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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Ammonia, Importance 

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

Related FAQs: Marine Systems, Ammonia 1Marine Systems Ammonia 2Marine Systems Ammonia 3, Ammonia 4, & FAQs on Ammonia:  Science, Measure, Sources, Control, Chemical Filtrants, Troubleshooting, & Nitrates, NitritesPhosphate, Silicates, Test Kits for Marine Systems, Chemical Filtrants

"Ammonia poisoning was, is and is likely to be the number one killer of aquatic livestock..." RMF.  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm

Extreme nitrites no matter what (RMF?)<<>>  5/20/11
Hi guys, I started a 10 gallon QT tank and have a hang on power filter with a fiber square that is to hold the biological stuff. I started out by put<ting> the filter in the sump of my 220 gallon cycled tank. After a week I put it back into the QT power filter. I was not around to feed any ammonia to the QT for 6 days and had nitrites off the charts high, like 50ppm.
<Seriously? What do you have in there, an alligator?><<Not possible... summat is off here... Either the test kit is for Nitrate or N2 as NO3... or it's reagents are bad... or... Reality: go try another NO2 kit and/or known sample (distilled) with the present one>>
I started feeding the tank with 3 ppm ammonia each day and in 4 hours the ammonia was non-existent and the nitrites still off the charts.
<How's about scaling things RIGHT back. Give the aquarium a complete water change. Rinse of the biological media in some of that aquarium water. Then, stop with the ammonia -- my guess is you're adding too much -- and instead just add a pinch of flake food: 2-3 flakes 5 mm square would be ample,
i.e., about as much as you'd add for a couple small fishes. Then repeat this daily. Do 20-25% water changes every couple days.>
Three more weeks have gone by feeding ammonia every day
<<How much and in what format? Methinks this system has been, is being poisoned by over addition>> and two 50% water changes from my display tank and yet nitrites still off the charts even right after WC. For the last three days I have done 90% water changes each day and get the nitrites done to 5ppm but it goes right back up into the red zone off the charts. I am using SeaChem's tests and the highest reading is a medium pink but I end up with almost red. I tried feeding triple dose of ammonia
<<Again... w/ what? Industrial/cleaning NH4OH? At what concentration? Try diluting same and reading what you get on your test for ammonia>>
 and its gone in 8 hours but still no nitrates, or none that can be detected because testing is done with the same nitrite test results. the tank has nothing but a airstone in it and that's only been for the last week. Can you tell me what I can do to finish cycling this tank? The water parameters are 80*, 8.3 PH, 11 dKH, Ammonia 0, Nitrite approx. 40-50ppm, Nitrate 0. Its been a little over 4 weeks since starting with filter from my display tank which has Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0 and Nitrates 1. Thanks Randy
<Do as stated above. You should find after a few days ammonia will rise to about 1-2 mg/l, and then drop down. Nitrite will follow, and both should reach zero within 3-6 weeks depending on the situation, and at that point, you should be able to add a few hardy fish. Allow the tank a good 8-12 weeks to settle in before substantially raising the fish population or adding delicate species such as Neons. Cheers, Neale.>
<<I agree w/ Neale. You need to dilute (through massive water change/s) the current amount of NO2... down to a few ppm... it's otherwise forestalling through poisoning, the useful microbes that allow conversion to NO3. Bob Fenner>>
Re: Extreme nitrites no matter what (RMF?)  5/20/11

The tank never had anything in it, I bought it new, cleaned it and filled it with my display tank water, that's it! . I presumed that the bio filter pad got loaded with bacteria when I had it in my sump and that the high nitrites came from that bacteria dying off due to the fact that I had not fed it any ammonia for 6 days.
<Hmm'¦ no. Dying bacteria at this sort of population size should have minimal impact. In fact, in the absence of ammonia the nitrifying bacteria are more likely to go dormant than to die.>
When I started feeding it I did use food pellets but since that seem to make no change
<It takes a few days for saprotrophic bacteria to start the decay process, i.e., from flake food to ammonia. But it will, must happen.>
I then started using bottled 10% ammonia
<<This is VERY concentrated relative to what aquatic life produces... only takes part of a drop per ten or more gallons to start, sustain nitrification. B>>
 without colors or soaps. Its just yesterday that I put more triple ammonia dose in to try to shock it to make a change and it just ate it up quickly, lol. Thanks, Randy
<I would not be using any sort of household ammonia for now. Unless you know what you're doing, it's easy to produce all sorts of craziness. Almost by definition, a pinch of flake will produce about the same amount of ammonia whether it goes through fish or saprotrophic bacteria. So while it's an old school approach, the flake feeding method of cycling tanks is at least logical and effective. Do also review whether the filter is adequate to the tank, whether you're maintaining filter media appropriately, and whether anything added to the tank or used for cleaning might be killing the bacteria. Cheers, Neale.>
<<It assuredly is>>

Goatfish Questions: Toxic Water 6/30/2009
Yesterday I purchased a yellow goatfish that was about 2 inches and I have read that they are hardy.
<Generally, yes they are.>
At first, for all of two minutes, I had him in a tank with a damselfish but then the damselfish started picking on him so I moved him to a forty gallon with a very small panther grouper and a small banded Catshark.
<40 gallons is too small for any of the listed fish.>
I went down to look at him this morning and he was dead. Do you have any ideas what killed him?
<Toxic water conditions. - see below.>
The levels are 2.5ppm Nitrate, 0ppm Nitrite, .25ppm Ammonia, and about a pH of 8.2.
<Ammonia levels above zero are toxic.>
I have read that they are hardy and everything else in the tank is doing fine and eating, so I do not know why he died.
<The other fish are affected as well.>
Do you have any ideas?
<Do stock your tanks appropriately. Do read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/stocking1.htm >
<Your Welcome.>

Ammonia -01/18/08 Thank you for your time; in advance. I have an ammonia problem, have searched your site extensively and have not found an answer to this particular problem. On the brighter side, I have learned a lot from searching, thank you. I am not cycling. I have a 72 gallon and a 210 gallon saltwater reef tank. Very few corals, as most perished due to the ammonia. Fish: in the 210 I have a Sailfin Tang, Hippo Tang, Blonde Naso, two saddleback clowns, midas blenny and tail spot blenny; in the 72 I have a small yellow tang, 4 green chromis, algae blenny and flametail blenny. I have a great protein skimmer, that is working well. I have approximately 275 of live rock between the two tanks. My substrate is a mix of fine sand on bottom layer and fine gravel on top layer - 4-5 inches total in both tanks. Salinity is at 1.025, high alkalinity that I don't have an exact number on (blue on the chart) and ammonia at .25. The 72 gallon tank has been set up for 3 years, the 210 for 6 months - they share a sump. The sump is located in my basement about 10 feet away from 5 cat litter boxes. We are a 5 cat household. This is where I initially thought the ammonia was coming from. So, all water containers have been covered for 2 months. The container/tub for the RO pure water is sealed, mixed saltwater container is covered and the sump is covered. No exposed water to the possible ammonia in the air from the cat litter boxes. I've also made a plastic 'wall' to surround the litter boxes to separate them a little from the rest of the room. I've been using reef carbon and changing it out every 3-4 days. I have gone through about 6 poly filters that are approximately 5" x 8" (they all turn green). I do 10% water changes approximately every other day. I also have been battling a Cyano problem and siphoning is part of the 10% changes. The Cyano is slowly subsiding. I've been watching what I feed the fish and have put them on an involuntary diet to cut back on additional nutrients. They receive mysis shrimp and Nori for the most part. My ammonia was much higher a couple weeks ago, but with all the work I've been doing I wonder why the ammonia isn't gone by now. This has been a 2 month ordeal. This brings me to the question, at last. How long should I expect the ammonia to continue to show? <This depends on why you have ammonia in your tank in the first place (which we still don't know for sure). I'm wondering if one of your cats didn't pee in the sump. Then, that may have started killing things, starting a "chain reaction" of more ammonia problems from dying animals.> Does it embed itself in the rocks and substrate? <Not from the water column, but an ammonia spike from one source can start what you might call a "chain reaction" of problems that can take some time to resolve.> It's been a good 8 weeks of constant water changes, poly filters, carbon; etc. The fish are surviving and appear fat and healthy. <Well, that's a very good sign. Fish are very sensitive to ammonia, so if they're still doing ok, that's good news.> Corals have been lost. What survived are now starting to slowly come back. Toadstools opening up; red colt expanding, hairy mushrooms have recovered the best. <Cool. I would just keep doing what you're doing.> Jeanine Brown <Best, Sara M.>

Lobster holding Tank and Ammonia 10/29/07 Hello Crew, I was hoping you can help in asking a question for me? <More than one!> I recently set up a 180 gallon lobster tank in my restaurant. I've yet to add any lobster but was concerned that if there was some ammonia in the tank (1-2ppm) or Nitrite would that have any effect on humans? <No problem for humans> would it be dangerous to eat?. <No... these are common readings for captive crustaceans in such settings... Are not detectable when the animals are prepared for consumption. Are mainly a problem in adding newly arrived stock... the bioload increasing very quickly. Hence the use of fluidized bed filters, oversized bio-media period... oh, and chilling of the water/system to greatly reduce the metabolic rate of the animals> I don't plan on have deteriorating water but just a worse case scenario. Thank you, Joe <Not a worry, concern. More important to try and keep ammonia, nitrite low to preserve the health, prevent weight loss of the stock. Bob Fenner> Rapid breathing 08-16-07 SW nitrogenous  -- 08/17/07 Hello, to whomever is responding at this time. Thank you for what you do for all of us beginners! If you could direct me to the portion of your page dealing with gill burn or something similar, I would be grateful. I guess I am not typing in the correct search queries to bring me to the right page. I have a green wolf eel and yellow striped maroon clownfish. My tank is stable with Ammonia and nitrite at 0ppm, Nitrate at 5-10ppm, ph of 8.3, temp of 78 degrees and SG of 1.023. All of these readings are very consistent. The two fish have been back in my display for 7 days. I have had both since May 2007. They were in my QT tank for 6 weeks before introducing them to the display due to an Ich outbreak on a regal tang, which has been moved to a large system. These two never showed any signs of ich, but moved them to QT to be safe and let the tank fallow. <Good move> My concern is that the QT tank started to cycle while they were in it and they were exposed to ammonia levels of close to 2ppm and then Nitrite of 2ppm. <Yikes!> Their breathing (more so the eel) still appears rapid and deep. That seems to be their only problem. One time (yesterday) I saw the eel open his mouth very wide (like my yawning) and push his gills outward. Do you know what he was doing? <A mechanism for cleaning? A reaction to low DO? A "threat" display due to your presence?> They both are very active and eating great and otherwise appear normal. Is this gill burn from the bad water quality (I did 50-100% daily water changes with pre-mixed and aerated water while they were in QT to fight the high levels), or possibly something else? Is there anything I can do to help them? <Patience, good care otherwise> Is it even possible for them to recover from gill burn (if that is what it is)? <Oh yes> Thank you for any advice or link you can direct me to. I try so hard to keep them happy and healthy but seems I always, unknowingly, do something wrong, so now I turn to you. I will continue to read and learn. Thanks!*~*April*~* <Don't think we have a link per se... I would try a search here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/question_page.htm with gill burn marine fishes... and read the colored cached versions to save time... But gill burn from nitrogenous metabolites is very common as are dire hemolysis from environmental challenges... But/and can be resolved/cured. BobF>

Ammonia, NH3 effects   6/2/07 Hi Dr. Bob, <No doc...> Like most aquarists, I'm familiar with the ammonia-nitrite-nitrogen cycles in my fresh and saltwater tanks. What I've never come across is a description of what exactly happens to fish who are exposed to too much ammonia -- and/or nitrite -- during the cycling process. Could you give a brief description in the hopes of keeping us all 'honest'?. . . Thanks. Chuck <Mmm, actually, am out in Chicago giving a pitch so we'll have to just proffer a couple of highlights... the worst likely result to such exposure is the loss of RBCs... Hemocytes... fishes have very high "packed cell volumes" (Hematocrits)... a reflection of the oxygen deprived environment of water... with loss of oxygen carrying capacity there is a cascade of further negative events, challenges... This coupled with the usual concurrent osmotic issues of being moved, the stress of new surroundings... possibly being "chased" by tankmates, aquarists... Bob Fenner>

Ammonia/ammonium so VERY VERY confused... Hi! <Hello there> I am very confused about ammonia and ammonium..   <Let's see if we can un-confuse you> I have a 55gal Fish Only Salt Water tank that has been running for about 3 months..  Last complete test results were: nh3/nh4 - .15ppm (.018 toxic), no2 - 0 , no3 - 5, Alk - "high", sg - 1.023, ph - 7.4   Temp 78. <Stop! Your pH is too low... should be at least 7.8... if not in the low 8's... Do you use natural seawater?... and you have detectable ammonia? After three months running? Something is awry here... perhaps your test kit/s are bunk... perhaps you have inadequate filtration, dying live rock, some dead animal....?> This was with 2 damsel fishes, and two hermit crabs. The test was done 4 days ago.  That day added a med. Yellow Tang, a small Clown, and a small Blenny (probably too much at one time, right?). <... you should not add anything while your water chemistry is this far out of whack> I figured this was safe because "toxic ammonia - nh3" was so low.   <Mmm, should be zip, nada, zilch> I tested total ammonia last night and came up with about .3ppm total ammonia.  All the fish seem to be very happy, and I am not feeding them very much.   <... I'd have your water tested elsewhere, or try another test kit> Now, my confusion.  I know that ammonia is harmful to fish and ammonium is not harmful. <Well, not nearly as toxic let's say> I have read in some places to do a water change if ammonia reaches 1ppm..  Is this nh3/nh4  above 1ppm or just nh3?   <Actually either... the state of ammonia is largely pH dependent... at higher pH, most exists as ammonia... more toxic, at lower pH, as ammonium, less toxic> Now then, I have also read that over .1ppm ammonia is toxic to fish. <Can be...> Does this mean just nh3 or is this nh3/nh4? <Ammonia, not ammonium... all else being equal (pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration... other co-factors>   If I do the calculation, my total "toxic" (NH3 I am assuming) is .037ppm (.3 x .122)(ph 7.4). Am I doing this correctly or??  Also, should I lower the temp of my tank so that ammonia is not as toxic?  (Ahhhhhh!!  So many variables!!) :-) <None of them important. Now, what IS important is to have none of either ammonia OR ammonium, as in making sure your system is completely cycled and has a sustainable biological filtration function per the bioload and feeding of the tank.> I guess really what I need to know is, at what point (biased on ammonia tests) do I really need to worry? And at what point biased on the ammonia test do I need to do water changes?   And is it nh3/nh4 I need to worry about or just the ammonia calculation? <You need to worry at the point of ANY detectable ammonia... whether it is NH3 or NH4OH... it IS trouble> One other quick question.  Last night, I also started to notice Cyanobacteria growing..  A quick google search returned all the ways to treat it,  It is not necessarily a bad thing is it?  All the descriptions I have read about it sounds like it is a good thing (oxygenates the water, removes nitrates...) but everybody wants to get rid of it..  Why? <Blue Green Algae are indicative of less desirable circumstances in a system... not toxic of by themselves in moderation... think of your system as a system... this is what you need to address, correct. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm> And last quick question related to Cyanobacteria,  is it really important to test for po4?  Would a high level be dangerous to the fish? <Not especially important to measure soluble phosphate... but useful as a tool for detection of whether this is a source of water quality troubles... Put another way, do you want, need to test for things that are of no particular consequence... unless they become possibly important?> As you may can tell, I am very new at this (marine life that is) and have always wanted to try.  Your site has answered many many of my questions and I would not have been able to keep my first two fish (the Damsels) alive with out it! Thanks! Jared <You obviously have a good (curious, systematic, open) mind... Keep studying here, cut way back on feeding, look for sources, reasons why your system has not cycled completely... Do NOT add any more life till you've corrected the ammonia source issue. Bob Fenner> Ammonia toxicity and pH 12/4/05 Heya. I apologize if my questions have been answered already in your FAQs. I've been reading (and enjoying) them for many months and haven't found quite what I'm looking for. On 11/25 in the Daily Q&A Adam provided a very interesting answer about which I'd like more information. He said, "DON'T do water changes while the ammonia is high!! The high pH of newly mixed saltwater makes the ammonia more toxic."  What I'd like to know is how this makes ammonia more toxic, and in this particular circumstance, exactly how new "newly mixed" is because I know that it's supposed to be aged before being added. This has piqued my interest because I think it explains why I had a second round of die-offs while curing my 30 pounds of live rock. <Ammonia becomes more toxic at higher pH because it becomes more highly ionized and it is the ionized form that is most toxic. When first mixed, most commercial salt mixes will have a higher pH than most aquariums (some are as high as 9.0+!). Usually, the pH can be corrected to something closer to normal aquarium pH through heavy aeration, which adds enough CO2 to bring the pH down a bit. I didn't (and rarely do) offer this explanation to beginners for several reasons. First, high ammonia is usually the result of an underlying problem that won't be solved by water changes. Second, I don't trust hobby level test kits to be accurate enough to safely match the pH's. Last but not least, if other parameters aren't well matched (temp, salinity, etc.), water changes can add more stress.> And a spin-off question: how long should newly mixed saltwater be allowed to age before being added to the aquarium? I've been letting mine age 4-7 days.  <This is plenty, but more importantly, it should be well aerated. I often use water that has been mixed up only over night, but that has been vigorously aerated the entire time.> I have one last question, if you don't mind: I've been having a Cyano issue and I haven't found the answer in any Daily Q&As or FAQs. I've sent this question in twice before but I never saw it answered, so I apologize if it's a repeat. My 35-gallon has been up since May and I know it's normal for newly established aquaria to have episodes of Cyano or algae imbalances, and I know the conditions in which Cyano thrives. I've already gone through a nasty bout of the blue-green variety, and about three weeks after that ended I started seeing red/maroon Cyano, which has persisted for about three weeks. It has a different texture and grows more slowly but it is definitely Cyano judging by its consistency and persistence. There is absolutely no blue-green Cyano.  Do different Cyano flourish in different water conditions? My tank was stable with no variation in water parameters and no changes to inhabitants or lighting, so I can't think of anything that would cause it but then, that's why I'm the newbie and I'm asking the seasoned pros. <Different types of Cyano and dinoflagellates can bloom and crash during the first couple of months a tank is set up. Most come and go as the nutrients and conditions that favor their growth come and go. Aggressive manual removal helps export the nutrients they need and speeds up the process. Maintaining strong water movement and pH and alkalinity in the high end of normal also helps a lot.> Thank you for your assistance and your wonderful web site. It's made a world of difference for me and my critters. --Jessica <Glad to hear! Best Regards. AdamC.> 

The Deadliest Waters since the last Jaws movie  12/10/05 I presently have a high amount of ammonia, 4.0. <Wow, very toxic. How old is this tank?> This happened all within three days. No nitrate or nitrite. All readings normal except ph. I can never maintain it above 7.8. <You really need to determine the root problem here, do you have any natural buffering devices like live rock or a sand bed?> I am planning to do a 50% water change today and do 25% each day until tank is in a safe area. <I would do several consecutive 50% water changes.> I have a Yellow Tang, a Blue Tang, Two Clownfish, a Pajama Cardinal, Two Royal Gammas, a Dragonet, a convict goby, two skunk cleaner shrimp, a sand sifting star, and snails and crabs in an 80 gal tank. <A very heavy load with the tangs, not the best long term arrangement.> Also have three corals green star, polyps and finger coral along with live rock with sand substrate. Filtration system is a Fluval 404 and two Aqua Clear powerheads w/quick filter for flow and filtration. <The canister needs to be cleaned out weekly and if you don't have one please add a protein skimmer.> The fish are hiding but will eat and the corals are closed and will not open. Feed once daily in a.m. Please advise. <I would find the root cause of this ammonia. Water source? Overfeeding? Decay from a dead organism? A canister filter that has not been cleaned in a while? Until then continue with the large water changes, ammonia needs to be zero.> Steve <Adam J.>

High Ammonia and Nitrite 11/25/05 Hi guys, unfortunately my ammonia levels spiked after I put some Blade Brush plants in my tank. I had poly filters in for two days, and the ammonia level is still high, so is the nitrite levels. I ran out of poly filters, and I don't know what else I can do. I replaced them with  regular sponge filters. any advice? I'm a little stuck. ~Sam   <You could use Amquel to drop the ammonia in this emergency, but you must also figure out why your biological filtration did not handle these wastes.  Please see these two links for more information: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i5/Filtration/Filtration.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm > P.S. I have a Picasso and a tusk, and they both seem to be more inactive since the spike in ammonia. <No doubt!  In the short term, I would suggest using Amquel to reduce the ammonia and then performing a couple of large water changes.  DON'T do water changes while the ammonia is high!!  The high pH of newly mixed saltwater makes the ammonia more toxic.  You don't provide much information about your system (age, filtration, live rock, etc.), so I can't make specific recommendations, but the two links above should provide you with plenty of good info to be sure that you are providing the basics for marine aquarium filtration.  Best Regards.  AdamC.> <If one keeps pre-mixed, aerated/circulated saltwater on hand, one ought to do water changes.  It's only newly mixed saltwater that is the major concern, here.  -SCF>

High Ammonia and Nitrite part 2  12/04/05 Hi, I emailed you guys on my high ammonia levels. I was told to use AmQuel. Someone said I needed to be more specific about what's in my tank, so I wanted to let you know. I have a 90 gallon with about 75 LBS of live rock. I have a wet dry filter, Fluval 304, two powerheads, and a Aquawheel filter. <The live rock and wet/dry should each be able to handle quite a bit of ammonia on their own, and it is hard to imagine what is producing so much ammonia that they are both overwhelmed. I would suggest verifying your ammonia reading with another test kit (preferably new and a different brand).> I don't have any carbon in right now as a matter of fact because I have been treating for ich. A crazy strain of it. It's been in my tank for about a month. I treated for 3 weeks with SeaCure copper treatment. I then got a UV sterilizer, I think I might of recently got rid of it. Anyway, yes a Picasso, and a tusk are the fish I have in my tank right now. <Copper should never be used in a display, especially with live rock. It can harm the critters living in the rock as well as reduce the population of bacteria that process ammonia. It is possible that these treatments damaged your biological filtration and caused the ammonia to rise, but it is also possible that the copper itself (which is easily overdosed) is causing your fish to look bad. Any drug treatment should be carried out in a hospital tank, and the instructions for copper must be followed carefully.> Will carbon help me lower my high ammonia levels that I have. should I just stock up on more PolyFilters? thanks, Sam <Carbon will only reduce ammonia in so much as it acts as a place for bacteria to colonize. Poly filters are probably only slightly more effective. I would suggest using AmQuel and feeding very lightly in the short term (a few days), while your biological filtration catches up. Best Regards. AdamC.> New Tank Won't Start Cycling 07/23/03  Dear Crew <Hi Dave, PF with you tonight> I am still relatively new to this hobby (6 months) and have been very successful with my first FO tank (20 gallons) because of your site and this is the first time I have had to write in (which is a good thing). I have now upgraded to a 90 gallon system with sump and overflow system.  The tank has been set up with salt water for 5 weeks and I added 60 something pounds (32kg) of cured live rock 4 weeks ago. I also added with the live rock some bacterial starter along with a 10 litres of water and a cup of substrate from my 20 gallon. After the first 2 weeks that my rock was in I tested every 2 days and the ammonia stayed at .25, nitrite 0 and nitrate 5 never seeing a rise in Nitrite. Temp 26 degrees Celsius, ph 8.1 and sg 1.024, skimmer running. So I added my two clowns from my 20 gallon tank to see if that would spike the ammonia (planned to remove once ammonia started rising) and still two weeks later the ammonia is flatlining at .5, Nitrite 0 and Nitrate rose to 10. I have removed the clowns and am stumped as to what to do to get the cycling process started. pH is still 8.1, temp 26, and sg 1.024.  Thanks, Dave <Well Dave, start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm there's a lot there to learn about. Instead of using your fish, you can use pieces of raw shrimp to pump up the ammonia levels. A lot of it also is a matter of time. Also try adding a little more substrate from your other tank, you could use the water from your 20 when you do water changes on the new tank. Good luck, PF>

Readable ammonia in an established tank!! Yikes! Hi Bob, I hate to bother you *again*, but this is an emergency (I think). I tested the water this weekend and was amazed and appalled to see readable ammonia levels. By readable, I mean about .1. I read through your water quality FAQ (including the stuff on ammonia) and I did some of the things, however I don't know how serious this is. (The writer had much higher levels than I do.) Also concerned re: trace levels of nitrites I have been getting for the last couple weeks. <0.1ppm is nothing to be alarmed re... likely transient... some excess food... a small die-off, change in population amongst some microscopic life forms...> (I'm going to sum up my system here. 40 gal breeder; 144 watt Pc.s; Ecosystem40 with the MaxiJet 400 as the outtake pump; Maxijet 1000 on side of tank; 40 Lbs LR; 20 lbs sand about half live) The only thing possibly dead is the strange white stuff on the mushroom rock, I don't know if you remember this. <Yes... and not to over worry about this> I added a nice green Rhodactis this weekend, but it was at the LFS for about a month and looks very healthy. In fact, strange thing, everything looks healthy. However this amounts to about 5-10 lbs of LR added, however it was packed in water and it took me an hour to get home. <This is likely the to-some-degree-cause of this minor incident> Anyway I am pulling out this white stuff rock. Other readings were: SG 1.0245 Temp 80 pH 8.2 nitrates below 10 nitrites trace (not showing up as any no. but water turned very slightly pink) Phosphate .1 Ca 370 Alk 3.5 So far I have done a 10% (4 gal) water change; stopped feeding; increased the photoperiod; and am set to do another water change tonight. <Do leave off with the water changes till the ammonia either goes back to zero reading or approaches 0.5ppm> Also read thru nitrite FAQ and the only guess is the thing about the pumps below: I don't know if this is significant, but while I was gone on vacation my Rio pump gave out (of course this happens while I am on vacation) in the Ecosystem (I have an Ecosystem 40). The kid who was watching my tank found a MaxiJet 400 and put it in instead. <A better choice> When I got back the water wasn't really coming out very strongly. He said it was too powerful so he turned it down. He was right but I was able to tinker with it to increase the flow. However I am wondering if this might have anything to do with the problem of having readable nitrites and ammonia?  <Possible...> I have a spare Rio 600 lying around but I really have heard awful things about them (frying systems; explosions; voltage problems) so I would prefer having the Maxijet in there, if possible. <Yes... the Aquarium Systems product is superior> BTW, he also pulled the side MaxiJet 1000 because of "bubbles" in the intake tube. I did put this back a couple days after I got back. <Okay> My nitrates, nitrites and ammon. have always been unreadable as well. Until lately. Sorry if this is so long, but I don't know how serious a problem I have. <Not likely a large one.> Thanks very much. Your service is MUCH appreciated by everyone! <Glad to be of help, solace. Bob Fenner> --Jane J

Re: Readable ammonia in an established tank!! Yikes! Bob, Sorry about asking for clarifications all the time, but I have a learning disability and get mixed up when things aren't really clear. (Not that I'm ashamed but maybe you shouldn't put that in the faq, kind of personal.) <I don't mind the least... must need be kept erudite...> >So far I have done a 10% (4 gal) water change; stopped feeding; increased the photoperiod; and am set to do another water change tonight. ><Do leave off with the water changes till the ammonia either goes back to zero reading or approaches 0.5ppm> But do you mean I *should* do another water change or NOT? And do you mean I should do the other things as well or NOT? I was thinking I would feed them tomorrow-- though watch the amount. <NOT... unless the readings are high, leave the system be to settle> I made up some water for another small water change tomorrow. Thanks for your help here. <Be chatting my friend. Murky Bob Fenner> --Jane

Whitish Hairy rock growth...? Hi Bob, I may not be following conventions, but I welcome any an all opinions about my current setup you may have in addition to the reason I'm writing... Thanks. <Okay> I am currently cycling ~110lbs of live Fiji rock in my 55gal with about 2" of aragonite (40lbs) on the bottom, a Remora protein skimmer, Eheim canister filter, two 279gph powerheads, heaters keeping the water around 75F, and an 8 hour photoperiod with a single 10000K 175W MH pendant [only begun within the last two days]. I'm having a bigger skimmer custom built at my LFS, and I plan to return both the Remora and the Eheim to my friend as soon as I receive the unit. The display tank is drilled and empties into a 20gal tank I'm using as a sump (about 1/3 full). I have a Rio2100 as a return pump. <Lots of gear... and hard to cure this much live rock in a fifty five generally...> I really goofed (in hindsight) by putting the sand in, and then not properly rinsing the rock before placing it in the tank (I've never cured live rock before, and there seem to be so many conflicting schools of thought on the web about how such is best accomplished ). <Ah, yes...> My excuse is that my supplier shipped the product to me much earlier than expected, and I hadn't completely plumbed my tank when I received it--I was in a panic to get the rock into water. I've since nearly restarted the curing process after dumping 90% of the water (vacuuming the gunk off the top of the sand) and properly rinsing the rock in the same process. The ammonia was out-of-control, and I'd wasted too much salt already doing water changes in the first 3 days. <I'm bobbing my head up and down like an old Beatles doll in the back of a 55 Chevy with no shocks> I am not aware of any complex organisms existing in the system. The tank is now clearing and my NH3 readings are ~1.5ppm (pH 8.2, and not registering N02 and NO3 levels [probably because of near complete water change]); however, I've noticed a new growth in some of the rock crevices of a whitish, diaphanous, hairy-looking nature that I am totally incapable of identifying. I had initially guessed a form of algae (because of its coincident appearance following the addition of light), but I can't find any that fit the description. Will you help me? <Unfortunately I probably can... these are colonies of decomposers... fungus, actinomycetes... that will be supplanted in time. Keep monitoring ammonia, doing water changes... staying the path. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Tyler

Re: Whitish Hairy rock growth...? Thank You Bob! You're fast man! <A slow day> Another question... What would your NH3 threshold for performing a water change be under these circumstances? 2ppm... 4? <IMO about 2 ppm... Soon we'll be dressing alike, sheesh. Bob Fenner>

Re: Whitish Hairy rock growth...? What are you wearing? [Just kidding!] Thanks again. :-) <Man, you're low... running shorts and tee... no shoes! Hope you're dressed in a minkey suit with one of those devices for emphasizing your bilateral symmetry... Oh, doubles as a napkin I guess. Be chatting. Bob Fenner> Tyler

Re: Whitish Hairy rock growth...? Hi Bob, Re: High Ammonia levels... Would you recommend a water additive like "Ammo-Lock2" to bring down the ammonia in my tank, or is that stuff just "hot air"? <More hot air than help in all but disastrously high situations where other strategies can't be employed... Need to find, solve root causes... adapt the livestock back down more slowly to lower concentrations... for their sake and the systems establishment of nitrification. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Tyler Re: Whitish Hairy rock growth...? > I am not aware of any complex organisms existing in the system. The tank is now clearing and my NH3 readings are ~1.5ppm (pH 8.2, and not registering N02 and NO3 levels [probably because of near complete water change]); however, I've noticed a new growth in some of the rock crevices of a whitish, diaphanous, hairy-looking nature that I am totally incapable of identifying. I had initially guessed a form of algae (because of its coincident appearance following the addition of light), but I can't find any that fit the description. Will you help me? > <Unfortunately I probably can... these are colonies of decomposers... fungus, actinomycetes... that will be supplanted in time. Keep monitoring ammonia, doing water changes... staying the path. Bob Fenner> Sorry to plague you with this, Bob, but what do you mean by "unfortunately"? <Sorry for the lack of clarity. By "unfortunately" I mean/t am all too familiar with this scenario, set of circumstances. Have done and heard, seen others suffer from these sorts of "collapses". Too much death/"curing" decomposition going on for other mechanisms to support sufficient "cycling" rates, pathways... and subsequent "whiting out", evidence of mass decomposer/ition activity> Does the presence of these 'actinomycetes' signify anything? Is my rock dying out? <In a manner of speaking, yes... more of it, faster than I suspect you want to. All will/can stabilize... but you don't want too much of the "live" portions of your rock to go under. Imagine a life raft, like our planet, or a bunch of different species/populations on a floating log traversing inhospitable space. Some species will be more favored/impugned than others and their populations will be favored/impugned more than others... depending on prevailing conditions (environmental, predator-prey, genetic-adaptive... so much more)... and all may die back... but likely not all "equally"... In your prevailing conditions the latter is probably happening. Conditions are "so bad" that the vast majority of life forms are dying... and "opportunistic" (from our view point) organisms are utilizing them, the space...> Do you know if the presence of Ammo-Lock2 will prevent the ammonia it advertises to "de-toxify" from registering in a standard NH3 titration test? <Hmm, yes... as stated previously.> (I bit the bullet and used some because the NH3 levels spiked up to 4.0 yesterday just before I did a 25% water change--they're still at 4ppm this morning. Aaargh!) <Yikes... best to "spread out" your live rock if at all possible... place it in containers of larger volume... if you can in a "single layer"... can even "go outside" like in a kiddie wading pool rather than continue to rot in a 55... Bob Fenner> Thanks again!

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