Ammonia in tap water

  • #1
I recently had a spike in ammonia in my fish tank soon after doing a water change. I wasn't sure why until I tested my tap water. I've been getting a reading of about .5 ppm for ammonia in my tap water and I am now unable to do water changes because of this. I really have no idea what to do about this and any help will be greatly appreciated.
  • #2
Perhaps someone else can offer another alternative, but the 2 options I see are:

1) Continue your water changes normally, but switch to a conditioner that also binds ammonia. Prime is a good one, but there are others. This will chemically "lock" the ammonia in your tap water so that it does not harm your fish until your biological filter can take care of it.

2) Switch to using bottled water instead of tap water. This is inconvenient, expensive, and would not contain beneficial minerals like your tap water.

If you can't tell, I favor option 1.
  • #3
Option one: My fish survived an awfully high (reached 5 a couple of times!) and long (lasted 5 days or something, at such high levels) spike in ammonia when I was using Prime. Not sure if long-term exposure of lower levels is good, but you don't have much choice.

Option two: Perhaps there is cheap mineral water for sale in those huge tubs? It is indeed very unhandy.
  • #4
What's the pH of your tank? A low pH (i.e. 7 or lower) will be helpful in that the majority of the ammonia in your tank won't be harmful to the fish at all (note I'm not suggesting lowering or messing with your pH at all, I'm just saying that if you have a low pH in your tank you have some buffer). The more you go over that pH of 7 the more of the ammonia becomes toxic. With a high pH then I would suggest getting Prime or Amquel+ for the tank, but even still a 0.5ppm reading of ammonia in your tap water will not cause a spike of any kind. When you say you got a spike, how high did it go? A reading of 0.5ppm in your tap water would translate to much less when added to your tank. Even if you replaced 100% of your tanks water, it would still only be 0.5ppm total in the tank. And even at a pH of 7.5, and temp of 77oF (25oC), only 0.009ppm of that would actually be toxic to your fish (needs to be 0.02ppm before they would have any reaction to it). So in reality a 0.5ppm reading from your tap is no big deal. Keep going ahead with your water changes as normal. In fact if you do the changes regularly enough, the tanks good bacteria will get used to the slightly higher ammonia contents and adjust accordingly.
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
I tested the tap water every day for about a week, and by the end of the week, the ammonia levels were back to 0. I guess it was just a temporary thing.
  • #6
Not that I want to give you sleepless nights or anything, but let's hope it doesn't temporarily go up really high next time. Sounds really annoying. I never knew you could get ammonia in the water.
  • #7
Definitely keep a bottle of Prime or Amquel plus handy in case this happens again. Many folks' water properties change during the summertime when fertilizers and other chemicals are used causing readings of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Some folks have to permanently use a conditioner that treats these things.
L a r r y
  • #8

I am about to go ape nuts....I finally get all my water parameters where they need to be. Nitrites 0 Ammonia 0 and Nitrates 5-10ppm. I did a water change last week and gravel cleaning and tested the water again, I then notice that my ammonia was at 8 ppm...whooooaaaaaaaaaa What is going on, I jump up and immediately do another water change. I add in my water conditioner and wait an hour....whoooooaaaaaa still at 8ppm. I hate adding chemicals to try and control things, but I have a bottle of Amquel+ so I add that to the water and start aerating the tank. I let it sit over night, doing it's thing, come home from work, only to see that the ammonia is still sky high. So off to another water change of 75% this time. So just for grins, I test the tap water, and low and behold, it is sitting right at 4ppm. Now I have tested before the tap water and it was no where near these levels. My two oscars and GT are doing pretty well, with no signs of stress or anything. Now my EBJD is showing signs of stress, rapid breathing and just hanging out at the top corner of the tank. Also his belly is swollen a little bit, but I will get into that a little later. Should I continue with adding the Amquel, and see if the ammonia levels come down, or what.....I am at a standstill for now. Any help is appreciated
  • #9
HI Larry...WOW that can't be you have city water or a well?? if its city water, Call your local h20 company and ask them to send someone to test your water ...I'm not sure about amquel, but can you get some bio-spira?? that will help instantly!!! in the meantime, you mite have to get some water elsewhere..a neighbor, store etc...but keep up the at least 50% water change a day...lordy still surprised you have ammonia in your water...what kind of test kit are you using?? goodluck!
  • #10
The thing about the nitrogen cycle is EVEN IF you have ammonia in your tap water......if the bacteria in your tank is healthy, it will convert it into nitrate and be ok on your fish.....SO......something happened to your tank and it is no longer cycled.

It sounds like the tank cleaning you just did sent it into a minI cycle, and as shawnie said, either you do a big water change, and add bio-spira, or you have to replace that bacteria some way.....and do water changes.... 4 is better than 8....but I would be looking into why your tap water is so high ....Good Luck
L a r r y
  • #11
I've been doing the maintenance the same way for a few months now, and have never had these problems. Clean half the gravel, and do the regular exchange of water. I will look into getting some bio-spira tomorrow. I have city water here in Texas, and do not know why they have started adding more into the water. I have tested my water straight out of the tap before, with results for ammonia being no where near what I am getting now.
  • #12
That is a very good reason to alert your city...They may not be aware of the problem...I doubt it is something they are adding.
  • #13
Larry, out of curiosity what area are you in? I am in Texas also...
L a r r y
  • #14
Larry, out of curiosity what area are you in? I am in Texas also...

I am in Irving
  • #15
Did you ever figure this situation out Larry? there shouldnt be ammonia in your drinking water
  • #16
Not good, but not unheard of either. Ammonia sometimes appears in tap water for whatever reason.
This is not something that you want to be exposing yourself or any of your pets to.
I agree with Susitna that the ammonia levels in your tank should be lower than the levels in your tap water, and you should pay very close attention to your cycle.
However, this is also something that you should be worrying about at the tap. I'm not sure how this works, legally, but I know that in certain circumstances, municipalities are required to provide home filtration for houses that have tainted water supplies.
One other question: What test kit are you using?
  • #17
I get my water from a well. There appears to already be ammonia in the tap water. Is this going to cause problems? I thought it might be a faulty kit but, bottled water shows no traces of it. What is going on?
  • #18
Are you anywhere near any type of agriculture (cattle/chicken/goat/ostrich/etc farm, ranch, etc) or fertilizer places? The runoff could be getting into your water table, which is where your well pulls water from.
You could use Prime, which is a water conditioner that neutralizes the deadly properties in ammonia that would affect your fish.
  • #19
Wow! right on target. Thanks
  • #20
Is the water from your well treated with anything before it comes out of the tap? What are you using to test with? strips? liquid?
  • #21
Straight well water. Using the API dropper kit.
  • #22
I have ammonia in my tap water as well. I just use Prime with every water change and the ammonia reading disappears. I got freaked out when I found out that it was in my tap water, but now it doesn't make much of a difference
  • #23
Straight well water. Using the API dropper kit.
API is the best testing kit you can get in my opinion. As was suggested Prime should take care of it for you.
Also as CWC suggested you may be getting some run off from fertilizers. if so has it been tested lately for human safety?
  • #24
I don't drink the water from my tap. It smells like sulfer......wait! Is sulfer bad bad for fish? My guess is no. There are plenty of trout downstream from sulfer springs in a nearby creek. What do you guys know?
  • #25
You know, prime smells like sulfer too so I don't think its bad.

Once your tank is cycled the ammonia will just change anyway

and you don't have to do anything to kickstart a cycle
john b
  • #26
sulpher smell in tap water the top of your hot water heater, a little valve can be seen, and if that is unscrewed and removed, a long rob is attached to it, known as a 'sacrificial annode', which serves to attract rust oxidizers and thusly extend the life of the tank walls

...if your water resource, normally smells of sulpher, the sacrifical annode may be taken out, and either plug the hole with a threaded plug that fits that hole, or install a new annode....check the prices at 'home depot' type stores

...turn off the water, and drain the tank, you may need a water hose from the tank to the door/yard....(if there is a faucet, or valve on the top of the tank it is a good idea to add a 10% bleach solution to the water to kill the smell)

....install the new annode or the plug, and refill the tank....the smell is gone

....if the water source of your home, community, etc, is at a low level, (like due to draught conditions) often that stirs up smelly stuff, even colors may be noted at times...and nothing can be done for that, it will 'go away' once the reservors and water towers are refilled for "Prime" it does smell like sulpher....and if it is added to a tank of 'fouled water' the sulpher aroma will be much stronger goldfish tanks really must have weekly water changes of 25%-30% about 5-10 days apart....consistently....or more often if the tanks are crowded, and also if the filter is too small for the tank capacity

....hope this helps a little bit
  • #27
After a few weeks of noticing a bit of elevation in my ammonia level at the beginning of the week (I do maintenance on weekends) I became suspicious and tested my tap water for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. I was absolutely shocked to find that my tap puts out over 1 ppm of ammonia! Obviously the bacteria in my tank become overwhelmed when I put this water in the tank on top of the waste my fish are already producing. What can I do about this? Is there a type of filter or something I can use to take the ammonia out? I'm really worried because I just got 2 rams today, and I know they're extremely sensitive to water conditions. My ammonia never raises above .25 ppm when I test it, but I'm worried that will be enough to have a relatively serious effect on my fish.
  • #28
There's a type of ammonia-removing resin that most fish stores sell (it looks like white activated carbon). The amount of ammonia the stuff removes depends on the hardness of the water and the quality/type of resin.
  • #29
I got the resin and put it in a stocking behind my filter cartridges. How long should I leave it there? I don't want to make my cycle crash...assuming I still have a cycle. I'm so confused. I know I WAS cycled before I started adding fish, but when I did my water change I had readings of 1ppm ammonia (that's exactly the reading I got from my tap), 0 nitrites and about 15 nitrates. I tried treating the water before adding it to the aquarium, but the water running over the resin must have the effect because just adding the resin to buckets of water didn't produce any results. My ammonia has dropped to .5 ppm after leaving the resin in my filter for 24 hrs. Please help...I'm really worried about my fish and I don't know what other options I have...I feel like I'm either going to kill my fish of ammonia poisoning or cause my cycle to crash which would in effect kill my fish.
  • #30
Will Stress Coat work on your tap water? It says it removes ammonia from tap water.
Is your town doing something to the water right now?
  • #31
I do have stress coat that I'm using to help with some fin growth on my gouramis (had tears from nipping at the LFS) but I'm using prime as my water conditioner. I have no idea if there's something going on with the water...this is the first time I've tested my tap...don't know why I didn't think to do that before. I'll call tomorrow and check. Any other ideas? I'm up for anything at the moment...
  • #32
Prime should handle it while the biofilter takes it. I'd add prime monday after the water change to detoxify the ammonia until it is absorbed.
  • #33
You may want to look at getting a cheap filter and placing some ammonia-removing resin in it.
When you are preping water for a water change, place the filter in the tub with the tap water and run it for 24-48hrs, this should remove the ammonia.
  • #34
Peterpiter, that is a great idea!! I don't know why I hadn't thought of that. I'll definitely try that this weekend.
  • #35
What is the resin called? I'm having the same problem as GouramiGirl.

I don't have one big tub I use during water changes, I use little buckets to fill my tank back up, so running a filter for a day on each one wouldn't be plausible.

If I got the resin, couldn't I just put some in my main filter? Also, would I have to replace it, like carbon? If not, I have light-colored gravel. Would I be able to mix the resin in with my gravel, or would that not do anything?

(Also, regular Stress Coat doesn't do anything about ammonia, but Stress Coat+ detoxifies ammonia for 24 hours. I think Prime does this also.)
  • #36
The resin that I have is called ammo chips, made by API. There's dosing instructions on the box, but I put mine in stockings behind my regular filter cartridges so that it could be removed once my ammonia was under control. I don't think putting it in the gravel would work...I think the resin working has something to do with the water running over it , but I'm not positive. I know I tried just putting some of the resin in a bucket and that didn't work. Best of luck...if I find something else that works, I'll be sure to post.
  • #37
As I said, prime works by locking ammonia for 24 hours, enough time so that the biofilter takes it. The ammonia will still show in the test kit, but it will be harmless to the fish for that period of time. If it is still showing after 24 hours, I'd just dose again...
  • #38
The stuff I get just says "ammonia removing resin." I have the real word for it on the tip of my tongue, but I can't remember.
  • #39
I've found what I think is a solution! I bought a pur water filter from walmart this weekend, and it lowered the ammonia reading from 2 ppm to .25 ppm. Even though it doesn't take all the ammonia out, I think it's gonna be enough for the bacteria to process it in 24 hrs with some prime.
  • #40
I was thinking about getting Ammo-chips, but when I thought about it, it didn't seem like such a good idea, after all. If I have something that removes all ammonia from my tank, what will the bacteria use? I would never have a cycled tank, and I would have to rely on the resin forever, or risk going back to square one, since any bacteria I already have would starve. I think I'll just wait until my tank cycles on its own. My dad's tank can handle the ammonia in my tap water, so I'll wait until my tank can deal with it, too.

Gourami Girl, I'm glad you've found something that works for you! I hope your tank cycles soon.

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