Completely Changing Out the Substrate

BVUBeavers

I have a 75G established tank - but when I cycled it I had used pretty filthy gravel and sand from my old tank and then layered pool filter sand over it. recently I have been battling high ammonia (~4.0 ppm) despite all my other parameters being spot on (7.0 pH, 0s across the board for all except ammonia). So I had the thought of with my next 50% water change to remove all of my old substrate and replace with brand new pool filter sand thinking there must be some detritus really polluting my old substrate which is causing the high ammonia readings. I have a Penguin 450 HOB filter as well as a Forza 9FZ UV canister - so filtration is great...I also probably had been overfeeding, but with multiple gravel vacs throughout the week I thought I had been staying on top of detritus.

Question - is it okay to change out all substrate at one time without jacking up the cycle? I plan on putting all rocks and plants back in so they should retain beneficial bacteria along with the BB in the filters and tank water/walls. Any other suggestions for dealing with high ammonia readings when all a=other parameters read perfect? Also if it matter I maintain temp at between 79.5 and 80.5 depending on when I take the reading.

Also stock is - 1 6" Oscar, 2 5" firemouth, 2 2.5" blue acara, 2 5" striped raphael catfish, and 2 3" BN plecos. I have live plants (Amazon sword, mini sword and anubius) as well as various rocks for cover.
 

mattgirl

I think we need to dig deeper into what is causing this ammonia spike. The substrate from your previous tank shouldn't be causing what you are seeing. I do wonder why you are seeing no nitrates. A fully cycled tank normally has some. A fully cycled tank should have enough bacteria to clear out ammonia even if it was coming from the substrate. I have to think something has killed off some bacteria if this tank was firmly established and that is why you are seeing ammonia. .

Before removing and replacing the substrate we really need to get to the bottom of what's actually happening. Removing the substrate will be removing bacteria. If you are seeing ammonia you can't afford to be removing any bacteria.

For now I would be doing water changes. I would be changing no less than half the water and would do it more than once a day until I got the ammonia down to or very close to zero. I would keep on top of water changes to make sure the ammonia doesn't have a chance to get high again.
 

BVUBeavers

Using API Test Kit...PH is at 7.0, Ammoia is at 4.0 ppm, Nitirite is 0, and Nitrate is 5.0 ppm or 0 ppm depending on when I take the test. I have been doing 50% water changes daily and testing daily. This has been going on since Friday (it is now Wednesday). Im getting good daily workouts, hauling 5 gallon buckets around. What tipped be off was the fish were going to the top of the tank and gasping. Now they are all back to normal - but my ammonia is still reading high. I have been using Prime and AmmoLock in addition to tap water conditioner. Also I have vaccumed the **** out of the substrate to clear all visible detritus and cut back feeding - I am sure I was overfeeding mainly because the Oscar wasnt letting the other fish get any pellets.
oh I am reading your response closer. I need to add some beneficial bacteria....I have been trying to neutralize ammonia and nitrites, but perhaps I need to be adding beneficial bacteria???
 

mattgirl

I have been using Prime and AmmoLock
Ah Ha. Stop adding the ammo-lock and you should quickly start seeing the ammonia going down. In my humble opinion ammo-lock should be pulled off the market. You are not the first nor will you be the last experiencing ammonia they can't get and keep down when using this product.

If as you said, this tank is established you should have plenty of bacteria. Adding bottled bacteria shouldn't be needed. I do have to ask though. How long has this tank been up and running? You said you used substrate from another tank. how long ago was that? Instead of me asking a lot of questions Please tell me about this tank.

BTW: Both prime and ammo-lock are water conditioners so there is no need to be adding any other kind of water conditioner. The only thing you need at this point is Prime.
 

BVUBeavers

Ah Ha. Stop adding the ammo-lock and you should quickly start seeing the ammonia going down. In my humble opinion ammo-lock should be pulled off the market. You are not the first nor will you be the last experiencing ammonia they can't get and keep down when using this product.

If as you said, this tank is established you should have plenty of bacteria. Adding bottled bacteria shouldn't be needed. I do have to ask though. How long has this tank been up and running? You said you used substrate from another tank. how long ago was that? Instead of me asking a lot of questions Please tell me about this tank.

BTW: Both prime and ammo-lock are water conditioners so there is no need to be adding any other kind of water conditioner. The only thing you need at this point is Prime.
So I used the substrate from the other tank when I started this tank up in late August/early September. When I had all the parameters right in late September I began adding stock up to what it is now. Throughout I had been doing weekly water changes of 50%and only adding tap water conditioner. End of last week all of the sudden I got 4.0ppm ammonia spike - ran it again thinking I had made a mistake and got same reading. I immediately dosed with ammo lock. Took a reading the next day still 4.0 ppm. Following dosage recommendations I have been doing 50% water changes and dosing with ammo lock every 2 days. And still I am getting 4.0 ppm on ammonia and all other parameters are normal.

The only other out of the ordinary thing I did was used IAL a couple weeks ago, but removed them after a week.

I will follow your advice and just go with strict water changes daily only using tap water conditioner and see what effect that has. I am assuming since all other parameters are good I dont need to add Prime or any other Beneficial Bacteria boosters???
 

Bgreen82

I am assuming since all other parameters are good I dont need to add Prime or any other Beneficial Bacteria boosters???
Prime should be the only thing you should need. It is a water conditioner but it will also detoxify any ammonia present in the tank.
 

mattgirl

Bgreen82 is correct. Just use Prime. It is first and foremost a water conditioner but goes one step farther and also detoxes ammonia. It is the only thing you need to be adding when doing your water changes. Adding bottled bacteria may help. At least it won't hurt.

Did you add all of these fish at about the same time? If you did you may have overloaded the bacterias ability to clear out all the ammonia they were producing. I suspect it will catch up with the higher bio-load soon and your ammonia will soon zero out. Water changes and Prime should get you through this mini-cycle.
 

BVUBeavers

Thank you all for your replies. My fish are extremely important to me - I should register them as therapy animals...lol. So when the ammonia spiked out of nowhere I was scrambling to do anything I could to get the level down to protect them. Its frustrating dealing with one extremely bad parameter when the other parameters are spot on because I worry if I'm working on getting that one bad parameter better, will I be negatively impacting any of the other water parameters.

still 4.0 this morning so I did another 35G water change over lunch. Good thing I am a hermit working from home.
 

mattgirl

Thank you all for your replies. My fish are extremely important to me - I should register them as therapy animals...lol. So when the ammonia spiked out of nowhere I was scrambling to do anything I could to get the level down to protect them. Its frustrating dealing with one extremely bad parameter when the other parameters are spot on because I worry if I'm working on getting that one bad parameter better, will I be negatively impacting any of the other water parameters.

still 4.0 this morning so I did another 35G water change over lunch. Good thing I am a hermit working from home.
Hopefully once all the ammo-lock is out of there the water changes will start lowering the ammonia. It is actually strange that the big water change didn't seem to lower it at all. Is it at all possible there is a problem with your testing solution? I would be feeding very lightly until you get this under control. The less food the less ammonia the fish will produce.
 

BVUBeavers

Hopefully once all the ammo-lock is out of there the water changes will start lowering the ammonia. It is actually strange that the big water change didn't seem to lower it at all. Is it at all possible there is a problem with your testing solution? I would be feeding very lightly until you get this under control. The less food the less ammonia the fish will produce.
I didn't think of that. I have another test kit for my other tank and I am testing with it now. It is showing the same results - slightly less dark green
 

mattgirl

I didn't think of that. I have another test kit for my other tank and I am testing with it now. It is showing the same results - slightly less dark green
I have to think now that you are no longer adding the ammo-lock the water changes will start having an affect on the ammonia reading. We just need to do our best to get it down while the bacteria is building up to do the job for us.
 

BVUBeavers

Yes. Another thing I didnt know was that when I am doing water change - I need to add prime to the water that is still in the tank BEFORE I refill with water. I am doing another 75% change today while Im watching the Huskers probably lose...again.
 

Thunder_o_b

I am so glad mattgirl is still here :)
 

mattgirl

I am so glad mattgirl is still here :)
Thank you. It is really good to see you again. I was wondering where you got off to.
 

BVUBeavers

Okay so after adding prime to the tank water before refilling the 75% I removed I now have an ammonia reading of 1.0 ppm. Still not perfect, but heading in the right direction. So I retested all other parameters. PH still 7.0-7.2, Ammonia 1.0ppm, nitrite 0, and nitrate 5.0 ppm. Also noticed my temp had risen to 82.0 so I turned than back down to 79.8-80.0.
Hopefully one more water change should do it - but I'll measure again in the morning.
 

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