Accidentally Been Dosing Tank With Ammonia With Surfactants

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by guppydreams, Feb 20, 2019.

  1. guppydreamsNew MemberMember

    So I've been cycling my 20 gallon tank for about 5 weeks with an ammonia I bought from home hardware, as there's no ace hardware where I live. The bottle doesn't have an ammonia concentration on the label or any ingredients. It just says "No phosphates or fragrances" And the employee said it was surfactant free. So I took it home and have been adding it daily ever since. However I realized when my water level got lower that bubbles were forming on the surface, I decided to check by shaking the bottle and it indeed foamed up and stayed foamed for a while so I'm certain it has surfactant in it.

    I have gravel, a heater, a filter with bio wheels and 2 sponges in it, a big piece of amazonian driftwood, 2 clumps of Christmas moss, 2 anubias, a java fern, and a bolbitis. Like I said I've been using household ammonia, prime with water changes, a fertilizer for my water, and seachem stability for my bio. And I've been using all of this material for 5 weeks, so that's a lot of use.

    And now I've found out I was using ammonia that foams up really bad, and clearly probably has soap and other things not good for fish in it. I'm wondering if I will need to start over now? At this point if I had to start over I would it all out, put it back together, put in soil and plants, water, prime and tetra safe start and try a fish in cycle with some very hard fish. It's been too long and I don't have the patience to try a fishless cycle again. What do I do?

    Is there any way to salvage this tank with this cycle or do I have to start over?

    And please is there anyway to save the plants I have in there? They were the most expensive part of the tank :(
  2. nikm128Fishlore VIPMember

    You'll have to clean the whole tank, decor and all. Putting the plants in some good clean water should help enough, maybe give them some ferts and trim the damage (if any)

  3. DuaneVWell Known MemberMember

    Basically, if you shake it and it foams, its no good.

    Also, SOMETIMES ammonia with surfactants doesnt foam up so thats not a dead giveaway.

    Get pure ammonia. Any hardware store should have it. ANY! Its a cleaning product thats super common. Im in the USA and I can buy it at a dozen stores in town. Its very common.

  4. guppydreamsNew MemberMember

    Yeah I know its no good. But it's been 5 weeks of adding it in daily so now what do I do?

  5. DuaneVWell Known MemberMember

    You break the whole tank down unfortunately. Clean EVERYTHING with hot water and bleach. Rinse with with super hot water or boil it, let is sit out and dry.

    Rinse your plants like crazy and rinse them again. Then bleach dip and do the rinsing thing again. If you have some ferts, feed them. Dont let them dry out while rinsing them.

    Sucks, but itll be okay. Just gotta spend some time cleaning things up. Good luck.
  6. guppydreamsNew MemberMember

    Thats what I thought! Thanks for answering. I will take the water out and begin washing everything with bleach tonight. Is my christmas moss gonna be salvagable? There doesn't appear to be much info on cleaning plants after this type of mistake :(
  7. david1978Fishlore LegendMember

    Would you think the filter media is salvageable if its just rinsed real good with dechlorinated water so op doesnt have to start all over?
  8. mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    Sadly I have to agree with breaking it down and basically starting the cycle over. I can't see where bleach will be needed though. Bleach isn't going to do anything to remove the soap. Only lots of rinsing in fresh clean water will do that.

    If your substrate is gravel you should be able to rinse it well enough to remove the soap. I wouldn't reuse any sponge type filter media but think ceramic type media can be cleaned well enough to reuse but it will take a lot of rinsing.

    You should be able to save your plants by just keeping them in clean water meaning put them in fresh water. Dump it out and back into fresh water. Doing this a few times should remove any soap clinging to them.
  9. nikm128Fishlore VIPMember

    So basically the long version of what I said originally? Don't mean to be rude, just feel a little ignored
  10. mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    Sometimes I think it helps if there is confirmation from more than one person. Sorry if you felt like I was stepping on your reply. That wasn't my intention.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019
  11. Otocinclus13Valued MemberMember

    Please don't bleach your aquarium setup! Bleach is great for eliminating organisms or microorganisms, but won't get rid of soap. Plus it's never a good idea to mix cleaning chemicals- that can potentially be very dangerous. Lots of warm water is your best bet. I'm sorry to hear about your tank- that's got to be frustrating, especially after so long!
  12. nikm128Fishlore VIPMember

    Don't worry about it, you're good.
  13. DuaneVWell Known MemberMember

    Youre right, Bleach probably isnt necessary. Its just my go-to tank cleaning solution when taking a tank back to the start.
  14. NYFishGuyWell Known MemberMember

    Contrary to the other responses, 'surfactant' doesn't necessarily mean 'soap'
    There's many people using similar ammonia and cycle their tank without issue.
    I even watched a local hobby breeder dump it in one of his tanks as he told me he'd been using it for years without issue.
    I would google/call company for ingredients.
  15. CelestialpearlValued MemberMember

    I second this, not all surfactants are soap, but soaps are surfactant. They break down the surface tension between water so the cleaning solution can “stick”.

    That being said, since this ammonia does have a soapy surfactant you should take the tank down and rinse everything. Including the plants. You can rub your finger over the plants to clean them off and can do so under running water. As for the moss just ring it out under running water.

    You can try just thoroughly rinsing your filter media. But rinse it good. You would be able to clean a sponge easier than the ceramics and would be able to get more out of the sponge given you can work it. Rinse until they don’t feel soapy and then some. If a little bit of surfactant was left over it should degrade with time. This would take some time and work. Ultimately the safest option is to replace all the media, as with the prior you assume the risk of not getting surfactant out and the potential consequences on fish health.

    When I do fishless cycle dose my initial dose high and I add biological booster. I know the use of this type of product is controversial, however I think it actually helped my three tanks.


    This is what I use. I double the initial dose and add 10ml for 7days. 3 weeks later I’m fully cycled. If you know somebody else who keeps fish ask for a small clipping of their filter media if they don’t use cartridges or are willing to spare some ceramic media. Or get their dirty tank water after they rinsed their filter media in it. That nasty left over slurry is excellent for boosting a cycle.
  16. DuaneVWell Known MemberMember

    Since he shook it and it foamed up thats a dead giveaway it has soap in it and its no good.
  17. kathy7878Valued MemberMember

    Most of the hardware stores near me have ammonia with lemon fragrance.
  18. mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    There is a possibility that the ammonia @guppydreams used would not cause problems down the road but I wouldn't want to be the one to test it out.
    I always recommend pure ammonia meaning no fragrances to make it smell better or no soap to make it clean better.

    If it weren't frowned upon so badly here on the forum I would always recommend fish in cycling. The ammonia the fish produce is the most natural ammonia source there is and we wouldn't have to worry about whether or not it has anything in it that would cause problems.

    Seldom does any one come here because they are having problems cycling their tank while using fish as their ammonia source. The ones that do are usually those that have added a bottle of bacteria and for whatever reason it isn't working as advertised.

    I know some folks point out that Dawn dish soap is used to clean creatures after an oil spill so it should be safe to use in/on our tanks. I say, those creatures aren't put in a small tank of water after being washed in dish soap. I use dish soap to wash my dog but wouldn't clean a fish or their home with it.

    We now have huge bodies of water that are almost void of life because of chemicals that have made their way into the water. We don't want any of kind of chemicals including soap in our tanks unless it is something specifically made to be used in them and even then moderation is the key. My motto is and always has been "less is best" and fish in cycling just plain works but one has to be willing and able to do lots and lots of water changes.
  19. kathy7878Valued MemberMember

    I wouldn't use the ammonia with lemon, but it that is what most hardware stores near me sell so people have to be careful when shopping for it. There is an Ace a bit farther away from me and they had the ammonia that some people use.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2019
  20. CelestialpearlValued MemberMember

    Menards usually carries straight ammonia.

    Try the dollar tree.
    Mine rotates straight ammonia and ammonia with surfactant. Just check the label to be sure what it is.