Can cholla cause an ammonia spike?

alauruin

The title says it all: can cholla cause an ammonia spike?

I bought a few pieces of cholla wood for my planted 10g, as I need something to tie java moss onto. The wood was sold specifically as aquarium decor, so I had no reason to think it would be unsafe. I put it into a bucket to get waterlogged. When I got home from work, the water in the bucket was deeply stained, and I thought, why waste that nice tannin-rich water? So I poured it into my tank. Within 30 minutes, I noticed my shrimps seemed to be losing their minds, swimming all over the water column. I did a quick test and had nearly 1ppm ammonia. After a water change and Prime treatment, the shrimps were happy again, but I was confused. Why did my ammonia spike?

I tested the water in my cholla-soaking bucket: well over 2ppm.

My tap water tests at 0ppm ammonia, so there is no reason for that bucket to have ammonia in it except that it has the cholla in it.

Is this a thing? Will it be safe to use in my aquarium, or should I throw it away?
 

SM1199

Realistically, yes - cholla wood was once a fleshy plant when alive and could definitely have dead organic matter on top of the wood (which the wood itself shouldn't be a problem) that could leach ammonia. And the correlation definitely seemed direct: you had cholla in a bucket, tap water was fine, soaked water wasn't, cholla has to be the culprit.

Like I said, though, the wood itself is perfectly safe and shrimp love it, so what I would do is boil it for a few minutes and then pour out all the waste water, then let it soak again. Let it sit for a few hours or a day or so, then test the water for ammonia. If it's zero, you're all clear. If it's above zero, you can dump out and repeat.

Edited to add that you should also take a close look at it and see if you can observe any fleshy decaying parts, even small hints of it, on the wood "skeleton." You can always try scrubbing it off.
 
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alauruin

Thanks for the response. That's what I was thinking to do, so I'll continue with my plan.

The wood is very dry and has no visible fleshy parts, but it did lose a lot of flakes of debris when I first started soaking it. Maybe some of that still had recent organic matter in it, who knows.
 
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Dobert

Thanks for sharing the story, i learned something important today!
 
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