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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Ammonia 4

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

Related FAQs: Ammonia 1Marine Systems Ammonia 2, Ammonia 3, Importance, Science, Measure, Control, Chemical Filtrants, Troubleshooting, Nitrates, NitritesPhosphate, Silicates, Test Kits for Marine Systems, Chemical FiltrantsMarine Systems,

Many apparently tough invertebrates are extremely sensitive to ammonia exposure.  Fromia milleporella (Lamarck 1816), a Red Starfish.

dirty water, SW   8/16/11
I have two problems with water quality which are linked, I believe, to previous inappropriate flow through the filter.
Major one is AMMONIA.
Since problem with filter has been sorted , I have done several large water changes and was adding detoxifying chemicals (Seachem/Prime).Other chemicals added to water were those for bacteria growth/feed as well as Exodin/Aqua Medic for white spots.
<Mmm, this product can kill off nitrifying microbes...>
Despite all of the above (tank is NOT overstocked), ammonia reading was still about 1mg/L. Both tests I am using can't distinguish between NH3 and NH4+.
<Ratio is more pH dependent than anything>
Next, I wrongly decided that it was a good idea to place a large bag of active carbon directly to water (no more room in the canister filter). As a result everything has turned black. Literally.
<Bunk! Also removes the chemicals you list above>
I've removed carbon and evacuated 4 fish to my other tank which is nowhere near suitable for them. It's been almost 3 days since then.
The only fish left in the affected tank is moray ell (sadly wouldn't go with any small fish in the other tank). He is breathing normally but has no appetite.
<Don't feed while ammonia is present>
Currently carbon is being gradually removed by increased water movement but is still an issue.
Ammonia keep showing same reading about 1 mg/L despite anything I am doing. Can't tell how much of it is in a toxic form.
<All are to degrees>
Situation is getting serious as I've noticed adverse effects of overcrowding in the tank I've transferred fish too.(Not to mention that my puffers started eating corals , Crustacea and generally everything). They can't stay there for much longer!
What else can be done to make a situation safe for them to return to the main tank?
<Quite a few things. Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/ammmarcontr.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Best regards
Re: dirty water, Ammonia f', more iatrogenic prob.s     8/25/11

Thank you for your help and I am sorry to bother you again.
Once ammonia dropped back to 0 fish came back to the main tank.
<Were you feeding the nitrifying bacteria in the meanwhile?>
Started to feed fish as normal (very hungry) and it's been about 1 week.
I am also dealing with white spots (got a bit better) so decided to gradually lower salinity ( currently 0.020-0.021)
<Missing a significant figure and not low enough to do any real good. Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_4/V4I4/hyposalinity/OST.htm
and the linked files at the bottom>
,changed UV bulb and also trying to keep pH lower than usual around 8.0
slightly swinging.
I am trying to deal with problems without medications/chemicals this time.
Yesterday, I decided to add new small additional canister filter as a support with brand new media (substrate pro, bio-balls, crystal Max rings).
Fish acting normal, water looks crystal clear so confidently done water tests as a 'formality'.
Ammonia -0.5-1 ppm!!!!!!
<... you were not feeding the microbes...>
Confirmed by 3 different tests .
Nitrate-0-5 ppm
I believe there was a breakdown of filtration system in the past mainly due to administered chemicals/medications and restricted flow through the filter but the extent of damage surprises me.
I have never had major problems with ammonia before.
Now'¦What to do???
<Read, understand, act>
I read lots on your website and trying to restrain from using chemicals but I wander if in this situation wouldn't be safer to use PRIME to detoxify ammonia being present?
<Won't work indefinitely>
I don't know the side effects of PRIME and would like to what's the lesser evil in this situation?
<... read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/ammmarcontr.htm
and the linked files above>
I am adding MicroBacter (Brightwell aquatics) every other day,NO3 and PO4 reducer(Red Sea)daily, Reef Evolution CombiSan (Aquarium Systems)weekly, all to restore bacteria population --nothing else.
<... this approach... not useful>
I have Biomature(Waterlife)for maturation of filtration system in my cabinet I have never used before. Should I?
<... read. BobF>
Should I be changing water 10% daily not to upset fish or more than that?
FEEDING- I started to worry if I don't feed them too much but I don't know how much is too much. I have no reference.
They are always happy to see me and always look hungry.
Maybe it sounds silly but I can't tell when fish is being greedy and when fish is at risk of malnutrition so they are getting spoiled. In the Ocean they seem to be eating/searching for food all the time.
I feel guilty when they are desperately swimming looking for food and have to picking and eating uneatable junk from the sand and spit it back. This means they are hungry.
Anyway, last time they got fed 4 hours ago before water test. I know I shouldn't be feeding them while ammonia is present but what if it takes a few days? Should they be getting tiny little bit in a meantime?
Thank you and regards,

Ammonia Question, 10/13/10
I have a 150L marine tank (second hand) which currently has 1 Foxface (about 2 inches, I know he will get too big for my tank soon but he's going to be moved to his new home in a few months),
<The sooner the better.>
1 peacock wrasse and 1 algae blenny, no inverts and 15kg of liverock. I have a Tetratech ex1200 external filter and a TMC V2 skim 200.
I do a 10-15% water change every week and the fish get a pinch of flake food twice a day.
<Need a more varied diet that just flake food, consider adding a good quality pellet food and frozen foods.>
About a month ago I had a nasty outbreak of Whitespot and was treating regularly with Prime until the symptoms subsided (about 2-3 weeks ago).
<Prime does nothing to treat Ich/Whitespot/Cryptocaryon irritans, see here for more, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ichartmar.htm .>
For the last 2 weeks I have been getting an ammonia reading of 1.0ppm (using an API test kit) I have been doing large water changes and treating with Interpet ammonia remover.
I've been doing some reading up on this and have seen that some ammonia removers and Prime can cause a false ammonia reading, do you think this could be the case here?
<Could be but I would continue with large, frequent water changes until I get a reading of 0 for ammonia, it is extremely toxic.>
All my fish seem happy and are eating well, swimming etc.
Other parameters
salinity: 1.025
nitrate: 10ppm
nitrite: 0ppm
ammonia: 0.25
phosphate: 0ppm
KH: 9
pH: 8.1
Sorry its a bit long!
many thanks for your time
Rebecca Horne

03/02/10 Ammonia issue, Dendronephthya 2/4/2010
<And good morning to you Dirk>
at least here in Thailand it is now.
I tested my tank today (which I do regularly) <good practice> and the ammonia seems to be up?
Other parameters are all in check
Nitrites 0
Ph 8.0
Alk 1.8 <? Low>
Calcium 500 <High>
Temp 25c
My ammonia was always 0 until today it went up to .25??
<Did you double test?>
- Could this spike in ammonia be caused by a clam that died few days ago?
<Could, yes>
Just before the Clam had died all parameters were still ok.
<No they weren't. You are unbalanced re: Calcium and Alkalinity here, Read: http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/nov2002/chem.htm and your Clam needs/ needed both to be correct. And don't forget Mg as well>
- Also this morning one of my Carnation dissolved completely except for the tip??
<These corals are virtually impossible to keep long term. It could have died for any number of reasons. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i5/dendros/dendros.htm
Would this be cause by the ammonia spike?
<Of course, yes. Ammonia is deadly toxic>
though my other 2 carnations seem still ok?
<Not for long I suspect, if the ammonia does not get them then starvation will. These need a constant supply of living zooplankton>
- When I mean dissolved, when I saw it this morning it looked crushed (which it couldn't have been) so when I wanted to check it out and touched it fell in almost dust except from the tip then like said before.
<Hmmm, and now the source of yet more pollution -- a 'cascade' effect at work here. Big water change time>
Also the foot was intact but completely deflated. I removed most of the debris out of the tank but left the tip? smart or not? And is this a normal way for a carnation to go?
<yes, soft corals will dissolve into pieces when dead>
- Now how to get back to a 0 level or will it set out naturally eventually? Stop feeding would help for a while?
<Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nh3marfaqs.htm .I do think, that if the basics of water chemistry such as calcium/ alkalinity and ammonia control are not understood, then the aquarist has no place keeping such sensitive animals as these, and that it is questionable for anyone to be keeping Dendronephthya without a full understanding that they can provide for these animals. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dendrofaqs.htm>
Thank you
<No problem, Simon>

Ammonia Problems in Saltwater Tank - 11-6-09
Currently I own a 46gal bow front tank housing the following marine fish:
1 - damsel
1- percula clown
1 - saddle back butterfly
1 - Cream angel
1- panther grouper
<In a 46 gallon?! It'll literally grow larger than your aquarium!>
1- hermit crab (very small)
1 - coral banded shrimp
1 - choc. chip star fish
Everything seems to be fine (testing wise)
pH - 8.4
salt level: 1.23ppm
nitrite: 0.0
nitrate: 0.0
ammo - .25
<Not fine>
So as you can see the levels look pretty normal for the exception of a little ammonia......
<Ammonia is incredibly stressful, and any detectable quantities means a big problem in an established tank>
To correct this I know a water change or ammo lock will nullify the problem.
<Temporary fixes that do need to be done - but the larger question is, why is the ammonia present? In this case, I think I know what the answer is - the panther grouper!>
Anyway, my question is this, my choc. chip star, for the past two to three weeks it's not eating at all... I used to go up to about 4-5days ant it would eat frozen dried krill like there was no tomorrow.... now it could care less about eating.... it's moving around the take continuously... I see not abrasions, nothing out of the ordinary...... what do you think is wrong? I do have frozen brine, and protein cubes 9forgot what they are called). Al the other fish and inverts and eating like freakin pigs but him........ my panther is eating whole krill now as well.....Any idea what's going on or what I should do? Would it be a good idea to test phosphate levels? I know that's for inverts but correct me if I'm wrong the starfish is an invert correct?
One other thing...... the cream angel, I'm beginning to notice a change in it's color, it's slightly a faded white color, BUT again, he's eating awesome.......would this be because of the ammon ia level? could it be a beginning disease ? any ideas?
Please advise..
<Okay this is un-publishable...see http://www.wetwebmedia.com/QueryCorrsRefPg.htm and resend. Mike Maddox>

Ammonia in SW Tank 4/5/08 Hi <Hello> I have noticed ammonia has a little high in the tank. <Any readable ammonia is very bad and highly toxic.> This is danger to the fish, and all animals like zoos will be closed. The water will turn cloudy. <Bacterial bloom.> The skimmer has skimmed very brown water in the cup. Do I need to remove it? <Clean it often.> Is there anything can remove the ammonia? I don't use media in the filter. <Seems like you need more areas for the bacteria to colonize, perhaps more live rock or some filter media.> I lost my QT tank recently was an iron stand falls off, and cracked the glass. I can now only use the bucket to keep the livestock I have. <Lots of water changes are needed here.> 5 days ago I dropped a coin into the tank. Does coin have chemical?? I'm worried. <It could, need to find and remove the coin if you have not already.> Thanks for your press replies Peter <Chris>

Ammonia Levels High 01/09/2008 Hello, <<Hello, Andrew here>> I have tried to find my answer on your website but im still a bit stuck. For the last 4 weeks I have been having high ammonia readings and these readings are carried out when I have completed my 10% weekly water change. Today I have a very high ammonia readings between 1.2 and 2.4 and are now starting to worry about it. I have a 90 litre (UK) a guess about 20-25 gallon US. I have- 1 small clown fish 1 green Chromis 1 yellow tang <<Needs removing, your tank is far too small, suggest 75 or larger>> 1 small red hermit 1 fire shrimp 1 pacific cleaner shrimp 5 Astrea snails pulsating xenia, small mushroom, 12 small polyps. 12 kg of live rock 2 kg of calcium rock <<What is the reason for having this in there? Should not need it>> crushed substrate on bottom a hang on skimmer (could be better) Fluval 2 internal Filter My readings are PH 8.2,alkalinty low, nitrate 10, nitrite 0.05ppm, temp 26 and 1.024/1.025. I weekly add at time of water change-5ml buff, 5ml prime, 5ml cycle. <<I would stop adding these, no need for them>> But I always end up adding 20ml of prime due to high readings of ammonia as this removes the high readings and returns them to zero. <<All your doing is masking the actual issue with chemicals, need to find the source of them>> Yes, this does the job but I am not happy adding these chemicals to my system each week. Do you think I need a bigger filter? Every time I visit my marine stockist they try to sell me even more chemicals to add. I feel like they just want more money and are not trying to solve my problem. Please help. x <<Your filter is adequate, however, your stocking levels are way over. The yellow tang certainly needs to be removed, tank size mentioned above. Your ammonia source is possibly due to the bio-load you have in the tank>> <<Thanks for questions, A Nixon>>

High Ammonia in Hospital Tank, Turning Around 9/7/07 First of all I want to say thank you for this great resource. My husband and I really enjoy reading all of your posts and have learned ALOT. Unfortunately it's too little too late. We feel terribly that our fish have had to suffer because of our lack of knowledge. We have thoroughly read through your ammonia section in the last couple of days and cannot find a situation similar to ours. Problem of origin; We believe some of our fish have/had ICK, Cryptocaryon Irritans, as evidenced by small table salt looking spots all over our file fish's body, also infected were 2 ocellaris clowns they did not have the same type of physical symptoms as the file fish more of a patch here and there of white spots and eventually a white coating over their entire bodies. <Sounds like Ich.> It seemed to only outwardly affect our skin fish and our scale fish were looking great. We put a lot of trust into our LFS and are questioning whether or not we are getting good information. At our LFS's advice we tried pima fix and mela fix in the beginning, it did not work that is how we narrowed the results to the ick. <Pretty much junk anyways in my opinion.> We were advised to treat all fish sick or not with CopperSafe TM so, we moved all of our fish to a hospital tank which was set up out of desperation. 20 gallons, bare bones with only some PVC pipe for fish to hide in. <Needs water movement, heat and filtration too.> We could not treat our main tank because we have an anemone, a brittle sea star, some blue leg hermit crabs, a peppermint shrimp, an urchin, and some live rock & snails. <Never treat the main tank.> Long story short our ammonia levels have been up to 1.0 ppm consistently. <Not uncommon, hospital/QT tanks take some work.> Here is our diary; 9/1 Set up 20 gal. hospital tank 9/3 1 Comet Marine Betta, 1 File Fish, 2 Green Chromis, 2 Clown Fish moved into the hospital tank we tested the water shortly after and ammonia was detected at 1.0 ppm we immediately did a 50% water change, replacing it with freshly manufactured salt water (Instant Ocean), took old filter system from main tank to add biology. <Ok> 9/4 Trip to the fish store first thing in the am, LFS advise us to buy ammo lock, dosed the tank with ammo lock and stress zyme, put 3 gallons of main tank water in hospital tank to give some biology to system. Ammonia level still 1.0 ppm <If you can find Bio-Spira use that, is live bacterial cultures and works well, although if you are treating with copper this will most likely kill off most of the bacteria anyways.. 9/5 Woke up in the morning to find one clown dead and a temperature of 88.5 degrees. We placed a piece of tape over the knob of the heater to hopefully prevent this from happening again. Used ice bags to slowly bring temperature down. Came home in the evening to find second clown fish dead. ammonia tested at 1.0 ppm all day even after water changes, all other water parameters were in the acceptable range. ammo lock and stress zyme used. <The ammonia becomes even more toxic at high temperatures so the results are unfortunately not surprising. More water changes are required here.> So, we know that we made a lot of mistakes and are open to all constructive criticism and advice... Here are my questions: 1. a. If we continue to do water changes using our main tank water will the parasites reinfect the fish that we have in the hospital tank or will the Coppersafe kill the parasites immediately? <Will reinfect, use newly mixed water.> b. should we use the water from the main tank or use newly made salt water? <New> 2. How long does the main tank have to stay without fish to be parasite free? I have seen 2-4 weeks in your posts. I wouldn't mind 4 weeks if the conditions were right in the hospital tank, what do you think? <4 weeks is the absolute minimum, 6 weeks is much better. Try raising the temperature a bit in the main tank, low 80s ideally.> 3. Can parasites thrive with only invertebrates in the tank? <Most cannot, including Cryptocaryon Irritans.> 4. What are the best preventions for keeping parasites and diseases away from our fish? Which ones are safe to use with each other. Can you give me some dosing regimen suggestions. <I would not treat prophylactically, but do QT every fish for 4 to 6 weeks before adding them to the main tank to prevent introduction of disease.> Can't wait to get your magazine and book. <Bob's book is great, believe he is currently working on a new edition of it. I don't believe anyone here has a magazine in print, but we do have an online magazine, Conscientious Aquarist.> Your service is so appreciated. We have committed to not getting anymore fish until we have two stable tanks and extra money to throw into appropriate equipment. <Good idea.> Thanks So Much, Shannon & Kevin Freist <Welcome> <Chris>

Re: Help !! High Ammonia in Hospital Tank -- 09/14/07 Hello (again) WWM Crew, Our fish are looking better no more ick spots (table salt) just a little bit on File Fish's fin. <What species?> Appetite is ok not what it was in the big tank but not going for more than a day without eating. Comet Marine Betta is still a little finicky but, I think it is the cramped 20 gallon tank that he is in. My husband thinks he has an infection near his mouth and his gills are a little red. We know to watch out for the secondary infections due to the copper treatment we are just not sure how to treat them in the hospital tank with all the other meds we are using (Ammo Lock by API and Coppersafe by Mardel). We are also still battling the ammonia problem in our hospital tank. Here is somethings we have done at the advice of your website; We dropped our salinity to 1.0235, We are afraid to increase the temp to more than 78 as we have heard that high temp increase the toxicity of the ammonia (please advise) <Can, does> We are doing 25% water changes every other day and after doing one last night we are doing another one tonight due to an unusually high reading of 8 ppm (with ammo lock). <I'd do more water, daily... to keep under 1.0 ppm> We have tried Stress Zyme but the copper kills the beneficial bacteria so it makes for a mute point, what do you think? <You have to move your livestock> We are running the old filter from the tank on the hospital tank but, have more than likely killed that biology with the copper as well. <Yes> The fish don't seem to be gasping or anything, the Betta is a little moody but he may not be feeling well. Please advise on an appropriate course of action. <Posted...> Oh, the other major dilemma: We have purchased an RO system for our home. We tested the fresh water and it reads no ammonia, We put the salt (Instant Ocean) and buffer (Marine Buffer by Seachem) in and then tested the ammonia and to our surprise there was a reading of 1ppm. So, here are my other questions: Can buffer and or salt contain or produce ammonia when mixed with fresh water? Where else could the ammonia be coming from? <The salt can, does... temporarily... Should be mixed up, stored per: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seawater.htm> Does ammo lock give false high readings and why is this so? <Yes, artifactual... the PVP ingredient, reagent...> We have had good success (one time) treating a minor infection in our Comet Marine Betta previously with pima fix and mela fix ( I know you are not big advocates of this stuff) is it safe to use with copper meds and ammo lock?? Any other suggestion here would be very welcomed. <... is a placebo... again, this is posted> We have some Fishcillin (antibiotic) would that be better than pima and mela fix? <For?> Would an antibiotic do well with the copper? <Can be mixed, but for what?> Thanks so much for your time. Have a great day. Very Sincerely, Shannon & Kevin Freist <Keep reading... and move your livestock if you cannot get, keep the real ammonia under one part per million max. Bob Fenner> Ammonia? Info?  -- 08/17/07 Hi WWM, I think i have a slight ammonia problem. I feed my fish and 30 - 60 minutes later my fish start breathing for air at the surface. <Yikes> I test the water and it shows 0ppm on my test kit. <Might be low dissolved oxygen> The next day the fish are fine and no more breathing. It has been happening for about 2 weeks and it happens everyday after i feed my fish. But yesterday my Chromis' started to breathe at the surface and about 3 days ago one of my yellow tangs disappeared <!> and i have a feeling he is causing the ammonia spike in my tank the last 2 days. Before he died the Ammonia was kind of like an on and off thing. But now most of my fish are gasping for air. Is it unusual to constantly have ammonia going up and down? <Yes... insufficient biofiltration...> I have these pouches in my tank called 'Maifan Stones' by 'SUN SUN'. Have you heard of them? <Have now: http://www.google.com/search?q='Maifan+Stones'+by+'SUN+SUN'&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7PCTA> They are meant to lower ammonia and nitrite <I would remove this material> and i think this might be what is lowering the ammonia every time. If you have any idea what is happening i would really like to know urgently. Thanks, Maison <... what re the set-up, size, history of this system? BobF> Ammonia problem with 24 gal nano, just reading   8/6/07 I have a 24 gal nano with about 25lb of live rock. Colt coral, candy cane coral, reef star, serpent star, 2 emerald crabs <Watch these... often become predaceous> and about 8 snails of various kinds. About 6 weeks ago I discovered that my children were feeding the fish I had in the tank in addition to the feeding I was doing. The result was ammonia spike and dead livestock. <Yikes! Easy to do in such small volumes> So far I have lost 2 fish, 2 shrimp, toadstool, zoos and several snails and worms. My current problem is that I can't get the ammonia down. I have been doing twice weekly water changes of 25%. In six weeks the ammonia is down to but not zero. Nitrates and Nitrites are zero and all other test are within range. The system was started march 1st of this year and until the over feeding was doing great. What is my next step or should I break it down and start over? Thanks for your help, Tom Peters <... How high is the ammonia? Your pH? Many things can be done... all can be read about on the archives of WWM: http://wetwebmedia.com/nh3marfaqs.htm and the linked FAQs files above. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia Spike After Large Water Change...Need More Info -- 07/27/07 Hi Crew, <<Greetings Rick>> I hope you can help. <<I'm here to try>> I just did a water change of 40-percent to get my Nitrates down. <<Okay>> They were at 80ppm and now are reading below 40ppm. <<Yikes!...and need to be cut in half (at least) yet again>> That's the good news. <<Uh-oh>> Before I did a water change I had no ammonia, 0ppm. After the change its 0.25ppm? <<Not all that unusual...many salt mixes will impart a small amount of ammonia...though this level does seem rather high>> What did I do wrong? <<Don't know...maybe nothing. Have you retested since to see if the Ammonia is still detectible?>> I read all your articles and premixed my water a day and half ago? <<May need to let it mature a bit longer (a week is preferable, in my opinion)...or maybe change salt mixes>> Is this normal? <<You don't give me enough info to say in your case. Have you tested your source water? Is your source water prefiltered? Have you tested your water 'before' adding the salt mix?>> It's a 37-gallon with a small Maroon Clown and Flame Fin Tang <<The Tang needs a larger environment>> and Mandarin Goby. <<Also needs a much larger tank>> Is it normal to have an ammonia spike after a large water change? <<Refer to my previous questions>> I added Prime in the sump at 2-drops per gallon and hope that it will come down. <<'Hope' is not enough... Add some chemical filtrant (Carbon/Poly-Filter/Chemi-Pure) and determine the 'source' of the Ammonia. I would even suggest testing with another/new test kit to validate the reading>> This has happened to me in the past and it scares me. <<Understandable>> I don't want to kill my fish. <<Do consider more appropriate species for this size system>> Small water changes kept my nitrates the same. <<More to this tale than is evident/revealed here>> Thanks for all your help past and present. Rick <<Please perform the checks/tests mentioned and provide more info re your system/filtration. Regards, EricR>>

Spiking ammonia levels (Read all the pages on your site, but continue having prob. Ammonia Spikes -- 07/25/07 Hi guys, <Hi there!> I've read all of the articles on your site pertaining to my problem of ammonia but still cant figure out whats going on. First and foremost, I have to say that you guys are great, and are doing a fantastic job. It is because of you guys that I have decided to take on this hobby. THANKS A MILLION!!! Please be patient as you read the following since I'm trying to be very specific. Now, on to my problem, I have a 125 gallon tank fish only with dual overflows and 72" long, a Mega Flow model 4 sump that is supposedly good enough for 210 gallons not sure of the brand or type of sump pump), about1/2 to 3/4 of an inch deep of Natures Ocean live sand, Coral life skimmer(125 gallon rating) which I hang from the sump, two 12" airstones, and two heaters constantly keeping the water at 78 degrees. <I'd raise that temperature to about 80 but that's just my preference.> I do at least a 15% water change weekly siphoning the sand for accumulated wastes. I've had this tank for about 1 1/2 years and very seldom has my ammonia level been at 0. Its usually at about .25. All the other levels (ph, nitrate, nitrite) have pretty much always been perfect. Which is mind boggling to me. I just cant get this ammonia right. About 4 months ago, I lost a ton of fish(2 1/2" niger trigger, 2 1/2" Huma trigger, 2" squirrel ,1" domino and the only ones to survive were two 1" blue damsels, and a 2" mono) I know that the tank was crowded, but my friend was giving up on his marine fish and gave me his niger so I couldn't resist. Anyway, I had these fish in there for over 5 months with no problem. Until one day, I had a huge spike of ammonia about 3.0, and my nitrates were at anywhere between 80 and 160. <Can I ask? Did you do anything different the day before? Anything unusual? A different type of food, anything at all? > Long story short, I did about a 50% water change on the first day, lost the fish soon thereafter, and my toxic levels barely changed. <The problem with doing a very large water change is that often (and I'm not saying its the case with you) but often, that large a water change can lead to other problems like a ph fluctuation. Where the water you add is a different ph then the water currently in the tank and that can be very harmful and stressful to the fish.> Then about 4-5 days later, I changed about 70% of the water. And about a week later changed about another 20% and have been doing 15% water changes every week since. Since my catastrophe, I only had 2 blue damsels and a mono in the tank for the past 3 1/2 months or so. All the levels went back to where they are supposed to be, except the ammonia, which continually hovered at about .25. <Do you have chloramines in your water? Do you use ro/di water? Should you have the chloramines it is possible that you are not removing the chloramines totally and that's what is causing the ammonia reading.> Then about 1 1/2 weeks ago, I introduced a 3" Huma trigger to the tank after quarantine, all the water levels were fine except ammonia which was still at .25. Then about 4 days ago, I introduced an 8" porcupine puffer after quarantine. The next day, my ammonia levels spiked once again, this time to about 1.0 I immediately did a 25% water change, with little results, then today I did a 40% water change and not only did I siphon the gravel, but I stirred it as well (I know you guys recommend not to stir the sand but I'm trying everything) and siphoned some more thinking that maybe wastes got deep into the gravel. with little results as well. <When I was reading about your system the only thing that struck me was that you have this very long tank and my impression was that you didn't have a tremendous amount of water movement and that you possibly needed more water movement so you could get the oxygen exchange going at a higher rate.> The ammonia level lightened up a bit, but not much, at the moment I'm somewhere between .50 and 1.0------All my other levels are perfect!!! (nitrate-20, nitrite-0, ph-8.2)<Nitrates should be zero as well so that's another indication of a problem.> I know that fish can get stressed and in the process cause spikes, but none of the fish are showing any signs of stress, and are all getting along perfectly with no nipping, fighting, etc....And I also do not overfeed. <If you don't you are amazing. I'm the Queen of overfeeding and always have been myself. Its a majorly difficult chore to not overfeed because these fish have very small stomachs and they are always hungry.> Before I got the porcupine puffer, I was only feeding flake food every other day, and just enough to where it was all eaten within 3-4 minutes. <Flake food breaks down and puts in a lot of ammonia into your tank. That might be part of your problem. I usually recommend pellets but mostly I recommend things like mysis shrimp in small, small quantities.> After I got the puffer, I started to feed 2 medium sized shrimps every other day in which case the puffer would eat both shrimp, but since they are sloppy eaters, the rest was eaten by the other tankmates. <I'd feed him one per day. They have very quick metabolisms and need frequent feedings.> The only thing that I can think of is my sump pump. Maybe its not strong enough. Or maybe the gravel. I don't know. < I hope these ideas help you Andrew. Good luck, MacL> Please help!!! Sincerely Andrew

Ammonia Level Through The Roof 1/23/07 I started my fish hobby with a 24 gallon Nano Cube in 2005. In June of 2006, I upgraded to a 90 gallon tank with a sump below. Inside the sump, I have a filter bag, a small refugium and a protein skimmer. My tank was doing great and my corals were growing out of control. Approx. 4-5 weeks ago, I noticed that my Xenia looked like crap so I test my Calcium levels. I quickly realized that my Calcium was at an all time low and I began add some Calcium daily to raise the level. After testing my calcium, I also tested for  Ammonia, Nitrates and Nitrites. To my surprise, my ammonia level was off the chart. I immediately began doing water changes and started using PRIME which I was told (from the fish store) that it would detoxify the ammonia and not kill my fish. The guy at the fish store also told me that I probably had something die in my tank and I needed to remove it or it would cause more problems. When I returned home, I removed some of my rock from my tank and began searching for something that died but I couldn't find a thing. I replaced my rock, continued adding PRIME and was doing water changes every 3-4 days until my ammonia finally got around 0. Now, my Nitrates are around 20 ppm and I can't get them down any lower. I've been doing water changes and using several different types of nitrate remover but none are helping. <In my opinion, most of these products are worthless.  A quality, efficient protein skimmer will do more for your nitrate problem than the money wasted on such products.> As of today, most of my corals have died. I have a few mushrooms and polyps left (and all my fish) but nothing else. Any suggestions you have would be appreciated. My family is devastated because our once beautiful tank now looks bare. <I'm assuming that you have sufficient lighting for the corals in question.  On another note, have you been dosing other needed trace elements necessary for coral growth?  You do not mention you pH, dKH parameters.  These need to be at a proper level also.  Do read the links below along with related files in these links for nutrient control and keeping corals. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/growingcorals.htm James (Salty Dog)> Re:  Ammonia Level Through The Roof 1/24/07 Thank you for replying to my email. <You're welcome.> To answer your question, I am using VHO lighting and calculated that I have just shy of 5 watts per gallon. I believe that should be plenty for my tank plus my corals were growing out of control until a month ago. <Is not going to be enough lighting for SPS and some LPS corals.> Also, my protein skimmer fills about 1/4 cup per day. <Great.> I forgot to mention my PH in my original email but I do test that on a regular basis. I tested my water again today and listed the results below. Any other advice you have would be greatly appreciated. <Just my advice in the original correspondence.  Concentrate on nutrient control and do clean (weekly) the neck of the skimmer where the waste is being pushed into the collection cup.  Not cleaning the muck reduces the efficiency of the skimmer.> Tests from 01/23/2007 Temp: 78 degrees PH: 8.0-8.2 Ammonia: 0 ppm Nitrites: 0 ppm Nitrates: 20 ppm KH: 240 ppm  <What method is this, Grains per gallon CaCO3? James (Salty Dog)>

Seachem Prime  1/16/07 What is "Prime" for ammonia detox? < http://www.seachem.com/products/product_pages/Prime.html  ~PP> Linda

Ammonia On the Rise - 10/9/06 Hi everyone, <Greetings! Emerson here with you today.> I'm having a big problem with my ammonia. 1 week ago, all parameters were fine, and when I tested this week, ammonia was at 1 ppm! Nitrates were also up to 40-50 ppm, nitrites 0, Ph 7.9. We did a major water change, (24 gallons on a 55 gallon tank) and tested later that day. The nitrates went to about 30, and the ammonia was .33. I tested again this morning and the nitrates are down to 20-30 (maybe from the refugium?), but the ammonia is back up to .75 in one day! What do you think could have caused this? <Poorly established biofiltration, overfeeding, possibly rotting materials brought in with uncured rock etc etc etc.> We do have a few new, strange types of algae that are growing so fast it even grows on the snails, but my husband says he doesn't think there's any hair algae. I added Amquel + to the tank this morning to see if that will help. I assumed yesterday the raised ammonia was probably due to overfeeding. (I feed three times a day, small amounts, once flakes, once artic pods -we have a mandarin- and once frozen foods of all different types.) <Your mandarin is likely doomed. Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/mandarins.htm > Foolishly, before we did the test yesterday, we added a baby cleaner shrimp and a very large (2") spotted snail (sorry, I can't remember what it's called.) We added the giant snail because the green algae was getting out of control on the glass and on the live rock. <Algae is to be controlled with proper feeding and nutrient export (water changes and skimming). Adding snails is a band aid approach, and not addressing the cause of the problem.> Both creatures are doing fine. Really, I just forgot to test first.  Could the addition of these two cause such a rise in ammonia in one day? Is it more likely the algae, and if so, what types could do that so I can try to identify it? <No regarding the shrimp/snails, and no, algae did not cause your ammonia spike.> When will I be able to safely do another water change? How soon is too soon? It's going to need to be done ASAP I'm sure, I'm just not sure when that would be. <You need to be doing 30% or more changes daily until the ammonia is under control. Please test for ammonia and nitrite (you may see nitrite rise soon) daily until both tests read 0, and then continue to test a few times a week to be safe. You are having serious issues with biological filtration and should stop feeding your fish for at least a few days. Please read through the articles and FAQs regarding water quality here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/index.htm > Thanks so much for your help with my stupid mistake of adding new creatures without testing first. And thank you in advance for any help you can give me with ammonia. <You are welcome. Please read as much as you can on the website, and you can save your critters! Best of luck.> - Jennifer

Water Quality Issue 9/12/06 I just have a split second question. One of my fish seems to have disappeared. If it has died in my tank and has begun to rot and such, which levels out of the three, Ammonia, Nitrate, or Nitrite would rise? <All at different times.> And do the same levels rise in salt water too? <Yes> Thanks! <Anytime> <Chris> Bottle of this potion, bottle of that potion... say the magic words - 25/8/2006 Dear crew, I have been reading your FAQs with interest but can't find the exact solution to my problem. <Let's see then...> Clown was sulking in bottom of tank under a rock but coming out for food  and Hammer coral was shrinking. Tested water immediately <Well spotted and good practice> and Ammonia spiked to 0.5. Did an emergency  10% water change which brought it down to 0.25 (kit reads 0 on RO). Hammer recovered to full size, Clown perked up to normal. Monitored water and overnight pH has dropped again to 7.8 and during the  day Hammer has shrunk right back. Kent essentials and stront/molyb  again. <No need to add the trace elements IMO.. definitely not if you are not testing for them. Key here is to get ammonia under control, not add anything else to the mix.> Starting some calcium Hydroxide as well. NOs. currently PH 7.8 temp 80 amm 0.25 trites 0 trates 0 alk 2.97 Ca 380 SG 1.023 I have good water surface disruption for the removal of CO2 Any ideas how to keep the PH up and amm down or is it just that the Hammer is removing more calcium than I am putting in at the moment and the tank is  starting to cycle again (amm) <No, the hammer will not be removing that much calcium, especially in an ammonia-contaminated tank. Besides, you're making a logical mis-connection here. Excessive nitrogenous contaminants (such as ammonia or nitrates) could definitely be responsible for depressing the pH. Alkalinity can also effect the pH - generally upward. But altering the pH, alkalinity or calcium will not affect the ammonia levels!> I am new to this and don't want to add too many chemicals. <Good. Don't!> The cleanup crew are at max levels for now. I have some Stress Zyme would that help a little? <No,. no... Need to figure out where your ammonia is coming from. Your calcium, alkalinity, "essential elements," molybdenum, strontium, snake oil and magic dust are all fine... if this tank is new, the live rock may not be cured, and/or the tank may not be cycled. If not, something may have died somewhere and be rotting... please check into and research these things.> HISTORY I have a mature nano reef. It has been moved recently but parameters for each of the three days after move were PH 7.8 Temp 79 Ammonia 0 Nitrite    0 Nitrate    0 The tank is about 12.5g (US) active with a rear sandbed filter (in an  old tropical tank). It has a Euro 404 for uplift (bathroom tap on 1/3 type flow) and two 404  for circulation. 1/2 -1 1/2" coral sand bed. A healthy population of brown zoos, clove polyps, some daisy polyps that are just starting to reappear Medium size snail Small red hermit Small clown Hammer coral with 13 heads (about the size of very large man's palm) small bristle star seen in sand. Some worms a fan an some small red tubeworms and brine and tiny stars. After the move I (with 20% water change, strontium/Molyb dose and Kent essential dose) I raised the PH and calcium levels with calcium hydroxide (weak solution mixed in tank water and put into filter at 30ml per 1/2 hour) as the hammer was sulking and I hadn't got a KH/alk test kit or Ca. Hammer a bit happier. More size to hammers. PH raised slowly to 8.2 Amm 0 trate 0 Trite 0 Alk 1.43 mEq/l so added some more calcium <But you didn't test for calcium? Please read up on calc vs. alk... I haven't even seen you list anything that is a major calcium consumer.> Next day same numbers except Alk 2.59 mEq/l Bought a Ca/ Mag tester Mag 1240 Ca 360 As the tank appeared settled I added a very small blue hermit and a small rock with some small yellow zoos. Everything fine, hammer happy, clown feeding to hand. Added 4 medium mushrooms (cemented with small amount aquascape epoxy) 3 small frags of hard coral (also cemented) and one cleaner shrimp. Hammer got a small knock and spread the usual strings all over the tank (didn't raise ammonia last time) Mushrooms were hard to keep stuck and may have   been slightly pinched on the odd fringe. They've got rough greeny surface and   brown fringe) <This is plenty of life for such a small tank. I would cease adding all these bottles of trace elements to this small system. Definitely no more Kalkwasser without testing. Your best bet right now might be to do a massive water change, and sit on your hands for a while. Figure out where that ammonia is coming from. Hope you get it under control soon. Best regards from Shanghai, John.>

Re: Bottle of this potion, bottle of that  potion... say the magic words -  - 09/01/06 Thanks John <Hi again....> Especially for the info that amm may affect PH. I have tested the calcium and it is still below 'recommended norms' at 380 meq/L. Leaving it alone now as you suggested : ) <The calcium is fine to be honest, I wouldn't worry about it. I'd let it normalize over the course of a few water changes, then worry about your calcium and alkalinity levels once you have the ammonia source in check.> I think I recognize most of the causes of ammonia rise from  searching FAQs and the net but as I haven't got a lot of fish (1), don't feed  much yet (just the clown who eats it all with 10 seconds), haven't knowingly got  uncured rock and nothing has died that I know of. <I would treat all new live rock as uncured... the trip to/from the fish store is enough to "uncure" it! For this reason, I much prefer buying fresh, uncured rock, and curing it myself. This also means I can do my utmost to keep as much life on it as possible.> I was wondering if I had missed something on the ammonia generators. <I'd also ease off on feeding while you have this problem... feed once, every other day, at most.> I will check the snail as he is the only thing that could be dying/dead without notice. I thought he was alive well after the problem started  though. The reef was mature (1year old and stable) when I purchased it from a soon to be Marine Biologist. It had to be moved but all amm, trites and traits were 0  before and after. I expected rise after disturbing sand bed but this didn't happen. <I see... was the rock out of water for long? Anything hidden that could have died?> I have not seen anything die or lost anything obvious other than two very tiny [feather dusters] (<.5mm head) whose tubes were trampled by the hermit crab. The Rhodactis had been quarantined at reliable LFS for 3 weeks. I  believe it is cultured not wild as well. Maybe there is some release of stuff  from the rock still (it's about 3" long and 1" wide). <These don't sound like likely problems.> On the potion side. The stress zyme is from my Goldfish (1) tank setup  and I wasn't planning to use it in my marine tank. Only I had seen it  recommended. <Will mess up your skimmer, if nothing else.> It is hard to sort out the wheat from the chaff sometimes and  people talk a good talk. <Haha.. me too ;) No (monetary) profit from doing so on my end though.> The Marine tank came with the other 'potions', viz Kent essentials, Kent Stront/Moby, Calcium bicarbonate, which have only been added in tiny  amounts in proportion to the amount of RO water added to the tank. <Do read through WWM on calcium and alkalinity, and the suggested regimens for keeping them in check.> Total so far is 2ml essentials, 2ml Stront/Molyb. The Kalkwasser was only really used in the emergency of a very low alkalinity of 1.43 mEq/l. I will do some more water changes steadily but am a little concerned that nothing is coming through on Nitrates. If the cycle was working shouldn't I see some lowering of amm and raising of nitrates? <Yes to the ammonia.. but as this live rock may be partially functioning, it may also be processing nitrates. No doubt a rise will come tough.> Thanks again. <You're welcome. Many apologies for the delay in my response. John> Re: Bottle of this potion, bottle of that  potion... say the magic words - Mystery ammonia follow-up 2 - 1/9/2006 The snail is alive and well so he wasn't the cause of the ammonia  spike. <Good... although it doesn't help us with our source!> The Hammer is fully extended and looks happy. PH is hard to read 7.8 or 8.2. (Birthday soon so electronic Ph meter coming up <wish>) <Definitely a good investment! I find colorimetric kits to be impossible.... and expensive, over time.> Am waiting for the new salt water to mature (5hrs to go) before  I do another partial water change. Will only be 10% again as I used the last of  the RO making this up last night. Will pick up some more RO today. I am so glad I allocated my two week holiday time to this so I have test 2-3times a day if necessary and shop when necessary. <Yes! I know how you feel. But I am sure it will rectify itself soon. Don't burn yourself out.... changes won't happen that fast. The water changes are a good idea, however.> Will check with the LFS to see if they used AmmoLock or similar and I am getting false readings from the water that came with the Shrimp. <A possibility... but you're using RO water, right? Best regards, John.>> Re: Bottle of this potion, bottle of that  potion... say the magic words - Mystery ammonia follow-up 2 - 1/9/2006 I recently had the benefit of your advice on my recently moved,  small reef tank and an ammonia spike. Having not lost any livestock or  other obvious cause, I think the spike may have persisted due to tank  disturbance of organic matter and will now try to do water changes very  slooooowly. <Hi again... great news!.> May I say a big thanks to you and your team. Things are back on track now.  0 amm, 0 trite, 0 trate, 79F, 400 Ca, 4.0 Alk, Ph 8.0 <Glad to hear it... have you got that electronic pH tester yet? > I have not tested phosphates, do I need to start? <It's something to consider. Helps with the battle against algae to some extent, but as soon as you see any significant quantities of algae, know that they are already consuming significant amounts of PO4... making the test somewhat less useful.> The branching hammer coral seems to be doing well and may need a new home soon. I see at least two small offshoots (2mm long) starting on the lower   branches. <A good sign!> My clown is not yet using the services of the cleaner shrimp which is a shame as I fancied watching a cleaner shrimp at work. The shrimp is quite happy to clean my fingers although he gets a bit enthusiastic occasionally. <Yes... I love watching/getting manicures from my shrimp... I'm convinced they're the most intelligent creatures we keep!> Off now to move to my next job of watching out for the signs of chemical warfare! <Grin... Enjoy it! Best regards,  John.> Thanks again Kaz UK

Ammonia Contamination in Basement - 08/24/06 Hi, <<Hello>> I recently had a 75 gallon reef tank installed [upgraded from my 40 gallon] with the sump/refugium/RO water maker & auto top-off in the basement. <<Cool!>> I have a finished basement that is concrete with a drain ditch all around the basement that goes into a house sump in the floor in case the basement floods [which it never does since we are on top of a hill]. <<Even so...is nice to have the protection>> Recently I discovered that if the RO water sits in the barrel for 2 or 3 days, it tests of ammonia. <<Really?  At what level?  Is the barrel used?...contaminated?...made of food-grade material?>> I have cleaned the barrel three times with water & complete care [Rubbermaid garbage can, new] & cleaned out the basement of anything that may be contaminating the air, including all the firewood. <<Mmm, can't think of anything right-off that might have been used in the construction that might be causing this.  Some insulating foams/polyurethane products might leach substances that could concentrate in a confined space such as a basement...but I would think these would be a noticeable irritant if this were the case>> The basement is now basically bare.  I ran another test.  The RO water tested OK out of its faucet & after 2 days I tested one bucket of water I left in my house & another I left in the basement.  The basement water still had ammonia!!!! <<But how much?>> Now I am vinegar & water cleaning anything made of wood [stairs, beams, etc.], I have all the windows open during the day & a fan going. <<Why are you concentrating your efforts on the wood?>> The guy who installed the tank suggested peroxiding the walls with a garden hose sprayer [a little drastic?] & my handy-man suggested covering the floor drains with plastic or building a little room for the sump. <<I don't see how either of these actions are going to help...folks place sumps/water collection vessels in basements and garages all the time with no ill effect my water top-off/salt make-up barrels are in my garage).  Were I you, I would do the simplest and most obvious thing (in my mind anyway) and replace the water storage container...perhaps with a polyethylene container purpose-built for storing food-grade liquids>> I thought about getting a special water container made so as to keep it covered, only having the necessary wires hanging out of the lid & then using a UV light to keep the RO water from getting contaminated. <<Don't waste your money on the UV here...is not necessary/won't prevent ammonia from entering/leaching in to the water>> Do you have any suggestions for me?  I'd be grateful forever. <<Try replacing the container before proceeding with any other "drastic" measures...which by the way is just "shooting in the dark" at best.  If you do indeed have/think you have something leaching ammonia in your basement I recommend you contact your local environmental protection agency and have someone come out to test/identify the cause/source...or at the least, put your fears to rest>> Thanks, Linda C, a teacher soon to go back to school & worried about my new reef tank & all its creatures. <<Understood and appreciated Linda.  I am intrigued by your dilemma...do get back to me with the ammonia readings (and brand test kit used) from your RO storage tank.  Regards, EricR>>

Ammonia Spike After Power Outage.. canister filter danger   7/2/06 Hi, <Hello there> Thank you for your excellent site.  I'm a former fresh water hobbyist turned salt water since Oct. of last year.  Your site has been a huge help in the last year.  I have always found ample information without having to write but have experienced my first major problem.  I was hoping for a second opinion on my plan of action to deal with this.  My livestock include one sailfin tang (I know he'll need a bigger tank and will provide for him), 2 clarkii clowns (mated pair), one blue damsel, one red knobbed starfish, one banded serpent star (a brown w/ darker brown striped brittle star not sure if that's the correct name as I've never found his exact pic on your site), <There are many such species> 3 blue legged hermits, a cleaner shrimp, and live rock with various little hitchhikers. I have a 72 gallon, hex tank, that has been running for almost 9 months.  It cycled well last year and I thought that I had made it through the flooding in the area that had shut the power off several times without trouble.  I discovered this morning I was wrong.  My ammonia level was slightly elevated (normally it is 0, nitrite, and nitrate zero, pH 8.2, temp around 72) this morning it was 0.25 ppm for ammonia.  I found out my magnum 350 was the problem. <For other readers this is a canister filter... would "go anaerobic" with cessation of power/flow> Although it had come back on after the power returned it wasn't primed and therefore never was really working.  Like I said I'm a beginner since my fresh water always had hang on whisper filters. <And these are hang-on power filters... open to the air> So now I know that I've got to check that when the power goes off.  I got the 350 running, but stupid me over looked that the little water left in the intake and return tubing had gone bad.  It caused my ammonia to spike to 1.0 ppm. I was horrified. So I added the recommended dose of ammo-lock 2 as an emergency stop gap after doing a 25% water change.  I plan to do another 25%water change in two days.   <Any ammonia will hopefully be gone before this> I will also stop by the LFS to pick up some stress zyme to add after the next water change.  I thought that that may offer some help to replace any bacteria harmed from this large a disturbance in the cycle (I had vacuumed the sand, changed out some of the decor, and changed out the filter media before I turned on the filter and sent that horrible water into the tank). <Yes, best to vent initially...> I will continue to test and do changes as needed to keep the ammonia, etc in control.  Does this seem a good plan? <Yes... though, as stated, likely all will be rectified in short order on its own>   I had been planning to add some more live rock, would now be a good time to do so? <Not for a few weeks> I feel like an idiot for not realizing the filter wasn't moving water and then letting that water into the tank. <Happens... a common mistake.> Soon after I set the tank up my father was diagnosed with cancer and ten days later my father in law had a heart attack.  Things are only starting to get back to normal so I'm not as observant as I should be with the tank. <Good that you recognize these influences, events... Even better that you are able to keep all in perspective. In a/the grand course of things, the aquarium is "small potatoes"... Put emphasis where emphasis lies> Sorry for the long email, I was trying to give all the needed info.  Thanks for all the help and hard work. -Ali <Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner> Ammonia spike in established  tank   6/2/06 I have been reading the FAQs trying to establish why the ammonia reading in my 2 year old tank is 1.0 HOPE YOU CAN HELP ME as there is conflicting info in the FAQs I have read. (One said to do nothing until it gets back to normal, another suggested water changes?) <I would not allow this level to be get any higher...> The only thing that happened recently is my thermometer went down and in the AM the temp was 72 (normally 78) The next day my cleaner shrimp (1 yr old) died. I figured the change in water temp killed the shrimp but decided to test the water before replacing him and to my horror found the ammonia spike. Could the drop in temp have affected the biological filter? <Mmm, not likely. The death of the shrimp could easily raise it though> I immediately fed the fish less and did 10% water changes every other day but a week has gone by and the level remains up. I Have a wet-dry trickle filter running for 2 years (125 gal) There is an Emperor Angel, Purple Tang and 2 clowns and some (not a lot) of live rock. Don't know what can be causing the problem. Does live rock go 'bad'? <Not usually> I have it in there since the beginning. If I add more live rock, do I have to quarantine it first if it is 'cured'? <Perhaps... depends on the degree of "curedness"> Any advice is GREATLY appreciated. The fish do not appear to be in distress. Thanks much, Carol <... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nh3marfaqs.htm and the linked files above. I would cease feeding while the ammonia is this high... Bob Fenner>

Re: Ammonia spike in established  tank  6/5/06 Thank you Mr Fenner for your reply. I am fish obsessed (3 tanks now, as my fish grow they graduate to larger quarters :> <Heee!> and I have names for each and every one. I wrote months ago about my Emperor Angel (Gabriel) who was breathing out of one gill. I was ready to 'operate' but you assured me all was well and this was not unusual. How many people would know that??? <More and more...>   (are you part fish?) <Bloop! We all are> The advice on your web site is invaluable. One last question. I ceased feeding (though it broke my heart) and the ammonia went down to .50 (from 1.0) after 2 days. I am still doing 10% water changes every other day but it has been over a week. I am afraid I am missing something or does it take this long for the system to get back to normal ?? Thanks so much ! Carol <Can take a good long while to establish, re-establish complete nitrogen cycling... depending on set-up, cause/s, mitigating circumstances... Please do keep reading: http://wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm "and the linked files above". Bob Fenner>

Ammonia Rising - 5/18/2006 Hello and greetings from Alabama, <<Hello Jeremy.>> I know you have heard it a million times but you do have a great site. <<Thanks!>> I recently purchased a new tank and moved my fish from a 54 Gallon corner tank to a 110 high (48X18X30). I moved the sand, water, and filter from the original tank to the new one and added two more power filters to it. <<I do not use power filters on saltwater tanks.  Have you looked into adding a sump?>> I have been using a DSB for Nitrate reduction (which has worked very well) and added the original sand on top of about 3 inches of new sand (for a total of about 5 inches). <<OK>> Everything seemed to be doing fine for a few days until yesterday I noticed the water was a little cloudy. Tested the water: pH - 8.2 Ammonia - 0.5 Nitrite - 0 Nitrate - 0 Occupants: Small Regal Tang Small Purple Tang Small Fiji Foxface 3 -- Perculas <<Your tank is too small to house two large tangs in my opinion.>> 20 lbs. Live Rock (50 more pounds ordered but will have to be cured first) I had never had problems before with water quality; the original tank was over a year old. I tested the new tank the day after I moved everyone and the Ammonia was zero. Not sure what caused the Ammonia to rise, I don't think I overfeed. <<Likely from disturbing the old sand bed.  It will pass in time.>> I read through the FAQ's and wasn't sure if this level was high enough to start doing massive water changes or just give it time to balance itself. Is this level high enough to cause a great deal of harm to the fish? <<Ammonia is toxic.  I would get on the water change.>> Should I stop/limit feeding? <<I don't think your feeding is the issue, but do be conservative during this transition.>> Will I also see a rise in Nitrite, as I did with the original cycle? <<You might, it's really hard to say with certainty.>> Thanks for all of your advice and the great website, I recommend it to everyone. <<Me too! Glad to help. Lisa.>> Jeremy Well Water High In Ammonia  - 5/18/2006 Hi. Hope you can help me. I have set up, cycled, stocked, and maintained 3 freshwater aquariums with the fine articles and faq's you all so tirelessly provide. Now I'm stuck and need an informed opinion please. My nitrates are staying high constantly. My tap water...well water has .50ppm ammonia...0 nitrites and 0 nitrates. I store water in a Rubbermaid container and treat same with Novaqua per instructions. < Try Amquel or Ultimate instead.> Water is heated and aerated until used. If I use replacement water for water changes that has a .50 ppm ammonia level ,will it cause high nitrates?? < The replacement water will convert the ammonia to nitrates on a one to one basis. So you will end up with .50 ppm nitrates. The only way to reduce nitrates from an agricultural source, like well water is to use an R/O unit, DI unit or use live plants to absorbed the nitrates from the water.> That is my theory whether it is right or wrong. Please tell me if I'm on the right track and if I need to de-ammonianize my tap water before using. Thanks for all of your help.....DR < Your situation is not unusual in agricultural areas that over fertilize the crops and the excess nitrogen fertilizers make their way down to the first or shallowest aquifer.-Chuck>

Urine as an ammonia source? Tank not a bathroom 5/16/06 Dear Crew, <Hello>    Once again I'm asking you to share  your knowledge.  What is your opinion on using human urine as a  source of ammonia to kick-off the cycling process? <Gross, unsanitary, inefficient, unnecessary> Aside from  the shock and disgust I catch from asking this question, what are the scientific flaws/advantages? <No advantages that I can think of.  Disadvantages include unknown amounts of ammonia, potential pathogens, high levels of nutrients,  PH problems due to acid nature, smell, and the fact that no one will come visit the house.> From what I understand urine has a small NH3 content. Urine has a specific gravity of about 1.017-1.020, owing to its dissolved solids, about 60% of which are organic substances.  Besides ammonia, those organics include urea, uric acid, and creatine, which are all bacterially decomposed to form carbon dioxide and more ammonia. The other 40% of the dissolved solids in urine are   inorganic Na, Cl, K, PO4 and SO4.     <Really don't want to add PO4 to the tank.>    I gathered this info here: http://www.skepticalaquarist.com/docs/startover/fishless.shtml <Much more natural ways of doing a fishless cycle. LR and fish food as good as or better than using human waste.  Details listed on WWM>    Thanks for your time and effort! Mike. <Chris>

Ammonia spike - 05/16/2006 We had a very stable 3 month old 55 gallon marine tank complete with a couple damsels, live sand, and live rocks set up and going great. Just added 2 small banner fish, 2 small clownfish, and some tiny hermit crabs and big snails. Now the ammonia and nitrite levels have climbed. Why? Is this normal? <Yes, it is normal.  You've added too many fish at once for the size of your tank.  It will take a short time for the bacteria colony to adjust to the new bio-load as long as you have not overstocked your tank.  James (Salty Dog)> Jenn Food Size and Disasters  - 03/29/2006 Hi guys. <and gals...> First of all, I want to say that I LOVE your site.  <I'm glad we could be of service.>  I've only had my saltwater tank for about 2 1/2 months, so I'm still learning.  It's great to be able to have someplace to go and find trustworthy information from people as knowledgeable as yourselves.  <Wish every subject had a place for reliable info, right?  :)> I have a question about the food I feed my saltwater fish.  I have: 1 rusty angel 2 percula clowns 3 yellow-tailed damsels 1 royal Gramma <Did you say the size of your tank?  This seems to be a lot of fish for a tank as young as 2.5 months.> The guy at the LFS said I should be feeding these guys frozen Mysis shrimp, frozen brine shrimp, and flake food on alternate nights (skipping feeding one day per week).  The brine shrimp and the flake food seem to be popular with all the fish and are small enough for everyone.  The problem is the Mysis shrimp.  It has some kind of gel binder in it that makes it very hard to cut down into small enough particles for my smaller fish to be able to eat.  As a result, I've been putting only about 1/2 cube of the Mysis shrimp (cut up) in the tank, and then adding a small pinch of pellets for the smaller guys. My questions are: 1.  Is it possible for the small fish to eat the larger pieces of Mysis shrimp without my having to add pellets?  <Probably not - thaw in some tank water, then blend it a bit smaller.  I use a Black and Decker handy chopper for mine - cut to the size of the pellets that they like.  This way you can add half normal size, half blended.> 2.  How long should I leave the chunks of uneaten shrimp on the bottom of the tank?  I want to give them enough time to eat, without polluting the tank (and smelling it up, too).  <I wouldn't leave it more than 20 min.s at the most.  Probably much shorter period of time.  You have to watch them - if they aren't going for it, remove it immediately.> Sorry for the dumb questions, but I want to be sure I'm doing the right thing.  Any advice?  <No problem everyone has questions sometime.> P.S.:  I had a major aquarium disaster the other night.  I was in the other room and heard a very loud crack.  When I ran into the room where I keep the aquarium, there was a huge crack in the front panel and the water was gushing out at an alarming rate. <AHHH!>  Thanks to quick thinking by my husband and myself, we were able to set up temporary housing in a Rubbermaid bin until we could get to the store the next morning to buy a new tank.  I'm extremely thrilled to say that all of the fish survived <You're lucky.> and are looking good 4 days after the disaster.  One question I did have about this, though, in the event (God forbid) it should ever happen again.  I have read that if your tank leaks/breaks, you should save as much of the tank water as possible and put that water back in the new tank when it's set up.  We were able to save all but about 7 gallons (luckily, I was RIGHT THERE when this happened).  However, the next day, when I checked the ammonia levels in their new tank, they were elevated (about 0.2).  I did a water change and the ammonia levels went back down.  For future reference, should I have discarded the tank water that the fish were held in in their Rubbermaid bin before transferring them back into the display tank?  <They were only in there overnight?  I still would've put around 50-60% old tank water back in.  If you start with all new you're asking for it to have to cycle again... this time with the fish in it!>  Do you think that that water in the bin developed an elevated ammonia level due to the fact that we were unable to set up the filter overnight (although we did set up the aerator)?  <Yes probably - no mechanical or chemical filtration will do this.  It's always good to have an extra filter on hand for this.> Sorry for all the dumb questions, <No dumb ones.>  but I'm still learning and want to be prepared.  Thanks so much!  <Not a problem.  Good luck!  ~ Jen S.> Pam Denitrification/Ammonia Levels  3/30/06 Hi! <Hello Donna.> I want to thank you all for this wonderful site.  <You're welcome.>  It's packed with information.  I've found the answer to most of my questions here.  I have one problem that I need help with.  I tested my water last night and my ammonia was .25ppm.  I did a 15% water change and tested again and it looked like 0.  I took a sample of my water to LFS today and it is .25ppm again.  This is the rundown: 55 gal with about 35 lbs of base rock, 15 lbs of live rock, sugar-fine sand bed not DSB-about 2"), a pro clear wet/dry with sump.  I do not employ a protein skimmer, although I am saving to get one.  I have one Naso Tang, one Scopas Tang and 2 black mollies.  My PH tests at 8.2, my nitrites at 0 and my nitrates at 5.  The LFS told me to do a 50% water change and to feed NOTHING for 4-5 days.  Is this what I should do? Help! <The water change will help but if the tangs have any size to them, your 55 is too small to house them and more than likely the cause of your ammonia rise.  James (Salty Dog)>

Denitrification/Ammonia Levels  3/30/06 Okay, after reading your faq's I realize several (and I do mean several) critical errors I've made.  First of all I had problem with c. irritants which I promptly treated with Quick Cure (malachite green/formalin) in the main tank.  The last time I put any of this in my tank was one week and three days ago.  A big no, no.  So I'm sure I've killed off at least part of my bacteria bed.  Second I had gotten some filter media from my LFS to "nuke my tank with established bacteria probably two months ago.  So being the aquatic genius that I am and thinking that my bacteria bed should be well established when in fact I've probably killed it, I removed that media during a water change last week. And last of all I cleaned all of my prefilter media really, really good during this water change.  I have not cleaned though bio balls at this point-and I'm not planning to.  My tank has been running since 12/28/05.  I didn't have an ammonia issue since I cycled my tank until this point.  So my question is, what do I do now?  I did do the water change and I did not feed last night.  Would it be advisable to ask my LFS for more filter media to re-establish a bacteria bed?  I did put some stress-zyme in the tank just as a stop gap until I get this figured out. <The bio balls should have enough bacteria on them to rapidly.  I don't go along with the idea of not feeding.  Just feed small portions and assure all is consumed before adding more food.  When the fish start showing lack of interest, stop feeding.  Anyway, monitor ammonia, do 10% water changes if levels are above normal, and have patience.  Have you put a PolyFilter (Or similar product) in the system to absorb any remaining medication?  If not, I'd do so.  Chemi-Pure works well also.> Thanks, <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Donna Re: Denitrification/Ammonia Level/Now Tang Feeding  3/30/06 I haven't used a PolyFilter since using the Quick Cure.  I'll be sure to do that.  By the by, my Naso has only been taking frozen brine shrimp since I got him about two months ago.  <Not good, Donna.  No where near enough nutrition to keep these guys alive for long.  Do at least soak the brine with a vitamin supplement such as Selcon.> I've tried flake food and Nori and he won't eat that.  He will eat live algae, but I don't have a means to grow it just yet.  I'm planning to try some Frozen Formula Two.  Any other ideas?  Thanks for all your patience in dealing with dumb questions and newbies.  I'm really trying hard not to kill these fish!  They are beautiful! <Donna, the tangs were certainly not fish to select, especially at your experience level.  The Naso is especially difficult to acclimate yet alone having a reputations as ich magnets.  I will post a link, Tang Feeding FAQ's.  I suggest you read these over and see what others have done/tried.   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/tangfeedingfaqs.htm Good luck, James (Salty Dog)> Denitrification/Ammonia Levels    3/31/06 My only other thought about the ammonia problem is that while I was treating with Quick Cure, I removed my live rock (only 3 pieces) to a  small bucket with a little heater and an air stone.  I didn't notice when I was putting my live rock back in the main tank, but my hands smelled really fishy when I was done.  This live rock had some kind of worms (maybe flat worms) in them, which I haven't seen since I returned them to the main tank.  Could there be enough die off to produce that kind of ammonia? The coral and feather dusters I had on and in them seem to be fine. <You claim the rock was in a bucket with a heater and airstone so I would expect no die off.  Donna, how large are the tangs you have?  This was never mentioned in previous emails. I gave you suggestions that you should try  Changes are not going to happen overnight.  <Less talk, more action please.  James (Salty Dog)> Marine Set-Up/Ammonia Levels   4/1/06 The tank has a damsel and 30 pounds of live rock. I have waited another week with this and the ammonia still stays around .50 ppm and nitrate around 100. My wet dry has been set up for two weeks and I just did a 5 gal water change. But the ammonia/ nitrate continues to be high. IS something wrong because it has been cycling for about a month for the second time and nitrites are zero. Ammonia and nitrate still linger! <John, are there any chemicals used around the tank such as Windex or ammonia based products?  What puzzles me is that if you are reading ammonia levels of .50ppm you should get some kind of nitrite reading as this is the next denitrification stage.  Have you compared the readings with a different test kit recently?  Other question, is your 30lbs of live rock cured or uncured.  Uncured rock will rock will do what you are experiencing including the high nitrate readings.  Respond to my questions and we'll go from there.  James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Denitrification/Ammonia Levels  - 04/02/06 I just tested the water and yes, there are nitrites as well. All three, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate are up. But what puzzles me is that it was like this a few weeks ago, then everything was 0 and nitrates about 30, and now back up again! Like I said, I thought it was cycled, and bam, back again. Is this normal?  <Not normal but could happen.> Ps: My tanks lie in the basement and Windex Clorox, Lysol & etc are never used down here, but they are used upstairs. The only cleaning product I use is pledge down here to polish my drums, which lie two rooms away from the tanks. <John, just have some patience and monitor water parameters, all should be well soon.  James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Denitrification/Ammonia Levels...Oops, Forgot About The Rock  - 04/02/06 The 30 lbs has been in a different tank and has been cured for five months. I recently added more rock, about two weeks ago, <Aha, isn't this about the time when levels started to rise.  Possible the rock was not fully cured or a critter inside the rock has died.> which was fully cured from the LFS. And no, the local fish store refuses to test my water <Mmm, not willing to help a customer out.  Maybe you should refuse to buy from him.> so I haven't compared. I might buy another test kit.  <James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Denitrification/Ammonia Levels  - 04/02/06 Thanks for the reply. Ill buy a new test kit and for now assume that it was the rock. But one more question- My lighting is a 65 watt power compact. The tank is standard 29 gallons. What inverts can this support--- polyps??? <If it's a single 65W compact you should be able to keep some mushrooms.> How much light would I really need for a reef and what can my current lighting support. <As above.  What would work well for your tank would be a single 150 watt HQI fixture.> I just don't want to make the mistake of buying an invert and then having  it die from lack of light. <I'm sure you realize that shrimp, crabs, snails, etc do not need this type lighting to survive.> Thanks  <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Re: Denitrification/Ammonia Levels    4/4/06 Dear James (again) Now I tested my water again and nitrite is now zero. It was high two days ago. Is this normal? <Not unusual.> The ammonia is slightly less that .25 and nitrates remain at over 100.  <Your kit may be testing total nitrogen.  If this is the case, the nitrate level we are concerned with would only be in the mid 20's.> I am getting a new test kit tomorrow. My results continue to fluctuate- especially with nitrate. Is it ok to have high nitrate with just fish? <If the kit measures N, no problem, if it is measuring NO3, then we are too high.  You will have nuisance algae problems>  Anyways, I don't know what the heck is going on with my tank and I'm about ready to give up. This ammonia has been about .25 for the past two weeks and nitrite/nitrate always fluctuating. I'll see what the new test kit reads.  Could there be something in the water that is causing this--- <It's possible but unlikely in your case.  Biggest problem here is lack of patience.  Do not check anything in the tank for a week and then see where you're at.> there is a wet dry, LR, and a skimmer.  What could I be doing wrong?   <Wanting to have things happen overnight.> Anything would be appreciated at this point because I'm about ready to put the  whole thing on eBay:) <That is entirely up to you.  Your questions are readily found on the Wet Web.  John, we just haven't got the time to spoon-feed information to people. If it's not found on the site, I have no problem.> Thanks  <You're welcome.  Also do a spelling/grammar check before sending future queries.  This also adds to our time as we have to correct these before posting on the daily FAQ's.  James (Salty Dog)> Re: Denitrification/Ammonia Levels  4/6/06 My Naso is about 5" head to tail and my Scopas is about 3".  Thanks for your patience in helping me.  I was really just trying to get an opinion as to the source of the ammonia spike so I could correct that. <And I too, which is why I asked what size the tangs were.  A 55 is too small for these guys.  Tangs love to swim and they need more room than the 55 can provide.  I'd be thinking about a larger tank in the very near future.>  I think maybe I stocked a new system too soon.  I placed the Naso after the system had cycled for 1.5 months with about 10 mollies, then one week later placed the Scopas-a heavy bio-load in a short period of time.  I've been testing my ammonia and nitrite daily.  I've done three 20% water changes(3/29,3/30,4/2)   My ammonia and nitrite levels have been zero since the change on 4/2, but I will continue to monitor. I did run the PolyFilter.    On the issue of feeding my Naso (the Scopas eats everything),  I bought some frozen Formula two and he doesn't particularly like that either, but I've tricked him into eating it.  He gets really excited when he sees me with the turkey baster. So I mush it up really well, add a little frozen brine, and mix it up.  He likes to wait at the end of the baster for the food to shoot out.  So he gets both.  He's filled out a lot more in just a few days time.  <Ahh, good old fashion American innovation, good for you Donna and thanks for sharing.> Again, thanks so much for your help.  <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Ich and ammonia   3/16/06 Dear Crew, <Scott> I have been hanging out and fighting the good fight against the ich since Feb 6th, although I am now down to 2 fish, a tomato clown and my emperor angel.  The emperor has its adult coloration and is about 6" or so.   The angel eats, but I haven't seen the clown eat.  Either it's eating behind my back or I'll have one fish before too long.  I had inquired earlier in the month about my fighting against both the ich and the ammonia.  I had panicked and put my emperor back into the display tank about three weeks ago and he immediately was reinfested at that time.  Fortunately I was able to catch him again within about an hour and put him back in the hospital tank.  Because of that move however, I still have evidence of ich on my two fish in the hospital tank and have been treating with copper the past three weeks. <With testing... daily>   Hopefully with another week or so of Cu treatment that will be taken care of, and I was hoping to put the fish back into my display by the end of this month. I really am not rushed to put them back and would rather be safe than sorry all except for one thing.  I cannot for the life of me control the ammonia levels in my hospital tank.  It is a 20 gallon tank down to only two fish with limited feedings every couple of days with immediate siphoning of uneaten debris.  I am using CopperSafe as my copper treatment.  I have an airstone and vigorous circulation with a hang on the back filter system (approx turnover of 5x the tank volume/10 minutes) with massive amounts of filter sponge material, some of which had been removed from my main system originally.  Even if the tank was "overstocked," one would think that the ammonia levels would build up slowly over a couple of days, but this literally only takes 12-24 hours after 80-100% water changes to get to toxic levels again. <Numbers please> My only defense is AmmoLock <May complex the copper... and is very likely giving you a "False positive" on your ammonia reading here> and massive, frequent water changes daily) which goes through massive amounts of salt, AmmoLock and copper.  This has become unmanageable!   Am I missing something?? <Perhaps a larger treatment tank, even more limited feeding, pre-made and stored new water... Is the ammonia more than one ppm?>   Even if I put those sponges in new without any initial bacteria it should have cycled naturally by now.  I am using CopperSafe which says it shouldn't kill off the biological filter, but I am suspicious that this is the culprit.  Copper levels have consistently been therapeutic.  I can't imagine this 20 gallon tank is THAT overstocked with 2 barely fed fish.  My spec. gravity is about 1.012 <... this is killing your beneficial microbes...> to help with the ich.  Also, every 3-4 days or so it seems like I have bacterial blooms which require that I wipe off the glass and rinse out the sponges during a 100% water change).  I am careful to rinse out the sponges in the tank's own water and not freshwater.     Even if I do make it through this ich fighting extravaganza, I am very nervous about the future of my hobby.  I will NEVER fight this ich again if I can help it, which means strict quarantines and I'm undecided but maybe prophylactic copper treatments before introduction in the future of all future residents. <A hard lesson learned>   But I must not be doing something right because I can't fight off this ammonia.  Even if I had a 40 gallon quarantine, that would only mean that I would have 4 ppm of ammonia and not 8, which is not any less toxic, just more difficult to dilute.  Heck, I have a spare 120 gallon tank in the next room.  This is where I have been mixing my water.  I could easily (and have considered) putting the fish in there-in fact, the water is pretreated with Cu, but I am very afraid about the ammonia levels in there because I wouldn't be able to do 80-100% water changes or neutralize such massive amounts of water with AmmoLock.   Any advice you have is greatly appreciated.  I need an in-home consultation!   I would have paid well for it and still come out way ahead! Thanks, Scott <Do raise the spg back up... and test the AmmoLock with your ammonia test kit to see if it is giving you a/the false positive... and hang in there. Bob Fenner>

Re: ich and ammonia    3/17/06 Dear Crew, Thanks for your reply as always.  Just an update and to clear a few things up: <Good> 1.  I tested my "AmmoLock" and it tests negative on my ammonia kit, so it doesn't appear to be the culprit for a false reading. <Thank you for this testing, results> 2.  My impression was that the biological media would be okay as long as the spec gravity was altered slowly, and especially if it was stable for weeks, even at 1.010. <Mmm, no... not generally... the single-celled organisms involved here are quite sensitive to osmotic changes... if not killed outright, almost always go into metabolic check...> Is it your experience that this environment is inhospitable for the bacteria? <Yes> I can raise the spec gravity back up to about 1.023, and I have enough extra sponge material in my established main system which I can put in the hospital tank to try to get the ammonia levels under control.  As I mentioned, I changed the water-100% yesterday- and today there is 8+ppm in the tank (that is as high has my test kit goes) <Yikes!> 3.  I know that my copper level was consistent because I had it all premixed in my spare 120 gallon tank and every time that I did test it it was 1.5-2.0 total copper level with CopperSafe.  I am still having problems with the ich as I just observed my fish with multiple lesions after weeks of copper treatment!! <... maybe this isn't Cryptocaryon...> Do you really think that the AmmoLock is complexing the copper and making it ineffective?  If that is the case, I am in quite a pickle.   <Not if you're able to measure it (the copper) post mixing> 4.  I'll run my strategy by you.  I'll raise the SG in my hospital up to about the same range as my main tank over the next couple of days.  Then I'll transfer the filter media that I have from my main tank to the hospital.  Hopefully that will get the ammonia under control. If that happens, then I won't have to use AmmoLock and can begin an effective copper treatment.  Do you have any additional thought or suggestions? <I do... I might (seriously) consider another approach... dipping/bathing the affected fishes and moving to a new (all clean) setting. The dip? A formalin bath... if this doesn't almost immediately render discernible positive result, I would switch to a non-chelated copper product (SeaCure is one) or mix my own copper sulfate pentahydrate solution...> YOUR HELP IS SO APPRECIATED.  I don't know where else to turn with these intricate questions.  Certainly not the LFS. -Scott       <Perhaps you will help them to learn more. Bob Fenner>

High ammonia spikes  - 03/09/2006 Dear Wet Web Crew: I love your website its one of the most informative sites I have found so far on the Internet. <Thank you.> I'm having a problem with extremely high ammonia spikes  at this time. I should tell you a bit about my set up. I have a 300 gal semi aggressive reef stock including the following: small spotted bamboo shark, 15 inch med. vol. lion 2 maroon clown/Sebae anemone Scopus tang hippo tang lined eye surgeon unicorn tang sailfin tang Australian multicolored dotty back Banggai cardinal coral beauty flam hawk green chromis BI colored damsel scooter blenny several snails 1 small red hitch hiker 300+ lb. of LR assorted soft corals, polyps, zoos. mushrooms 3 400 w MH 4 110 VHO (all ran  at alternate  times) ProClear 300 wet/dry filter, venturi protein skimmer, UV sterilizer when needed. I do regular weekly maintenance test and  50 gal water changes  every Fri a couple weeks ago I purchased a couple coral pieces from a LFS I normally do not shop at They have had a big problem with hair algae in their tanks and the corals were dying from being smothered out from the algae. The LFS sold me these corals for a 1/3 normal rate just so they had a chance. Not even thinking about parasites I added these corals to my main tank to get rid of the hair algae  (it wont grow in my tanks) my tangs had the corals picked clean of the algae in less than an hour. Well, about a week or so later I noticed ich on some of  my fish I feed my fish very well 3 times per day a large variety of foods for each species to ensure proper nutrition to each one plus added garlic extreme and Selcon to every PM feeding. Each morning I feed all of my tanks (I have 4) one being a 50 gal QT is which is full at this time with a new fish) <I hope not for the 300 gallon.  This tank is overstocked already with the 15" shark in there.>   Feeding consist of thera+A non medicated anti parasitic formula by spectrum (pellets) midday veggie flakes by omega one. My fish are very fat and active and because of my feeding schedule I'm a stickler on weekly water changes and testing. Unfortunately this still did not help the fish from getting ich. On a normal testing weekly my  ammonia levels never  hit higher  than . 25 before water changes I added kick ich about  8 days ago everything was fine normal water  testing on Friday,. nothing abnormal  Two days ago I hooked up my UV  sterilizer  most signs of ich almost gone on the fish, all eating and  swimming fine. After hooking up my UV I added a supplement of  amino  acids to boost my fishes immune system a product called ammuna vital my Mark Weis. the next day my corals and anemone are wilted and limp (this was yesterday) <I never thought too much of Mark Weis products.  Certainly didn't work as advertised.  At least for me anyway.  Overpriced to begin with.> I  tested my water again and my readings were pH 8.3 SG.1.024 temp 78.6 ammonia 8.0 nitrate .10 nitrite 0.05 cal 490 (bit too high) hopefully water changes will bring this down  also Could my UV sterilizer have caused the amino acids to spike the ammonia  this way? <That heavy fish load is what is spiking your ammonia.> I have already changed out 100 gal of water bringing my ammonia levels to 5.0 I added some Amquel to remove the toxins caused by the ammonia and the fish are all fine still eating swimming like  everything is fine no heavy breathing.   But corals are being affected. <Obviously, you shouldn't be putting ich medication in a tank containing corals, etc., and I don't care what it says on the bottle.> I will be doing more water changes daily until I get it back down. Other than not doing this again any other ideas?  <You need to find a home for the shark.  As long as you have that fish load you will have problems.  The only effective medication to cure ich will be copper based.  You are fighting a losing battle with these other products.> Thank You for any help you can give.  <You're welcome.  And please, in future queries, please do a spelling/grammar check.  It takes up too much time to edit these before posting.  Bad grammar/spelling queries usually get answered last...nobody wants to answer/correct these.  James (Salty Dog)> Lynn

Re: High ammonia spikes    3/17/06 Dear Wet Web Crew: Below is a copy of my last email to you and your reply. <I see, read it> Your response to my questions and concerns of my previous problems of a simple thank you as your   reply, was a tremendous help to say the least. Now that I have taken all of the steps I could possibly think of myself to remedy the situation did get the ammonia levels down with water changes and dosed with Amquel to detoxify any left behind, I also added Pura filter media. 3 days I noticed My large maroon clownfish developed a problem, She had white patchy discoloration giving her an almost camouflaged appearance. she had stopped eating 2 days ago. I have been researching the Internet and books to compare photos of diseases to properly treat this fish with no luck in finding anything that looked the same.   <Very likely the observed state is/was directly related to previous environmental problems...> I removed her promptly 2 days ago to a quarantine tank (50 gal) dosed with melafix and PimaFix (I already had a fish in this tank as a new arrival with these products as precautionary measures). I did a water change yesterday and removed the medication with carbons. this morning she was on the bottom of  tank on her side breathing remained normal (this was very weird) I  dosed the tank with CopperSafe by Mardel (chelated copper treatment) along with  Maracyn plus (antibiotic) and MarOxy (anti fungal) <Why?> These medications are made to work together. Unfortunately she died  tonight, I had her for 2 yrs I cant help her any longer but I would like to  know what it was to ensure the health of the rest on my fish that shared her  tank. I examined her further after her removal, her scales were bleached (white)  not a film covering them, no spots on fins such as ich would show. But also somewhat bleached around the edges. I have lost fish to Brooklynella in the past  (new arrivals) and it did not look like this at all. no clouding of the  eyes what so ever. I  feed my fish  3 feedings per day: plus mid  day snack  3 times per week AM:   thera+A non medicated antiparasitic formula pellets by spectrum  (large and small  pellets) Mid day: veggie flakes by omega one and thera+A pellets for those who wont eat the flakes snack: seaweed selects green red and brown variety soaked in Selcon PM: a mixture of prepared  foods and meaty consisting of the  following all frozen) Emerald entrees, formula 2, formula one, angel formula, pigmy angel formula, mysis shrimp, plankton, krill, squid yum yums. clam yum yums, prime reef, Cyclop-Eeze. Also added for larger predatorily fish are silversides, squid, shrimp, boneless fish fillets (sw variety chunks). periodically  fresh crab and scallops. These are fed alternately throughout the week. all  soaked in garlic extreme and Selcon thawed fully before feeding. I don't feel this was brought on by lack of nutrition. <Not likely> Please help me figure this one out I'm at a loss. Ps I only lost 3 small corals to last weeks episode's know it could  have been worse. Sincerely Lynn <This animal likely died from cumulative stress (as stated, plus the move) and "medication" poisoning. Bob Fenner> Re: quandary with Oodinium infection ... ammonia, sources, sea salt - 03/05/06 Once again thanks so much for the help!  I've been doing water changes on my QT tank and didn't think the ammonia levels were coming down enough... so I started testing my water, both just the RO and the RO after it was mixed with salt and aerated.  Testing a jug of RO I get about a .25 ammonia reading and testing my water aerated and mixed with Crystal Sea Bioassay formula to 1.022 I get .5ppm. <It's likely the salt mix...>   So I thought my kit might be bad so I grabbed another kit and got the same readings. Hmmmm....so now I'm really confused...then I read a FAQ on this site about a cat box in the same room....and bingo!  What I don't understand is how water in a 5 gallon jug with a lid could absorb ammonia from the cat box (could the test tube used to test absorb? <Not likely... try mixing the salt outside... testing> ....course I rinse right before testing).  The really hard part is convincing my wife we have to move the cat box.  Is the cat box really the culprit here...the quest for knowledge and ammonia free tank water continues....... George W <Again, my strong urging to pre-mix, store new synthetic seawater... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/seawater.htm Bob Fenner> Ammonia Woes - 2/22/2006 I've read a lot of the FAQ's in your Water Quality section, but I still need an opinion. <<No problem Æ'º>> I've had my Naso Tang for approximately 2.5 weeks.  I bought myself a Saltwater Master Test Kit so I wouldn't have to run to my LFS every week for testing (and to keep myself from being tempted to add more fish because I know I don't need to) <<Good idea.>> My test readings are as follows: S.G. = 1.023 PH = 8.2 Ammonia = 0.25-0.50 ppm (was between the two on the chart) <<Not a good sign.>> NitrItes = 0 ppm NitrAtes = 20 ppm The tank was cycled when I purchased the Naso.  Is it re-cycling? <<Was not cycled to the bio-load of the Tang.>> Should I do a water change? Just did 10% on Saturday-planning; to change 5% bi-weekly) or should I just leave alone and let it do its thing? <<You need to get those levels of ammonia down, by changing your water frequently, starting right now.  Do a 25% change, and re-test.  Good luck.  Lisa.>> Ammonia Spike!...Glass Cleaner The Culprit? - 02/16/06 Hello again WWM! <<Hello Derek>> Thanks for the quick reply. <<You're welcome>> My tank is still experiencing that problem though, but now, I believe it's the ammonia that is killing the fish - it has risen to 1.0 ppm.  So my question is, what is causing the ammonia spike? <<All you did was plumb in a refugium with sugar-fine DSB?  Appears to be something else a work here...you haven't medicated this tank have you?...added anything besides the 'fuge/DSB?...any questionable tank decorations?  Just fishing, but seems maybe something has wiped out your nitrifying bacteria...wait a minute...you didn't happen to "replace" a bio-filter with the refugium did you?>> I did a decent job of rinsing the new aragonite (CaribSea brand); I rinsed it in small amounts in buckets few times until the water lost that milkiness to it. <<Takes quite a bit of effort to rinse clean these fine grades of sand.>> Could it be the sand or something else like the new refugium itself? <<Possibility of an introduced contaminate, yes.>> I talked to the guy who made it for me, and he claims that glass and silicone are kosher and that they shouldn't be causing my spike. <<Am in agreement...but was it possibly cleaned with an ammonia based cleaner (glass cleaner) before delivery to you?  This could explain the ammonia spike.>> I've been trying to combat the ammonia; I've done two 20% water changes over the past three days, and I've been adding Aquascience's "Ultimate" water conditioner (this conditioner has been an effective way to temporarily reduce ammonia from past experiences), but neither of these have affected the ammonia level.  How much and how often should I be doing water changes until my levels go back down, or is there something else I should do? <<You need to isolate the source.  Ideally you can relocate your livestock while you do this, if not, remove the sump/'fuge from the system and do a 50% water change to reduce the ammonia level.  Continue to monitor this and do water changes as necessary.  If the sump/'fuge is the source of ammonia the tank should recover relatively quickly.  If not, you'll need to remove the livestock and let the ammonia cycle out (as in a new tank cycle).>> Thanks again! Derek <<Regards, EricR>>

Live rock going white/Ammonia up  - 02/16/2006 Crew, the last 2 days my tank is turning south I added a DSB 6 weeks ago and doing normal water changes and such. Parameters were all good. Now in the last 2 days ammonia has come up to .4 and today the Live rock is dying turning white, <Something awry here... a die-off> the skimmer is getting nothing but watery foam since 3 days ago and the collection cup fills up in an hour with water. All other readings are good Calcium is a little low at 350 but I dosed it with 3 tsp yesterday. Is it crashing? <A downward slide at least one could say> What can I do? <When, where in doubt... a water change... and do check your alkalinity... I suspect it's shot here> I can't seem to skim nothing. <Anything> I have a 100 gallon stock tank to take action with. Should I start making tons of water (RO) up and prep a 10 gallon for all creatures with their own water. <I would at least try a couple of consecutive/daily water changes of 20-25%> I have the supplies to do this if needed. This tank is 4 years old and most rock is 2-4 years old. I've been more conscientious than ever with it the last year. I'm puzzled Thanks Jeff <Mmm, and I'd add a bit of new live rock here once all is settled down. Bob Fenner> Re: UPDATE!!! Live rock going white/Ammonia up  - 02/16/2006 I've figured it out!!!! After more reading I think it was the Maracyn I put in treating my Regal Tang!! I could not catch her so LFS said it was safe no problem for a FOWLR. What is my best coarse of action I'm thinking massive RO water change? 20% every other day for about 10 days? Thoughts can I save the inverts and rock? Jeff <Ahh, this antibiotic, Erythromycin will "do it"... Thanks for the follow-up. Bob Fenner> Ammonia spike from live rock rearrangement?   2/14/06 Dear WWM Crew, <Jill> I am most grateful for your web site. I am very new (2.5 months) at maintaining a saltwater tank. I have been able to find answers to almost all of my questions on your site along with  Robert Fenner's book and have not had any major problems  until now. <Let's see if we can help you fix...> My 55 gallon hex tank was set up on Dec. 6th. with live rock, live sand,  and 4 striped damsels. I have a trickle filter with sump/bioballs. underneath.  The tank cycled by mid January.  My current stock is 5 Chromis, 2 clowns, one brittle star, one red serpent star, one coral banded shrimp and a dozen hermit crabs, (I returned the damsels to LFS as they were very aggressive). All of my "numbers" until today have been good.  S. G. 1.024, ammonia, nitrates zero, pH 8.0 - 8.23. Tank temperature maintained at 79 degrees. 4 days ago, I rearranged my live rock, during the process, I shook the rock so the crabs would fall off. A huge amount of debris from the rocks clouded the water. I am embarrassed to say I had not turned off the pump while doing this. I turned off the pump and did my usual weekly 10% water change.  Water cleared fairly well and things seemed ok. The next morning  the return water jets were very slow. I cleaned the filter on the pump, it was full of debris. It solved the problem: water return was fine. Yesterday I did another !0% water change.   <Good> This morning I had a small increase in ammonia, not quite to 0.5.  Went to LFS  and asked my contact there, who has seemed fairly knowledgeable,  if the debris would have "damaged" the good bacteria on the bioballs. <Assuredly yes> He said no, that the debris wouldn't hurt anything, and  sold me Kent ammonia detox. <I would not use this> By the time I returned home in one hour,  the ammonia was in the danger zone on the test strip. I added the ammonia detox slowly per instructions on the bottle, to the sump until the strip showed a bare trace. My question:  would the debris and resultant clogging of the water jets have upset the balance and the tank is recycling? <Yes... a lack of flow, oxygen, the release of organics...> I am not sure what to do next and would greatly appreciate any advice. Fish seem fine, active, and eating well. <Just "keep on keeping on" really... these sorts of issues, problems are "self-regulating" for the most part. Happily you have good discipline in setting up, stocking, maintaining... All will be fine> Thank  you very much for taking the time to read this lengthy email. Again, I think your site is one of the best I have seen and appreciate your efforts. Sincerely, Jill Phillips <Certainly welcome. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia (testing, understanding) problems   2/10/06 Hi All, <Jeri> Sorry this is so long, but I am trying to include all info for you. We are having constant ammonia problems (2weeks now) and I need help finding the source. We have a 200-gallon FOWLR and several inverts. We have a Tunze filtration system, which is built in a rail system that hangs in the tank. It uses foam filters, Granovit (biological), and we have carbon. We also have a Tunze Protein skimmer on the rail system. The pump for the system moves 900GPH not sure about the pump on protein skimmer. We have several powerheads in the tank moving another 700GPH. We are looking to upgrade to the Tunze stream kits real soon. Tank has been up and running since October 2005. I contacted Roger at Tunze USA to make sure our filtration was sufficient and he feels it is for what we have. <Is and nice gear... just pricey> That was after telling him we would be willing to upgrade if necessary.($$$) We have a DSB 4 - 5" Oolite Aragamax. Total of 180lbs of rock only about 75lbs being good live rock. The other was live rock but had been sitting outside for 6 months after the previous owner tore down his tank. We have VHO lighting about 600watts. The fish we have are Bluethroat trigger (6in), niger trigger (2in), Tennent Tang (4in), Flag Fin Angel (2.5in), Flame Angel (2in), 2 clowns(1.5in). We have a cleaner shrimp, 4 peppermint shrimps, 70 hermit crabs, 25 super Nassarius snails, 10 pacific conch, 7 zebra turbo snails, 4 tiger tail sea cucumbers, 2 sand sifting stars, 4 Burgundy stars, and 5 large brittle stars. Ammonia this morning .50ppm (aquarium pHarm & jungle), <Get better test kits...> nitrite 0 , nitrate 15ppm, salinity 1.025, temp 76, ph 8. We normally keep ph 8.3 - 8.4 but I know that ammonia is more toxic at higher ph levels, so I haven't been aggressively buffering the tank. The SeaChem ammonia  test is interesting. it says no free ammonia but .35 total ammonia. I will be doing at least a 40gal water change today. <Oh! Not to worry... much here... the "total" measure here is largely artifactual... not of real concern> Even when I perform water changes I am not getting a good reduction in ammonia numbers. <Mmm, no... how to convey what you are seeing here? The "bound up" ammonia (the non-free) is "other materials" in suspension, solution...> I have used 3 tests (aquarium pHarm, SeaChem, & jungle), and taken it to a fish store. Always running at a minimum of .25ppm. I have tried adding bio Spira, which normally does the trick, but it is not working this time. I am doing 20 - 25% water changes daily or at least every other day with no luck. We use RO water. I did use Amquel+ <This material will give you a false positive for the test kits you list...> Sunday when the kits were saying .75ppm ammonia and I was out of salt at 8:30pm. (Salt normally Coralife, but using Kent marine since Monday ) <Get rid of these inferior brands as well... look to Instant Ocean, SeaChem, Tropic Marin...> So I couldn't do a water change. I did a 40 gal water change Monday, added bio Spira Tuesday (protein skimmer off), did 40 gal Wed, Thurs. ammonia still at .5 the fish seem good. Healthy appetites. We have cut down the feeding, <Good> in hopes that the ammonia was from overfeeding. Problem with that is our large trigger (Chloe) took a chunk out of a burgundy starfish. A leg actually. I found the leg this morning and got it out of the tank. I am on the look out for dead animals but we have a lot of hiding places. We have had a couple of losses. We had 3 sand sifters start to turn white very rapidly and removed them from the tank before death. We had a cucumber turn itself inside out and removed it. Any limbs I find I am removing. We had a small Xenia but it is shriveled right now and I think I will remove it today. <These losses, and the stress of the water changes is likely the root cause here... dying bits of live rock...> This is our first time with sand substrate, is there anyway to deep clean sand? What can I do to check for dead animals under the sand? <Best not to fool with this here/now> Can the sustained ammonia reading be caused from a sick or dying animal? <Yes> Should we expect a nitrite spike? <No, not likely> Should I pull rock out to see if anything is dying or dead in places I cannot see from the outside? <I would not> Just not sure what to do other than daily water changes. I will be turning the protein skimmer back on today so hopefully that will help. <Yes, I would run this flat out> Can you help me understand the difference between Free & Total ammonia and how to remove both of them from my tank? <Only be concerned with the free ammonia...> Two more questions. How long does it take for rock to become live rock? <?... in the wild? Weeks to years... in aquariums... longer> How long does it take a DSB to begin to help removing nitrates? <A few to several weeks> As always thank you so much for any help. Jeri <When in doubt, do nothing... switch the test kits (Hach, LaMotte...) to match your expensivo filter gear, and the salt mix, stop using the Amquel... instead make-up and store new water for a week or more... and you'll be fine. Bob Fenner> 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-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 DSB and ammonia production   2/7/06 Robert or WWM person. <Okay> I understand that under some conditions a DSB or other anaerobic nitrate reduction can return ammonia instead of nitrogen gas.  This has resulted in a civil discussion between me and some others. 1) Is my point correct and there is some way however remote a DSB can return ammonia instead of nitrogen gas. <Yes> 2) is the poster correct in his assessment that the page on WWM is incorrect?: from:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwnitrates.htm quote: This occurs in two half-reactions Nitrate to Nitrite to Nitrogen NO3 + 2 electrons + H+ <=> NO2 + H2O NO2 + 3 electrons + 4 H+ 1/2 N2 (nitrogen gas) + 2 H2O or, taken together: NO3 + 5 electrons + 6 H+ <=> 1/2 N2 + 3 H2O Where some anaerobic microbes (lack of oxygen) convert nitrates into transitory nitrite and ultimately ammonia molecules. Note, with the use/incorporation of H+/protons pH is elevated. Note further that this is where the reduction of carbon-based materials comes into play in "feeding" purposeful denitrators, providing the electrons and hydrogen ions, balancing these Redox equations.   <This/these are valid statements... though not (necessarily, very) complete> unquote poster: quote: That is his entire discussion of the chemistry of denitrification. Note that he heads his listing of the equations "Nitrate to Nitrite to Nitrogen," that none of the equations contain ammonia, and that the only reference to ammonia is in that singular sentence. Note also that aqueous ammonia in your tanks exists as ions, not molecules. <Mmm, the "chargedness" of chemical species has nothing to do with whether they are molecular or no> So the sentence as it stands, taken in context, seems incongruous. A reasonable conclusion is that his mention of ammonia in that sentence was in error; <Mmm, just an omission> that he likely meant to say "some anaerobic microbes (lack of oxygen) convert nitrates into transitory nitrite and ultimately nitrogen molecules." <Okay> unquote and emphasis added. To me your site said exactly what it meant to say.  That under some conditions it is possible to generate ammonia not nitrogen gas.  But under normal (say low ph values)  you get nitrogen gas. <One common set of conditions, yes> thanks in advance. Bob <... I would like to make complete declarative statements re this (and other important aquaristic) topics... Am wondering though, how much utility/popularity these would enjoy. Cheers, Bob Fenner> Ammonia problem, stopped canister filters  02-05-06 Hello to all.  Well  have one big problem and I am in need of some advice on what to do.  Might have happened to you guys before but this is the first time it has happened to me.  I have a 29g TruVu with 40lbs of LR and 3in sandbed of LS.  I currently have pair of true perculas, had citron clown goby, and LPS live coral.   This mourning when I woke up and turned my tank lights on I noticed that my clown goby was nowhere to be found.  I looked and looked for him but he disappeared.  I then thought to myself that he must have died because of lack of oxygen because yesterday my xp1 Rena had got clogged with some macro algae that was in my tank but got sucked up in my filter.  Yesterday the clown goby was breathing very rapidly so that why I had checked the filter.  I thought by cleaning it and unclogging that would fix the problem but it didn't because this morning the goby was nowhere to be found. <Uhh, unclogging the canister filter... you did rinse it out thoroughly before returning it to service I hope/trust> So then I began to look for him.  I couldn't find him so my next step was removing the LR piece by piece...And that got me pissed because once I moved all the rock I still didn't find him.  Has this ever happened to anyone?  If so what did you do?   <...?> I tested for ammonia and it had gone up to .25mg/l.  Now I for sure know he is dead but can't find it.  I do have bristleworms in the tank and also spaghetti worms.  Could they have already ate him up?   <Yes> Could they have buried his body in the sand to eat?  Please help me.  I did a water change and it did seem to help but I still have a feeling the ammonia will continue to go up again?  Any advice in what I can do to fix this problem? <Time going by at this point> ...I have had my tank for over a year now so I know I am past the cycling stage.  Never have had this problem with ammonia ever.  I moved my clown fish to my QT but am scared to lose my corals!  Help me please.  Any advice is better than nothing. <The ammonia anomaly was almost certainly caused by the plugged then unplugged canister filter... causing the demise of the goby... perhaps the worms eating it. Bob Fenner> Ammonia sensing & water management   1/30/06 Hello Dr. Fenner: <Mmm, no doctorate... Just Bob, please> I am writing to ask, hopefully, if you might help us by giving a little guidance with respect to ammonia in aquaria, as a water-quality issue; specifically regarding the need for continuous monitoring of ammonia, as well as pH.  From searching the web, I am impressed by what you have done, your credentials in the field, and interest in promoting the safe, successful maintenance of fish in a healthy environment. As I am looking for professional advice from one who knows the need and can sort out the reality from the hype for us, I hope that you might have a moment to address our inquiry. <Okay> My company develops optical sensors, primarily for biomedical R&D.  We made one for visually determining the ppm ammonia (not ammonium) in water, useful in the range of  0.05 to 1 ppm, even up to 5 ppm .  It is suitable for continuous monitoring of tank water, has a reversible color-response to NH3, and is long lasting.  We have been encouraged that this would be a useful product - for the freshwater pet industry - but for the marine environment, we were told that a more sensitive sensor is needed in order to measure lower ammonia levels. <Mmm, no... the stated range is efficacious> So we made another sensor rendition that can be used for visual monitoring in the 0.005 to 0.1 ppm range. Thus, with the two sensors, we can cover the complete NH3 range that we think should be needed for aquarists. We are interested in the business opportunity that exists for ammonia testing.  Current thinking is that we provide two products: one for freshwater and one for marine.  The plan is to include a visual pH sensor (range 6-9) along with each ammonia sensor, so that both parameters can be monitored continuously and provide more value. However, a question of interest is if there is really a need for two separate ammonia sensors?  If no ammonia is the goal of a well-maintained system, and any detectable ammonia indicates that a problem exists that needs attention, then will the 0.005 to 0.1 ppm higher sensitivity sensor be all that is needed to cover all aquarists' concerns? <The "higher" scale is all that is of interest, saleable> With respect to the 'business opportunity' we are most interested in getting sound advise to help define and bring into focus who has the most interest, what and where is the greatest need, and the scope or size of the potential market(s). For instance, does visual monitoring present more value to the fresh or saltwater hobbyist, the retail store, pond operators, breeders, or the shippers and the distribution process? <Mmm, actually to all... the presence of ammonia/ammonium is a critical parameter determining health of aquatic livestock... for everyone. Likely your product, depending on price, would be attractive to all levels> Do the preponderance of conventional manual tests (strips or liquid-sample based ammonium test kits) cover the need? <Mmm, yes. The vast majority of tests/kits in the ornamental aquatics hobby interest are simple colorimetric assays... some repackaging of dry reagents by Hach, some sales by LaMotte and others, but many cheapy repackaged liquid reagent types on the low/freshwater end. There are some sales of colorimeters, spectrophotometric/titrametric means in our hobby/business, but these are few> Through various lines of inquiry, we have gotten confounding feedback. It ranges from encouragement that there is considerable need, to not so much interest because testing is only important during the aquarium setup phase while it is stabilizing? <Mainly, but this (and other aspects of nitrogen accumulation) are principal concerns when "something" is apparently wrong... and actually very real ongoing concerns in captive aquatic systems period> One store will say that NH3 is more important than pH, and another just the opposite. <Mmm, these two phenomena and resulting toxicity are intimately related... as you will know. Toxicity of ammonia increases abruptly with increasing pH...> We are well familiar with the literature and the science of ammonia measurement, ammonia and water quality maintenance, and the theory of proper management.  But we do not have a good real-world perspective of the practicing of ammonia testing in the field. <Mmm, ask away and I will try to relate my impressions, level of confidence, underlying rationale/referents> What I simply would like to know is if you think that we have something worthwhile and we should pursue it?  And if so, would you be interested in helping us gain guidance how best to introduce it to the industry, or be able to recommend someone else that could do so? <Is worthwhile... mainly depending on ultimate retail pricing... there are issues of distribution, how many levels there... parallels in other test gear, controller technology, sales that you might investigate (Hanna, Milwaukee, YSI... others have tried to make inroads to "pet-fish" markets with variable success...> I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to talk with you by phone, even briefly, in regards to this inquiry. Even better, if convenient for you, I will be in the LA area (Irvine) all next week and would be most pleased to have a chance to personally meet you. <... At this juncture, emailing will likely suffice. Am glad to help you> Thank you very much for your attention. I will be looking forward to your response. My contact information is given below including my cell phone. If amenable to me calling you, your number and a best time to reach you would be appreciated. Best regards, David Putnam <Had some parallel conversations (though largely unrelated), this weekend, giving a pitch here in Dallas... with a young fellow/aquaculturist who has a facility in Baltimore producing seahorses... re how to approach the presumed market, consumer... best... and avoid proverbially "shooting oneself in the foot". The ornamental, scientific, industry field might well be receptive to your product. Please do reply re your guess as to probable retail... as this will determine largely the scope of the present, likely future market. Bob Fenner> New Tank Ammonia Problems - 01/23/2006 Hi there, <Hello Sara.> I'm new to the marine aquarium world and already have a big problem. <Wait 'til you get into it further! :)> First, the basics...20 gal, 10 lb live rock, 20 lb live sand, power filter, protein skimmer, lots of aeration, florescent lighting 2 very small clowns, 3 red leg crabs, 2 turbo snails. Set everything up weeks ago, cured the rock, ran the entire set-up for about 4 weeks. <Testing confirmed cycle completion, right?> Then I got the pair of clowns, a week later the snails and crabs.  I went away for the weekend, came back...disaster. Apparently the snails had a hard time acclimating, all three were dead. <Actually, were probably poorly acclimatized.> Of course, the ammonia levels are sky-high right now, pH low as anything, and my clowns are not doing well at all - breathing rapidly and twitching, color loss, a little bit of fin damage. It's the ammonia, of course, but I'm not sure what to do about it. <You can start with a large (50-60%) water change.> I really don't want to start dumping random chemicals into the tank, but I'm at a loss as to what I should do right now. <Water changes...research. Perhaps some Amquel> I don't think there's much time for my clowns... please help! <Won't be if you don't do that research. If not this, then something else.> Sara <Time to focus. - Josh>

Ammonia and Nitrite - 12/26/05 Hi, <<Hello>> I find your website very very interesting for beginners in saltwater aquarium hobby. <<That's great!>> I have a 66 Gallon tank. I have 2 power filters, one for the skimmer (it's a quite a big skimmer) and one to get a good water circulation.  I also have a canister filter (1100L/H) and a heater.  I have used saltwater water direct from the sea but conditioned. <<Not the best way to go.  Too much risk of introducing pollution/parasites, along with a very weak/short-lived buffer capacity.>> I have dead corals, dead rock, sea sand and a bit of crushed coral sand in the tank.  My tank looks great with the crystal clear water.  Now I want to start my cycling process. <<Mmm...the cycling process started once all was added to the tank.>> So 3 days after setting up the tank when all my equipment were running well I introduced 6 Damsel Fish (4 Domino and 2 Blue Damsels) <<Sheesh...I know this is a somewhat accepted and often used method, but I just think there are better ways to introduce nitrogenous compounds/waste to a tank for cycling purposes.  Aside from the obvious stress and distress caused to these fishes, many times aquarists find they don't want these fishes/can't keep other fishes due to the damsel's nasty dispositions (the Domino damsels will grow in to real terrors, magnified by the confines of this tank).  It is my opinion that the same result can be achieved when cycling a tank by adding a "small" amount of fish food every few days...or better yet... a couple small bits of uncured live rock.>> when I checked my Ammonia, Nitrite & pH values on the 5th day it was as follows; Ammonia (mg/l) = very close to 1.0, Nitrite (mg/l) = 0.2 -- 0.5.  My questions how can I get both the Ammonia and Nitrite readings together like this?  If I am correct I should get the Nitrite reading after the Ammonia reading is zero right? <<Not correct.  You have insufficient bacteria growth yet in this system, along with a very heavy fish load for this tank and its current stage (one damsel would have been plenty).  As such, you are going to have measurable amounts of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in this system.  Please do some reading here and at the indices in blue at the top of the page: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm  >> Is there something wrong with my tank condition? <<Nothing unexpected...you are experiencing the nitrogen cycle...please do some reading up on this, much info re on our website.>> My fish seems to be fine for the moment but I am worried please let me know your view. <<You have my view on this.  Regards, EricR>> Thanks Akila

Re: Ammonia and Nitrite - 12/25/05 Hi Eric <<Hello Akila>> Thanks for your quick and valuable response. <<You're very welcome.>> By reading your reply and also the recommended information on the cycling process I have decided that patients is virtue here. <<Indeed>> So I'll be doing the tests regularly and see what's happening. <<Very good>> Also could you please let me know what exactly buffer capacity is? How you do measure your buffer? What effect does that have on fish, water quality and bacteria? <<Buffer capacity, simply stated, is a measure of your tanks ability to neutralize acids while resisting change.  Do some more reading here for further explanation: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm >> I have placed my tank outdoor.  But when I researched so many articles say to keep your tank out of direct sunlight.  Why is this? <<This is generally to reduce/prevent heat buildup.>> I actually don't have direct sunlight to the place where my tank is but I get somewhat more sunlight than keeping it inside the house. <<If the tank is not overheating it is likely fine.  Rodney Jonklaas did just this many years ago with his fish only tanks in Ceylon.>> Please let me know what effect sunlight has on the tank water quality, fish and bacteria.  Up to now I don't seem to have a problem. <<Then I doubt you will...no need to worry.>> Appreciate your response. Thanks Best regards, Akila <<Cheers my friend, EricR>>

Re: Ammonia and Nitrite II - 12/29/05 Dear Eric <<Hello Akila>> Thanks again for your valuable information. <<Always welcome my friend.>> I live in Ceylon too. <<Cool!  Maybe someday I'll come visit, go diving...>> I have no overheating problems because as I said although the tank is outdoors the tank is not exposed to any direct sunbeams. <<Sounds fine>> But my concern is algae. <<Likely of little "concern" if the tank does not receive direct sunlight.>> I heard when the tank is outdoors you are more likely to get algae problems in your tank. <<A lighting (sunlight) issue...doesn't seem to be the case here.>> What kind of algae are these? <<The same that occur under artificial lighting.>> And how do you remove them if a problem occurs? <<The same way you do for those that occur under artificial lighting.  Here's some more reading for ya:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm >> Oh, and also by keeping my marine tank outdoors, will my water turn into brown or green color like the common problem in freshwater tanks? <<If neglected, yes.>> What are hair algae that everyone talks about? <<Just that...long, stringy, filamentous algae that resembles, well...hair...usually a sign/result of overstocking/feeding, excess nutrients, insufficient export mechanisms, etc..>> Because my tank is a Fish Only tank is this something to be worried about because I read many articles say that the problem exists in Reef tanks.  Why is this? <<Mmm...this algae can be/become problematic in any system (FO/FOWLR/REEF), if not properly maintained.  But is possibly encountered more/most often in reef systems due to the higher intensity lighting associated with same.>> Also please let me know some tank cleaning animals (like scavenges in freshwater tanks) that will control the algae over growth.  Are Shrimps & Gobies good for this job?  Or are there any other kind? <<Turbo and Astrea snails are considered good algae grazers by many, though I honestly have my doubts as to their utility re.  Some blennies, some tangs, are good grazers...as are urchins of the genus Diadema.  I've also heard tell of a small (3") tropical Pacific Abalone that is supposed to be a good algae grazer, but I've not yet been able to acquire any to see for myself.  A Google search for "algae grazer" should provide some other ideas/examples as well.  But whether or not you can have some of these critters will depend on the fishes in your tank.>> Sorry to trouble you with so many questions almost everyday.  As I am new to this hobby I am still confused. <<No trouble at all.>> Thanks for your help. Appreciate your response. Happy New Year to youj)))) Best regards, Akila <<Happy New Year to you too Akila!  EricR>>

Re: Ammonia and Nitrite III - 01/01/06 Hi Eric <<Hi Akila>> Thanks again for your valuable information and also if you do come to Ceylon I'll sure help you out with your journey. <<Sounds good my friend.>> My current condition of the tank is at expected levels.  Now my ammonia level is dropping and the nitrite is sky high. <<Yes, as expected with a tank that is cycling.>> Anyways I have some more problems that I need your views on. <<Okay>> When I replace the evaporated water, is it alright to refill it with Chlorine-less tap water or should I have buy purified water   all the time? <<Depends on your tap water ultimately, but for a fish-only system this is usually fine.>> Do I have to add some saltwater to the tank when replacing the evaporated water (Ex: when replacing evaporated water should I add 75% fresh and 25% saltwater). <<Nope...maintain your salinity with frequent partial water changes.>> And what about saltwater that goes out with the protein skimmer should I replace that water with saltwater? <<Monitor salinity and adjust as explained.>> Also it is alright to use normal very clean salt (NOT MARINE SALT) that we use in our kitchen to balance the salinity of the water (at very urgent situations only)? <<I wouldn't...best to use a proprietary salt mix here.>> Monthly when maintaining how much water (Percentage) should I take out to replace with new saltwater <<Twenty percent monthly is a good starting point...can be increased if necessary.>> and does this reduce the nitrate levels in the tank? <<Yes, as well as reducing other pollutants, and replenishing trace/earth elements.>> Or are there any other ways to reduce nitrate levels? <<For your situation I think frequent partial water changes will serve well.>> Thanks for your help. Appreciate your response. Best regards, Akila <<Always welcome, EricR>>

Unexplained Ammonia Test Results - 12/20/2005 Hi there and Merry Christmas to you all, <Top o' the mornin', Phil and thank you. Merry Christmas!> Thanks for your great site (it's a gold mine of information). I'm hoping you can help me out with a problem in my setup. <I'll try.> I have a 55G FOWLR which has been set up for about 6 months. It is my second marine tank in as many years (the first was a 25G which I was using as an experiment to get a feel for the hobby...and it went well). Tank has about 40lb of LR, Seaclone 100 skimmer (I know.......but it seems to be working quite well), and an Eheim 2215 canister with mechanical and bio media in it. <Ok.> I intended to do a fishless cycle in the tank, so I went ahead and found a product called BioMature which is basically an Ammonia solution. <You could've done it without this. The live rock alone would have worked as a trigger.> I dosed every day until Ammonia and Nitrites had peaked and then zeroed (ammonia peaked at around 2ppm if memory serves me correctly). Once complete I introduced a Yellow tang and a common clown. I could never get the pair of them to eat very much (if anything). <May have been initially unhealthy. No QT?> After about a week of them being in there I noticed the ammonia had crept up to 0.25ppm. I tried a water change or two, but it still crept back up to 0.25. After about 3 weeks of this, I lost both the Tang and the Clown overnight. <Hmm...Perhaps too much bioload increase all at once. Plan to do a 10% weekly water change no matter what, waiting till you see ammonia could have been a part of this. Also be sure to clean the canister filter's mechanical media at least once a week and biomedia biweekly. Maybe your skimmer is not doing as well as it seems.> After that, I decided to invest in more LR before getting any more livestock. I did this and left the tank running for about 6 weeks (dosing every other day with BioMature as a source of ammonia to keep the bio filter fed). <The new live rock would suffice.> About 6 weeks ago I tested the water (amm. 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20ppm) I have just moved to RO water to deal with this) and decided to get a hardier fish to start with and went for a Picasso Trigger. <Hardy, but also messy. If you keep the trigger, you'll need to plan an upgrade. The 55 is bare minimum for this fish only, I wouldn't have less than a 75 though. You'll definitely need a better skimmer and weekly water changes.> The trigger was (and still is) quite happy, eating voraciously etc. Again the ammonia level crept up to 0.25ppm and then after a week was going between 0.25 and 0.5 on a daily basis. <As I said, messy. They eat large amounts and therefore create large amounts of waste. Do a good 30% water change to get this back down and you may have to perform biweekly 10% water changes to keep up. A better skimmer will help.> This continued for about 3 weeks until 2 weeks ago I did a test and got a zero result (phew! I thought). 2 days after this it was back up to 0.5!!! I have had two zero results in the last week or so, but every time it shoots back up to 0.25 or 0.5 the following day. <Hmm...How old is your test kit? Have you sought a confirmation on this, perhaps through a LFS? Do the 0 readings coincide with water changes?> I am at a loss as to what is causing this (I'm not overfeeding and there is no food debris left lying round the tank). Any help would be greatly appreciated. <I would do the water changes (as mentioned above), clean the canister filter and skimmer. Your skimmer may be "mucked up" in side and not performing its best. What are you feeding (anything like flake foods that you may not be able to see lying within the rock work)? I don't see mention of any powerheads or other water movement devices. These will help keep debris/waste suspended for better skimming and filtration as well as help your LR organisms do their job.>   Thanks in advance <Quite welcome, keep us posted. - Josh>

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