Ammonia Problems-frustrated

BryanSOFLA

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Hi- I bought a new 60 gallonMarineland tank on around thanksgiving and it’s been **** keeping the ammonia levels under control. I started by going with a fishless tank and treating the water with apI QuickStart. Then after 2 weeks I put 10 whiteshirt tetras in and they dropped dead in 30 min. I went back to the LFS and they testing my ammonia at 4.0ppm, so they suggested using Prime, which seems to work when I reintroduced a new batch of WS tetras, so then a week goes by and levels seems “just ok”, so I added 2 Cory catch and some neon tetras. Those were good, so I added 2 BosamI Rainbows and those latest a week and dropped. Everything else has survived, but the ammonia levels just keep staying a 0.5-1. The pH seems stable most of the time, but the nitrites go from 0.25 to the highest as of today at 5ppm. I also bought an ammonia pad to add to my Marineland penguin 350 and put those seachem alert cards inside the tank, which vary a bit from my apI master test kit. I happen to think my water source just sucks. The following reading are as of today:


pH= 7.6 (+/-)

HR pH =8.0 (+/-)

Ammonia= 0.5

Nitrites= 5.0

Nitrates= 0


I keep reading about water changes, but my fear is that in taking 1 step forward and 2 back bc I am adding water that is not under any better control with the ammonia even treated with prime. I did a test in a 5 gallon bucket and it took 17ml of prime to get the ammonia to 0, which seems unsafe and excessive to add to the tank, but I was curious. I'm in a holding pattern. My LFS thinks I should consider a) buying purified water from them or b) treating the water with a buffer to lower the pH a bit more to help it convert the the ammonia-nitrite-nitrate process. Looking for some suggestions. I think the best course is changing the water, as I haven't done a change since 12/9, which was 20 gallon out of 60. I'm just afraid to add watemention that may be more toxic than what's already in the tank as mentioned. Thanks for any input! B
 

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Prime doesn't remove the ammonia. It just turns it into ammonium. Ammonium is less harmful. Your test kit doesn't know the difference between ammonia and ammonium so it will still show up if it is there. I am not sure I would trust anything the good folks at the store told me if they didn't give you this very important piece of information.

Have you run the tests on your source water? If it has less ammonia than your tank then you need to do water changes to keep the ammonia as low as possible. If your test shows that you have less than 1 ppm ammonia just add enough prime to treat the full volume of your tank.

If it goes up to one or above do a water change to get it back below one and again add enough Prime to treat the tank.

water changes might slow your cycle a tiny bit but with fish in there you need to keep the ammonia and nitrites as low as possible with water changes. The bacteria you are trying to grow doesn't live in the water so water changes are not going to be a problem. Your nitrites are at a dangerous level right now and need to be lowered with water changes.

Your PH is fine so just let it be. stable is much better than chasing a specific number.
 

Cichlidude

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You need to cycle your tank and that will take 3-8 weeks. Please no more fish.
 

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Lowering your PH makes ammonia less toxic, but if it goes too low, nitrification stops. You need to keep ammonia and nitrite under 1ppm and treated with Prime every 48 hours. If your tap water has 1 ppm ammonia or under, treat with Prime before adding it and the fish will be safe. Ammonia and nitrites are constantly beig produced, so water changes will not hurt your cycle, you’re just removing the excess that the bacteria can’t use yet. The ammonia reducing pads really don’t do much.
 
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BryanSOFLA

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mattgirl said:
Prime doesn't remove the ammonia. It just turns it into ammonium. Ammonium is less harmful. Your test kit doesn't know the difference between ammonia and ammonium so it will still show up if it is there. I am not sure I would trust anything the good folks at the store told me if they didn't give you this very important piece of information.

Have you run the tests on your source water? If it has less ammonia than your tank then you need to do water changes to keep the ammonia as low as possible. If your test shows that you have less than 1 ppm ammonia just add enough prime to treat the full volume of your tank.

If it goes up to one or above do a water change to get it back below one and again add enough Prime to treat the tank.

water changes might slow your cycle a tiny bit but with fish in there you need to keep the ammonia and nitrites as low as possible with water changes. The bacteria was are trying to grow don't live in the water so water changes are not going to be a problem. Your nitrites are at a dangerous level right now and need to be lowered with water changes.

Your PH is fine so just let it be. stable is much better than chasing a specific number.
Wow thanks all for the swift replies! It sounds like the general consensus is to perform water changes and use prime. However, question...when using the prime on water changes should I just be treating the new water I’m putting in ( i.e. if do 25g water changes do I follow the rule of 1ML per 10 gallon as indicated on the bottle...2.5ML??) or do I treat the whole 60 gallontank (6ML)? It seems that when I put 9ML in the first time it lowered it for a while. Also, the LFS said not to vacuum the gravel for now and let it be. True? Also, is it wise to fill the water 5 gallon drinking water containers treat with prime and cap off overnight before adding. Sorry I have 1000 question. This really helps though.
 

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If you use buckets treat the water in the bucket for its amount. If you fill with a hose dose for full tank amount and then fill with hose. Gravel vacing pulls up the gunk so its a good idea. The bacteria is stuck fast so you won't vac that out. Water conditioner works immidatly so you don't have to let the water sit before adding it to your tank.
 

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As long as you have an ammonia reading in the tank you need to add enough prime for the full 60 gallons each time.

I would go ahead and vacuum the gravel. It should help keep the ammonia down while the tank completes its cycle.

Prime works pretty much instantly so no need to fill the buckets and wait.
 

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I second the no more fish. Your tank is midstream of being cycled. Continue checking the water values and doing the water changes. You will probably need to do daily’s since you have fish. I promise you just when you think not......Bam!!!!! Your tank will have 0 and 0 and nitrates for sure.

Hangin and hang on......you can do this!!!!!!

 
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BryanSOFLA

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Thanks all. This is such a great forum! So, for reference here’s were I’m at on the ammonia. Just retested the tank and my source water. 1st pic is the source water from my tap. I would put that I guess at about 1...maybe on the edge of 0.5. The 2nd pic is the tank water, so it actually came down a bit from this morning without doing anything to it to about 0.25. The nitrites are still dark purple so I will do the water change tonight. Do you guys think changing out 20 gallon is enough or should I do more??
 

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mattgirl

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When I was going through the nitrite phase of my last cycle in a 55 gallon tank I was doing a 30% water change daily. Fortunately I only had to do that 5 straight days before they dropped to zero. They didn't go down gradually .... They were showing that rich royal purple even after each daily water change until the 5th day and I was doing a happy dance when I saw that beautiful sky blue in the test tube.
 

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What your test is probably measuring is actually chloramines, which is a combination of ammonia and chlorine. Why is this in your water? Because it lasts much longer than just chlorine, which keeps out water safe. Regular Chlorine is usually used up by the time it gets to the end of the pipes, thus allowing bad bacteria to grow. Chloramine also has less of the “chlorine-like” smell and taste. Your Prime will take care of this safely, so long as it stays at 1 ppm or below. When deciding how much water to change, simply think of like so. If you do a 50% water change on 5ppm of nitrite, it cuts it in half to 2.5ppm. So you want to lower it to at least 1ppm, which would be 80% of 5 ppm. So you’d want to do 80%. If you want, you could do 50% now, and wait a few hours before doing the other 20%.
 

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I love the way the stores answer is to send him home with more fish. I do not understand the employees or the people who put them to work without training.
 

AquaticJ

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aae0130 said:
I love the way the stores answer is to send him home with more fish. I do not understand the employees or the people who put them to work without training.
Next thing I’m gunna hear is that the store told someone to do a rain dance, flush their toilet 3 times, and then count backwards from 10 to cycle your tank.

Thankfully, the smart ones like BryanSOFLA seek out additional help!
 

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your cycle is in the nitrite phase, usually takes 3 weeks. just keep doing 50% water changes and dosing Prime up to 5X the dosage.

and don't add any more fish until after the cycle is complete.
 

aae0130

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Oh yeah....this is no reflection on the OP. It’s the supposed “professionals” that make me shake my head. The customer is looking to them for guidance. What the customer gets is wasted funds and dead animals.
 

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Sounds like you have all the answers you need.

Tank isn’t cycled.

Dose prime and stability to the water you are replacing. Pretty hard to OD stability.

Stop adding fish, you haven’t established enough beneficial bacteria to handle a spike in bio load.

With regard to water parameters, I wouldn’t go to overboard. Consistency is better that perfection with the exception of ammonia.

Good luck.
 

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I forgot to mention that the other option is to get some Tetra Safe Start. That can save your fish and save you from the grind of daily water changes.
 

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I agree that you shouldn't have fish. But having no nitrates is not a sure sign of not being cycled. I have lots of plants in an under-stocked tank, and do tri-weekly water changes (I am helping some of my fish through fin rot), and I have no nitrates.
You will test no ammonia, no nitrites, and some nitrates, if your tank is cycled at this stage. I am just saying no nitrates does not mean no cycle in every tank.
Good Luck!
 
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BryanSOFLA

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You guys are awesome...really. I did a 30% change tonight. I’ll do another 20-30 tomorrow. I love this ongoing support. Makes me feel better that I’m on the right track!
 
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BryanSOFLA

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Ok crew- so I just retested after my 30% water change last night and here are the results. Should I move forward with another 30-50% water change??

pH= 7.6
HR pH= 7.8
Ammonia= 0.25 (came down a bit)
Nitrites= b/t 2.0 and 5.0...is put maybe 3.0/4.0.
Nitrates= b/t 0 and 5.0 (this was higher than yesterday which was stark yellow. Today was more orange...but a lighter shade than 5.0. So maybe that means I’m starting to get some conversion!!)
 
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BryanSOFLA

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Yes, I did when I did the change last night. I put in 8ml. Put a little more than the recommended for 60 gallontank bc .02 gets stuck in the syringe that I typically use. So really 7.2 net mL technically. The nitrites are still high, but lower than yesterday and the nitrates are up from 0 yesterday, so I guess that’s some positive news on that front. However, I know the nitrites are prob still bordering toxic for the fish, so still need to flush that out correct? Also, I do I (1) live plant in my tank, which I forgot to mention in my original post. Also, opinions on filter changes? I have only done 1 filter change since I started the tank, so about a month ago. Prob should’ve left it alone in the beginning, but I followed the 2-4 week recommendation on the packaging. Prob bc they want to sell more filters .
 

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And yeah, you’re probably due for another water change tonight. Unfortunately, you’re probably set for daily water changes for the next week or possibly longer. I just went through this a few months ago. With fish in the tank, it’s either daily water changes or using a better bottled bacteria (tetra safe start).

As for the filter, you should only change it when it breaks down. You can rinse it in tank water if it starts getting clogged, but you definitely shouldn’t change it every 2-4 weeks. That’s where the bacteria live, and changing it will cause problems with your cycle. It could actually be what caused your tank to cycle again.
 
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BryanSOFLA

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I have this stuff (pic attached) which was recommended by one associate at the store and then another one said not a fan of using this once fish are already in. Thoughts?
 

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I’m not familiar with that brand. I’m a little hesitant about it based on the claI'm that it works for both fresh and saltwater, as my understanding is that they are different. But it won’t cause problems for your fish. I’d pour some of it directly on the filter. Worst thing that happens is that you’re still doing water changes, but it might actually work.
 

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OK, I went back and read this entire thread again. Nowhere was asked what kind of media you have packed your 350 filter with. So, what is in the filter itself because all this will be for nothing if you have to do it all over again because you don't have good media.
 

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If I were you I would look into switching to a different media for you filtering needs. I used those cartridges for years and wasted so much money by doing so. For now you do not want to be replacing you cartridge until it is literally falling apart or water will no longer run through it freely. When that happens and you are still using the cartridges cut the fiber floss off the plastic frame. Toss the frame and carbon. Put that piece of fiber floss in the filter housing along with the new cartridge.

When you are ready to divorce yourself from adding money to the cartridge makers pockets we can talk you through switching to almost maintenance free media and you will no longer be throwing your hard earned cash and bacteria away by changing cartridges.

I actually run 2 media bags in each of my HOB filters. One with 1/2 inch ceramic tubes and the other a mixture of matrix and lava rock. I use poly-fill (yep the same stuff we use to stuff pillows with and found in the craft dept at wal-mart) for my mechanical filtration. I usually rinse it one week during a water change and replace it the next week. I don't depend on it for holding bacteria so changing it out isn't a problem.

And to answer your question. I would continue the daily water changes until I saw those nitrites drop to zero.
 
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BryanSOFLA

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Wow ok. Sounds like I have a lot to learn about filtration. So here’s the answer...attached are pics of what I have. In the second pic I have one of those ammonia media filters behind the 2 regular ones.

On a side note: how long should I wait after doing water changes to re-test the water?
 

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BryanSOFLA said:
Wow ok. Sounds like I have a lot to learn about filtration. So here’s the answer...attached are pics of what I have. In the second pic I have one of those ammonia media filters behind the 2 regular ones.

On a side note: how long should I wait after doing water changes to re-test the water?
For now it will be fine to just continue using the media you are using in your filter. Just don't replace the cartridges for now. You can rinse them off in some water you have removed from your tank during a water change.That slimy muck on the cartridge isn't the bacteria so rubbing it off isn't a problem.

Once your cycle is complete you might want to consider ditching the cartridges for media that doesn't have to be replaced because it has worn out or clogged up.

And the answer to your side note I usually wait for a couple of hours after a water change to run my tests. I don't know if waiting is necessary but it is just the way I do it.
 
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BryanSOFLA

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Ok. Thx for the feedback. What about the ammonia pads. Should I just keep those in there since good bacteria has probably started to collect on them?
 

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BryanSOFLA said:
Hi- I bought a new 60 gallonMarineland tank on around thanksgiving and it’s been keeping the ammonia levels under control. I started by going with a fishless tank and treating the water with apI QuickStart. Then after 2 weeks I put 10 whiteshirt tetras in and they dropped dead in 30 min. I went back to the LFS and they testing my ammonia at 4.0ppm, so they suggested using Prime, which seems to work when I reintroduced a new batch of WS tetras, so then a week goes by and levels seems “just ok”, so I added 2 Cory catch and some neon tetras. Those were good, so I added 2 BosamI Rainbows and those latest a week and dropped. Everything else has survived, but the ammonia levels just keep staying a 0.5-1. The pH seems stable most of the time, but the nitrites go from 0.25 to the highest as of today at 5ppm. I also bought an ammonia pad to add to my Marineland penguin 350 and put those seachem alert cards inside the tank, which vary a bit from my apI master test kit. I happen to think my water source just sucks. The following reading are as of today:


pH= 7.6 (+/-)

HR pH =8.0 (+/-)

Ammonia= 0.5

Nitrites= 5.0

Nitrates= 0


I keep reading about water changes, but my fear is that in taking 1 step forward and 2 back bc I am adding water that is not under any better control with the ammonia even treated with prime. I did a test in a 5 gallon bucket and it took 17ml of prime to get the ammonia to 0, which seems unsafe and excessive to add to the tank, but I was curious. I'm in a holding pattern. My LFS thinks I should consider a) buying purified water from them or b) treating the water with a buffer to lower the pH a bit more to help it convert the the ammonia-nitrite-nitrate process. Looking for some suggestions. I think the best course is changing the water, as I haven't done a change since 12/9, which was 20 gallon out of 60. I'm just afraid to add watemention that may be more toxic than what's already in the tank as mentioned. Thanks for any input! B
Tap water or well water? Cause If you keep flushing your fish down the toilet, it can lead to sickness.
 

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BryanSOFLA said:
Ok. Thx for the feedback. What about the ammonia pads. Should I just keep those in there since good bacteria has probably started to collect on them?
I would go ahead an leave them in there for now. I am not convinced that they do anything toward removing ammonia but could be wrong. For right now and until your cycle is complete you don't really want to remove or change out anything in your filter. Once the cycle is complete and your tank is firmly established you can work on switching out the media By then you should have a good amount of bacteria growing on all the surfaces in your tank so losing a little bit when changing media won't cause any problems.
 
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BryanSOFLA

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I’ve changed out 40 gallon overall the past 2 days so far and retested this morning and the nitrites and nitrates moves much. I guess maybe the nitrates could be on the line of 5.0...has more of an orange tint today. The ammonia is fluctuating between 0.5 and .25, but seems to be getting better in general. Guess I’ll have to keep going with the water changes, but is it still normal that the nitrites are still so high and not moving much? Now...I do have (1) live plant in there...could that be affecting things? Although I thought that was supposed to help neutralize the nitrites?? (Pics attached of levels)
 

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I had my 55 setting empty for about 6 years so when I set it back up I had to start from scratch. When my nitrites appeared they shot up to off the chart. Like you I was doing a fish in cycle. I knew I had to get them down. It took 5 straight days of 30% water changes to drop them to zero.

You may want to run a dilution test to see if you can tell just how high the nitrites actually are. I didn't think about doing it back when I was going through the nitrite phase but do it for my nitrates now to determine how much water I need to change to get them where they need to be.

To run the dilution test use 2.5mls of tank water to 2.5 mls source water in your test tube.That is a 50% dilution test. You can use various amounts of tank water to fine tune pretty close to what level the nitrites actually are.

The water changes are going to lower your nitrates and that is alright. It really isn't critical to test for nitrates at this point. You know you are getting some and that is really all you need to know right now. The ammonia and nitrite tests are the important ones right now.

It wouldn't hurt to keep an eye on the PH. Cycling has been known to lower the PH in some cases and if it get too low (below 6.5) it can affect the cycling process.
 

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I just finished my epic battle with nitrites about a month or so ago. It took a few weeks of nightly water changes.

I would highly recommend adding some of the tetra safe start if you can get it/afford it. It's fairly cheap and will save you a lot of stress. I resisted it and went with just water changes, but if I had to do it again, I'd just buy it and save the hassle.
 
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BryanSOFLA

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This is great advice. I’m on the third day of 30% water changes. I haven’t had a chance to test the water yet today, but will do later. I like the idea of the nitrite dilution test! I’ll give that a shot. Also, McRib re: the tetra safe start...can I use this in conjunction with the prime and at the same time?? Happy New Year everyone!
 

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Yes. You should be able to, although with TSS, it should finish the cycle for you with no ill effects on the fish.
 

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BryanSOFLA said:
This is great advice. I’m on the third day of 30% water changes. I haven’t had a chance to test the water yet today, but will do later. I like the idea of the nitrite dilution test! I’ll give that a shot. Also, McRib re: the tetra safe start...can I use this in conjunction with the prime and at the same time?? Happy New Year everyone!
From everything I have read you need to wait at least 24 hours after adding Prime before adding the TSS. I've never used it so am just passing on information I have read from members that I trust to know what they are talking about. I think Stability is designed to work with Prime but again I've not used it so can't know for sure that it will help.

Happy New Year back at you
 
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Ok. So I just ran the dilution test. I did it at 50/50, 60/40 and 80/20. 50/50 was still measuring out at about 3.0, 60/40 really wasn’t much different maybe 2.0, 80/20 was baby blue. So looks like I need to do an 80% water change based on that. I’ve read on this thread and elsewhere that 80% changes aren’t uncommon, but I want to make sure that’s ok in terms of depleting any of the good stuff that is in there to add that volume of new water. BTW!!! The ammonia seems to be in check as of this afternoon!!! Pic attached!
 

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