Api Test Kit: High Ammonia Levels / Suspected Uncycled Fish Tank With Live Fish?

  1. Ayoku Initiate Member

    Please read our post thoroughly before you jump the gun. If this post is too long for you, I have made it easier to read by highlighting all the important stuff.

    Background: All my life growing up my family and even parents have had large successful freshwater aquariums without doing all the fancy water testing and tank nitrogen cycling and even I have had freshwater fish before when I was younger without any problems. Maybe we just lucked out and had good water and kept out with our water changes and that was enough to keep our fish. My boyfriend and I acquired some fish from Petsmart in November 2017 (more info on species and such below). We are both avid animal lovers and want to do things straight from the book to ensure our animals live long, healthy and happy lives. The last thing we want to do is harm our fish, we realize just how dangerous ammonia is to our fish in our aquarium and we want to correct this before something happens and try to find a way for our fish tank to cycle. When we purchased our fish at our local pet store, we were never informed about any the tank nitrogen cycling and we were told to just use stress coat and safe start to start our aquarium and do 10% water changes every week. Using this forum, we learned about the tank nitrogen cycling and while I realize it's already too late now that we have fish to remove them from the cycling process, we have had them since November 2017 without any health issues.

    We are using an API master test kit, API 5in1 test strips for our aquarium, as well as ammonia test strips that were purchased at Petsmart/Walmart and we discovered today that our tap water ammonia levels to begin with in the city of Alexandria, VA, are at 1.0 ppm without stress coat and 0.50 ppm with stress coat. We suspect our 29g aquarium that we purchased at Petsmart never fully cycled through since there isn't enough bacteria established to eat away at the ammonia. Our tank has 5.0 ppm or 40 ppm using API 5 in 1 test strips nitrates (which confuses me because we think that's a good thing because the nitrites did convert), 0 ppm nitrites for both tests, a PH level of 7.6 using the master test kit and with the test strips - 6.5-7.0 (both very conflicting readings), and a consistent temp at 77 degrees) that contains live fish / shellfish (to be exact, six medium-sized tiger barbs and two snails - one mystery and one nerite) We did have three moss balls in the aquarium but they discolored and we will be adding the following plants to our aquarium soon to help reduce the ammonia levels: water lettuce and salvinia. However, our tank continues to struggle with high ammonia issues as high as anywhere averaging from 2.0 ppm to 4.0 ppm at times (according to the API test kit) and when it's at 4.0, we do 100% water changes but since it's been stuck at 2.0 ever since even with daily gravel vacuuming and daily 25% water changes, adding in stress coat and safe start each time. With the levels the way that they are, we treat the water regularly with ammonia remover too which helps break the bonds that are in ammonia temporarily. We have watched numerous Youtube videos, read numerous posts online, and we just have absolutely no idea what we are doing wrong. The aquarium rests near a window which we were hoping to use for healthy bacteria and light algae growth but the tank is crystal clear. I am just so confused, keeping fish has never been harder and that's why I created an account today to find out what we are doing wrong even after we have done many of the things that people have suggested to others with similar issues.

    We've read online that the API master test kits aren't super reliable but that's all we really use since it's the only product our local Petsmart carry and we eventually want to add more fish but refuse to until the levels are corrected and I feel better about the tank. What do you advise? Have you ever had this issue before?
     
  2. david1978 Fishlore VIP Member

    Never had this issue but with ammonia in your tap water smaller more frequent water changes are recommended that way your cycle can break it down. Depending on what ammonia removing product you are using some like ammolock turns ammonia into something that still tests as ammonia but your bacteria can't feed on it.