Communication With SeaChem about Prime


Hello all!

Awhile back I was obsessing over the mechanism of action for Prime and how exactly Prime affects ammonia and nitrite readings. So I reached out here and found there was some conflict. I then reached out to Seachem with a list of very specific questions and what I got in reply was equally specific answers!

I am looking forward to posting it for you when I get home but thr gist of it is that Prime does not affect test readings, not in the way that we think and this whole waiting 24 hours to test is a little bit of a misunderstanding.

I am really grateful Seachem gave me the answers I needed and hugely reassured by their answer. I don't know maybe the email won't say anything new for you guys but it certainly clarified some issues for me!

I will post it when I get home

EDIT: Okay, here we go. My excitement over this communication has been severely dampened by the realization that V's tail rot has returned...again. But, as promised, here is the information SeaChem provided me. They didn't address all of my questions but they did address the important ones.

Here are the questions I asked that they addressed.

First off, does Prime detoxify ammonia by converting to ammonium?

The next few questions are really what's most important as most of us use salicylate reagent test kits in testing for ammonia while using Prime. I have read through your FAQ on this and just feel more confused by it, sorry When you say that with these kits we need to take the reading right away, do you mean that taking it this way will show us only free ammonia but after 24 hours the total ammonia in the water becomes readable again? You mention in the FAQ that these false positives show up on other products that work like Prime. I am assuming you are referring to Amquel Plus among others. Amquel Plus specifically reads that it is compatible with salicylate reagent kits and from what I have figured out, what they mean by that is that you get total ammonia readings so that you know exactly how much ammonia is in your tank regardless of whether it is bound or not.

Lastly, how are readings for nitrite and nitrate affected by the use of Prime? At any point does Prime give inaccurate readings? My definition of inaccurate is that it doesn't read the actual concentration of nitrites regardless of whether it is bound or not, just to be clear.

SeaChem's Reply:

Hello Alysha,

Thank you for your email. Prime does not function in the same way as many other ammonia removal aids/ ammonia reducing agents. Prime works to bind the harmful NH3 form of ammonia into ionized NH4+ ammonia.

When using certain test kits it is possible to get a false positive reading for toxic ammonia. The total ammonia value can be correct, as Prime will not create any ammonia that is not actually present or will not cause elevated concentration levels. Most conventional test kits are testing for total ammonia only and do not have any way to differentiate between forms. If Prime converts all of the free ammonia to ionized ammonia, the ammonia is no longer present in the toxic form, but can still be detected as "total" ammonia on a test kit. The only kit(s) on the market that have the capability to differentiate between forms is the Multitest: Ammonia Test Kit and the Ammonia Alert (). These use gas exchange technology to isolate forms of ammonia to give you accurate readings for toxic free ammonia. Any test kit reading total ammonia only will still give you a reading for total ammonia.

False positives can occur when using any product that claims that it reduces ammonia in the system. This is due to the similar functioning mentioned above with test kits that can not isolate free ammonia from total ammonia readings.

Like with ammonia, you can also get false positives for toxic nitrite and nitrate also as there are not any kits on the market that will be able to differentiate between toxic and non-toxic forms. You will still get readings for total nitrite and total nitrate when using Prime. This is due to the fact that it will still be present, but will not be present in the original toxic forms as it has been chemically converted through various chemical processes.

I hope this helps to clarify further. Have a great day!

Okay, so let's review my interpretations...

1) Prime most definitely converts ammonia into ionized ammonium, this is how it "detoxifies" ammonia despite the fact that the label on the bottle actually says it "removes" ammonia.

2) The communication Lucy posted an email with SeaChem support commonly used as an FAQ in which the technician said that you had to use salicylate reagent (i.e., API NH3/NH4) right away to get the correct reading and that used after 24 hours it will appear as if for ammonia has been added. This communication that I have posted basically says that, at no point, will testing with salicylate reagent test kits make it appear as if there is more ammonia in the water, you will just always get a total ammonia reading. Right? That's how I'm reading it and truthfully it makes a lot more sense to me this way. The FAQ referenced below seems to suggest that salicylate reagent test kits read only unbound ammonia and that in 24 hours all ammonia will be unbound and therefore readable. The email reply I received makes sense in that salicylate reagent test kits which test for total ammonia will always show total ammonia and this is how a false positive is produced, because you will have to factor out bound ammonia on your own.

Are we all on the same page here, in that?

3) Lastly, the tech seems to be saying that, at no point, are nitrite or nitrate levels ever effected by Prime, they will always read present whether bound or free despite being bound up by "other chemical processes" haha. We all know that SeaChem doesn't fully understand WHY their product works on nitrite/nitrate, only that it does, and therefore the vague answer there is not wholly unsurprising.

Back when I was using Amquel Plus and before FishLore, I had a similar correspondence with Kordon regarding Amquel Plus. The mechanism of action is the same, ammonia is converted to ammonium. The only difference is that Amquel Plus, for whatever reason, can give you precise ppm values for amounts of ammonia (1.2ppm), nitrite (2ppm) and nitrate (13ppm) which is bound by Amquel Plus. Also Amquel Plus seems to imply that, once ammonia is bound by this product, it remains bound until it is utilized by beneficial bacteria. This would make it seem like a super product and, save for its less concentrated formula, more effective than Prime. I do wonder where the numbers come from and for whatever reason I am skeptical of the forever bound statement, especially since Kordon says you can re-dose every 24 hours, so I choose to remain with Prime. Differences I have observed between the two is also that Amquel Plus drops oxygen content much faster than Prime. A single extra dose and my fish were at the surface whereas SeaChem posts that it's not until after a few doses of the 5x "nitrite emergency" dose does oxygen start to fall. Lastly, there is the anecdotal evidence which supports Amquel Plus's tendency to cause pH crashes in poorly buffered water. I watched that happen myself but have known many people who have used it successfully.

So, the moral, for whatever reason these products have different means to meet the same ends. Both have pros and cons and, with more conclusive input from SeaChem, we can best choose what meets our needs.

I hope this helps everyone.
Lucy - unfortunately I did not think to ask about the third question. I should have. So it was not addressed. Unless I'm reading it wrong, given this new information the answer on the third answer seems to stand.


I'm sure we'll all find the questions and answers very informative.

Makes me wonder if the info in the e-mail is different from the info on the website.

Third question:


I have always had good responses and explanation from them and I do like the products.
Although I just got finished reading a small book by Joe Grogas? FTP Tampa aquarium society and he has been in the aquarium industry for quite some time ( 30 years).
He mentioned Prime but also Amquel, not Amquel plus that we been seeing by Kordon but straight Amquel
There is a article on about it and it seems to be better than either Prime or Amquel plus by kordon.

I Use prime and purigen which I two great products I personally believe Seachem and all of their products and support are fantastic and I would have everyone look at them.

That's my own personal opinion not anyone else's

I have read and used tetras safestart as well but why should I need to do a whole bottle of the stuff if all I am doing is a water change.

I just recently ( last weekend) did a completed makeover of the bottom ogf my tank

I used fluorite. Eco complete and pool sand for my bottom I kept roughly half of the old water, all the plants and decoys, a Greek column, a rock with hole through it, a log that has a hole though the middle for the plecos, and a small piece of slate as well as all the biomedia.

Everything came out fine I haven't seen the tank so clean ( Am also using NuaglI to keep the algae away. The only issue I am having is the rock and the Greek volumns are turning green but there is no algae anywhere else


That's my own personal opinion not anyone else's

I have read and used tetras safestart as well but why should I need to do a whole bottle of the stuff if all I am doing is a water change.

TSS is recommended for new tank set up.
If your tank is already cycled, TSS wouldn't (shouldn't) be needed.

I fear we are veering off topic.
This thread isn't about TetraSafeStart.

poeticinjustices is going to share her correspondence with Seachem about prime.


Thank you for editing your first post with your questions and replies from Seachem.

I feel a bit dense because honestly I don't understand 1/2 that exchange.
It's way over my head.

I am looking forward to posting it for you when I get home but thr gist of it is that Prime does not affect test readings, not in the way that we think and this whole waiting 24 hours to test is a little bit of a misunderstanding.

I don't see where the misunderstanding is.

According to your post this is what Seachem said:

When using certain test kits it is possible to get a false positive reading for toxic ammonia. The total ammonia value can be correct, as Prime will not create any ammonia that is not actually present or will not cause elevated concentration levels. Most conventional test kits are testing for total ammonia only and do not have any way to differentiate between forms.

A false positive is a false positive for whatever the reason.


I have done and have read in many other materials to fill your buckets ( I use Home Depot Five gal buckets ) the day before add your prime and the let it "aerate overnight) and that will let prime or Amquel to allow more oxygen back into the water but you still have the ammonia bonded. I also understand that Amquel or prime will not keep the ammonia bonded for much longer than twenty four hours. So you need a fully cycled tank, plenty of filtration and not overstock the tank. Also for you guys ( and women of course) when it gets hot the more surface movement you have wherever it's a fan or something else it will help to keep the temperature down as well ( I am adding this as a bonus to the aeration comment I made earlier)


I agree with Lucy. I don't understand most of that exchange. Unfortunately I don't have much time and rarely read very long posts.

Basically, from what I understand, in a fully cycled tank Prime makes chlorine and cloramine in tap water acceptable to BB, which convert ammonia into nitrites, and a different set of BBs convert nitrites into nitrates. There are no BBs to gubble up nitrates so we must do water changes using Prime or other dechlorinators.

Correct me if I am wrong, but why complicate the uncomplicated?


I suppose it's because my definition of false positive is different. To me, false positive means ammonia/ammonium is read that is not really there. I guess the way that makes the most sense to me is that I want to know exactly how much ammonia or ammonium is in my tank regardless of whether or not it's bound. It's not really "false" to me because it's really there, it's just in a non-toxic form. So I want to see all of it, free or bound. SeaChem is defining the "false positive" as reading total ammonia/ammonium when only a certain amount of that reading is toxic but the actual reading is not wrong or false, it's just more inclusive. I guess part of what got me is that Kordon defines this very same reaction as "compatibility" between Amquel Plus and salicylate test kits. I suppose that's where I'm differing from others on this matter, I just know calling it a "false positive" kept throwing me off haha because it's not actually false, it's just that not all of the reading is toxic. And maybe people tried to explain that to me before and I missed it, which was part of why I qualified my original post with the "I don't know maybe the email won't say anything new for you guys but it certainly clarified some issues for me!" comment, I thought maybe I was having a "perspective" issue and getting too much into semantics, but I figured if it threw me off there's a possibility it might throw someone else off too

Here's the misunderstanding, for lack of a better word, I'm referring to. In the FAQ at this link...

... there is the following quote in Q2 -

A salicylate based kit can be used, but with caution. Under the conditions of a salicylate kit the ammonia-Prime complex will be broken down eventually giving a false reading of ammonia (same as with other products like Prime®), so the key with a salicylate kit is to take the reading right away.

I cannot tell you how little sense this quote made to me, I could not find the reading. I kept wondering why it was that, using a salicylate reagent test kit (our API kits), you had to take an immediate reading to get an accurate reading and why it is that, taken later, the reading is false. I wondered if that meant you would get only bound ammonia by taking the test right away but total ammonia by waiting too long? Or did SeaChem mean that after the complex breaks down it messes with the ammonia reading for awhile and gives just a completely inaccurate reading? It was this particular quote that was the primary source of confusion.

In the reply I received from SeaChem, the support tech doesn't say that there will be a point in which salicylate reagent kits in which you'll get a false reading, just that the reading is always "false" by their definition, meaning that you will only get total ammonia when you test with these kits, whether you do it right away or awhile after Prime-ammonia complex breaks down. In the FAQ on the site, it only says "false positive" but the reply I received actually qualifies it more accurately by calling it a "false positive for toxic ammonia".

Am I explaining myself right haha? Do you see what I mean where the quote I posted from the FAQ conveys a really weird process by which you must take the ammonia test right away or else get a false positive when using a salicylate reagent test kit but the reply I received simply says that you will just always get total ammonia, regardless of when or where you take it? That's a slight assumption on my part actually because the tech who replied to me didn't directly say the "regardless of when or where you take it part, just that these kits produce total ammonia results, period. So do you see where I'm spotting a contradiction? The FAQ is saying that, with our API kits, if we take an ammonia right away it'll be correct but if we wait it will appear as if there is more ammonia in the water whereas the tech who replied to my email is saying that salicylate reagent test kits will just always give total ammonia, regardless of whether or take it right away or later (assuming factors like the water is well mixed, etc).

Did that make sense? My primary reason for emailing SeaChem was to get clarification on that one quote. It just wasn't making sense to me because it looked like the tech was saying salicylate reagent test kits can be used to read only bound ammonium but you have to take the result right away, but the reply I got was simply that these test kits always read total ammonia, period. And also to get actual confirmation on the mechanism of action because I wasn't able to get a decisive answer on whether or not Prime converts ammonia to ionized ammonium in order to render it non-toxic because, if I recall, I got a couple slightly different answers on that around here.

Anyway, that's the misunderstanding I'm taking about. Unless I'm missing the point entirely, it seems to me the FAQ is saying something completely different in that one quote than the tech reply I got, right? Do you see what I'm saying? If I'm missing something, I'm grateful for clarification. Maybe I should send them another email that actually includes that quote and ask them to further clarify what that means for me. I'm sure they would love that

Maybe I'm hanging onto something small and none of this is news to you guys but that one, little quote was (and I guess still kind of is) throwing me off. And I figured if there was anyone out there who maybe thinks about it at all the way I do (read: crazy-like), this reply might help them out a little more


Hey PI, from reading your posts, it sounds like you are into chemistry? Correct. I don't agree with Lucy --------I don't understand ANY of that answer from Seachem.


Hey PI, from reading your posts, it sounds like you are into chemistry? Correct. I don't agree with Lucy --------I don't understand ANY of that answer from Seachem.

Hmm...into chemistry? No. Not at all haha. But I understand it a little. But I guess in looking at it my issue wasn't with the chemistry so much as the semantics of it. The term "false positive" kept really messing me up, I kept reading it as ammonia and ammonium that wasn't actually there. Turns out what they meant by "false positive" was "false positive for toxic ammonia". Done. Got it.

It was the other quote that got me. To me, that's a really important thing to know, that you''ll get a "correct" reading if you take the result right after adding Prime but not if you wait too long. If that were the case, it could really mess with a person's understanding of where the cycle is. But the reply I got just says you just always get total ammonia (toxic or nontoxic) with the API kits. It's a big difference, and it's an important one in a cycling tank where you really need to know what your ammonia level is, whether or not it's bound up and harmless.

Jomolager - I don't blame you for one second for not wanting to read a long post. I know I go on, it's embarassing, but I can't seem to help it. At the same time, it's kind of hard to explain what I was looking for without reading it. I wasn't really addressing the water conditioner aspect of it, I was mostly just looking for clarification on the FAQ quote about getting different readings depending on when you take them. I really want to understand what is going on in my tank and what the chemicals I add to it do. I'm not trying to complicate the uncomplicated, I'm trying to make sense of something that didn't make sense to me and I put it up here because I thought that maybe someone else might benefit from it too, it wasn't my intention to go messing up people.

To me, if a kit reads total ammonia, it should always read total ammonia, no matter when you take the reading. Which is what I got from my exchange but not at all what I got from that quote on the FAQ. And to me there's a dozen reasons why that differentiation is really important especially in a newly cycling tank.

So, I apologize for going on about it. And if it's something that I should not have been concerned with, well, my intentions were good haha.


I'm going to have to read that a few more times to get it all. Thanks for asking the questions and interpreting the answers.



I'm going to have to read that a few more times to get it all. Thanks for asking the questions and interpreting the answers.

Haha, oy, okay all right, I guess I took it too far. I can hear you all sighing and groaning at me from your corners of the world. Just what I do, I guess


Id hate to tell you this but most of their responses to questions like this are copy and paste. Ive seen these exact words from them in other posts on different websites. Its a FAQ to them. Which they send a poor answer to every time. Read on to know the truth

From what I have read and tested ( I once looked it all up and studied it just like you are) salicylate tests kits (yellow to green test) will always pick up total ammonia, which is ammonia and the non toxic form ammonium, even after adding prime the test should not change. So prime does not effect the salicylate test in any way. The false reading means you'll get the total ammonia even if its all non toxic ammonium or any ratio, Which is not really a false test. The test did what it is made to do. If you really want to be perfect get a nessler test kit (it ONLY reads toxic ammonia) to know the amount of toxic ammonia and compare it to the tests of the salicylate test kit. Doing some subtractive math there will tell you how much ammonia and ammonium you have in your tank. And if you really want to do your own study get a gallon of water, prime and ammonia and test it yourself rather then listen to Seachems confusing answers. Someone please do that XD

But from personal testing if you follow the dosing instruction on the prime bottle for the amount for treating X amount of ammonia per Y amount of water with Z amount of prime for ammonia every day or two ( I forget how often) You should have only non-toxic ammonium in your water, As your nessler test kit will confirm. But I would not count on prime to detox nitrite. I think on the bottle it says up to 5 times dosing if nitrites are high... I'm not putting that much chemical into my tank when they can not prove that it can detoxify nitrites.

In a nut shell, If you use prime, Have both types of tests kits ready and follow dosing instructions.


Thank you. I am not alone haha.

They did pretty much tell me as much as you did in the reply I got, evem if it was copy and paste, and it was what I expected to hear in order for Prime to make sense to me functionally. I just didn't understand why the FAQ already online says something different about salicylate kits. Which I am chalking up to something that's not supposed to be there I guess. But I don't know why after all of this I didn't just test it myself haha.

Your comments on the Nessler kits are interesting though. They did not address my question about it directly however on the support site it says those kits will just be wrong and the result will look off-color. They go on to say their multitest is the only kit that will read the difference but maybe they mean read bound ammonium whereas the Nessler you're saying reads toxic free ammonia?

Have you tested the Nessler yourself?



I would only suggest that you test your tap water for PH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate and go to your local pool supply store, buy a kit and also test for amount of Chlorine. This will give you a guage into how much Prime or AmQuel is needed to neutralize these chemicals. Also, Choloramine is broken down and converted into ammonia by Prime, so if you have Chloramine in your water, an extra dosage of Prime may be needed to bind to the additional ammonia created during the chemical process.

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