Can’t get pH and ammonia down

jessi123

I have a 40 gallon breeder tank with 2 small plecos, 4 black neon tetras, a black mystery snail, and a telescope goldfish. No live plants, gravel base. The tank has been going for about a month. The tank stays at around 76 degrees Fahrenheit. I used some of the water from my old tank to help with the transition. About two weeks ago I had 3 fish die. 2 white skirt tetras and a black moor. I’m order to help prevent more fish from dying I did a 60% water change and bought a master test kit. My pH was about an 8.0 and my ammonia was between 2.0 ppm and 4.0 ppm. My nitrites were a 0 ppm and my nitrates were about 5.0 ppm. I bought api ammo lock and pH down, but it didn’t help. I bought the api quick start and stress coat to see if those could help. I tested the water after 2 days and my ammonia is at 4.0 ppm and my pH is at 8.2. The nitrites are still at 0 ppm and the nitrates are still at 5.0 ppm. The fish seem to be fine, but my snail seems to be taking it very hard. I don’t know what else to do. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

13AC63D1-6BC4-4EBA-9C14-F0D9BB26BEF9.jpeg
This is from the testing right now.
 

bored411

My 10 gallon tank got really bad with ammonia (like rose from 4 to 8 and back to 4) and what I had to do was a 100% water change. I moved the fish to a large tupperware container (or bucket. whatever you have on hand), drained all the water, removed gravel and rinsed it really well, rinsed filter media a bit, then put everything back, refilled and dosed with water conditioner and Seachem Prime. It might set your cycling back a bit, but it's better than getting stuck with super high ammonia that can be killing your fish. I also suggest getting Prime as it detoxifies the ammonia and any nitrites you may have. Ammo Lock I found doesn't help with dealing with ammonia and I've heard it actually can make it worse (though I don't know how accurate that information is).

I would also check your tap water or whatever water you're using to see if there's a base level of ammonia and what ph it is alone, so you know what you're starting with. I don't use ph up or down because it just makes things too stressful for the fish with the ever-fluctuating ph.

In summary: check your tap, do a 100% water change, use Prime, and rinse everything.
 

jessi123

Update
I tested my tap water. The pH is between 7.2 and 7.4, and the ammonia level was 0. I don't have the GH or KH tests in yet, but I did order that in case it could cause problems. I bought Prime. I also did some research into different filtration media. I bought ceramic rings, a polishing filter pad, and a bio sponge. Hopefully, those can help remove any bad things in the water. I plan on doing a complete water change along with rinsing everything as soon as all of the media comes in. I know that it will restart my cycle but after some reading on here, it might be for the best. I plan on putting the filter I have right now in with the new media to try and reduce the stress the fish will have by maybe keeping some of the good bacteria. I don't know if it'll work but it seems like the only thing to do for now. As for my fish, I'm fairly sure my black mystery snail has died. The other fish seem to be doing fine though. If there is any more advice or tips for changing filtration media, I'm 100% open to them and will try pretty much anything that could help.
 

bored411

I don't really mind the GH and KH. I've never had any issues with that in particular, though certain fish and certain plants like hard/soft water. As I said before, I don't try to adjust the ph and I also don't try and adjust gh or kh either. Just puts unneeded stress on the fish. Doing ceramic rings will help give more places for beneficial bacteria to grow and the sponge and polishing pad will clear up the water and add to that space too, so that's a good move. I hadn't even thought of asking about your filter media.

If you can, see if you can fit the old media in the filter with the new stuff (or run two filters one old one new) just for a week to a few weeks. It'll help transfer that good bacteria over to the new one.

Start dosing with Prime though every 1-2 days even before the water change (I think it holds for 48 hrs). It'll keep the nirite and ammonia from being toxic to the fish until you change the water 100%. stay on top of daily water changes until you get the media too, since you didn't mention when you'd get it.

sorry about your snail though and I hope this helps get those water levels all back to normal! when this happened to my 10 gallon I was devasted. took a lot of work and stress to not just trash everything and start over. so stick with it! you got this!
 

Frank the Fish guy

Sounds like you have very hard water. After your tap water reaches equilibrium with the air it has a high pH of 8.2. With a high pH tank, it takes longer to cycle. Ammonia is much more toxic at high pH.

The best thing you can do is keep changing the water while trying to keep the ammonia below the toxic level. Unfortunately, with a pH of 8.2, the toxic level is only .5 ppm but your goldfish are tough and can handle higher levels.

http://www.blueridgekoi.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/pH-and-Ammonia.pdf

This ends up a long drawn out process with a high pH tank. But eventually, you will grow the bacteria that is best for your water and things will eventually settle down to 0 ammonia.

Sorry but Prime actually won't help with the ammonia and may slow your cycle down. It is just a dechlorinator.
 

ProudPapa

Unfortunately, just adding water from an existing tank didn't do much. I'd recommend you stop adding chemicals (other than to neutralize chlorine when adding new water). Do a 50% water change, wait a couple hours, and test your water. Repeat the process until you get the ammonia below 0.50 ppm.

After that, test daily for a while, and do another substantial water change any time the combined ammonia and nitrites reach 0.50 ppm.

Don't worry about the pH for now (and probably not later either; I have a wide variety of fish doing fine in 8.2 pH).
 

jessi123

Sounds like you have very hard water. After your tap water reaches equilibrium with the air it has a high pH of 8.2. With a high pH tank, it takes longer to cycle. Ammonia is much more toxic at high pH.

The best thing you can do is keep changing the water while trying to keep the ammonia below the toxic level. Unfortunately, with a pH of 8.2, the toxic level is only .5 ppm but your goldfish are tough and can handle higher levels.

http://www.blueridgekoi.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/pH-and-Ammonia.pdf

This ends up a long drawn out process with a high pH tank. But eventually, you will grow the bacteria that is best for your water and things will eventually settle down to 0 ammonia.

Sorry but Prime actually won't help with the ammonia and may slow your cycle down. It is just a dechlorinator.
In my area the water is very hard. Is there anything that could help? Other than changing the water that is. From what I’ve read, chemical softeners don’t work.
 

CindiL

Hi, don’t worry about the PH and don’t try to alter it. A stable PH is better than a fluctuating one. All my houses I have lived in had a high ph of 8.0-8.2. Its most likely just a sign you have hard water.

Your tank is not cycled. Unfortunately the water holds very little nitrifying bacteria. They are mainly in your filter and on your substrate. Is the old tank still going with fish? I’d take some of the media from that filter and put it into your new filter so it can seed this tank. Do some back to back 50-75% water changes to bring that ammonia down to under .50 or less. At a PH of 8.2 your ammonia is very toxic to your fish at low levels.

If you don’t have active filter media you can use from another tank then you’ll be doing a fish in cycle and will need to continue to do frequent water changes to keep ammonia and nitrites very low. You can dose prime daily for the volume of the tank size to help keep your fish safe.
 

jessi123

I did a complete water change. I rinsed everything in dechlorinated water including all of the gravel. Filled the tank back up, added prime, and slowly acclimated the fish again. After about two days, the pH is back up to 8.0, the ammonia is 0, nitrites are 0, and nitrates are about 5 ppm. I've been feeding very small amounts so as to not spike the ammonia. I'm going to just keep checking the water levels and do water changes as needed.
 

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