Amonia problems driving me crazy

Urithmic

Tank
What is the water volume of the tank?
16 gallons
How long has the tank been running?10 months
Does it have a filter?yes
Does it have a heater? No
What is the water temperature?74°
What is the entire stocking of this tank?six mosquito fish. (Please list all fish and inverts.)

Maintenance
How often do you change the water?every 2 weeks
How much of the water do you change?50%
What do you use to treat your water? Prime
Do you vacuum the substrate or just water?I just did the substrate for the first time.

*Parameters - Very Important
Did you cycle your tank before adding fish?Yes
What do you use to test the water?ApI freshwater master test kit.
What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.
Ammonia:2 ppm
Nitrite:0
Nitrate:20 ppm
pH:7.0

Feeding
How often do you feed your fish? Once a day
How much do you feed your fish? 1pinch
What brand of food do you feed your fish?Tetramin tropical flakes
Do you feed frozen? No
Do you feed freeze-dried foods? No

Illness & Symptoms
How long have you had this fish? 1year 3 months
How long ago did you first notice these symptoms? 3 weeks ago
In a few words, can you explain the symptoms? Laying on the substrate
Have you started any treatment for the illness? Water changes
Was your fish physically ill or injured upon purchase? No
How has its behavior and appearance changed, if at all? No

Explain your emergency situation in detail.
(Please give a clear explanation of what is going on, include details from the beginning of the illness leading up to now)

Include pictures
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I graval vacuumed for the first-time then that night 2 fish were laying on the bottom of the aquarium they died the next day. Then I tested the water and I had high amonia 4.0. I've been doing 50% water changes for 4 weeks and my amonia will go down a little then go back up! I stop feeding for a few days going on day 5 of this round but nothing helps I'm getting desperate. I'm afraid to graval vac again because I'm afraid of loosing more fish. The vacuuming released a cap of amonia that won't quit! Please help me im desperate.
 

Noroomforshoe

Hi, I hope I can help, but I neeed more info.

What are you testing with? what are the results if you test plain tap water, "assuming that you are using tap water?" Do you have live plants?

What are you using for substrate and how deep is it? It sounds like maybe you had a gas trap or somthing, i dont know. You have 10 months of detritus packed up in the substrate, you might need to take the fish out, totally clean the substrate and water and return the fish. please wait for someone else to add their opinion.
 

Urithmic

I'm testing with the master test kit. I have some live plants mostly lucky bamboo.My substrate is just under 2 inches
 

Noroomforshoe

what is your substrate ? Gravel? sand? dirt?
 

Urithmic

I'm using irrigation water the same as in my pond
Graval substrate
Graval substrate
 

GlennO

What sort of filter do you have? The substrate contains beneficial bacteria (BB) and functions as a bio filter. In most cases it is secondary to the filter media but it seems that your gravel vac removed a lot of your BB. It might also indicate that your filter is not working properly or is under capacity. In future you could gravel vac more regularly but do it less thoroughly and don't vac the entire substrate at once.

For now you need to be doing water changes sufficient to lower ammonia to a max of 0.5ppm and keep it under that level until the BB builds back up and ammonia disappears naturally. Check your filter's operation and feed your fish very lightly in the interim.
 

Urithmic

Should I graval vac again now while this is going on? Won't this release more amonia? I have a whisper 30 internal filter
I have not been feeding
 

StarGirl

Have you tested the irrigation water?
 

Urithmic

Yes no amonia
It didn't happen until after I vacuumed my substrate
Does anyone know what I should do?
 

StarGirl

Is it still 2ppm?
Change water to keep it as low as you can. Daily if needed.

When you gravel vacced did you dig all the way in or just vac the top?

I was under the impression that when you disturb the substrate that anaerobic gasses or something like that is what kills the fish. I would think if ammonia was in the gravel you would have been detecting it all along. It doesnt just hide in the rocks.
 

Urithmic

I graval vacuumed deep
 

Renn242

put the fish in a quarantine tank, then release a ammonia and use something to neutralisé it . U might have to like separately clean the substrate and all that. I would try something like fluvaks ammonia remover which u put in the filter u can try that
 

Urithmic

Ok thank you
Would graval vacuuming right now be a bad idea during the amonia spike?
 

Renn242

Ok thank you
Would graval vacuuming right now be a bad idea during the amonia spike?
As long as the fish are out, I would encourage it to get it all out and then use like ammonia remover
 

GlennO

Is it still 2ppm?
Change water to keep it as low as you can. Daily if needed.

When you gravel vacced did you dig all the way in or just vac the top?

I was under the impression that when you disturb the substrate that anaerobic gasses or something like that is what kills the fish. I would think if ammonia was in the gravel you would have been detecting it all along. It doesnt just hide in the rocks.
I don't think that a 2 inch gravel bed would contain anaerobic gasses. It would be noticeable as well, hydrogen sulphide has a strong odour. I think this article contains a summary of what has happened:

Aquaworld Aquarium - Article - The Silent Killer - How to Use a Gravel Vacuum in the Modern Aquarium
 

StarGirl

I don't think that a 2 inch gravel bed would contain anaerobic gasses. It would be noticeable as well, hydrogen sulphide has a strong odour. I think this article contains a summary of what has happened:
Well if the gravel wasnt deep would ammonia be tracible even in the gravel?
 

GlennO

Well if the gravel wasnt deep would ammonia be tracible even in the gravel?
I don't think it's in the gravel. I think it's building up due to the loss of BB and supercharged by the organic matter stirred up.
 

StarGirl

I used to deep vac my gravel every week. The only time any fish died was when I changed substrate and super stirred it. I have sand now and just hover. Thats good to know and one reason I dont recommend scooping gravel out with a cup.
 

Urithmic

Thank you all so much, and thank you for the article. I won't be deep graval vacuuming my substrate anymore
Tank showing 0 amonia but once I start feeding it shoots up again.

Anyone have this problem?
 

GlennO

Give it time. You’ll need to feed lightly for a while and be prepared to do water changes.
 

Urithmic

Ok thank you I started only feeding them a pich of food and it's working
 

GlennO

Ok thank you I started only feeding them a pich of food and it's working
Ok. Also, I'm not familiar with that filter, you want to make sure it has plenty of flow (turning over tank volume approx 4x per hour min) and media space for BB to colonise. Ideally you don't want to be relying on your substrate to house the majority of your BB because when you do vacuum it (especially if you do a very extensive, deep and thorough vacuum) you risk a mini cycle like what has happened. If your filter is adequate there is no problem doing a deep gravel vacuum although to be safe I wouldn't recommend doing it all at once. In your case the substrate was left undisturbed for a very long time which enabled a lot of BB to build up.
 

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