Fear of Ammonia poisoning

Steven Weber
  • #1
Hello, I've had a ten gallon tank since January 1st of this year and it is my first fish tank. Originally I had 4 Tetra GloFish in it and kept them there with a three fake plants and a decoration while the tank cycled. After about 6 weeks I had my water tested and all of my chemicals were perfect according to my pet store. I waited another week just to be sure and then got the water tested again to see perfect results again. At this point I got a new JulI Cory Cat, a small one I'm not sure how old but certainly an inch or less in size.

After another week and a half of good chemicals and a pretty active new fish I went out and got him a friend (another small julI cory) and one more glofish to finish out my tank as I did not want to overcrowd. My totals were now at 5 Tetra Glofish medium-full size and 2 small JulI Corys. Also at this time I added in several new plants (fake) and arranged them so that my fish would have places to hide and swim through more so than before.

Everything seemed great, the water was clear, chemicals seemed in check as well, for awhile I didn't think my cats were eating the algae pellets I was feeding them, but after moving their feeding time to night they seemed to eat because I'd check after about 40 minutes and the food would be gone. After my tank initially cycled I did about a 25% water change every week, scrubbing the sides of the tank with my algae scrubber etc.

Now comes the problem. During my water change one week I removed the two cartridges from my filter, swooshed them around in the tank water I had just removed to get out anything clogging them and put them back in place (This was the same week I got my last two fish). I'm not sure what exactly caused this, but my water began to grown hazy so I cut back on feeding a bit and continued doing my water changes. The cloudiness persisted for about a week and a half despite my continued efforts and an extra 30% water change. I bought some water clarifier to brighten it up and knowing this was just a band-aid planned to go to my pet store to see if they knew what was wrong.

Unfortunately two days after adding the first dose of water clarifier, the same day I planned to go to the pet store to figure out the problem. I woke up to my first Cory Cat lying motionless and pale at the bottom of the tank, at first I thought it was dead but after reaching in the the net it moved a bit and I let it be. A few hours later it passed away with some reddening in the gills. I was quite upset as I've been taking great care to make sure my fish are healthy and to not make the mistakes of a first timer fish keeper. I immediately headed to the pet store to figure out the problem. After getting my water tested it appeared that my ammonia levels had spiked and I fear my fish died of ammonia poisoning. I got some test strips so that I could keep an eye on it, as well as some tank bacteria recommended at the store to kickstart any set backs my filter may have.

That was last weekend and I did a 30% water change every other day last week as well as cleaning, reduced feeding, and the new bacteria dosage. The water cleared up, however my test this weekend shows that my acidity has gone up slightly but my ammonia has gone down slightly as well. I thought all was going well in my tank and that as long as I continued to treat the tank, things would level out as all my fish were acting as normal and as far as I could tell eating well too.

Today I came home from school, preparing to feed my tetras when I noticed my remaining cory cat lying motionless just as the other one had. His gills are also reddened and he's barely moving, lying in awkward positions as the other did, unfortunately I don't think he'll make it to tomorrow. I am deeply saddened by this as I feel like I have done what I can, but still both my corys died after about a month of having them, I want to make this right so that my fish can live happily and healthy. Here are my tank specs, let me know what you think I should do I am at a loss
10 Gallon Tank
Tetra Whisper PF10 filter
Tetra heater
5 glofish Tetras
1 ( unfortunatley it looks like soon to be 0) JulI Cory Cat
I use these chemicals per the directions on the bottle:
API Tap Water Conditioner
Microbe Lift Special Blend for Home Aquariums
Aqueon Water Clarifier
Occasionaly I put in some Tetra EasyBalance Plus

HikarI Tropical Sinking Wafers for Catfish
San Francisco Bay Brand Freeze Dried Brine Shrimp (occasionaly feed to the fish, maybe once a week)
Tetra flake food

Chemicals (as of today)(ppm):
0 Nitrate
0 Nitrite
80 Hardness
0 chlorine
60 Alkalinity
6.5 ph
.8 Ammonia

Also I noticed bubbles starting to congregate around the edges of the top of the tank once I "cleared my filters" the first and only time. It only happens when the water is at the black rI'm at the top so I keep it just below that in order to avoid bubbles.
My water temp is consistently at 77 degrees but there is an odor that is off and on when you get close to the top of the tank, I'm guessing from the ammonia.

PLEASE help me out I'm very serious about keeping a healthy tank so two fish dying is a problem!
  • #2
HI there and welcome to FIshlore!

So sorry to hear about your Cory cats.

Please, next time try to write paragraphs, it was a bit difficult to follow.

First off, I would suggest you do 50% water change to bring down the ammonia levels but don't clean your filter media, or clean too much in general. The beneficial bacteria are in a precarious position, you just need to let them settle in your tank. The water change will remove half the ammonia and should also replenish the carbonate buffers to bring your pH up a little. Make sure to match the temp as close as possible and add the dechlorinator.

I don't know what the water clarifer or easy balance is but I doubt you need that right now, you are complicating the situation in your unstable tank.

I would also suggest you invest in a liquid test kit such as API master test kit. The strip tests are supposedly very inaccurate.
And invest in a sponge filter, they are great biological filters and will also aerate your tank.

And keep an eye on ammonia levels, you may need to change the water everyday or every other day.
Steven Weber
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Thank you for the reply! I edited the post to break it down into paragraphs thank you for the advice. I'll be doing daily water changes and ensuring the correct temperature for awhile until things seem to stabilize in the tank. I'll stop using the two unnecessary chemicals as well. Thanks for the help!
  • #4
Do you know what your readings were at the 6 week mark? I am wondering if you had nitrates and if your tank had actually cycled. Also, just a suggestion because I had issues with it, but you might test your tap water to know what you are working with. At one point I had 2.0 ammonia in my tap. Now my tap has small amounts of nitrate. If your tap has ammonia and you aren't using a water conditioner that locks ammonia for a short period of time, you might consider changing. I use Prime. I'm a newbie at this as well, but those are a couple of things I thought of. Good luck to you!

  • #5
Welcome to Fishlore, i'm sorry you are having problems with your tank.

Now, a few suggestions.

Firstly, if you are using strips, it's likely your readings are off. Strips are notoriously inaccurate. I suggest a liquid test kit such as the API test kit, or the Seachem Multitest kit (Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite and pH respectively). This will give you a true representation of your levels. The cloudiness sounds like a bacterial bloom - commonly associated with an un-cycled tank.

Once you have tested your water with an accurate test kit, I suggest you look into Tetra SafeStart. That will allow you to cycle your tank quickly and effectively - only if the test shows you in fact are not cycled.

Your first course of action should be a 50% water change as mentioned. When in doubt - water change! This will allow you the comfort knowing your fish have fresh water, and nothing is better for them than that.

One other thing. I suggest you do more research on the fish you desire to keep before you buy them. I know it's very easy to impulse buy at the LFS - i've done it, along with pretty much everyone else here But if you had researched a bit more, you'd know that neither Cory's or Tetra are suitable for a 10gal. They also both need to be kept in groups of 6 or more - they are schooling fish. This likely had a sizable impact in the deaths you have had. This is not me attacking you, merely giving some advice I feel is relevant.

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