Ammonia Wont Go Down and I Don't Know What To Do

Peteley

Hi all,

Im fairly new to fishkeeping so please be understanding.

I have a tank (130L) with a female betta, 10 neon tetras, 1 siamese algae eater and 5 corydoras. Had the tank cycling for 5 or so weeks until nitrites and ammonia hit zero. Added fish (gradually, not all at once) and everything was going fine until about a week ago. I needed to borrow some filter media for a crashing tank, and took maybe 20% of the media out and replaced it with new media. Other tank recovered well. Now this tank (the one I took the media out of) is reading at HIGH ammonia (1-2ppm) even though I am doing daily water changes with RO water or water from my other (0ppm ammonia) tank. I use RO water because the ammonia in my tap water is about 0.5 ppm. Nitrites are at 0ppm so I know the cycle didn't crash...right? What do I do? All my cory's are starting to act really lethargic, lying on their sides, and one couldn't stop floating to the top (quarantined him but he's not looking too good). Can anyone please give me advice? I am crying-frustrated over these tanks and just feel like I was not meant for this hobby because EVERYTHING is going wrong.

I have a Eheim canister filter and an air-stone thing with sponge wrapped around it (I took it out of my good tank because I thought maybe the beneficial bacteria and oxygen would help). I dose all new water with Seachem Prime and Fluval's Biological Enahncer. If you need any more information please let me know.

Any advice is welcome. I just need to get this ammonia down so my babies don't die. Thank you.
 

Bwood22

Yes. the cycle has crashed. Too much bacteria was disturbed.

It's going to be ok. We can help you.

You need to do a large water change to get your ammonia level down below 1ppm. Once your ammonia level is brought down dose some Prime to detoxify the remaining ammonia.

You have alot of fish in that tank, if any of them can be relocated temporarily you should consider moving some of them so your ammonia level won't jump so high so quick.
You mentioned another tank, can any of these fish go in there?
Stick the betta in vase (its ok temporarily....people do it all the time)
Cut your feedings in half. Every other day is fine and feed half the amount you have been feeding.

Keep doing your water changes if you have Prime on hand its ok to use tap water.

You said you use RO water which typically has a pretty low PH /KH but your fish are showing signs of ammonia stress....do you know the PH of your tank water? I suspect something is raising your PH making the ammonia more toxic.
If we can figure out what that is we might be able to take that out temporarily too. Maybe a rock of some sort?

We need to get your cycle back on track and see that ammonia and nitrite converting like its supposed to then we can put everything back to normal.

Can you post a picture of the tank?
 

Peteley

Thank you,
Okay, I can maybe move the neon's into the other tank. The other tank has a male betta and 10 Harlequin Rasboras so it might be a little overstocked... will this crash it?
I have a 30L tub I can move the female betta in to. Do I need to add a filter in there with her?
Yes I am running low on Prime because of this but I have ordered another 500ml bottle which should be arriving this week. How much should I dose with Prime on the 130L tank daily?
I'll test pH now. It has been quite low and I wanted to increase it so I was adding VERY little amounts of API's pH Up once a week but I think this might have just stressed the fish out. pH is currently at 6.3/6.4 ppm. KH is at 0-50ppm (API test kit doesn't go more specific than that).
Its got a few pieces of petrified wood stone that the website claimed to be inert. It also has lots of plants. I'll post a photo here now (sorry for the bad quality of my laptop lol).
Also, I just did a 30% water change about 1 hour ago. Should I move the fish out anyway? Will it not stress them out further? I am so worried that they are going to stress themselves to death...
 

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Bwood22

Fish get stressed all the time....they even stress each other out. I always remind people that fish get shipped across the world in tiny bags of water inside cardboard boxes.So they will be fine being moved from one tank to the other in the same house. Will it "stress" them? Of course....but they will get over it. And im sure it would be worth it to not have to sit in an ammonia bath.
Yep...much less stressful than that.

I don't think a couple of neons in the other tank is going to crash your cycle. What size is the tank? If the Male betta tolerates the rasboras then imagine that the tetras will be ok. Just keep an eye on them.

I would strongly advise you to reconsider switching from RO water to tap water for your water changes once we get passed all of this and your cycle has reestablished. Just keep yourself stocked up on Prime and dose the amount per the instructions to detoxify the ammonia. Im hoping that will help your PH so that you don't have to keep using PH Up.

Stick the female betta in the tub, that will be fine. Throw an airstone in there with her if you want....no need for a filter in there as long as you keep her in fresh water. Like I said (and the debate is welcome from anyone who disagrees) people keep bettas in bowls and vases at room temp and they do just fine. Yes, we all know that its better for them to be in an aquarium with all of the standard aquarium accoutrements. But the betta will be fine, and its only temporary.

You say you changed 30% an hour ago....why 30%? Did that get your ammonia below 1ppm?
If not, then you didn't change enough.

You need to stay on top of that ammonia level and don't let it rise, so go ahead and move the fish.

Also...is that water level a bit low for your heater? Just something I noticed.
 

Peteley

Okay, I guess I need to think about the lesser of two evils...
The other tank is also 130L. The male betta is fine with the Rasboras, so I imagine he should leave the tetras alone too. I will start acclimating them now.
I will change from RO to tap water but, just curious, what is the problem with using RO water? I only started using it because I was doing water changes and the ammonia wasn't going down, so I wanted to give it a fighting chance by not adding more ammonia to the tank.
I did a 30% because I had someone on Reddit tell me that changing too much water will crash your cycle and I have been doing water changes daily so I wanted to minimise it. I have done a little research just now and see that it is not really the case, so I will be doing bigger changes in the future.
Aha, it is quite possibly too low. The water level is usually higher, but I didn't want to take too much water out of my 'good' tank because I take water out of it daily and was worried about crashing it (as it has only just recovered in the last few days). I will top it up with treated tap water now.
 

Bwood22

Okay, I guess I need to think about the lesser of two evils...
The other tank is also 130L. The male betta is fine with the Rasboras, so I imagine he should leave the tetras alone too. I will start acclimating them now.
I will change from RO to tap water but, just curious, what is the problem with using RO water? I only started using it because I was doing water changes and the ammonia wasn't going down, so I wanted to give it a fighting chance by not adding more ammonia to the tank.
I did a 30% because I had someone on Reddit tell me that changing too much water will crash your cycle and I have been doing water changes daily so I wanted to minimise it. I have done a little research just now and see that it is not really the case, so I will be doing bigger changes in the future.
Aha, it is quite possibly too low. The water level is usually higher, but I didn't want to take too much water out of my 'good' tank because I take water out of it daily and was worried about crashing it (as it has only just recovered in the last few days). I will top it up with treated tap water now.
Ok....lets unpack this in its simplest form.

RO Water has been stripped of all of the minerals your plants and fish need.
It has a very low PH and non existent KH.
KH is what stabilizes your PH so without those KH minerals in the water the PH can swing all over the place. Thats not good. Your tap water should have some of those minerals, maybe even alot of those minerals. Its just better all around to use your tap water for a fresh water aquarium.
You should still test the PH KH and GH of your tap water to know what you are working with.

If the tank is fully cycled and you condition your water with Prime, the ammonia from your tap will never be an issue. The Prime will detoxify it and the bacteria will convert it....your plants will also suck it up too. So don't worry about that. Just dose the amount of Prime needed to condition the water you are changing and go about your day.

Changing too much water is not even a thing. You can never change too much water. Fish love fresh water. The bacteria live on submerged surfaces in your tank and not in the water itself.
Toxins build up in the water, not bacteria.
So change that water.

Changing your filter media or over cleaning the "stuff" in your tank that the bacteria grows on is what crashes a cycle. Insufficient filtration on an overstocked tank can crash a cycle. Not using dechlorinator will crash your cycle.

Water changes will never crash your cycle. You can tell reddit I said so.

Get that ammonia level down....way down.
Heck....do an 80% water change.
You wont hurt a thing. I promise.
 

Peteley

Thank you, that was super informative!
Okay, so I have moved the fish into a tub with water from my stable tank. I put the air stone, some hides and a heater in there too. Now all that's left in the unstable tank is the cory's and some shrimp. It's quite late at night at the moment but I will try and do a 80% water change tomorrow before work or after if I don't have the time.
Will bottled water be better than RO water? Or still stick to tap water?
Thank you so much for your help! I'll do daily big water changes and treat with Prime until I get 0ppm ammonia. Hopefully it won't take too long!!
 

Bwood22

Thank you, that was super informative!
Okay, so I have moved the fish into a tub with water from my stable tank. I put the air stone, some hides and a heater in there too. Now all that's left in the unstable tank is the cory's and some shrimp. It's quite late at night at the moment but I will try and do a 80% water change tomorrow before work or after if I don't have the time.
Will bottled water be better than RO water? Or still stick to tap water?
Thank you so much for your help! I'll do daily big water changes and treat with Prime until I get 0ppm ammonia. Hopefully it won't take too long!!
Purified bottle drinking water is purified by reverse osmosis. So its the same thing.
If you want to use bottled water, Spring water will be your best bet.
 

jtjgg

with such low pH, its technically safe to have 12ppm ammonia assuming temp is around 28'C/82'F so you can use your tap with .5ppm ammonia, maybe mix 50/50 tap/RO water to up the pH closer to 7.0pH
http://www.aztic.org/wp-content/upl...re-on-Ammonia-pH-Water-Temperature-v-2017.pdf

a standard dose of Seachem Prime will also help with up to 1ppm ammonia for up to 48hrs, but with low pH, the ammonia is actually non toxic ammonium.

like others have said, RO water has low GH/KH/PH
 

Peteley

Purified bottle drinking water is purified by reverse osmosis. So its the same thing.
If you want to use bottled water, Spring water will be your best bet.
Current ammonia reading! It's about 0.25ppm at the moment and I will do another water change tomorrow to get it to 0. I did a ~80% water change last night, this morning and then again when I got home from work. Safe to say my water bill will be $$ but my fish are looking good! I have moved them all back in but unfortunately one of my cory's did not make it :(
Thank you so much for your help!
with such low pH, its technically safe to have 12ppm ammonia assuming temp is around 28'C/82'F so you can use your tap with .5ppm ammonia, maybe mix 50/50 tap/RO water to up the pH closer to 7.0pH
http://www.aztic.org/wp-content/upl...re-on-Ammonia-pH-Water-Temperature-v-2017.pdf

a standard dose of Seachem Prime will also help with up to 1ppm ammonia for up to 48hrs, but with low pH, the ammonia is actually non toxic ammonium.

like others have said, RO water has low GH/KH/PH
Temp is 26 degrees C. I have been using tap water the last 2 days and pH is now up to 6.6 but I was only using tap water before this week's whole fiasco and the pH has always been really low in this tank (never above like, 6.6/6.7). Is there any other way to safely raise pH considering I have plants in this tank and I have recently been told that pH up is actually not good for planted tanks (whoops)...
 

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Randomfish556

Thank you,
Okay, I can maybe move the neon's into the other tank. The other tank has a male betta and 10 Harlequin Rasboras so it might be a little overstocked... will this crash it?
I have a 30L tub I can move the female betta in to. Do I need to add a filter in there with her?
Yes I am running low on Prime because of this but I have ordered another 500ml bottle which should be arriving this week. How much should I dose with Prime on the 130L tank daily?
I'll test pH now. It has been quite low and I wanted to increase it so I was adding VERY little amounts of API's pH Up once a week but I think this might have just stressed the fish out. pH is currently at 6.3/6.4 ppm. KH is at 0-50ppm (API test kit doesn't go more specific than that).
Its got a few pieces of petrified wood stone that the website claimed to be inert. It also has lots of plants. I'll post a photo here now (sorry for the bad quality of my laptop lol).
Also, I just did a 30% water change about 1 hour ago. Should I move the fish out anyway? Will it not stress them out further? I am so worried that they are going to stress themselves to death...
Unrelated but I need to ask, where did you get that horse decoration? I love it
 

Bwood22

Current ammonia reading! It's about 0.25ppm at the moment and I will do another water change tomorrow to get it to 0. I did a ~80% water change last night, this morning and then again when I got home from work. Safe to say my water bill will be $$ but my fish are looking good! I have moved them all back in but unfortunately one of my cory's did not make it :(
Thank you so much for your help!
It's great to hear that things are taking a turn for the better. I'm so glad. Sorry about your cory.
Ammonia is nasty stuff.
Just remember to keep the level below 1ppm or below .5ppm is even better.
Since you added all of your fish back in you need to stay on top of your testing. Don't let that ammonia creep back up on you. And definitely don't be afraid to change the water to bring those levels back down. That is the best thing you can do for your fish. And test test test.
The more you test, the more you will get in tune with the rhythm of your tank.

That ammonia vial looks good. Sometimes it may appear as a false .25ppm. I wouldn't worry too much at that point. When it really starts turning noticeably green then its time to act.

If you have to check your ammonia vial under several different light sources and white backgrounds to try to determine if its 0ppm or .25ppm then you are fine. Stop worrying about it.

Keep me updated, im excited for you to get things back on track. And keep an eye out for any nitrite spikes. We don't really know what that is going to look like yet since you removed that bio media. Once your bacteria catches up and start producing nitrite, we may need to up the water changes.

Just test and be ready if it does, it may or may not happen.

If your ammonia and nitrite are both 0ppm and your nitrate is steadily rising then you are golden.

Just don't remove anything else from that tank for awhile.
 

Peteley

Unrelated but I need to ask, where did you get that horse decoration? I love it
Its Aqua One Trojan Horse (Trojan Horse - Aqua One - Inspiring Excellence in Fish Care)
I saw it online and fell in love with it. I could not find it in stock ANYWHERE until I found it on one website but they are now out of stock unfortunately :(
It's great to hear that things are taking a turn for the better. I'm so glad. Sorry about your cory.
Ammonia is nasty stuff.
Just remember to keep the level below 1ppm or below .5ppm is even better.
Since you added all of your fish back in you need to stay on top of your testing. Don't let that ammonia creep back up on you. And definitely don't be afraid to change the water to bring those levels back down. That is the best thing you can do for your fish. And test test test.
The more you test, the more you will get in tune with the rhythm of your tank.

That ammonia vial looks good. Sometimes it may appear as a false .25ppm. I wouldn't worry too much at that point. When it really starts turning noticeably green then its time to act.

If you have to check your ammonia vial under several different light sources and white backgrounds to try to determine if its 0ppm or .25ppm then you are fine. Stop worrying about it.

Keep me updated, im excited for you to get things back on track. And keep an eye out for any nitrite spikes. We don't really know what that is going to look like yet since you removed that bio media. Once your bacteria catches up and start producing nitrite, we may need to up the water changes.

Just test and be ready if it does, it may or may not happen.

If your ammonia and nitrite are both 0ppm and your nitrate is steadily rising then you are golden.

Just don't remove anything else from that tank for awhile.
Thank you! I was so sad about my cory and that his death was at my hands. It's awful when a fish dies too soon.
Yes, I will be testing daily and doing water changes as necessary and I will not touch the bio media for a LONG time. I am adding some Fluval Bio Enhancer with water changes too to assist the bacteria colonies so fingers crossed everything goes up from here.
Pothos works like magic
Ooh, what's Pothos?
 

MacZ

It has a very low PH and non existent KH.

RO has no KH, correct, but is neutral in pH. It only becomes acidic due to gas exchange including CO2.

The problem is a missing buffering capacity, be it via KH (high pH-range) or humic substances (low pH-range)
With the OPs choice of fish, the low pH-way may actually the better one. Low pH-cycling is no problem.

Purified bottle drinking water is purified by reverse osmosis. So its the same thing.
It usually gets remineralized because drinking RO is not healthy for mammals like us. I'd be surprised if anyone offered RO as drinking water to buy. Here RO and distilled water have warning signs not to drink them.
 

Bwood22

With the OPs choice of fish, the low pH-way may actually the better one. Low pH-cycling is no problem.
That was my thoughts as well. But when he described what the corys were doing in response to the ammonia I knew something wasn't quite right.
It usually gets remineralized because drinking RO is not healthy for mammals like us. I'd be surprised if anyone offered RO as drinking water to buy. Here RO and distilled water have warning signs not to drink them.
That's interesting....Ive actually never used RO for aquarium water. But I have read the label on the drinking water that says it's purified by Reverse Osmosis so I figured it was the same lol.

Actually, i have dumped some drinking water in to top off my nano tank. So I guess I have used RO water. :)
 

MacZ

That was my thoughts as well. But when he described what the corys were doing in response to the ammonia I knew something wasn't quite right.
I doubt it was just the ammonia, but to make sure that it wasn't I'd need the pH readings from that situation. So it's not possible to know in hindsight.

That's interesting....Ive actually never used RO for aquarium water. But I have read the label on the drinking water that says it's purified by Reverse Osmosis so I figured it was the same lol.
I can't remember when exactly but a few months ago somebody asked if a certain purified water was ok to use and linked the manufacturer. They first purified it with two stages of activated carbon, sediment filters, RO membranes, DI resin and all and THEN added calcium, magnesium and other minerals to make it actually drinkable. Looked it up meanwhile, as I knew from the start drinking RO or distilled water is unhealthy, and it turned out: This is always the case with purified water. The "purified" stands for the removal of residual meds, nitrates, heavy metals and the like that are in our tapwater at least in trace amounts. That's all. I prefer bottled natural mineral spring water, as that doesn't have to be pretreated with so much fuzz and waste.
 

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