salt baths. Day 14 I went to check on her in the morning and she was at the side of the tank when she saw me she floated up to the top, the man at the garden centre told me I could give her a little food so I broke up 1 fish food flake and put it in the water beside her she followed it around the tank for a bit and did take a few bites but then she went back to the side of the tank again and spat it all back out. I gave her another salt bath and did a partial water change making sure the water was the same temp as the tank when I put her back in the tank she picked up but only for a short period of time and for the rest of the  day she never left the side of the tank she appeared to float at the top and  sometimes all her fins would come out and then she slowly pulled them back in at  the same time as sinking back to the bottom I went to a pet shop and I was  advised to put Sera water conditioner into the water. Day 15 I checked on her in the morning and she was still a the side of the tank sometimes at the top and sometimes at the bottom when she showed all her fins I noticed that she wasn't using her left fin very much and upon closer inspection  noticed that it was red  at the base. I took another sample to the garden centre, which showed there was  1.5 mg of ammonia in the tank. I spoke to the same man as I had done on my first  visit there and explained what had happened he told me to keep giving salt baths  and to add 75mg of soluble aspirin to the bath and use water from the tank for  the bath and to do a water change when she was in the bath and to put the Sera  water conditioner and King British safe water into the new water before adding it  to the tank. I also explained that she wasn't eating and that her fin was sore,  he told me to give her live feed and not to worry about her fin yet as getting rid of the ammonia was the main problem to sort out first. I came back and gave  her a salt bath with the aspirin and did a partial water change. When I put her  back in the tank she swam around for a while but then went back to the side, I  added the live feed and she showed no interest in it at all I then crumpled in 1 flake of food and again she followed the pieces but this time she didn't take any bits into her mouth so I removed the dried food. Today I went to check on her and she is now at the bottom of the tank  hiding behind an ornamental cave and she won't come up for food and she's not moving much she is opening her mouth but not frantically. I bought a water testing kit yesterday and I've tested the water for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate the ammonia level is 0.8mg the nitrite level is 0.1mg and the nitrate level is  0mg <You cannot have any traces of ammonia in the water when there are live fish in there!  First off - FIND ANOTHER HOME FOR YOUR FISH, unless you are capable of immediately providing a suitable sized home for the fish.  As mentioned above, you need a larger tank (by far), you need to make sure the tank is cycled prior adding any livestock.  I cannot condone you keeping your 4 fish in such cramped quarters, but if you insist, since you now have your own test kit now, keep doing water changes and keep the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels at ZERO.  That's the only thing you can do at the moment. In all honesty, I expect your fish to die if you keep there where they are now.> Please can you help it's so upsetting seeing her like this especially as  I know this is all my fault I really would appreciate any advice you can  offer I look forward to hearing from you soon <Dawn, I, too, am very distraught in reading this.  In all honesty, your fish are dying right now due to ammonia, nitrite and/or nitrate poisoning.  I'm glad you care and give you kudos for wanting to do what's right.  Please understanding I'm not trying to beat you up, and if I honestly thought there was another solution, I'd tell you.  You really aren't prepared for your fish at the current time, so please try to find another home for them ASAP.  If you absolutely cannot replace them, then keep doing water changes and keep testing the water.  You do not want any traces of ammonia, nitrite or nitrate.  For your water changes, use a liquid chlorine/chloramine remover to make your tap water immediately suitable, and do water changes until all readings are at zero.  But please consider returning the fish, doing some homework, and returning to this hobby once you are better prepared.  In the meantime, please do peruse www.wetwebmedia.com for helpful information about fishkeeping.> Dawn Ord <Best regards, Jorie>

Re: Question I just replied to on WWM...  6/12/06 Hi Bob, Sabrina:    <Hi, Jorie!!>  I just answered a query entitled "Ammonia Poisoning", and I hope I wasn't too harsh.  Someone was/is trying to keep 4 goldies in a 3-4 gal. uncycled tank, and short of immediately purchasing a 50-60 gal. aquarium, the best advice I could give was to find a better home for the fish.  I did talk about the nitrogen cycle, water changes, etc., etc., but bottom line, I kept stressing getting rid of the fish ASAP.  I hope I wasn't out of line - of course feel free to amend my response before posting.        Thanks!    Jorie   <My take?  Say what you mean; don't skimp on truth to spare someone's pride at the risk of the life/lives in their care, be honest....  On queries that get me particularly incensed, I'll go have a coffee and chill out a bit before responding.  That doesn't usually change how I respond, though ;)  If you're comfortable with your replies, so am I.  But that's just my $0.02, Bob's "da man".  -Sabrina> <<Da fish man. Who agrees. RMF>>

Re: nitrates & ammonia in well water ... Ammonias Converting to Nitrates  - 05/19/2006 Thanks Chuck. What I'm trying to say is...Will putting water that has measurable ammonia levels in an established, cycled aquarium cause a spike in nitrates? < Yes.> All I know is that when I do a 25% water change on my 75 gal freshwater. The water clouds up within 18 hrs. and the nitrates start shooting back up. Like stocking a new tank too quickly. I think I should try to remove the ammonia before using. Do you agree? < Absolutely. Ammonia is very deadly to fish. Converting it to nitrates is a very good idea.-Chuck> Thanks again...DR

Ammonia level in Molly Tank   3/24/06 Hello <Hello, Pam. Tom here.> Back in October I bought Mollies (turned out to be 2 females and 4 males) to go in my 65 gallon tank. <Okay. Would like to see the ratio reversed but,...>  Didn't know they gave live birth. SURPRISE! <I can imagine!> The black female started having babies about a month after this. Found the info on your sight about saving the fry. <Good> Have been VERY successful with this. We now have about 40 mollies. <You have, indeed, been very successful!> Santa brought both my sons 10 gal. tanks for Christmas. We placed 3 of the adult males in one tank and the 1 adult male with 3 of the fry that were large enough in the other. <You don't say when but, I'm guessing too soon> We have had continued ammonia problems with the two 10 gal. tanks. We lost the 3 in the one tank and have had a constant battle with the other. <Pam, I'm not "guessing" any longer. The fish were added too soon> I have done partial water changes <Good>, treatment with AmQuel <Not good and, I'll explain why. Products such as Amquel convert ammonia (NH3) to ammonium (NH4). (Bear with me. You, honestly, won't need a degree in chemistry, I promise!) Ammonia is extremely toxic to fish - literally burns the gill membranes. Ammonium doesn't. However, the beneficial bacteria that your aquarium needs to "cycle" don't feed on ammonium, they feed on ammonia. The upshot? Amquel, et. al., starves your tank of exactly what it needs to properly cycle and establish the bio-colonies that make the tank healthy. An oxymoron-type situation? To be sure! To get a leg up, so to speak, look into Bio-Spira (Marineland). Expensive but, the product contains "living" bacteria that greatly speeds up the cycling process. (Don't waste your money on other products that make a similar claim. Bio-Spira must be refrigerated. Off-the-shelf products don't contain what you need. Period.) In the meantime, keep up with regular water changes. Best maintenance you can do> and even tried breaking them down completely, doing a new set up (rocks, plants, added underground filter <Please, rethink a UGF. In fact, throw it out. Will likely lead to problems as bad as what you have now> etc.)  and refilling from the large tank which has perfect ammonia levels. <Water alone won't do it. Will help but bacteria dwell on the "solids", i.e. filter media, substrate> Within hours the ammonia level is right back up. <Yep> My pet store said the only thing I had to really watch was the ammonia level and told me I didn't need to check anything else. Based on what I read on your sight, this doesn't sound right. <Advise them to us. There's much to know that they aren't sharing with their customers> Any suggestions on how to remedy the ammonia issue? What else should I be testing for? <Nitrites (as important as ammonia), Nitrates, pH, to name a few. Aquarium Pharmaceuticals has an excellent Master Test Kit for freshwater aquaria. Nice starter kit> Thanks PH <Feedback is always welcome, Pam. Hope I've helped. Tom>

Ammonia...still need help after reading FAQs...    2/17/06 Okay, I've read the FAQs, cycle stuff, etc. and there are some things that I saw that may explain some of this, but I'm still worried. It's a little long, but here goes: I have a 5 gallon Aqua Tech aquarium with a built in top filter w/ BioWheel. I put my female Betta into the tank after conditioning the water with a normal water conditioner. A couple days later (not knowing anything about the nitrogen cycle, bioloads, etc.), I added 3 cardinal tetras, 3 Rummynose tetras, and three assorted Corydoras. Obviously, this is too many fish, <Yup.> especially at one time, but I didn't know that at the time. So, two days later, one cardinal died, and the next day, the other two died as well. I went to get my water tested at the aquarium store, and they said my ammonia was sky high and gave me some AmGuard. <Don't use this stuff.  It will starve cycle bacteria, they don't eat Ammonium.  It will "reset" your cycle.> I used this for a couple days, but with no change in ammonia (It was at 4-5ppm), I took all of the fish except for the Betta out over a couple of days and put them in my friend's established tank. Now, it's a week and a half later and my ammonia is still around 4 ppm. I've done 2 partial water changes, and the ammonia goes down, but is back up the next day. I added some live Cabomba plants because I heard live plants can help with ammonia. I've used Stress-Zyme, <Useless, doesn't even contain the kind of bacteria in a bio-filter.> which I'm pretty sure is live bacteria like Bio Spira, <Possibly OK.  At least contains the right kind of bacteria.  I wouldn't bet on it working, though.> although I have no idea if it's a good product or not. I've also used some water conditioners that said that they get rid of ammonia (which actually just changes it from the toxic, free ammonia into ammonium, right?) with the water changes, but from what I'm reading now, that could kill the Stress-Zyme bacteria if it was alive in the first place? I did a 1/3 water change yesterday, and the ammonia went down to around 2, but it's back up to three today. I'm trying to feed as little as possible (every other day, 3 or 4 little bloodworm pieces or 4 pellets, and she eats them all). <You can feed her much less.  That is still more than I feed my Bettas normally.  Try 2-3 pellets every 3rd day.> Through this whole thing, Lois (the Betta) has seemed fine and happy, swimming all around. The only weird thing she does is wedge herself in b/w the flat thermometer suction cupped to the aquarium wall and shimmy down it (hoping it's not b/c of ammonia burning her...but could be, I guess...). My uneducated guesses are 1)the ammonia's not that high because my fish would be dead and it's a false positive from the AmGuard awhile back <Your ammonia is definitely high.  It will shoot up fast in 5 gallons.> and the conditioners that get rid of ammonia and chloramine 2) it is that high but not free ammonia so my fish is still okay 3) maybe my plants are dying and making it worse? <Do your plants look like they're dying?> 4) fish care just isn't for me. <You're doing fine.  Most people never learn what a cycle is and scratch their head when their fish die.> What do you think? Why isn't my biological filter working? What do I need to do to get the cycle going? Should I do water changes to dilute the ammonia or try leaving it alone? I really like Lois and I'd like to put more than one fish in my aquarium someday... <Maybe, after you are all cycled, a small group of Corydoras, but nothing else.  Certainly not the Tetras you had before.> thank you so much for your help... Levels: Ammonia - 3ppm Nitrite - negligible (maybe a teeny bit) Nitrate - assuming it's 0 KH - 3 GH - 2 (pretty soft water) pH - 7.0 <I am looking into your future, and I see... water changes!  Daily, twice daily if you have to.  Keep Ammonia/Nitrite below 1.0 PPM.  Try to avoid changing more than 30% at a time, although that isn't always possible while you're cycling.  It takes 30-40 days to establish a cycle, be patient. If your friend can spare one, a sponge from their filter will help you cycle your tank faster.  Just put it in your filter box or affix it to your filter intake, it can take weeks off the process. Jason N.>

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

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

Ammonia in well water   2/1/06 My well water has ammonia in it, .5 using liquid test or .25 using test strip. Would it be better to use the water that has went through the home water softener, it tests at 0 ammonia. <Mmm, maybe... depending on how this latter is otherwise... and the livestock you keep. Better still to develop a routine of treating, storing new water...> Have looked at ammonia removing products but want to be able to continue to test for ammonia in tank and these products say will still show an ammonia reading  in tests, also don't know how much product to use per gallon for a 5 gal. change. <Varies by product... but such prep.s are not necessary... try aerating, storing the well water for a week... the ammonia will be gone> I have been diluting my well water with RO water, 1/4 well with 3/4 bottled but have been wanting to slowly change to pure well water because hauling RO water from store is a hassle. Wish I could just use the softener water, but know it is supposed to be bad for fish. Any ideas of what to do would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! Suz <Mmm, please try the above... ammonia is quite transient (an energy source as well)... Bob Fenner>

Yet another ammonia question   1/26/06 Hello, I'll try to make this short. <Hotay> I have searched so many web sites, asked so many people so many different questions that now I am confused. Brief history. On December 28 I purchased a 28 gallon tank with a filtration system, that as far as I can tell is a wet dry system. It is built into the hood. <Likely an "Eclipse" unit... can find on Marineland.com's site> I treated the water with Cycle. On January 1st I added one small fish with a little water and a rock from an already established tank (from a friend). I was told that by doing that the tank I could start adding fish sooner. <Usually, yes> 3 days later I added 3 black skirt tetras and two Corys. I added Bio Spira and then over the next two weeks more fish. An aquarium store owner told me that after adding the Bio Spira I could add more fish faster. <Mmm...> I now have 17. The others I added over that period of time are 5 Serpae tetras, 2 dwarf ram cichlids, 1 dwarf Gourami, 2 platys and 2 flying foxes. I noticed a slight increase in ammonia levels (between .5 and 1.0) <Yikes... toxic levels> nitrites were .25. I did a partial water change Jan 13 replacing about 20% of the water with RO water. I also vacuumed the gravel. I tested the water a few days later and the ammonia was up to between 1.0 and 2.0. <!> Nitrites were 0. I panicked...did another partial water change about 20%...using RO...2 days later no change in the ammonia and nitrites. Panicked again, went back to the store got more RO water <... is your tap/source water "that" bad?> and also on the recommendation of the store owner got Bio-chem stars. I also bought Ammo-lock and put some in the water. On Saturday the 21st I did a 25% water change, cleaned the decorations and vacuumed the gravel. I also put the Bio-chem stars under the filter media. I tested the water last night (the 24th) The ammonia level showing 4.0! Nitrites still 0. Again I added the prescribed amount of Ammo-lock...and will continue to follow the instructions on the box. Through all this the fish have been fine. But the last few days I have not known what I will find when I come home. I'm only feeding them once a day by the way. <... the water changes are likely holding you back from establishing cycling...> Did I mess up by adding the Ammo-lock? Now that I have gone down that road should I continue to use it as directed until the ammonia level is down? Should I stop using it now? Should I do another water change or wait 7 days as the instructions say? <One of the active ingredients in this AP product can yield a "false positive"... it is very unlikely you have as much ammonia as your tests show... your fish would all be dead> I know this is a bit drawn out but your help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Karen T. <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above. I would not change your water till the system cycles... and stop feeding period till the ammonia and nitrite are below 1.0 ppm. Bob Fenner>

Re: yet another ammonia question   1/26/06 Thanks for your help. No dinner tonight for the fish. The filtration system does not have a bio wheel. It's more like a sponge type material that the water goes through after it is drawn up from the tank. <I see... same concept... driven nitrification> The tap water here is very hard. Lots of lime deposits....that can clog things after awhile. <Some mineral content is useful, necessary though... As you will learn. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia Problems In A New Tank  - 01/09/2006 Hello WWM crew. About 5 weeks ago I set up a 150 gallon tank for my ca/sa cichlids that outgrew their 45 gallon. I am using 2 Emperor 400's to filter the tank. The tanks is holding a 6 inch Jack Dempsey, a 6 inch Gold Severum, a 5 inch Green Severum, a 3 inch Red Jewel, and a 3 inch Green terror, along with 2 small gibbiceps pleco's. Since the bigger fish gulp anything they can as soon as it hits the water, I normally have to put quite a bit of food to make sure the smaller fish get anything at all. I normally feed them 1-2x a day, with flakes, pellets, and dried krill. It is a white cloudiness, looks like a bacterial bloom. Is it likely that I am still cycling, or more likely that my messy eaters are leaving too many particles of food in the water. As I try to keep the growth rate high, I'd prefer not to cut down on how much I feed, although less food, but more often should probably work too. Is it too early in the cycling to start 25% weekly water changes? < Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Add Bio-Spira from Marineland. High ammonia levels retard fish growth.-Chuck>

Re: Ammonia/Nitrate Problem?  12/15/05 Hello, Thank you for your very prompt reply to my email. I have been cycling 3 gallons of water in my fish tank and my Oranda seems to be doing better.  She has begun eating again or at least trying.  She darts up to the surface, takes a bite or two of food and then plops back down to the bottom and rests before starting over. <That's progress.> Something that has developed though is that the black moor has begun nipping at the Oranda.  Will this stop if and when the Oranda gets better? <Maybe.  Getting nipped will tend to stress the Oranda and make getting better a slower and more difficult process.  Also, your fish may be feeling a bit crowded, and therefore may keep picking on each other.  Separate and/or larger tanks would probably help.> I could not find BioSpira but I did pick up some Cycle and a testing kit.  My ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels were 0.25, 0, 40 respectively before adding the Cycle.   <Ammonia and nitrate are a bit high, but not terrible.  If you keep testing and water changing, hopefully they will come down to 0,0,<20.> I have also picked up a hang on the back filter which, if anything, I love because it is so much more quiet than the original :) The plants at the pet store had snails and filamentous green algae on them which I do not want to add to my tank so I am still shopping around for good plants. <Sounds like a good choice.> Again, thank you for your quick reply.  Your advice was extremely helpful. <Glad to help.> Have a nice holiday, Jessica   <Merry Christmas and happy holidays, Catherine>

New Tank With Bad Advice  12/10/05 Hello Everybody, What a great site, I have seen that you have given advice over time on ammonia and cycling and stuff, I seem to have a big problem! I'm almost at the stage of emptying the tank and starting from scratch. This is how the story goes. In August My husband and I bought a 55 gallon tank, a whisper filter and a bubbler, we filled it with water and left it for a couple of weeks. We then bought 2 Dwarf Gouramis, 1 Sucker and 2 Angels.  The next week we bought another couple of community fish (can't remember what now). The Angels died and a Gourami, so we replaced them, then they died along with some other stuff. We got to having about 10 smallish fish when we bought 3 Balloon Mollies and nothing was dying. One of the Mollies decided to have babies, it was really exciting!  The staff at PetSmart suggested a live plant for the fry to hide in, so we got one.  That is where the problems started.  The fry lasted for about 3 days - the Gourami ate them all, one by one and the water went cloudy - milky white. We removed the plant as soon as all the fry were eaten. We have followed the advice from PetSmart from the start, now we need some proper advice. The ammonia went off the chart when the water went cloudy, that was nearly 3 months ago now.  We started trying to solve the problem by doing a water change every couple of days for a week, we then tried ammonia removing stones in the filter, we have removed half the water and replaced it with new, we have made complete pests of ourselves at PetSmart!  Their last piece of advice was to add Prime to the water, we were told everything would be fine in a couple of weeks. We added Prime and prayed we would be able to start restocking the tank in a couple of weeks - that was three weeks ago. I took a water test to the store 2 weeks ago and the ammonia was off the chart again - we only had one Gourami left, everything else had popped their clogs (can't say I blame them).  The people in PetSmart said we wouldn't get a true ammonia reading as we had used Prime and we could restock in a week or so. Yesterday we bought 2 Tiger Oscars and a Albino Oscar (I want to get a bigger tank next year). The Albino has already joined fish heaven. I have tested the water today and the readings are as follows: Nitrate (no+3) = 0 Nitrate (no-2) = 0 Hardness = 150 - 300 Alkalinity = 120 - 180 pH = 7.8 Ammonia = 7.3 On seeing the Ammonia levels, I panicked and added another dose of Prime, I don't want to murder the other two Oscars and am at a loss of what to do - any advice will be a help. Many thanks Loraine < Do a 50% water change, treat the new water with Amquel+. Vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Add Bio-Spira from Marineland. Feed only once each day and only enough food so that all of it is gone after two minutes. After that, siphon out all the uneaten food. Do a 25% water change every week. Vacuum the gravel once every two weeks. On the weeks you do not vacuum the gravel you can clean the filter. Keep checking the WWM website for adding new fish after your tank settles down.-Chuck>

Cycling, Ammonia - 09/11/2005 I set up a 55 gallon fresh water aquarium about 2 ½ weeks ago (I used Stress Coat to condition).  After the set-up and before adding starter fish I gave a sample of the water to a local pet store. <You'll probably want to invest in your own test kits at some point.> I was told the ammonia was sky high (like 8.0 - 9.0) other then this I was told everything else was normal (PH was a little high but not significantly).  That day I purchased Ammo-lock <Not wise to use this during cycling.> a full test kit, <Ahh, good.> 9 Rasbora heteromorpha, <ACK!  Shame on your fish store....  These ammonia levels are deadly high. Please do NOT add any more fish at this point....> and TLC for Freshwater Aquariums (100% live bacteria).  I put half the dose of ammo lock in the tank and then tested it and Ammonia was 0.   <This unfortunately may have delayed your cycle....  In the future don't add stuff to remove stuff; instead, do water changes to dilute toxins.> I also tested the tap water and it was also 0. I added the TLC per instructions and of course the fish.  After a week I added perfect PH 7.0 <Mm, you probably don't need to use pH augmenting chemicals, unless your pH is really, really off what you want.  It is FAR better to have a constant, stable pH than a "perfect" (but fluctuating) pH.> and the second does of TLC.  Now 1 more week later and the Ammonia levels have increased around 1.0, <Dangerous....  Please do water changes to get/keep this at zero.> PH is around 7.0, Buffering is about 180, Hardness less then 120 Nitrite 0, Nitrate maybe slightly above 0.  The tank is very clear and the fish seem happy.  The filter is getting clogged though (I didn't want to change it so I lowered the water flow because water was flowing over the intake tube)   <You can rinse the filter in a dish of water from your tank.> Is this normal?  Shouldn't I be seeing Nitrites first?   <The Ammo-Lock probably "threw off" your cycle some.  You may see ammonia rise further, again, and then nitrite, and finally higher nitrate.  Please be doing water changes through this to keep ammonia and nitrite as close to zero as possible, or you risk harming/killing the Rasboras.> When can I add a few more fish (I would like to put some Angel Fish in there). <Not until you've held your ammonia and nitrite confidently at zero for a week or so.  Be VERY sparing in how many fish you add at a time, so your nitrifying bacteria can catch up.  Feel free to browse through our water quality information (in set-up of our Freshwater Subweb):  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsetupindex.htm .  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Cycling, Ammonia, and Thanks - II - 09/12/2005 Thank you so much Sabrina, you confirmed my suspicions and you have definitely aided in my understanding on what to do in this case.  I will take all your advice.   <I'm very glad I was able to help you out!> Oh and I actually think that sample I gave to the pet store was a bad sample or something as I can't seem to find the source of that much ammonia -as the water I added did not contain it, and I don't think the dose (spelled correctly this time) I added could have neutralized that much pH (unless the buffer was really low or something).   <Mm, I don't think the buffering capacity will affect how well or quickly Ammo-Lock will augment ammonia readings.  Perhaps the store's test reagents are old/expired.> Anyhow thanks very much again (you really know your stuff when it comes to cycling) <.... originally gained from experiences such as your own.  I really love this vast information exchange system known as the World Wide Web.> I will start the water changes today after I retest the water. <Sounds great.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Cycling, Ammonia, and Thanks - III - 09/13/2005 Sorry, I hate to bother you once again, but I think my situation has worsened.  Oh and sorry about that bit about Ph, I wrote that with a huge lack of sleep and I still can't figure out what I was thinking. <No worries.  I think I've forgotten what sleep is, most times....> Anyway after the ammonia levels tested the same I did the partial water change (about 20%), and retested directly after and then about 3 hours later, and found the ammonia may have gotten higher not lower. <Yikes!> This influenced me to retest the tap, and now I find .25 in the tap water.   <Very, very disturbing - and perhaps unsafe for human consumption....  You might consider contacting your local water district and health departments.> I'm thinking the levels in the tap may not be constant and me even be higher as the 15-20 gallons surfaced from the tap.  Shall I just leave the tank be until the cycling process improves?   <I fear your only option for using tapwater here is to go ahead and use an ammonia-neutralizing product such as AmQuel+....  I normally discourage using these, especially during a cycle, but you might have no other choice.  The BEST option would be to use reverse osmosis filtered water.> I have noticed a thicker "slime coat" in the tank.  When I moved the heater slightly it actually came off in large chunks.   <Bacteria or algae buildup....  to be expected in new tanks.  Remove if/as possible, otherwise don't worry.  It should pass in time.> The water still looks crystal clear and fish show no signs of stress. <Good indeed.> Oh and I rinsed the filter with the tank water (It was really bad) so I dumped the remaining water, should I have put that water back in the tank?   <Nope, you did right.> A special thanks yet again... I'm sure your work has saved hundreds of aquatic beings, and just as many people from walking away from this hobby. <I can't tell you how great it is to hear things like this....  Thank you, again, for your kind words.  Wishing you the best,  -Sabrina>

Ammonia Removal in a New Tank  08/08/2005 Hi Bob,< Chuck Here this time.> It's Bobbi  again, I wanted to thank you for your quick reply to my email on July 22.   I wanted to thank you much sooner but I have been sick.  I'm feeling better  now so, thanks for the wealth of information I really appreciate it.  I'm having  a bit of a dilemma, I was hoping you can give me some advice. I can  imagine you are always bombarded with e-mails and I don't want to add to the  stress so if you can't I understand. It's been  over 2 weeks since my tank is set up, but my ammonia value is still too high at  . 50.  How can I get it to go to 0 so I can finally get some fish? < Be a little patient or add Bio-Spira from Marineland. Go to marineland.com and check out Dr. Tim's Library for articles on nitrification. May help clear up some questions if you haven't already found the answers on WWM site.> Right now I have an Ammonia Remover Bag at the bottom of the tank per the  recommendation of the pet store because I can't put it in the biofilter due to the  sponge/carbon/BioMax, so it is full.  I swish the ammonia remover around in  the tank once a day but the results stay the same.  If you have any idea  that would help me, please help. Thanks, Bobbi < Most ammonia resins are slow to act and need to be in the tank with a water flow to be effective. I would recommend that you get one hardy fish and place it in you tank. Feed it once a day and remove any left over food after two minutes. Remove the Ammonia Remover and don't use it anymore. How can the bacteria developed if you keep trying removing their food source. Check out the Marineland website and you will know how and when to get your tank going with fish.-Chuck>

Really high Ammonia in a polluted FW system  07/02/05 Bob, <Tara> I just returned from IMAC I met you there and finally got to speak on the last day when I got a photo with you! Anyways, besides my excitement about that I wanted to ask you a question. <Sure> While I was in Chicago I went to a friends house. He has a 75gl fresh water system that has never had a water change since it began a year and a half ago. <Yikes. Heavy water> The ammonia in that tank is reading above 8.0ppm! <... I hope the pH is very low> Now, I didn't think this was physically possible. I would assume their gills would disintegrate before then and their bodies would be burnt if they were even alive at all. Not only are these fish alive, but they seem to be thriving! Now, any new additions die immediately but not the ones that started the tank. <Yes, classical habituation> I believe there are 3 Bala sharks, 2 other smaller sharks, 1 black ghost knife, 1 Pleco, and 1 Oscar looking fish whose name I can't recall. <Some sort of cichlid it looks like> I tested the kit with R.O. water and it accurately read 0ppm ammonia on new water. So I know it's not the test kit, and we repeatedly tested it, rinsed and tested again, and still was shocked to see the water immediately turn DEEP green. Attached are pictures of the tank/fish. Please let me know how this is possible and what we should do (if anything?) <Start changing small amounts of water frequently... like a gallon per day... after a month of this, make it two gallons per day...> because I can't conceive how this is possible and I'm almost afraid to upset the tank by attempting to remove the ammonia since it's been this way for so long. (so I'm told, the tank has always read ammonia, just never this high before) Thank you in advance, Tara <This system and its occupants will likely be fine with the gradual restoration of better water conditions (I do like the ornaments! Are you attending MACNA in September? Bob Fenner>

Recycling I have a 39 gallon tank with 5 bleeding heart tetras and a recently added juvenile 1 inch Ancistrus catfish. Before I bought the cat fish, my tank had been stable and cycled for several months (I have a freshwater master kit and the ammo was o, nitrite o nitrate between 20-30), but the tank developed a horrible algae problem. I bought the catfish, put it into quarantine in a 10 gallon tank with small sponge filter that I had been keeping in the main tank. In the meantime, I cleaned out the algae by scrubbing the sides and the ornaments and fake plants with a scraper, rinsed out the HOT filter in tank water, and did a 50 percent after change. One week later, I tested the water pre change and found that the ammo had gone up to .25, nitrites still o , nitrates still 20-30. Strangely enough, the quarantine tank had also begun to cycle, the ammo was up to 1.0, nitrites were high also (can't remember the reading). I took the catfish out of quarantine and placed it in the main tank after I did a 75 percent water change. One week later, I checked the water in the main tank, ammo now up to .5 but nitrites are 0 and nitrates around 10. Another water change, 50 percent and I added Bio Spira. I checked the water  1 day later and the parameters are now ammo 0, nitrites 0. The pH remained 8.4 , as it is usually, through out all of this. My question is, what happened? Why did the main tank start to cycle after being stable for several months? Why was the quarantine tank cycling even with the sponge filter that had been seeded in the main tank. I didn't add any chemicals or medicine to my tanks. I would like to add a few more fish, but I'm quite concerned that this will happen again. Thanks for your help in advance. <When you removed the sponge filter from the main you also removed a good deal of the bacteria that control the water quality. You got a small ammonia spike until the bacteria became more strongly established in other parts of your tank and filter to compensate for that lose. The Bio Spira was a good move, but I don't think it was needed. A few water changes and all would come into balance again. It's not as clear why you got a bigger spike in the QT. It could be that the change stressed the bacterial colony. Again, a little time and a few water changes and all should be well. Don>

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

Bio-Spira Issues  6/10/05 Dear PufferPunk, http://www.aquariacentral.com/forums/member.php?u=217 this is the reason why I asked for you.  I was impressed by reading the Q&A page.  You should take it as a compliment since I am stating who I am and how I can be reached in my signature.  Have I made a mistake by requesting your help? <Absolutely not!  I do take it as a compliment that you asked for me.  Like I said, I was just curious how you found me here, that's all, since this is the 1st non-puffer Q being asked of me at this venue. =o) > I know that many people don't follow directions clearly.  I on the other hand follow directions thoroughly.  The fish is tiny when compared to the tank; at the present time, the tank is big enough. He is getting fed very sparingly.    <Did you check out those FAQs?  I'd contact Marineland about your issues.  ~PP>

Bio-Spira & Ammonia Issues  6/9/05 Hi Pufferpunk, <Hello again> Thanks for responding back. I keep a juvenile Chinese Sailfin Shark, which will stay in the 10 gallon tank for about a year.  Once he is five inches, I will get a much bigger tank for him.  As of right now, I have no interest in any other fish so he will be alone in the tank.  The place where I bought the B-S is reputable. It was refrigerated and when I bought it, they packed it with dry ice.  There is no other fish store in the state that sells it at the present time.  My fish does not seem stressed but as of this morning, the ammonia is at 0.50 and still no nitrites.  Is it normal for there to be ammonia in the tank when I used B-S?  At which point do you think I should put the second application of B-S in the water--when the nitrites start? Thanks for you help PP. <I think that you need to check out these Marineland FAQs to see if you did everything according to their instructions: http://www.marinelandlabs.com/cus_faq.asp#60  The only other thing I can think of is a 10g just can't support that fish somehow.  I would definitely find a bigger tank before it reaches 5".  I am a little curious as to why you picked me for these questions.  Not that I don't support the use of B-S, it's just usually, I'm called upon for puffer (& sometimes brackish fish) questions & I see that you asked for me specifically.  Of course, I'm happy to help in any way I can...  ~PP>

Results about Bio-Spira Issues Dear PufferPunk The advice from Marineland worked 100%.  By the next day, Saturday, the ammonia was gone.  Today, Monday, there still remains no ammonia and no nitrites have developed in the tank.  He said you don't want to pour the B-S over the filter because this gets changed so you don't want the bacteria to adhere to the filter.  He said that is what B-S does; the initial dose adheres to what ever it is poured on.  If poured directly in the water, that is the worse thing to do.  If poured on the filter, when you change the filter, the tank may develop problems.  Hence, the bio-wheel never gets replaced so that is the logical spot to pour the B-S onto.  All I can say is that it worked successfully.  It will probably behoove Marineland to revamp their instructions in how to use their product since I poured in directly in the water the first time. <Thanks for the update.  I'm glad you are having success with the Bio-Spira product finally.  As most folks do not have BioWheels, I do feel the next best option is to pour the product into their filter.  It may be a good idea not to rinse the filter material for a couple of weeks after doing so though.  I rarely suggest actually "changing" out the filter material.  ~PP>

High Ammonia Level Hello, Your web portal is really a great source of information for beginners. Thanks a lot. I have high ammonia level in my new tank (between 3 to 4 ppm). It has been almost 23 days I set up an aquarium. I have total of 8 fish that as follows: Four Black skirt tetras; Four Mickey mouse platy. I added four fish initially and added four more after fifteen days. My water test readings are as follows: Tank Specs: 20 gallon with whisper filtration system. Water Temp: 82 F Ammonia: between 3 to 6 ppm Nitrate: 20 ppm Nitrite: between 0 to 0.5 ppm Hardness: 150 ppm Alkalinity: 40 ppm pH: 7.0 My two Platies just died today and the level of ammonia higher. I always did 20% partial water change every three days since last so days. I have also added a product called CYCLE for additional bacteria to minimize cycle length for a new tank. I also have three live and two artificial plants. I turn light on from 9:00 PM to 9:00 AM. I always added water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramines from tap water as per instructions of AquaSafe produce manual. I do not want to see any more fish dying because of higher level of ammonia. Could you please guide me what should I do to get over this problem. Thanks, Min <Yep, Water changes. Lots of them. 50% per day until that ammonia is at a trace. Make sure you are not cleaning the bio media in your filter. After 23 days ammonia should be at zero. Something has interfered with the establishment of your beneficial bacteria. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm Don>

Ammonia Spike 2ppm I'll try and make this as brief as possible, as this is a long story. While on vacation, my heater malfunctioned (up to 99 degrees from what she told me) <Wowzah!> and I lost a lot of fish. I had a lady taking care of them and feeding them out of pre-measured cups which I'd prepared in advance. <Good technique> When I got home I tested the water (ammonia 0, nitrIte 0, ph 6.8, nitrates 10) I vacuumed the tank and searched for dead fish, and changed out 25 gallons of water, <Out of how many total gallons?> and had an ammonia spike of 1 PPM. I do this volume of water change weekly and always have. I raise Angels and the Angels are used to this, as I do daily 50% water changes in fry tanks. <Another good technique... unless folks are set-up to do drip replacement/changes continuously... even better> I kept assuming the spike was from dead fish, but later After cleaning a couple of filter boxes in preparation for Bio Spira, I tested our tap water, and discovered our tap water is testing at 1 PPM. <... possibly dangerous... for human consumption...> I have been using Bio Spira to set up new tanks, so I ordered some for this tank to get it back to normal. In preparation for the Bio Spira, I cleaned the filter boxes and rinsed the filter media, vacuumed really well, did a huge water change, then added the Bio Spira. I thought it would be a good time to clean the box filters as my sump had been running for 7 months and it was filter overkill. The Bio Spira didn't work. My ammonia went up to 2, then 4 ppm after cleaning the filters.. <Yeeikes... hopefully at a moderate to low pH> I used AmGuard daily for another week to protect the fish, then discovered it would kill the Bio Spira if it had any good bacteria in it at all. So I ordered more Bio Spira, changed 25 gallons with our tap water, then later that day changed 40 gallons using bottled water, in an effort to remove as much of the ammonia locking product as possible, thinking it is what kept the Bio Spira from working. I got the Ammonia down to 2 ppm , and added the Bio Spira. I also removed the box filers and floated their bio wheels in the sump. <Good> I had faith that the BioSpira could easily handle 2 ppm overnight, compared to 4 ppm, but 2 days later it was back up to 4 ppm. The ph had crashed to 6.0 , I'm assuming from the bottled water, <Maybe> and I left it low, so the ammonia wouldn't be as harmful to the fish. Last Saturday I took every plant and bog wood out and searched all through the gravel for any dead fish again, and I took the sump filter apart looking for dead fish. I found none. Put the tank back together without changing any water of vacuuming, as I didn't want to remove any more bacteria. But still no change in Ammonia. It has been 14 days with this Ammonia spike, , my nitrItes are 0, Ammonia 2ppms, ph 6.0, nitrates 5 ppm. Shouldn't there be a nitrIte spike by now?? <Mmm, not necessarily... with the water and filter media changes, cleaning... nitrification could be fore/stalled...> What can I do?? <I know what I would do... If you have other systems, even the baby angel ones, with water in them, use this water to replace, replenish the fifty percent volumes you're venting> I know I removed a lot of Bio by cleaning, then later removing the filter boxes. and my Bio Spira was ineffective at replacing it, but why am I not getting Nitrites, <The chemical changes, addition of ammonia locking material...> and why is the Ammonia staying at 2 ppm. This is a 72 gallon tank with a sump trickle filter that has been in place since October of 2004. It was started by combining the gravel, plants and decor from mature tanks so it really never did have to cycle. I was running 2 Emperor 250's also, from the other tanks, but removed them when I added the Bio Spira, but am floating their mature bio wheels in the sump, plus I added 3 other mature bio wheels from other tanks. I started a bubble wall to help also. My fish don't act stressed and I haven't lost one fish since I came home. I'm stumped. I have 2 adult Angels, 1 juvenile Angel, 2 Plecostomus, (one around 5 inches, the other around 3 inches), 8 clown loaches and 6 Cory cats. I lost 6 turquoise rainbows, 4 Cory cats, 2 Farlowella cats due to the heater malfunction, so the bio load should have been even easier for this tank to handle. Any ideas?? <My first suggestion is to "check the checker"... that is, to use another known-accurate ammonia test kit here... Next, to start using the water from other sources you have that have fish/es in them... and of course, in the meanwhile to be extremely careful re feeding. Bob Fenner>
Re: Ammonia spike 2ppm
Thanks for the advise. I bought a new test kit about 5 days ago and get the same results. I try not to feed an more than I have to, but I noticed the Corys eating the combs on the Angel's Veiltails so I had to step up the pellets for them. We are just praying that the bio will start to multiply ASAP. <Me too> I'm running 36" of bubble wall and the PH is 6.0, <I would not try to adjust, change the pH here... ammonia is much less toxic in acidic water> and that is about all I can do for right now. I forgot to mention, I tried Fritz Turbo Start 700 on the 14th of May and it didn't work, then I ordered from Bernie <?> and got the first batch of Bio Spira and added it on the 17th. Then again on the 19th. I had read somewhere on your site that they may have bad reactions to each other, and I wondered if that could be a problem? <Yes, could be. Bob Fenner> 
Re: ammonia spike 2ppm
This is truly a miracle. This morning the ammonia was at .25 ppm It's my guess that it's taken from the 14th of May until the 28th for the Bio Spira to catch up with the 2 ppm Ammonia spike . I thought yesterday that it looked like it was between 2 and 1 1/2 ppm, but I thought I may be wishful thinking. I believe we are on the mend. Thanks for letting me vent and for your help. I hope this helps someone else sometime to be patient with Bio Spira in these severe cases. Just keep your pH low, run a bubble wall, and don't use Ammo Lock or Am Guard with Bio Spira. I'm so fortunate not to have lost my best male Angels!! <Excelsior! Bob Fenner>  

Cycled tank suddenly has ammonia Hi. I have a 5 gallon heated tank with sponge filter for my Betta fish, Flash. The tank has been cycled for over about two months. There is nothing else in the tank, just the Betta. Today I checked the water and ammonia was at 1.0, nitrites at .25, and nitrates at 15. Why would there be ammonia and nitrites if the nitrates haven't been knocked out? <Mmmm, there just are not the conditions to promote, sustain "biological filtration"... please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm> I did a water change. Actually those were the readings after the water change. Could the sponge filter need to be cleaned? <Oh! Didn't understand you had this... likely not advisable to clean this... perhaps just time going by will bring on a completed cycle... do read the above citation> How often should I do that and how? There has been a bit of algae growing too. Could that be a factor? <Likely not> If I change too much water, won't I get rid of too many nitrates?  <Possible, but not likely... I would keep doing the water changes to keep ammonia, nitrite under 1.0 ppm, the nitrates under 20 ppm. Bob Fenner>

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

Ammonia Levels I'm now in a vicious cycle of ammonia 4ppm --> water exchange --> Ammonia 4 ppm ---> water exchange + AmmoLock ---> Ammonia level 4ppm.   I am adding bacterial solutions such as Stability and StressZyme but I am starting to read that these aren't really helpful because they are the WRONG bacteria. I'm beginning to wonder if the water exchanges on a frequent basis do as much harm (by removing any established bacteria) as good (by temporarily lowering the ammonia level). Does anyone have any suggestions? David <Try Bio Spira. It's the only product that contains the living bacteria needed to cycle. Also, test your treated tap for ammonia. If your tap is low (a trace to .25) but the tank is staying at 4.0 then you have something organic decaying in the tank. Old food and waste in the gravel, a piece of old driftwood, dead fish or plant. Something is creating a lot of ammonia. Feed very lightly while cycling. Once every other or third day will do for a few weeks. And doing water changes will slow, but not stop, the cycling of your tank. This is why it's much better to do a fishless cycle. No choice though when you use fish to get things established. Please continue with the water changes. 50% a day, or even twice a day, is not too much. Don>

Ammonia - de Jorie Having BIG problem setting fresh water tank up 45 gallon. I fill with water with air and underground filter running everything o.k. couple days then I start my outside filter running (whisper) starts smelling maybe like ammonia. No fish added yet. What's wrong I'm and going crazy with this, done this 4 or 5 times PLEASE HELP!! <Ok, take a big breath and relax! First off, I'm super glad to hear you haven't put any fish in the system yet - kudos to you in doing this the responsible way. Do you have a test kit, one to measure (at least) ammonia, nitrite and nitrate? I'd suggest you test your tap water as soon as it comes out of the faucet, then also test your tank. Take some time to do reading on what's known as the "nitrogen cycle" on WWM and other internet sites (you can search for that term on Google and come up with some helpful articles and diagrams). Also, I'd recommend either buying or checking out from a local library a great beginner's book called "The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums" by David E. Boruchowitz - he, too, does a great job explaining the cycling process, as well as helpful tips to setting up a first aquarium. Good luck, and take your time - there's a lot of information to absorb! Jorie> 

Ammonia in Fry Tank I have found your website to be very helpful. First I want to say that I am a proud owner of two mollies one a balloon black (female) and the other a orange (male). Two days ago I discovered 17 fry. I was so thrilled! I need help in deciding what to do. So far the adults have left the fry alone. No problems there. I have a 2.5 gallon tank and know that that is not enough room for all of them. I am wondering if I should take the adults out (to another 2.5 tank) and leave the fry to grow a bit bigger in the existing tank. I would like to possibly keep two at the most but want them to get bigger so I can determine the sex. I have spoken to the LFS and they will take a the rest from me. My levels are at ph. 7.8 nitrite .25 nitrate 5.0 and ammonia is at 4.0. temp is 78/80. I am a determined new aquarist. What is the safest thing to do in my situation? Thanks in advance. Vanessa I. Tucker <Water changes, and lots of them. 4.0 ammonia is deadly! And .25 nitrite is .25 too high and it's about to go higher. Check the pH of your tap water. If they are within 2 or 3 tenths then match temp, dechlorinate and change 50% right now. Wait a few hours and do it again. Then daily until ammonia and nitrite are at zero. Your problem is a lack of bio filtration, something that takes time to get established. Do move the adults out. The ammonia is from fish waste. The less fish, the less ammonia will be added to the tank. Read here on establishing FW bio filtration. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm   I hate to tell you to limit feeding the fry, food is very important to growing fish. But the more you feed the more waste will be produced. Just feed them twice a day and only enough that it's all eaten within a minute or two. Once the ammonia comes down you can up this to three or four small feedings a day. When you do the water changes use a gravel vac to get any uneaten food and old waste out of the system. You are going to have to continue with almost daily water changes for a month to six weeks. It will take about that long to get cycled. That link contains the most important information a new aquarist needs to have in order to keep their fish alive. And congrats on the births. 17 is a lot for a Molly. BTW they are not as bad as guppies and swordtails when it come to taking their young. As long as they do not get too hungry they generally leave them alone. But since you need to limit feeding, move the adults out. Don> 

Ammonia Ugh. I know you have heard this a thousand times before. <1001>  I have a 29 gallon tank with two goldfish. I cannot keep the ammonia levels down. I decided to test the water out of my tap just out of curiosity. Ammonia levels measure .50 right out of the tap!. I tried using Amquel Plus before putting the water in the tank. Tested the ammonia level 15 minutes after adding the Amquel + and it measures 0ppm. Put it in the tank after a .25 water change and ammonia level measures .50. Well not bad, at least better than 1.0. So, this morning I measured it and it is back up to 1.0. I don't know what I am doing wrong? The tank has not cycled yet... <You answered your own question.>  ...it has been 2 weeks. <Not long enough, 21 to 28 days usually.>  I have a 330 filter on the tank, a bubble curtain, a very thin layer of rocks. I know I am probably the culprit because I have been changing the water so much because the fear of the ammonia hurting the fish! (I have been changing 20% a day!). Any suggestions? I have laid off on feeding, which I do one pellet a fish one time a day.  <Yes, let the tank finish cycling. James (Salty Dog)>

Ammonia level and floating goldfish I have 1 Red Cap Goldfish. I used to have 2 and I got them in the beginning of November, but I got them from a very bad place (Petland Discounts - will never do it again, I know I should not have) and they had a disease when I got them. I gave them an antibiotic (Myacin - you guys had recommended it for them) during the last week of November. Harry pulled through and got better and is the goldfish I have now, but unfortunately, Sally did not make it. It has now been 3 months since I gave them the antibiotic. I know that at the time it killed whatever bacteria was developing on the filter. <It's long since come back> I have a 5 gallon tank and I have a wet-dry filter. I change the water twice a week and change from 30% - 50% each water change. I only change it so often because the ammonia levels are fairly high. I do not overfeed my fish - I give him one flake and wait until he finishes it before I give him another one, so none falls to the bottom. (By the way, exactly how many flakes should I feed him a day?  Assuming one flake is about 1 centimeter in diameter? I give him, maybe like 7 a day spread out throughout the day...should it be more? Less?) <Sounds about right... could be more... if you want the fish to grow... and I would mix in some other foods... even a few grains of cooked rice and a pea or two... when you're having them... and look into pelleted formats of foods...> The ammonia levels are around 1 - 2 ppm and doesn't decrease.  <Mmm, you need a better filter... look into an inexpensive "sponge media" type... like an inside airlift or submersible... or even a hang-on... you shouldn't have detectable ammonia> There are still no traces of nitrate, maybe a tiny bit, but the level is not increasing, so I don't think the water has cycled yet. <I agree with you> I am wondering why it has not. <Me too... mainly the filter, or should I state, the lack of filtration> I also use Cycle with each water change to help speed up the process. <Sometimes this product works, sometimes not. I'd look into Marineland's BioSpira... it almost always works> I have changed the water so many times since the antibiotic, I am sure there are no traces, so why do I still have ammonia and no nitrate? And what should I do about this? <The bacteria you want have just not "settled in"... in part due to the water changes... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm > Another problem - Harry seems to be in great health, but sometimes he floats up to the surface. He tries to swim down, but has a hard time, and just pops back up to the surface. However, this isn't all the time, because sometimes I come home to find him sleeping at the bottom of the tank when it is dark. I read that if he eats food floating at the top, he may be getting too much air into his body which makes him float?  <Much more likely this is from the all-flake diet... as stated, I would give up the flakes> I don't think he has swim-bladder disorder because he doesn't seem to be spiraling or floating on his side. But he has such a hard time swimming because something is causing him to bounce back up to the surface. Should I switch foods to one that does not float? <Do switch foods> I don't think he is very good at eating from the bottom of the tank, so I'm worried that he will not get any of the food. Or does he have a disease? Please help! I am concerned about the floating and the presence of ammonia in the tank. Thank you! -Jessica <Your fish's problems are due to diet and environment... having a real filter that's established and better food will solve its current problems. Going forward, when the opportunity can be made, I would move this fish into larger quarters... this will solve many problems by itself. Bob Fenner>

Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks I have a 10 gal freshwater tank set up five weeks ago. Nitrite levels are still .5 and ammonia .25. I do 10 to 20% water change every 4 to 5 days by vacuuming the gravel trying to get those levels to 0. <I would not change the water... unless the ammonia or nitrite approach 1.0 ppm... and feed VERY sparingly in the meanwhile... the water changes are forestalling the establishment of biological filtration...> Nothing seems to help. The water I'm putting in is reverse osmosis water and shows 0 nitrite and ammonia. <Umm, you'd be better off with at least some mineral content (i.e. non-R.O. water) being mixed in here... try taking out a few gallons (w/o gravel vacuuming) and adding some tap water...> My tank currently has only 1 Serpae tetra as all the others have died of ich. I am still treating the tank with CopperSafe until 30 days are up (1 more week). I don't understand why I can't get those levels down. Thanks, Tina <Mmm, Tina, someone/s have not been making known to you more of a/the "full picture"... that is, what you need to know. The Copper is also killing off the beneficial bacteria you need to convert ammonia and nitrite to less noxious products... There are a few things I would do at this point. First and foremost is for you to READ, understand what biological filtration establishment and ich actually are: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm  and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwich.htm  and the Related materials, linked, in blue, above... I would raise your water temperature to the mid 80's F (this will kill the ich, save your Serpae... and speed up establishment of biological filtration). STOP using the Copper product, all such "medications"... You will soon understand enough of the underlying factual material to be aquarium-confident, proceeding beyond these present troubles. Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks Thank you so much for your prompt response. I have read the links you gave me which leads me to more questions. Even though I did a ton of research before I started this tank (which incidentally was a Christmas present for my 8 year old daughter) I seem to have overdone a lot of things.  <Yes> I did let the tank run for 4 days before I added any fish but then I added three cherry barbs right away. <There are ways... as you now know... to "break in" a new system... but this was too much too soon> They seemed really happy so after 4 more days I added 3 Serpae Tetras. That's where things started getting out of control.  <Actually not where, or even when... think about this... all this life produces wastes, which poison themselves... and not enough biological filtration going...> I was having trouble stabilizing the water and kept doing water changes every 2 or 3 days. When the ammonia got high I added "Ammonia Clear" then the next day I would have a bacteria bloom and freak out that my water was cloudy so I would do more water changes. After three weeks the filter was really dirty so I changed the Whisper carbon filter but I did reuse the original framework that goes in the bio bag as they said it would have built up beneficial bacteria. <Yes, good> After all this one morning the male cherry barb looked like he had been sprinkled with salt after identifying this as ich I quickly ran to Petco where they advised me to put CopperSafe in the tank and it would fix everything. It didn't, the other fish rapidly showed signs of ich and they all died a slow agonizing death. It was horrible to watch. (some Christmas present) The only fish that was not affected was the largest Serpae who seems to be immune to ich. He never got a spot. Now that you have the background here are the questions. My husband thinks I should just dump this whole tank and start over since I've messed up so many things trying to give them tender loving care. What do you think? <I would NOT start all over... but you might> The tank has been running at 80 degrees of about 2 weeks. I will turn it up higher like you mentioned. Were you suggesting that I remove all the CopperSafe from the water? <It's gone... absorbed by material in the tank, fallen out of solution> Should I put the carbon filter back in? <Yes> To clarify my previous e-mail I have only put in about 5 gallons of RO water in the tank, the other five were treated tap water. <Oh, good> I have noticed that when I stir up the water in the tank when cleaning hundreds of pieces of what looks like mucus or skin start floating around the tank. Do you know what that would be. Is it from the fish that died, or ich, etc. <Don't know... could be scales, copper flecks...> Last of all I just want to mention that the Tetra looks great very brightly colored and healthy. When I feed him I only put in a few pieces at a time and quickly remove what he doesn't eat. Sorry this was so long but your my only reliable source of information. I can't trust the high school kids at Petco that never had a fish. Thanks, Tina <Take your time... wait a few weeks and see how the tank looks, feed sparingly till there are no nitrogenous waste anomalies... Bob Fenner> 

Re: Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks Thanks again Bob.  I will put the carbon back in my filter and raise the temp.  I will slow down on water changes.  Is once a week still too much?<Not as long you don't touch the gravel.  Syphoning the gravel will remove the bacteria that you are trying to produce.>  Would you recommend that going forward I do not always vacuum the gravel with every water change?<NO, once a month should be sufficient.> Should I wait until the water is completely stabilized before adding another Serpae? <Yes, absolutely.> This one seems so lonely since all of his buddies died.  I don't have an isolation tank since this is our first try at tropical fish so I'm nervous about when I do add another fish.  According to one of those links you gave me it sounds like if the conditions are good in your tank there is less of a chance of a fish getting ich. Tina <Tina, let the tetra be in the tank for about 2 weeks after the tank has stabilized.  This will remove the ich from the tank.  Once the water quality is stable then you start your time for the 2 weeks.  Then you add fish 2 or 3 at a time.  I would suggest one addition of fish a week.  This will give your biological filter time to recover from the addition of the new fish.  good luck. MikeB>

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Betta Success
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