Ammonia in tap water help!!

  • #1
I was doing water changes for my fish and a tested the tap water, and turns out there is AMMONIA in my tap water. It is .25-.35. What do I do?? I can't get an RO unit, should I use bottled water for now?

  • #2
If your tank is mature then smaller but more frequent water changes should be ok , it’ll get converted by your cycle. But I do understand the worry.
Can you collect rain water with a butt if you don’t live in a polluted area ? If not use bottled if you want to. Or visit a lfs , if you have one , they usually sell water. Ask them how they do their water changes if they are very close they have have the same water as you.

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  • #3
Ok. Most of not all of my tanks are fully cycled but I'm setting up a new Guppy Tank today and f doing a fish in cycle, so I will have to do frequent water changes. It's for a friend and I think they have different water, but we will see. Is that amount of ammonia toxic to fish?
  • #4
Generally speaking, A lot of times if you find ammonia in your tap water on a test it's from Chloramines in the water treatment process instead of chlorine. Chloramine in simple terms is chlorine that's made more stable with ammonia (nitrogen source)
it will test for the ammonia, and when you dechlorinate the chlorine will oxidize off and you'll be left with the ammonia.

Now if you have an established cycle and running pH7 or lower, this .25 or .35 ppm ammonia will get eaten up by your tanks cycle and turned into nitrates in short order and will not "build up". At that pH or lower, a small amount of ammonia should not do any damage.

However if you wanted to, you could cycle a sponge filter in your tank on an airpump, and once it's cycled, then you can fill a bucket with water change water, dechlorinate it and then drop in your cycled sponge filter in the bucket and this will take care of the ammonia, maybe 12 hours or less. chlorine will also "offgas" by sitting in a bucket with aeration but as chloramine it will take longer to do that which is why I'd say to dechlorinate to protect that cycled filter.

As long as you pH isn't like pH 7+ nearing 8 or higher, there's not much concern with 0.25 BUT if the tank isn't cycled though, that ammonia isn't going anywhere with nothing to break it down and water changing is always going to have you starting at 0.25ppm ammonia.

If the tank isn't cycled, and you do have cycled tanks, I really think if you will start new fish from time to time to run an extra sponge filter on a cycled tank in the future, it comes in handy and are cheap and you never really need to do a fish in cycle again. it's basically fill the tank, dechlorinate and move the extra sponge filter over to the new tank and it's cycled and good to go.

Personally, in your specific situation and not having time to prepare, I would take water from one of your cycled tanks that can break the ammonia from the tap to do the water changes with, and top off the cycled tank with new tap water to where it can eat up the ammonia, so you ahve ammonia free water for the uncycled aquarium.
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  • #5
ok, thank you. My tap waters pH is 7.3 though, will that make a difference? What I have done is I have a HOB filter funning on one of my cycled tanks and stuffed it full of filter sponge, so I think the BB will be on that, so hopefully that will be enough BB to help the new fish tank beat the ammonia
  • #6
This. I knew I'd find it.
Trying to understand ammonia & pH relationship: When does ammonia become toxic? | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum

it's a good read. the post linked though has a chart, the chart show how much of the "ammonia" reading is un-ionized (ammonia), and the rest of the "ammonia" would be ionized and be ammonium, and to big of a particle to be absorbed easily.

So like pH 7.4 and temp 78F, the un-ionized ammonia

you then take your ammonia reading and multiply it by the factor from the chart
so lets say the ammonia reading is 0.25 x 0.015100

this is 0.003775 ppm of "Ammonia" while the remaining of the 0.25 ammonia reading is in the ammonium form and 100x less toxic to the fish than the un-ionized ammonia.

Finally. Un-ionized ammonia begins causing gill damage at approximately 0.05 mg/L(PPM) and death at approximately 2.0 mg/L (PPM).

The ionized stuff, NH4 (ammonium) you can go crazy with it's a larger molecule and much harder for the fish to absorb.

Lets say pH 8.4, and 78 degrees for the temp. at 0.25 ammonia reading this is like 0.035 mg/L (PPM) and getting to be concerning,

The mg/L (PPM) of the amount of ammonia can also cause a problem at some point. Lets take 78F, pH 7.4 again and increase the ammonia test reading from 0.25. to 3.0 mg/L (PPM)
this gets a result of 0.0453 and getting close to gill damage territory, probably already doing some level of damage by then.

Easiest answer in the hobby is "ANY ammonia is toxic and deadly and it should always be zero, keep it as low as you can". Fair enough. However thats not the real answer it's just the simplist answer for beginners to understand and be explained to them

No, 0.25 or 0.35 mg/L (ppm) ammonia reading isn't going to hurt anything. 1.0 mg/L(ppm) reading isn't going to hurt anything either, but you really should do water changes at the 1.0 mark so that it doesn't get to 2 or 3 mg/L(ppm) level where it will be starting to do damage.

More info than you wanted or needed to know right now? Probably.....
For that I apologize, I can't help but try to educate on how it works instead of just say "all ammonia is bad, do a water change." and leave it up to blind guesses and magical mysteries. there's a science to everything.
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  • #7
Don't apologize, this helped me a lot! A lot of great info that can teach me and other people about ammonia. Thank you so much!
  • #8
Yikes, this just happened to me. I was told from the water department when I called about an issue with it smelling bad and then smelling like pool water. They said they had to add extra chlorine to the water. They didn't say why. Left a cup of water from the tap out and tested it today and have ammonia readings. Thanks to this post I now have an idea why. Going to be using extra prime with the water changes. Will that help it? I'll read up on that link too.

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