Ammonia question - any chemist out there?

RDcompton03

Member
I'm asking this question because of some strange ammonia readings ive had the past couple of days. Most of our tap water contains chlorine. But from what ive read about 20% of the water treatment facilities in the U.S. use chloramine to treat their water. Chloramine is essentially chlorine and ammonia. So if I am using a water conditioner like Prime with chlorine treated water, the Prime will eliminate the chlorine from the water. I'm not sure chemically how its done but it removes the chlorine. No worries. Prime also says that it can detoxify ammonia. As I understand it binds the ammonia with some other element so that it is no longer toxic to the fish for 24 to 48 hours to give it time to be eliminated by bacteria in the tank.

Now I am assuming that if your water contains chloramine the Prime removes the chlorine but only temporarily binds the ammonia in the chloramine. So if that is how it works, are you not in effect dosing your tank with ammonia with every water change and is it not possible that with a large enough water change and enough chloramine in your tap water that you could be adding more ammonia to your system than the bacteria can eliminate in the 24 to 48 hour period? If so isn't it possible to over-do the water changes?

And my second question is, when using a test kit such as API does the ammonia test only pick up the free ammonia or will it also pick up the ammonia in chloramine and will it pick up the ammonia in the water that has been "bound up and is non-toxic," by the Prime?
 

H Farnsworth

Member
Chloramines can be complex to say the least. How much chemistry education do you have?
 

HarrisonAquatics

Member
I'm no chemist, but have done some research into this myself.

From what I understand, unless you're somewhere where Chloramine is used excessively, you don't need to worry about it. Maybe if you're in a super heavily populated area (NYC, LA, or Chicago, for example) where water is heavily treated with Chloramine, you might get more ammonia out of treating your water. That said, a healthy system should still be able to cycle through that ammonia before it becomes unbound - or at least get it down to a reading low enough not to be harmful to a healthy fish.

I've never gotten a straight answer on the test kit question. Some people say that yes, your readings will detect ALL ammonia (including the ammonia that's bound up by Prime), and others say that you won't get an accurate reading because the ammonia is bound up in some sort of salt. Personally, I don't often test for ammonia unless I'm cycling a tank, so it's never been a big issue for me. Still, I'd be interested in finding out.

Again, I'm no chemist, so if I got any of this wrong, listen to the other guy! I hear he does space deliveries or something.
 
  • Thread Starter

RDcompton03

Member
H Farnsworth said:
Chloramines can be complex to say the least. How much chemistry education do you have?
Not enough to know the answers to the questions I am asking.
 

Fishwifery

Member
Go to your city's water website and get the water quality report. They're required to show all that information. Your question stems from the city water, whether they're using chloramines, and how much.
RDcompton03 said:
Now I am assuming that if your water contains chloramine the Prime removes the chlorine but only temporarily binds the ammonia in the chloramine.
They use an ammo-lock. I couldn't find the ingredient list for prime offhand but I found the list for ammo-lock and that chemical is highly stable and persistent in water. If you douse your tank with ammo-lock in a crisis, it's actually not good in long run as the bacterial base doesn't get the chance to build up for nitrogen cycling.

RDcompton03 said:
So if that is how it works, are you not in effect dosing your tank with ammonia with every water change and is it not possible that with a large enough water change and enough chloramine in your tap water that you could be adding more ammonia to your system than the bacteria can eliminate in the 24 to 48 hour period? If so isn't it possible to over-do the water changes?
So whip out your test kit and see how much ammonia is in your tap water. I'm betting pretty low. Assuming you're adding prime every water change, no significant spikes are going to be a thing. Say you have a high ammonia content, experiment with prime to see how much you need to add to bring it to zero.
RDcompton03 said:
And my second question is, when using a test kit such as API does the ammonia test only pick up the free ammonia or will it also pick up the ammonia in chloramine and will it pick up the ammonia in the water that has been "bound up and is non-toxic," by the Prime?
Test and find out My guess is it won't pick it up, as it's looking for free ammonia, and your fish won't pick it up either.
Your fish are what's really producing the ammonia here. And your friendly filter bacteria are your friend for ammonia, not so much prime.
 
  • Thread Starter

RDcompton03

Member
There are no EPA or WHO standards for the amount of ammonia permitted in drinking water. I believe Europe has established .50 as their limit. So its not unreasonable to see where it could be all over the place and change from time to time creating issues for individuals who are already struggling with elevated ammonia.
 

PNWBettas

Member
Okay I'm also no chemist but I'm a chem minor and and just finished gen chem so lets give it a go. I also live in a city where my water is treated with chloramine so I've looked into this a bit. From what I understand, once I treat with prime, I can no longer read the ammonia in the water using the liquid test kit. I got this info from trial testing different water conditioners with my tap water. After 24-48hr the ammonia will be readable again but your bacteria colony will likely have already dealt with it. How long this takes to happen depends on the amount of ammonia in your water. For me, straight tap water reads at 0.25 ppm. This is not nearly enough to cause an issue as long as my tank is cycled no matter the volume of water I change. I never really need to go above 50% so I have had no issues. My tanks always ready 0ppm ammonia right after a water change and on. I would say its possible for a large water change to leave traces of ammonia that the BB cant handle but that would only be in the case of high readings of ammonia in tap water.

Hope this helps
 

stephpartin

Member
RDcompton03 said:
I'm asking this question because of some strange ammonia readings ive had the past couple of days. Most of our tap water contains chlorine. But from what ive read about 20% of the water treatment facilities in the U.S. use chloramine to treat their water. Chloramine is essentially chlorine and ammonia. So if I am using a water conditioner like Prime with chlorine treated water, the Prime will eliminate the chlorine from the water. I'm not sure chemically how its done but it removes the chlorine. No worries. Prime also says that it can detoxify ammonia. As I understand it binds the ammonia with some other element so that it is no longer toxic to the fish for 24 to 48 hours to give it time to be eliminated by bacteria in the tank.

Now I am assuming that if your water contains chloramine the Prime removes the chlorine but only temporarily binds the ammonia in the chloramine. So if that is how it works, are you not in effect dosing your tank with ammonia with every water change and is it not possible that with a large enough water change and enough chloramine in your tap water that you could be adding more ammonia to your system than the bacteria can eliminate in the 24 to 48 hour period? If so isn't it possible to over-do the water changes?

And my second question is, when using a test kit such as API does the ammonia test only pick up the free ammonia or will it also pick up the ammonia in chloramine and will it pick up the ammonia in the water that has been "bound up and is non-toxic," by the Prime?
Wow great question!! I am no chemist but would be interested in knowing the answer.
I live in the suburbs of Detroit and my ammonia from the tap is always 0.25 or a little less. So I put a media bag of ammonia remover in my filter to help. My water changes are about 1/3 every week or sometimes 2 times a week because i get paranoid about my ammonia levels. Anyway great question
 

Whitewolf

Member
As long as your bio filter is healthy there's no way it would not eat that ammonia in 48 hours. Ammonia at low doses dosemt hurt fish. It's part of the cycle. Ammonia is never 0 like people claim. Everytime you feed they go to the bathroom it rises. Fish thrive on clean clear water. Change as much as you want.
 

Mandy627

Member
To keep it short, yes large water changes can throw off the water and cause ammonia spike and other chemistry issues such as pH swings... and is why I don't go over 25% volume change usually. Ammonia rises then gets transferred into nitrite, then to nitrate. A 50%water change could be enough to effect BB, so less ammonia gets transferred over and a buildup could start, especially if there are no live plants to help out. Usually conditioners will only "lock" ammonia levels for 24 hours if a double dose is used. At least, that is what my tests have revealed using prime.
 

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