Ammonia levels - how to guage the seriousness of them question

cabfish

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HI again with another nitrogen cycle question with my 250 litre tank...

The tank took 5 weeks to cycle completely - adding ammonia and it was gone overnight with no nitirtes either. I added 2 fish and a large snail from my old tank - all is 100% for a week with no recordable ammonia, nitrite or nitrate levels (as you'd expect after cycling).

Now I have added 7 Tiger Barbs (which incidently don't even look at the other fish - platys - so I have kept them together and continue to watch for fin nipping). 3 days on and I have an ammonia reading of 0.25ppm, all other nitrite and nitrates are zero. Another 24hours and it is at 0.5ppm so I cycle 30% water and get the level back down to 0.25ppm still with zero readings on nitrite and nitrate. This is to be expected to a point as I have just added 7 fish I suppose, and the ammonia levels aren't rocketing up and all others nitrites and nitrates are still zero...

My question to the helpful people of this forum is, given that the ammonia chart that I read off goes in stages of:
0 ppm - yellow
0.25ppm - hint of green
0.5ppm - green
0.75ppm - dark green
1ppm
4ppm
8ppm

at what level is the ammonia a problem that requires a 30~50% water change? Naturally as the tank settles down it will be zero but is a level of 0.25ppm or even 0.5ppm concern enought to change some water out? At what point do you all start changing water? At what point do fish start to become ill? I have read that a 6ppm is fatal so my guess is that 0.5ppm is my water change point?

PS the Tiger Barbs are fantastic, bright and energetic fish and seem very happy in their new home!!
 

Butterfly

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When I get any hint of green I do a water change. After your tank settles down that won't happen often if you are doing your weekly 25% water changes and not overfeeding.
Adding fish can cause a small temporary spike, and I found out the hard way years ago that over feeding can cause a spike and keep the ammonia up.(they make you feel like their starving all the time )
I would say dangerous is over 1ppm and over.
I did have a question about your parameters though....Amonnia 0 is good, Nitrite 0 is good, But when the cycle is over there are usually some Nitrates. Nitrates are usually between 10 and 20.
Do you have live plants that can be using the Nitrates?
Carol
 

not4you

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One other question for you, how much ammonia were you adding to your tank while cycling? If you were only adding a little ammount (bring ammonia reading to say .25 ppm) as opposed to a large ammount (say 4 ppm) you may have cycled your tank but only created a small colony of bacteria. When you added the Tiger Barbs they might have been too much for your bio-fitler to handle thus having another minI cycle.
 

Isabella

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Cabfish, if I had even the tiniest detectable amount of ammonia in my tank with fish, I'd perform 50% daily water changes until the ammonia was down to zero. I wouldn't want to take any chances with the health of my fish. One question though: How do you clean your filter and filter media? Under tap water? Or in your tank water?

ChrisRamo, when your tank is cycling, it's best to check water for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate DAILY. After the cycle is finished, and you're sure you have no ammonia and no nitrite, a check for nitrate every one or two weeks would be good. I'd check again for ammonia and nitrite if I added more fish to a tank that is already cycled. I'd also check for ammonia and nitrite in a cycled tank if fish appeared sick. You can also check for ammonia and nitrite if you did a very large water change with a thorough gravel vac + thorough filter cleaning, all at the same time. AND finally ... you should check for ammonia and nitrite after a filter cartridge change (or any filter media change).
 
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cabfish

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Thanks for the help and answers. In answer to all your questions

1 - Yes there are plants that seem to be thriving so the nitrate is being absorbed is my guess.

2 - Water checks (ammonia, nitrite and nitrate) are being done morning and afternoon at the moment until things settle down, with a 40% water change daily to keep the ammonia reading down around 0 to 0.25ppm. I think your guess that I am going through another minI cycle is correct - I was allowing the ammonia to peak at 1ppm during the cycle and once the cycle was complete this would be gone by morning. The fact it now goes up to 0.5ppm daily I am sure means my bacteria colony is not big enough to handle the 9 fish + snail.

3 - Filter washing - I only wash the filter every 6 months and then in tank water - more of a rinse really than a wash. As this tank is only 2 months old I have not touched the filter at all. The filter comprises a long pipe bar that drops onto gause, through carbon, over ceramic noodles, through another sponge and out via a drop that aerates the water.

I have my old tank still going and ready to take fish back into it if needed - at the moment my feeling is that there is more stress in moving some/all out than just manageing the ammonia through daily water changes. The fish don't seem stressed at all at this stage - all very active over the entire tank region so I'll keep monitoring and changing until this is sorted out. As the bacteria are there, albeit in too small an amount, my guess is that this will settle down quite quickly - 1~2 weeks at the most and not the original 5 weeks of initial cycling.

I will also cut the feeding back a bit - the platys seem to feed off the surface and the tigers like the food to drop so I am giving 1 small pinch o flakes on the surface and one larger pinch under water twice a day. This is all eaten within 2 minutes...

Thanks again for the advise!
 
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cabfish

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A big "Thankyou" for all the advise over the last couple of weeks. The tank has now cycled and the fish look very happy!

For those embarking on the cycling quest - it took 5 weeks to basically cycle the tank by adding ammonia, but at a too low bacteria level, and a further 2 weeks with the fish in it. Now ammonia and nitrites maintain a zero level and the nitrates slowly rise over the course of the week! The brown algal scunge has all gone and the water looks very clear. Water changes for nitrates look to be needed every 14 days or so based on the plants absorbing quite a lot and I am still testing still daily until I am sure. Then I'll drop back to weekly tests.

Thanks again - I'll be back (now what about a bigger tank again... must ask the wife!!!!!)
 

Isabella

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Hehe I'm glad all is well. Now, always remember not to rinse your filter media in tap water, but to rinse and clean them in your tank water - this will ensure that the tank stays cycled, even after you've cleaned your filter. Chlorine/chloramine in tap water destroys the beneficial bacteria in your filter.
 

Tumbleweed

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Isabella said:
Hehe I'm glad all is well. Now, always remember not to rinse your filter media in tap water, but to rinse and clean them in your tank water - this will ensure that the tank stays cycled, even after you've cleaned your filter. Chlorine/chloramine in tap water destroys the beneficial bacteria in your filter.
I agree, and correct me if I am wrong, but in my filter setup I have a filter and a bio wheel, and the bio wheel is what stores and has the bacteria on it not the filter, because you never change the wheel. Now I know that if I rinse off the filter in tap water the chloromine on the filter will transfer onto the wheel and kill the bacteria on the wheel. But if you rinse off the filter in dechlorinated clean water or put in a new filter it should not affect the cycle of the tank.
 

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